When do I start looking for something new professionally and leave where I am now?
This is a tough topic and question to answer.
This is a question I get asked a lot, especially since the technology job market is thriving and there are a lot of opportunities out there. A lot of those who ask this question are looking for a formula or framework to think through when it comes to making a decision like this, but communicating a framework is challenging because each situations has a level of uniqueness.
In effort to get my own thoughts organized so I can better coach those around me, here are some things I think through when it comes to “when to leave”. Here are a few good things to think through when contemplating leaving your current job:
#1: When you can no longer influence positive change: This is a big one for me as a leader. When I can no longer influence positive change in my organization, it’s probably time for me to move on. Sometimes circumstances are so challenging that the ability to influence change is limited and a change might help us all.
#2: When your followers stop listening to your message: This is something you hear often with college or professional sports. You start to hear comments like, “that coach has lost the locker room” or “that coach’s players have stopped listening to their message and there needs to be a new voice in the organization”.
This is a tough one for us leaders, but when our message is no longer relevant or our followers need a new voice it may be time to step down or step out. This takes courage and humility, but is sometimes needed for the sake of the broader vision.
#3: When you can no longer engage in what you do: Bringing your personal motivation and discretionary energy to your work is powerful and needed for high performance. When this starts to wane, we start to disengage. When you get to the point where you can no longer motivate yourself and engage as needed to perform at a high level it may be time to look for something new.
#4: When you’ve lost faith in the vision and direction of the company: I’ve blogged a couple of times about the importance of vision. It’s very important for us to understand and commit to the vision and strategy of the company. When you can no longer do this it may be time to find something new.
#5: When you wake up more mornings than not and struggle to get excited about your work: Steve Jobs gave a commencement speech at Stanford a few years ago and spent time talking about this idea. He reiterated that we shouldn’t settle in our pursuit of doing the things we love. Since we spend so much time at work, we should find opportunities to do what we love instead of staying in situations we dread walking into every day.
Here are a few practical things to do before you take that leap and leave:
Seek wisdom from others: Don’t bypass this. We should not make a decision like this in a silo. That is dangerous. When making decisions like this we should seek out wisdom from those we trust. This will help us understand better what the wise thing to do is because they can provide objective feedback and interpretation we just can’t get alone. Too often I’ve had those we left thinking the grass was greener come back and second guess or regret the decision they made.
Run to something, not away from something: I have seen many friends and colleagues make mistakes not applying this approach. They dislike their current situation so much that they compromise on “what’s next” in order to get out of their current situation. This sometimes leads to regret, disgruntlement and increased frustration because you don’t end up in a better situation, just a different one. Make sure what you are running to moves you closer to your desired destination.
Write out your ideal job description: Spend time thinking about the type of position you could move to that exploits your strengths. This takes discipline and intentionality, but will help serve as a filter as you look for the right opportunity. This will also help you pick an opportunity that fits better with what you are good at doing and passionate about.
When you leave, make sure you are leaving for the right reasons and for the right opportunity. You never know what hangs in the balance of the decision you make.