When work gets tough, it’s easy to want to throw in the towel. Sure, leaving is the right answer if there is absolutely nothing else you can do to improve your situation. But a lot of the time we leave before we’ve exhausted all our options.
Leaving a job can be costly for both you and your organization. It can be costly for you because you may run into the same problems at your new organization. I see it a lot in my work, it’s like that realization that your dating problems seem to repeat — different people, same problems. So frustrating!
It can save you a lot of time and energy (not to mention pain) to get clear on what’s going wrong and what the next ideal role really looks like. I help my clients build their career vision via four buckets: overall cultural values, organizational mission, the role description/skills required and career growth opportunities at the company. We then measure this against their individual preferences and aim for 90% alignment in all buckets — nothing is perfect.
It’s important to take the time to do this because we get really fixated on the excitement of going somewhere new, just to realize that once the “new” feeling wears off, we end up feeling like we’re in the same place. It’s like thinking moving to California is going to be a full-time vacation until you realize, “Woah, same problems, different scenery.”
Moving jobs is also costly for your organization. They don’t want you to leave! They have to recruit, hire, and train a new employee to take your spot. And what if they’re not as good as you are? Even worse. Time is money and your company will most likely listen and do what they can to help you feel happier or more fulfilled at work.
If you’re thinking about leaving your job, check out the ideas below before you start putting all of your energy into a job search. There may be a way to stay right where you are and start feeling better, now!
The first step is to build a strong foundation for yourself. Get clear on what you’re most passionate about, using your strengths and values. Who are you at your core? What comes most naturally to you? How much of these skills are you using in your current role? Think about what makes you feel the most fulfilled about your current role and see if you can get more of that. For instance, if you love the interactions you have with a certain client team or working on a certain process/project, ask for more of it! It cannot hurt to ask. If they say no, see if there’s anyone else you can ask, without going over your bosses’ head, and if it’s still no, then you can tell yourself you’ve tried everything you can to improve your current situation (i.e. permission to start looking elsewhere).
Another way to build your foundation is through your “why,” what Simon Sinek calls your “north star” or guiding reason for doing what you do for a living. What part of your role/company/industry excited you most when you started your job? Maybe that reason has expired, but you also may just need to reconnect with it and realign your role and either ask for more work that aligns with your “why” or see if you can shift your mindset to better understand the purpose behind the tasks you are doing.
Another idea is to explore outside of your traditional job description, a concept called “intrapreneurship.” It’s an entrepreneurial way of navigating and creating your own role, inside your organization, to add more passion and purpose to your existing role. Ideas include creating or joining a small team focused on wellness, sustainability, diversity and inclusion, employee training/engagement, entrepreneurship, women’s/men’s group, books/Literature, Netflix or anything else that comes to mind. You may be able to make a case for additional compensation, budget or benefits because these committees can truly benefit both you and the organization.
"Side hustles," while not part of your existing job can help to shift your perspective from the monotony of the weekly grind to focusing your free time more on your passions/interests. It can take some delegation and boundary setting to free up some of your time, but it can be a really rewarding way of shifting your career and life to feel more balanced and fulfilling.
If you’ve learned a considerable amount in your career, why not become an expert/thought leader in your field. Teach what you’ve been learning over your career through writing/blogging, speaking, mentoring, coaching and teaching. This can end up being both an additional income stream for you and your organization as well as brand awareness!
If none of these are options for you, or you’re experiencing burnout or stress overload, it may be best to get out of there for a reset, then start to evaluate what’s going wrong, so you can set yourself up in the future.