Know When to Hold ‘Em
The focus of most of my blogs is what happens between your last day at your last job, and your first day at your next one. Sometimes when you’re employed, though, you wonder ‘should I change jobs?’ Let’s look at four of the most common reasons people quit, and what (in most cases) I would recommend you do for each one.
Ultimately, the decision is a very personal one, unique to your situation and dependent on context. If you’re somewhat financially independent, for example, you may have more flexibility to endure a period of unemployment. If the economy is in the tank, it may be worth hanging on to what you’ve got, even if it’s far from ideal. That said, the reason you chose to leave a job matters to recruiters. It’s something we ask about, because it helps us understand your decision-making process, and it also is a preview of what we might expect from you as an employee. So it’s worth putting some time and thought into whether now is really the right time.
I got another job offer.
This is a fortunate situation indeed. Maybe you were casually browsing job postings and decided to send a resume, just to see what happened. Or maybe a contact of yours passed along your name to someone with another company. If you’re employed and you’ve got another offer in hand, congrats! Just make sure you’ve really given this decision its due consideration. Leaving the security and tenure of an established position, especially if you’ve been there for a while, is a big deal. I’m sorry to say that I very often hear some variation of, “In hindsight, I really wish I hadn’t left that job. The other one didn’t pan out to be what it seemed. It’s true what they say, the grass is always greener.” If you’re moving on, make sure you’ve done the self-reflection to know in your heart of hearts that the move you’re making is the right one, that you’re not just jumping at a ‘shiny object’. All that said, there are two additional considerations here. If you choose to decline the offer after going through the interview process with another company, you risk burning bridges because you’ve wasted their time, so you’ve got to communicate really clearly about why you’ve made that decision. On the other hand, if you choose to accept, your current employer may counter-offer. There are too many variables to offer general advice here, but before accepting a counter-offer, you should give some serious thought to two questions: First, why did it have to come to your resignation for them to offer this? And second, how do they perceive your loyalty as an employee, now that they know you’ve had your eyes open?
Should I change jobs?
Recommendation: Fold ‘em … as long as you’re certain that you’re moving for all the right reasons.
There are no growth opportunities. Should I change jobs?
This can mean any number of things. For some people, it’s ‘ladder climbing’ career progression; increasingly senior titles, with growing responsibilities and numbers of direct reports. For other people, it’s more about learning new skills. Sometimes, five years of experience in a particular job is actually one year of experience repeated five times. That can be incredibly frustrating if you want to learn and grow. When a candidate tells me in an interview that they left a job for these reasons, I always dig deeper. If I’m going to hire someone (or help get them hired) I need to know how they define growth, so you need to know that first.
Take time to get to the heart of what exactly is missing from your current situation. Then, ask yourself whether you’ve really done everything you can to try and get it where you are. Have you let your managers know that you’re interested in taking on more responsibility? Have you looked for additional ways to contribute beyond the scope of your current job as a means of getting noticed? Have you asked people around you if there are additional skills or abilities you could be developing that would allow you to grow further?
All too often, I’ve interviewed with people who didn’t take this kind of initiative; people who seemed to expect opportunities would be served up to them on a platter. If you can’t tell yourself in all sincerity that you’ve done every thing you could reasonably be expected to do, commit to taking the next six months and do it. If you do move on afterwards, you’ll be able to do so confidently, without a second look back.
Should I change jobs?
Recommendation: Hold ‘em … unless and until you’ve exhausted every possibility to realize the growth you’re looking and hoping for.
I’m not appreciated. Should I change jobs?
This also can have several meanings. For some people, it’s dollars and cents; the company wasn’t giving them raises, or the increases weren’t what they thought they deserved. For others, it’s mediocre or poor performance reviews. Other people work best when they’re given validation and recognition for the work they do; privately with a verbal or written ‘thanks!’ or ‘good job!’, or sometimes publicly, in front of their colleagues.
Once again, before taking any action, the first step is to understand why you feel unappreciated. The reason may or may not be one of the ones I mentioned above. Either way, once you’ve figured out what appreciation means to you, you then have the opportunity to seek it out. If you’re not making as much as you want, have you asked for more? If the initial answer was no, are there things you could do (taking on some additional work, taking a course of some kind) to position yourself for a larger increase? If your last performance review was lukewarm, did you accept the feedback gracefully and professionally, and did you ask about concrete actions you can take to make sure that your next one is better? If you need praise (and that’s not a bad thing; lots of people do to perform at their best), what kind specifically? The vast majority of people tend to offer criticism (constructive or otherwise) more readily than spontaneous praise. If your boss isn’t offering unsolicited recognition, can you get that need met in other ways? You might ask your manager whether your work on some project was what she or he was hoping for. Or, you could send an email recognizing your peers for their work, which – in many cases – will be reciprocated.
It’s human nature to seek appreciation, in all aspects of our lives. There are lots of ways we can get this need met, but sometimes – especially in the workplace – we have to get creative.
Should I change jobs?
Recommendation: Hold ‘em … unless and until you’ve understood what kind of appreciation was missing, and taken steps to see if you can get that need met where you are.
The workplace is toxic.
I hesitated to use that heading because sometimes it’s really not. In interviews, when I’ve dug in on this answer, the real reason is something else. A bad working relationship with a particular person, for example, or something going on in the organization that was temporary and could have been waited out. If you feel that your workplace is toxic, first rule out whether there’s a more specific issue at play – one you might be able to address in a different way. But all that having been said, there are workplaces that are truly awful places to be. Somebody in senior management (maybe an owner or family member who isn’t going anywhere) who is borderline verbally abusive. Harassment of any kind. Or frequent safety violations that management turns a blind eye to. Sometimes in these situations, it’s possible to get action through legal means, or through regulatory bodies. But – being realistic – sometimes the right move is just to walk away. No one – I repeat, NO ONE – should be expected to stay in a job that risks their mental, emotional, or physical health.
Should I change jobs?
Recommendation: Fold ‘em … if it’s actually a toxic workplace, and if legal remedies aren’t possible. If you can pinpoint a more specific root cause, try fixing that first, if you can. But don’t put your health at risk for longer than you need to if the problem can’t be solved.
If you’re stuck in a bad job, it’s tough to know when to walk away, and when to run. I hope this has helped with that decision.
As far as whether or not to count your money at the table, you’re on your own. That’s outside my area of expertise.