Is It Time To Move On From Your Job?
We have all been there. The luster has worn off the new job, position, or company. The meetings no longer seem productive. The work is no longer engaging. The coworkers who were once helpful and potential friends are now annoying and lazy. Any free moments are spent surfing Indeed.com and daydreaming about a job that is more fulfilling, more exciting, or has a better team. The doubts and the dissatisfaction start to mount, and the nagging questions start to surface in the back of our minds:
Do I need to quit this job?
Is this professional angst just a dip in the road?
…or is it a steep, downward slide?
And at this junction is where we need to ask ourselves some hard questions: about our current situation, our attitude, and our long-term prospects. We have an amazingly fluid economy, and many Americans will have twelve jobs during their professional career. That fluidity means a lot of turnover and change but also a lot of opportunities. We are not stuck in our jobs, but we need to make moves for solid reasons.
So how do you know when it is time to leave a company, position, or career?
It is a hard choice, and depending on your situation in life, has a variety of implications and consequences. The answer will be individualistic and personal to each of us, but we can start with some generally held reasons as to why we resist leaving a job and typically struggle with that transition.
Why We Do Not Leave
Fear is an amazingly powerful emotion and can be a tremendous anchor. We naturally fear the unknown, instability, and chaos. We fear not having control. Even if we detest a work situation, that anger and resentment may not be as powerful as our fear. The fear of losing control, the unknown, or starting over at a new place or team can be all that’s required to keep us in position or company past our shelf date. Sometimes the crazy that you know is less frightening than the crazy you imagine is waiting out there at your next posting.
We are heavily invested financially
Work is in large part about compensation; it is an essential financial measure of the value that we provide to our job, employer, coworkers, and customers. Depending on where we are in a career or tenure at a company, our financial investment could be substantial. It’s difficult to walk away from stock options, incentive packages, a stable salary, or an excellent commission structure. All of those things have a value that needs to be weighed and considered before moving on to a new employer or project.
We are heavily invested emotionally
Perhaps our current organization has a mission that we firmly believe in, even as the organization is poorly run. Or we are invested in the work and projects that we’ve done so far with the company, and we want to see it through. We identify personally with our job or career, and we are unsure of how we (and others) might see ourselves in a different light, with a different role. A lot of hours and energy has gone into getting to our current position, and we worry that if we move on, we might be throwing that investment away.
We have not defined our ideal alternatives
It’s tough to aim for a future, better situation if we have not even clearly defined what that looks like yet. Too often, our brains short circuit, and we stop at: “ I don’t like this situation. “ But we don’t empower our minds to envision a different trajectory, an alternative future situation. We can at least start with what we dislike and build a picture of the next job or company that we are aspiring to. We need a new, better option to aim at to provide us the momentum to get there.
Now that we have considered some reasons as to why we do not leave our jobs (even when we secretly think we should) let’s examine several variables that could be leading indicators that it is indeed time to leave your current job.
When It’s Time To Leave
You realize that your long term goals are not going to be accomplished if you continue down this path
The assumption is that you’ve identified your long term goals, or at least have a decent enough idea of them to make a judgment about whether a particular job or career field is going to fit them. We have professional and personal goals, and sometimes those align with the purposes of our employers, almost in a symbiotic relationship where employer and employee use the efforts and organization of the other to advance their individual (but sometimes shared) interests. If that kind of relationship is not going to continue happening at your current job, you likely need to look elsewhere.
You have stopped learning
We are always learning (or should be) and we are responsible for seeking our education. In this context of changing jobs/careers, what I am addressing is that the job itself is no longer teaching you. When the organization/team/boss is left teaching you how not to do things, you know it’s time to go. There is an excellent value in learning what does not work, especially if it is not directly on your dime. But there comes the point, when you need a mentor/leader/team that shows you a positive way forward.
We can always be learning, even amidst a poor environment, but the central assessment needs to be this: is this job, company, or supervisor invested in professionally teaching its employees? Is it creating an environment where knowledge and improvement are valued? A caution here: it’s easy to blame the organization for our poor attitude, lack of engagement, and loss of learning. We need to make sure who is at that root of the issue.
If you stopped doing it today and never went back there, you would feel fine
Most jobs I have left and never looked back. They were not worth missing. But not all jobs fall into that category, and we need to be aware of the significant place that our work holds in our lives.
What drew you to the field or the job in the first place?
Are those reasons still valid?
Could your interest and satisfaction in the job or organization be somehow rekindled?
We need to be thinking not just of escaping a (currently) unfavorable position, but the days, weeks, months after. If the answer, after some introspection, is “Yes, I can walk away and feel fine.” then it’s a good indicator that the ties that have drawn you to the job are now fairly loose.
The job, company, or industry is holding you back from a life well lived
This reason is a tricky one and requires a nuanced assessment of the situation alongside one’s attitude and outlook. It’s easy to blame a job, supervisor, company, industry, economy (you name it) for why we hit the snooze button till the very last minute, dread our commute, and desperately watch the clock waiting for lunch breaks or the end of the day. But we have responsibilities in this as well.
What are we doing to fuel a bad situation at work?
What thoughts are we allowing to loop through our heads and feed our negativity?
What biases and attitudes are we carrying around that makes it nearly impossible for us to enjoy our jobs and employers?
These questions requires a hard gut check on our performance and participation, and we need to be bluntly honest with ourselves on it. If the answer comes back that the circumstances and variables of this job are spilling over and causing havoc in your pursuit of a life well lived, then your participation in it might have to stop. If the answer is that your actions (and reactions) are sabotaging your efforts, then you should reassess.
The company or job is unlikely to change for the better (and the personal cost attempting to alter that trajectory is too high)
Most things in life are out of your control. It’s likely that the future of your employer falls into that category. You may have the answers, the vision, or the path forward. Perhaps you are even correct in your assessment of the steps that need to happen. Getting ourselves to change is challenging enough. Persuading a large organization to make changes to its culture and therefore improve its future, is a Herculean task.
Depending on your position within the organization, you may have very little influence to make that change happen. Even if you did, the personal cost in stress, time, and energy might be too daunting. It will cost you in other areas of your life. It’s a genuine possibility that your company’s future will be a lot like its current state.
Forecast your life. If five, ten, or fifteen years down the road, the situation and culture at your current employer is essentially the same, can you see yourself thriving in that environment and deriving any degree of satisfaction?
If the answer is a resounding “ No! “, then change your job.
Remember: our current dissatisfaction may be a dip, not a deep slide. And perhaps we have changed, or our expectations have grown or morphed; we should hardly blame our employer for that. Sometimes things are just fixed by time, giving both ourselves and our employer some space to change and reach a middle ground.
However, we need to make sure that we’re not like the frog waiting in the boiling water, contentedly ruminating on how warm it’s getting. If we’re considering moving on from a job, we need to be taking an active look at our fears, our participation in the situation, and what future or alternatives could be envisioned, both at our existing employer or elsewhere.
Have you “quit and stayed” at a job before?
What indicators have you experienced on when it is time to move on from a job or company?
Originally published at https://fjwriting.com on May 28, 2019.