Should I stay at my current job? 4 steps to find your path.
Updated: Feb 4
Today’s labor market has a lot of uncertainty. One on hand, the labor market is tight. You can see this in the high rates of businesses with help wanted posting on Indeed and LinkedIn. You can also hear it when you talk to small business owners that complain how hard it is to attract and retain good talent. The government’s latest unemployment report showed unemployment at 3.5%. Historically when the rate is this low, it means that there are more jobs available then people looking for work. This can make it a lot easier to find a job provided that your skills match those of the jobs that are available. At the same time, not a week goes by without a headline about layoffs at another large company. The recent pandemic caused a shift in the psychology of employers. Inflation has driven up operating cost, which has left many business owners and corporate leaders scrambling for ways to cut cost. Labor is the largest variable expense for many companies and is the typically one of the first things to get cut when they are looking to improve cash flow. As uncertainty around the future of the economy has grown, conventional wisdom has led to cost cutting. This uncertainty is contagious and is starting to impact the psychology of workers.
Many are starting to ask how secure is my role? How much work will I have to pick up now that the company has laid off my peers? Do I still enjoy working here? What is my growth potential here? Should I stay with this company? All these thoughts, among others are rolling around workers heads. Leaving a company is one of the most difficult decisions you can make if you have established a good career with an organization. Many of the strongest relationships that people develop are built at work. Work provides a sense of community, purpose and identity for many people. After investing months or years with a company, your emotional attachment to co-worker and previous accomplishments can cause you to hesitate to leave. Before you seek employment with another company, you should take the time to evaluate the growth potential at your current employer. Successfully growing your career takes time, hard work, knowledge of your industry, awareness of how profits are generated, the ability to make good decision and a strong network. With every career change decision ask yourself this question, "Will this move bring me closer to my ideal job?"
Define ideal job.
Defining your ideal job starts with self-reflection. One exercise that I use with clients to help with self-reflection is to ask them to think about a time in their life when they were extremely proud of an accomplishment. Reflecting on positive experiences is a great way to unearth clarity regarding your values. Analyzing this moment will help you develop a frame of reference for starting to craft your version of an ideal job. Your ideal job should be something that you enjoy, even on a bad day. It should provide for all your compensations needs, and most of your wants while also providing you a sense of fulfillment. In defining your ideal job, you should clarify
· What type of work do you want to do?
· What type of compensation do you want?
· Where do you want this job to be located?
· What type of scope of responsibility do you want?
· Who do you want to work for?
· How much do you want to travel?
Once you have defined what your ideal job looks like. You can begin research what it takes to acquire your ideal job.
As a metaphor, I typically share with my clients that they are currently in Washington D.C., and that their ideal job is in New York (metaphorically). Then we discuss the current actions that they are taking, and I ask them if those actions are taking them towards California or New York. If the client has not defined what their ideal job looks like, the answer is generally I don’t know. What I love about this metaphor is that it crystalizes the importance of being still until you have clarity in where you want to go. In our hustle culture, there is a lot of emphasis on moving. Moving can be a great thing if it is purposeful, but in the example stated above moving in the wrong direction can make your journey longer. Before you make any decision about what you want to do next with your career, it is beneficial to get grounded in where you are trying to go long-term.
Develop your road map.
Once you have taken the time to identify your ideal job, you can begin to develop the road map to get from where you are today, to where you want to go. This is where the heavy lifting happens. Much like any road trip, there are multiple routes that you can take to your destination. There are some routes that are going to be faster than others, but you will not know which route is fastest until you start on your journey. The best thing you can do is to ask others that have experience moving into roles like those that you aspire to. In learning about their path, you can gain insights on what skills and experiences they needed in order to grow into their current role. Since your ideal job, and your starting place is not identical to anyone else, your path will not be the same as others. But you will learn that there are some common roads that everyone must travel in order to get to certain jobs.
As you set out on your journey, you will find that some routes will allow you to pick up new experiences and skill that you might not have known that you needed. This is a good thing. One of the positive side effects of changing where you work, or the type of work that you are doing every few years is that you gain new perspectives, expand your network, and learn different ways of solving similar problems. There is only so much you can learn from staying in one role or in one location. The more variability in experiences that you have, the better you will understand the world around you. These experiences will also give you valuable insight into your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and aversions. With every new role, you will gain greater clarity into what your ideal job looks like.
Going back to the driving to New York analogy. When you start out on your road map, your original goal might be to go to New York based on the information that you had at the time. As you start on your path, you might find that your priorities have shifted, and that New York is no longer the destination. You may decide that you would be happier staying in Philadelphia. Or you may decide that New York is really just a resting spot, and you actually want to go to Boston. This decision is completely yours, and you should take comfort knowing that your ideal job is not a set finished line, but a directional target to pursue.
Recognize the need to pivot.
One of the biggest challenges in navigating your career path is deciding how long you will stay in any given role. Your current job has two primary functions. One is to take care of the needs you have today. The second is to prepare you for the opportunities you will pursue tomorrow. When a job is no longer meeting both of these needs, it is time to contemplate finding different employment. One method for evaluating if your current job is meeting your needs is to evaluate different aspects of your life and rating your satisfaction. In one exercise I conduct with clients I ask them to rate each of these segments of their life