One of the key questions people raise throughout their careers is whether they should stay in their job or leave it for something new. Decision points like this happen for all sorts of reasons. Sometimes the job has simply gone stale – it could be boring; you have achieved and contributed all you can or want to; and there isn’t much prospect of change, growth or advancement. At other times jobs go sour, often due to changes in teams, management and company direction. These can result in feelings of dislocation and unhappiness.
Whatever the circumstances, there are often very good reasons for people to decide to move on from their jobs. A good colleague of mine always says ‘well, if someone is asking the question about whether to leave or not, the chances are they have made their decision to go.’ This may indeed be true but I’ve noticed that making the decision and then acting on it are two different things – that people will tend to think and ruminate about their career, but find it hard to take action to change. How many people do you know who remain stuck in jobs they don’t like, almost paralysed by inertia and the uncertainty and sometimes fear of seeking other, potentially better opportunities?
The fact that most people can expect to change their jobs and career multiple times throughout their working lives, doesn’t seem to make job transition any easier, even though it should mean we are more practised at it. As to why this is, well everyone’s circumstances are different, so I won’t pretend to speak for everyone. What I have noticed though, is that people often see job change as a major turning point in their lives and when that is the case, it can be much easier emotionally and financially to do nothing. What I have also noticed however, is that when people give themselves a little time free of day-to-day distractions and encumbrances, and adopt a future-focussed mindset open to opportunities, change on their own terms does happen.
It may sound obvious but I think it is always useful to remember that change, even in tough economic times, always brings new jobs and opportunities. Opportunities come along at all sorts of times and in all sorts of ways. Sometimes they take you by surprise, like when you receive a call from a head hunter sounding you out about a job you had never really thought about. Or when there is a new project or short-term transfer on offer at work. Or when after all your careful career planning and networking, a door is finally opening for you in the new type of work you have been seeking.
Sometimes as well, the need to search for opportunities is thrust upon us suddenly through redundancy and re-structures. That’s when you can find yourself on the back foot, unprepared for job search and without a Plan B. This can be avoided through some smart career management, making the whole transition process a lot easier.
In my tip sheet, How to Future-Proof Your Career, I talk about the importance of being active and nimble in your career, ready to seek out and evaluate opportunities as they arise. Part of that evaluation will likely involve the weighing up of a whole bunch of factors such as financial stability, lifestyle preferences, opportunities for advancement and values fit. All of these are important parts of a career ‘risk analysis’. However, it will be even riskier in the long term, if you don’t keep alert to opportunities and, worse still, avoid making a change even when it feels right, because you ‘can’t be bothered’ or ‘don’t have time’.
As the great Leonardo is credited as saying:
It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.
If you are at a decision point and maybe looking to change your job or career, I recommend you take a look at my new e-book The Essential Career Guide – it might just help you to do this well.