The grass is always greener on the other side, especially on the job front. You may be talking with a friend who has really cool perks that you don’t have. Perhaps she gets more time off or has a more flexible work schedule than you. Whatever it is you crave, it seems like she has it at her job and you don’t. Even though we all rationally know that no job is perfect, you hear this and suddenly you feel like you should update your resume and find that perfect job everyone else has and you don’t.
Hold the phone. Before you jump ship, contemplate the following.
Why do you want to leave?
Are you tired of the project your currently working on? Are you having a conflict with a colleague. Or, have you learned everything you can in your current role and have found the next great step in your career? As a mentor of mine wisely asks, “Are you running away from something or toward something?” It’s easy to get frustrated or burnt out and to be tempted to run away in search of that proverbial greener grass. Rash decisions about changing jobs can often lead to regret. In your career, you always want to be moving forward toward that next opportunity where you can learn something new or advance your skill set in a way that your current role can’t. Hang on. It’s worth the wait.
Have you talked to your manager about your challenges?
By this I mean, have you very clearly talked to your manager, helping her understand exactly how you feel about your situation? I learned the hard way how important clear and consistent communication is when it comes to obstacles.
Many years ago, I worked for an agency that I loved. I had a great relationship with the owner and things were going well, until one day I had a significant personality clash with a key executive at the company. I tried to work it out but couldn’t do it on my own. It seemed impossible to overcome. The agency owner knew about it and I didn’t feel like he took it seriously. I believed my only way out of the situation was to leave the agency. So I found another job. When I resigned, the owner was shocked. He knew that I was having trouble with this person but he didn’t know how dire the situation was for me. Should he have listened better when I told him? Perhaps. But I believe most of the accountability was on me. I didn’t make it clear how serious the situation was for me. He didn’t know that I couldn’t find a way past it. He didn’t know that not resolving this was a deal breaker for me. How could he? I never told him.
Now that I’m in a leadership role, I know there is a difference between when an employee is venting and when a situation points that employee toward the door. But I don’t always know where someone is in their journey across that spectrum. So I need to be told. If I have a team member who is in a situation where she feels the need to leave, I’d like the chance to know about it and resolve that for her. In order to do that I need to be crystal clear on what the issue is and the severity of it.
As an employee, I’ve put that into practice myself. A few years back, I hit a wall in resolving a challenge I was having. I didn’t see a way out. It was impacting my sleep, my work and my life in a negative way that wasn’t sustainable. Learning from my past situation, I set up time to talk to my leaders about it. I showed up prepared with a clear articulation of the problem and I asked for help. I let them know that I couldn’t resolve it on my own and that the circumstances were unsustainable for me. I was shocked by the amount of support I received from them. They recognized the severity of the issue for me and that it wasn’t easy (or typical) for me to ask for help. They took swift action and the matter was resolved. It was a very difficult conversation to have, but I’m so grateful I took the step.
What are your goals?
When I talk about goals, I’m not just talking about your career goals. As a person who subscribes to the idea of work/life integration rather than work/life balance, I have to take the entire picture into consideration. Like anyone, the kind of work I’m doing matters, along with opportunities to try new things, recognition and support from my leadership. Beyond that, for me, the people with whom I’m surrounded, the amount of travel, autonomy, flexibility and values are huge. That entire 360 view of what makes up my life is factored into any career decision I make. If you haven’t already, take some time to identify and prioritize what’s important to you. Don’t be shy about it or afraid to speak up. As your life changes, your goals will likely evolve as well. Share these with your manager. It’s impossible for her to help you achieve your goals if you aren’t both clear on what they are.
As a Gen Xer, it’s so interesting to see how things have changed from my parents’ generation to the next generation. My parents looked at a job as a lifelong commitment, not nearly as transitional as they can be today. I challenge myself to find the right balance of the two where I’m thoughtfully taking on new opportunities (internal or external) as they make sense for my career and my life, not just based on where the grass seems greenest.