“Should I Stay Or Should I Go?” (The Clash)

At some point in your career you have probably wrestled with this question. I’ll bet that a few of you are in the midst of this internal debate right now:

  • I feel stagnant, but know the politics and can do this job with my eyes closed.
  • The potential package is great, but the environment is more intense and less family-friendly.
  • My boss hates me (or I hate my boss); anything would be better.
  • The challenge and entrepreneurial culture are very appealing, but the benefits aren’t.
  • I feel completely unappreciated, but am overwhelmed at the thought of a job search.

It’s rarely a simple decision, but there are a few steps which will make it easier. First, pull out two pages from a legal pad for a modified version of the old pro’s and con’s assessment. Title one page “Stay Put” and the other “Make the Move”. Then draw a vertical line down the middle of each page and label the left column “Pro’s” and the right column “Con’s”. Begin listing as many things as you can and keep it handy for when other issues come to mind. When it seems representative, rank the most important 3 – 5 considerations.

Typically, people only do one pro’s and con’s worksheet, focusing just on the viability of leaving, especially if it’s for a specific opportunity. While this evaluation provides insight about the option at hand, it’ll keep you blind to other possibilities. I’ve seen lots of “ah ha” moments when clients get really clear about their current situation.

The second step is less concrete but more valuable. Your “rational” evaluation is influenced by a complex range of emotions: frustration, excitement, disappointment, hope, uncertainty. Sometimes they can mask additional factors influencing your decision. For example, does it seem easier to leave than own up to performance shortcomings or learn something new? That would be good information to have, since when we move, we typically take our baggage with us. (Conversely, are you balking at a terrific new opportunity because it stretches you?) Ask yourself the following:

  1. What do I long to escape?
  2. What is drawing me away?
  3. What would remain the same?

Incorporate your responses into the lists from Step 1. Now what’s your gut telling you?

When working with a client in transition, we focus on clarifying their options and potential outcomes. At the same time, we look at how they could be more effective in their current role. Their answers to the above three questions are a good starting point. This second strategy lets them build new skills which will support success in their next role and make their current situation more enjoyable. In some instances, shifting a few things in the current situation has worked so well that the vote has shifted from “go” to “stay”

*Originally published in the February 2007 issue of Jump In newsletter.


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