Should I stay or should I go now?

25 08 2011

Classic, sexy seventies song The Clash.

But if this is what you are thinking about your work, how do you know when it is time to move on?

1. Have I learned what I need to know here? To misquote Dead Poet’s Society (and hence no doubt an unnamed poet), have I sucked the marrow dry? Can I demonstrate a benefit from having been here on my resume?

2. Have I done what I need to do for the organisation? It’s not great to leave in the middle of a great or risky project. Sure, it happens sometimes, the perfect job comes up at an imperfet time, and no-one is irreplaceable. But do the right thing by the organisation as well as by yourself.

3. Is there a push reason as well as a pull reason? A push reason might be a restructure, or a significant change in the organisation or its business which means your job is no longer needed or no longer what you signed up for. A pull reason might be a fabulous opportunity that has come up somewhere else.

4. Did you make a mistake? Yes sometimes in our careers we apply for a job and once we are in it realise it is not a good fit. Maybe the job isn’t how it was advertised, maybe it changes after you are there, maybe the culture doesn’t fit with your work style. The honourable thing is to move on with grace. If the organisation is open to it, you might give them notice and feedback in advance. No fault, no blame.

5. Have you stayed too long at the party? While the Postwar generation and Babyboomers often stay for a long time in positions or with the same organisation, this is increasingly becoming the exception rather than the norm. Career promotions often come from moving into other organisations rather than waiting for a vacancy to open up in your own organisation. You might not get long service leave, but you might progress faster and have a more rewarding career. And be able to share your talents with a variety of organisations.

6. If you are deeply unhappy, ethically challenged or otherwise psychologically uncomfortable. Work through what it is. It is a transient issue? No organisation is going to fit 100% with your preferences. But if you are deeply troubled by something that is happening at your workplace, then moving on could be the answer. Sadly, this is often the resolution of bullying in the workplace – the victim moves on.

7. Give some thought to how your resume looks. If you are moving on every couple of years – or worse, every couple of months – then you have a problem in your resume, and maybe you have a problem in your work expectations or your choice of jobs. No good jumping from the frying pan to the fire – employers are looking for some stability, even if you are Gen Y.

I debated putting something here about reasons not to move, but if you are happy and fulfilled in your job, you probably aren’t reading this. And even if you are, you know you are in the right place.

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