Knowing When It's Time to Make a Career Change

Key Takeaways

  • Assessing one’s personal stock within a company
  • What to look at when facing a leave or not leave decision

As 2019 comes to a close and we approach the holidays, many people will often reflect on their careers, their family and their overall situation in life.

Reflection is a good thing and can often lead to greater enjoyment, higher levels of productivity and finding truer levels of fulfillment in our lives. Some of the questions that arise can be difficult to face. Oftentimes, these questions center around our careers — and more specifically our current situation.  At this time of year, many people are haunted by the following question:  Should I stay or should I go?

This question was not only the basis for a hit song for the British rock band The Clash in the 80s, it is a question that virtually every professional will face multiple times throughout one’s career. As we navigate through the politics of each position, each company and each unique situation, coming up with the correct answer that will deliver the greatest return can be a challenge.

Experience has taught that there are a few basic guidelines to help point us in the right direction when trying to answer this all-consuming question.

In past articles, we have discussed the real value of learning to listen to one’s instincts. While many people do in fact listen to and hear their instinct, acknowledging information and actually acting on it are two very different things.  There is an age-old question that illustrates this point. As the story goes, there are two frogs sitting on a log in a lily pond. One frog decides to jump off.

The question is: How many frogs are now left on the log?

The answer is there are still two frogs on the log as making the decision to jump off the log and actually executing that decision are not one and the same. Analyzing the information as to our current status and then finitely making a decision to act or not are also very different. Remember that not making a decision is in a way a default decision, as by not taking action — one way or the other — we have relegated our destiny to come what may.

So, what do we look at and what should we consider when trying to determine if in fact we are in the right place and should stay, or if we are simply a round peg in a square hole and should leave? Such questions are not easily answered, but here are a few general guidelines that should help us arrive at a decision that will provide the greatest probability of success.

When you think about the company you work for, what feelings tend to overwhelm you?  Are the feelings that arise mostly of a positive nature? Are you filled with a sense of gratitude? Do you feel that you are part of something bigger than yourself and that you are making a worthwhile contribution to a worthy cause? If the feelings are generally positive, you are probably in a good place both professionally and personally, and perhaps your attention and effort should be focused on learning how you can better develop your skill set to further enhance your performance.

When you think about your company, if the feelings that tend to arise are more negative in nature, this does not necessarily mean you are in a bad place, but it certainly is a sign that you have some serious reflection to do to determine why you feel this way. Do you feel anxious? Do you feel underappreciated? Do you feel that you are simply being used and taken advantage of?  Take the time to really look at your feelings and try to determine the source of the uneasiness.

If the company is not the issue, analyze what you believe your perceived standing is within the company. Are you respected? Do you feel you are making a valuable contribution? If it is not publicly acknowledged, is it at least recognized that you are making valuable contributions?

The next level is to look at and analyze your relationship with your immediate supervisor and/or peers. Does he or she value your input and work? What do you feel is their honest assessment of you and your talents? One word of caution here: You must remember that your supervisor is not being paid to be your friend, but rather, it is their job to make you even better than you already are. I had one supervisor that simply had a very direct Marine drill-sergeant approach to managing people. Once I realized that was simply who he was and how he thought, I never again took it personally or got riled when I received a message from him. I learned to focus on the content of his messages and not on the manner in which it was delivered. It can also be helpful to compare how your boss treats you in relation to how he/she treats others. If it’s consistent, there is probably not an issue; it’s just a management style.

The exercise here is to take the time to analyze your company, your skill set and the contributions you are making. After you have taken stock of all of the issues, have analyzed it and have given it serious thought, in the end . . . you guessed it, my advice is to trust your instincts and make and execute your decision.

Happy Holidays.

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