I meet people every day who ask for my opinion on one question – should I leave?
First and foremost, follow your passions. If there is an opportunity that fits with something that excites you and gets you blurring the boundary between working for a living and working for fun, jump on it and everything else will come naturally. If the opportunity doesn’t exist, maybe you should create one. My sister-in-law is amazing at this one and continuously reinvents herself, based on her current passion. Whether you’ve always wanted to be your own boss or work in Health & Wellness, passions are callings you should obey. If your passion doesn’t fit the opportunities available inside your current company and you are unable to create one, it may be time to look outside. This takes courage, but has huge rewards.
Second, avoid stagnation. If you feel you are not learning or growing, feel you can “do better”, are dreading coming to work or are feeling bitter about your employer; it may be time to look outside. I know people who complain about their work and their company incessantly. Why do they stay? If you are facing stagnation and lack of growth opportunities, you should do you and your employer a favor and move on. Don’t get me wrong, it’s always good to find a way to get your concerns heard and instigate change when possible. But you should not make yourself out to be the victim if you can’t. Companies change, leadership changes, so buy in or move on. I had a quote at my desk from many years ago; “An organization pays a heavy price when its bright, capable people quit and leave. But it’s even more costly when bright, capable people quit and stay.” – Rodger Dean Duncan. I also advise folks to look inside themselves too – sometimes it’s the mindset and not the environment that causes these feelings. That’s a problem moving organizations won’t solve.
Third, growth opportunity, are you ready for it? Lateral moves don’t make much sense to me (unless you are following your passion or looking for a fresh start per above). Usually, I advise people to look for jumps in their growth – a larger scope with more direct impact, an exciting new; category, product line or responsibility or significantly higher pay. Large companies often have a ton of opportunities to continue to grow in a professional career and it takes time to build up credibility and connections within them. It’s smart to look inside to leverage that credibility and connection before jumping ship. If you do find that external roles do offer succession planning or that jump, go for it.
Last but not least, get a life. Work / life balance matters – everyone touts it, but who lives it and what companies truly support it? Everyone has different personal values and goals. You should stay true to yours. Time matters – if you value staying connected to your spouse and kids, you may not want a role that requires you to travel 3 weeks in a month or 12 hour days. Pay matters – if you are looking to fund your child through college or university, you may not be able to afford working part time and pursue a dream. Location matters – if you spend 2 hours of unproductive time driving /commuting as I have in the past years, the stress manifests. If you need to be close to aging parents in another destination or even a hobby or pastime you enjoy, you should move. If your existing employer is unable to meet these needs, it may be time to look elsewhere.
“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest damned thing in the world.” – Unknown