Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

It seems that during these tough times, we hear more about people losing jobs than leaving them, but the question of when to leave a job is still relevant.

I recently gave a leadership workshop in Houston. One of the people attending my workshop was taking it because she needed to improve her situation at work. She came in with the flu and I am certain that her physical sickness was related to the fact that she was emotionally drained because of her work situation.

I advocate that people work hard at improving their situation(s) by taking full accountability of what they may be contributing towards the problem. A connected and committed leader does take a good look in the mirror to own up to their shortcomings, However, having said that, there comes a time when you have done all you can and you can not continue to push water up hill.

If you are at that point, Deborah Grayson Riegel offers 8 clues to determine if it is time for you to push the punch button and 6 steps to follow in order to ensure a smooth landing elsewhere.

Here is what she has to say:

There’s a difference between temporary and permanent job dissatisfaction. When and if you realize that your situation is unsalvageable, it’s likely time to think about leaving. When do you know when it’s time to remove yourself from your current situation? There are eight circumstances that warrant a good, hard look at whether you would be better off exploring new opportunities.

1. When you were never a good fit for the job, and never will be. If you are a person who loves variety and lots of action, and your job requires phone time at an isolated desk, it’s going to be difficult to change the structure of your job to create satisfaction. Your job should suit your natural preferences in more ways than it doesn’t. Otherwise, it could be time to move on.

2. When your boss has written you off. If your boss is not willing to communicate with you in a meaningful way, won’t consider your ideas of restructure, and doesn’t really seem to care whether you succeed or fail, it’s definitely time to look elsewhere.

3. When you’ve written your boss off. If you and your boss just don’t gel—if you have vast differences when it comes to values, ethics, incentives, or to work processes in general—you might not be able to find happiness at work as long as you’re working together. Time to go.

4. If you don’t have the desire to learn or improve your skills. If progressing at your job requires additional education or skills, and you find that you really have no interest in pursuing those things, you may not have a fundamental interest in your work. Since having an interest in your work contributes to job satisfaction, it’s probably time to seek other opportunities
5. If you can’t find anything about your job that you like doing. You’re not going to love everything about your job. However, if there’s nothing you like about your job—if you spend all day crunching numbers and you really hate math—the chances of you ever finding job satisfaction are slim. If you think hard but can’t find one thing about your job that you actually enjoy doing, it’s time to change things up. Don’t be afraid to consider a completely different career path.

6. If your job is negatively affecting your health or personal relationships. If the amount of stress and unhappiness at work is so significant that it’s affecting your health or relationships, it’s time to start looking elsewhere. You deserve to be happy and healthy.

7. If there’s no incentive to perform. A job can’t benefit just your employer. It has to benefit you as well. The benefit doesn’t have to be financial. It just has to resonate with you in a way that’s meaningful and motivates you to perform. Incentives can be internal or external—but if there’s no motivation whatsoever for you to get out of bed and perform your job every day, it’s time to find another job.

8. If the atmosphere is toxic. If the level of infighting, gossiping, back-stabbing, and negativity is so multi-layered that you don’t know where it begins or how you would even begin to fix it—time to search for better environs.

Six Steps to a Smooth Transition

When all is said and done, changing jobs is a reality of professional life.

If you’ve decided that your present job is unsalvageable and it’s time to move on, it’s important to develop a strategy to ensure that your new situation is better than your old. By following six simple steps, you can boost the odds of landing a position that meets your needs.

1. Size up your situation. Define the primary issues that are causing your current dissatisfaction. Be very specific so you can avoid situations with similar problems.

2. Proceed with caution. Finally making the decision to move on can be intoxicating, but put the kibosh on your desire to tell your co-workers that you’re “outta here.” Be careful of projecting subtle signals as well. Showing up on casual Friday wearing your best interview suit or taking lots of vacation days—without going on vacation—are clues that your co-workers might pick up on. Looking for a new situation while you have the security of your current job will allow you to take your time and find what you’re really looking for.

3. Do some research. Take a look at what’s happening in your industry. What opportunities are out there? What obstacles might you face? Will your current skills and education allow you to get where you want to go in the next year. In five years? In ten? If adding to your qualifications will open more doors for you, take steps now to learn a new skill or gain additional education.

4. Get help. Sometimes you can’t see the trees through the forest. If you’re still having trouble figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, try joining forces with a coach, networking group, mentor, or others who can support and direct you.

5. Be persistent. During this tough economy, persistence is more important than ever. Once you identify some organizations you’d like to work for, make yourself known there. Forget relying solely on help wanted ads or job opening notices. Instead, schedule a meeting with the hiring manager and tell them what you can do for them. If they don’t have a position open now, perhaps they’ll create one. At the very least, they’ll remember you when a good fit does arise.

6. Make a smooth transition. When you do find a new position, make sure to attend to important details. Be sure that you are covered by your current health insurance before your new policy takes over, and decide how you are going to handle any 401 (k), 403 (b), or other employer-sponsored retirement plans you might have.

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