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Should I Stay or Should I Go? Making a Career Change Decision That is Right for You June 14, 2010

Posted by stanleyreidrecruiting in Career Management.

(This is the first installment in our “Career Transitions” series)

Before I owned my own business, I generally started disliking my jobs around the two-three year mark. The novelty had worn off by that time; all the little annoyances were amplified and my motivation to get up in the morning was gone.  I started being unhappy not only at work but in every aspect of my life. For me, it was always painfully obvious when it was time to go. But for a lot of people, the signs that it is time to move on can be right in front of them and yet they fail to see them.   I’m not talking about the obvious things here – being underpaid or passed over for promotions, spending more time commuting than sleeping, a company that is being bought or downsizing – those things are huge red flags that you need to start a serious job search. I want to focus on some of the less obvious things that can indicate you need to change.

  1. You have lost the sense of purpose you got from your work: Think back to when you took your current job – what attracted you to it? Was the work you would be doing important to something beyond the bottom line? Were you helping people or your country or a cause you felt strongly about? Did you get up in the morning happy that the thing that was paying your bills was also giving you a sense of contributing to something bigger than yourself?  If you are not getting that feeling anymore, it’s time to start thinking about a change. Sit down and really analyze what you want out of your next position beyond a specific salary or benefits package. Surprisingly, most people don’t think deeply about this before taking a new job and end up back on the market sooner than they would like.
  2. Your relationship with your boss/co-workers isn’t working any more Everyone has a “co-worker/boss from hell” story, and it is inevitable that we will be confronted with someone in the workplace that we just don’t see eye-to-eye with. But when those relationships are damaged beyond repair, and when differences of opinion don’t lead to productive discussions or changes but rather hurt feelings and on-going tension and disruptions, then it may be time to formulate an exit strategy.
  3. Your physical or mental health is suffering:  Is your job literally making you sick? Are you finding yourself in a perpetual bad mood? Are your relationships with family and friends suffering because of your work?  Occasional stress headaches and pre-deadline mood swings are normal, but perpetual stress takes both a mental and physical toll.  Make a list of the things at your job that stress you out, and then think about how these are affecting you. No job is worth sacrificing your health or your relationships. Conduct your search for a new job in a way to will allow you to continue working until you have your next position lined up.
  4. Your values/ethics are being challenged: You wouldn’t knowingly take a position with a company that engages in behavior that is contrary to your moral or ethical values.  But companies are not in the habit of promoting their bad behavior so until you’re there, you don’t know what the real story is.  Acquisitions, changes in leadership, and economic issues can also lead to changes in an organization’s values – sometimes for the better, and sometimes for the worse.  Stay vigilant and make sure your employer’s actions match your values

Deciding whether to stay or go can be tough decision that you may not want to think about. But the overwhelming negative effects of staying in a job that isn’t a fit anymore should be impetus for you to start your job search today.

In our next article, we will discuss exit strategies and why you shouldn’t burn that bridge just yet.

Mary Reid Stanley

Mary is the co-owner of Stanley Reid & Company, a search consulting firm specializing in placing highly cleared technology professionals in the DC and Baltimore area. She has been happily employed at SRC for 6 years and is still very motivated to get up and go to work every morning!



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