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Strategies to Help Answer: Should I Stay or Should I Go When Considering a Career Change?

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By Markey Read

Are you feeling left out of the #greatresignation and wondering if you have missed your moment to change your job? Have you been following your favorite companies and applying for any job that looks interesting? Have you applied for a few jobs “just to see what happens”?

When most people feel dissatisfied with their current job, they start “shopping” by looking at job postings online. They start applying to positions for which they have few qualifications because they think they “could” do those jobs. These same folks who manage to get another job, tell themselves, “And if this doesn’t work out, I can always find another job.”

The Risks of Job Hopping

If you walk into a new job with the thought that you can “quit anytime” stuffed in your back pocket, you are more likely to repeat the same pattern of quitting when it gets hard and hop to a new job without really planning the next step. Eventually, you will have accumulated some seriously bad “job karma” and will find it increasingly difficult to be hired by quality companies for quality professional positions.

You know you have bad job karma when:

  • You find yourself defending why you left the last three jobs in less than a few years.
  • You never get the salary and level of position you really want even though you have a lot of years of experience.
  • You have collected a few stories about how previous employers mistreated you.

While there are times in everyone’s lives when working at any job is better than not having a job, this is a rough way to go through life.

When you accept a new job, you have entered into a contract – a contract of trust and integrity. And it is most important that you maintain your own integrity through all the challenges of your career. When you accept an offer, you expect that the company will provide you with a reasonable working environment, pay you as agreed, offer opportunities for growth and development, and reward you for good work. In return, the company expects that you will show up and do the job as agreed, abide by their personnel guidelines, avoid abusing privileges, and generally support the business in succeeding.

Reflect on Your Commitment

I understand that not all companies keep their end of the bargain, but that does not necessarily mean you get to stick it to them whenever you get a chance. Instead of blaming the company for breaking the inherent agreement, how about taking responsibility for making an agreement without having all your questions resolved?

You have more power than you may think when accepting a job offer. Firstly, make sure you get the offer in writing, so you know what you are agreeing to. Secondly, read the offer carefully. If you have questions or need clarifications, get them before signing the offer. If you are not satisfied with the offer, negotiate.

Too often people accept positions without fully understanding what the job is or what the expectations are. Some people accept jobs knowing trouble is ahead and rush to accept because they think there won’t be another offer. Then when it gets rough, many choose to leave irresponsibly. This is not to say that people are not allowed honest mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes in judgment. What is required, however, is responsible for having made the mistake.

People are too accustomed to leaving a job when it looks hard or dismissing opportunities when they don’t look perfect. Instead of being grateful for the opportunities and benefits gained through employment, people often choose to complain and undermine the company’s plans. When you choose to break the cycle and stay in that job, you will discover an inner strength that will enable you to get and keep a job that really matters.

If you are in a position that is sucking the very life from you, but you have left a few positions already and are accumulating some of that bad job karma, take time to prepare for your next job.

The 51 Percent Question

First, determine if it’s your actual job and not something in your personal life that is the root issue. Personal issues that are hard to confront can lead to misdirected dissatisfaction with a job.

Next, use this time to clearly identify what parts of your current position are energizing and what parts are energy sucks. If more than 51 percent of your regular tasks are energizers, there is hope for improvement. You may find that some minor changes in how daily tasks and responsibilities can make a huge difference.

Why 51 percent, you ask? That is because, if at least 51 percent of what we do all day is energizing, we can usually muster the will to do the other 49 percent. Ideally, 60 to 70 percent of our daily tasks and responsibilities should land on the energizing list. If you are teetering on that 51/49 percent balance for a prolonged period, you will not be able to sustain your effectiveness because you will spend more and more energy recovering from the 49 percent, and that will eat away at the precious 51 percent.

The inability to shift this balance is an indication that leaving is a healthier option than staying.

A Valuable Career Lesson

Consider this: staying in a difficult position will teach you to never compromise again. If you get clear about what works and does not work in your current dissatisfying position, you are less likely to accept inappropriate jobs in the future. Additionally, you will be better equipped to identify the signs in the future that change is on the horizon so you can proactively chart a new course for positive and responsible change.

If you realize that you have made a mistake and need to leave a position, get some help in articulating the real issue. Be clear that the job is the real source of dissatisfaction, not a personal life issue. And be honest with your manager or supervisor by letting them know that you are challenged in the position and either get the support required to master it or come to a mutual agreement about leaving.

And the next time you accept a position, do more research, get a full job description, talk to future co-workers about the company and the position, and watch for the signs of potential trouble. Always get a written offer so you can read it and make a counteroffer.

If you are still not sure, talk to people whose opinions you trust. This could be a former employer, a relative, a mentor, a career counselor, or a former teacher. Whomever you choose, be clear that you asked for advice and be prepared to receive it.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, and so is the responsibility.

Explore Professional and Continuing Education courses that are designed to develop your leadership, management, and project management skills.

Markey Read, Chief Consultant at MRG Inc. in Williston, specializes in creating effective leadership teams for growing organizations. 

Editor’s note: this article was originally published in 2015 and has been revamped and updated for accuracy.