I recently thought about my current job and realized that I have been employed here for eight and a half years. That's over double the time I held any other job in my professional career. It got me thinking about what has kept me here, but I decided to look at it more from the angle of why haven't I left. Thinking about it, I boil it down to a few different things.
Three Big Reasons I've Stayed At My Job For So Long
- Rewarding Opportunities – I'm an IT project manager, so I've worked on numerous different project since I've worked here, and I've had the opportunity to work on a couple of standout projects, where I increased my skills, had high visibility, and made a difference that was noticeable and long lasting. These included being part of opening new facilities as well as working in complex migrations of existing healthcare facilities that required precision, teamwork, and detailed planning. Both went well and taught me new things about my profession and myself.
- Work/Life Balance – Even in the most stressful project I've worked on, the stress level is relatively low. I enjoy working but I also enjoy the time I get to spend with my family, and the current job affords me that very well. I definitely take that into consideration when comparing my job to others.
- Valued and Respected– I feel valued at my job. My managers appreciate what I do and I feel as though I am making a difference to the organization and my group, and my peers and leadership respect me and my work. I've been at jobs where good work is not valued, and this is a terrible thing.
There are other reasons that I enjoy my job, but these are three. This leads into a discussion of things that might make you determine that it's time to consider moving on to a new job.
Reasons To Consider Leaving Your Job
- You dread going to work – If you wake up in the morning and the very idea of going to work makes you want to stay in bed or brings your mood down, then this is not a good place to be. You could actually be harming your health and well being, and if it's affecting your mood before you even get out of bed, you could even be causing harm to your relationships. Look at the percentage of time that the average person spends at work, driving back and forth from work, and getting ready for work, and there's just too much there to accept being unhappy.
- Your future looks the same as today – If you feel like you're doing the same thing each and every day, but you have hoped for more, it might be time to consider leaving, especially if your future prospects look a lot like today's prospects. Actually, for many people, this is fine. If you're comfortable and happy and can see a few more years keeping you that way, then this might be OK…for now. But if boredom is creeping in or has completely taken over, it might be time.
- Your prospects for advancement or change are dim – Looking at the item above, many times companies have opportunities that could keep you there and provide you the movement you need, whether it be upward or lateral with different skills. However, if the company doesn't have those prospects or if they aren't available to you, it might be beneficial to consider looking elsewhere.
- You aren't feeling challenged – There are some careers where every moment is a challenge and you feel overwhelmed. There are others where there are no challenges whatsoever. I don't want either of those. I enjoy my job because I get challenged to do new things on a regular basis. If you do, and you're no longer getting those challenges, you might be ready to move on.
- You're peaking – On the flip side of the last few items, it's very well possible that you are hitting a high point in your career, and even if you're perfectly happy, you might be able to ride the wave to bigger and more exciting things at your company. Chances are if you're hitting all the high notes where you are, there are other companies that would appreciate that. Use your leverage should the opportunity feel right. (See my personal follow-up in the last paragraph about how this applied to me, and how ‘leverage' is often the key word)
- Things have changed in an unsatisfying way – Change starts happening the moment you start any job. Managers leave. Employees come and go. Job requirements change. The culture can change. The overall economy has effects far and wide. In the eight and a half years I've been here, a lot has changed, but my place and perception has continued to fit well. I'm lucky. I've been in organizations where things were perfect, but then for any number of reasons, change happened and it was no longer a fit. If you once felt in place but now feel out of place, something has changed, and it might be time to look for somewhere that's a better fit.
Reasons Not To Leave A Company
I've listed a few reasons to consider leaving. Here are a few reasons that I would not consider as reasons to drive a job change.
- Money – This one might seem surprising. After all, who doesn't want to make more money? I list this with a caveat, that money should not be the only driving factor. If you feel you need to look around for a job that pays better, then chances are this already aligns with some of the reasons above, in which case it's fine. Money should be the secondary factor in any decision to leave your job. But, if you're perfectly happy in your job in all ways except you go looking for more money, I would exercise caution, as more often than not I've seen people perfectly happy in a job go somewhere to make 15% more, only to find multiple items from the above list make their switch a negative experience that they would likely not do if given the chance.
- You haven't approached management – If you aren't feeling challenged or are looking for new skills that you aren't getting, before leaving, I always advise talking to your manager and explaining your position. While there are times where the opportunities simply aren't there, I've seen on many occasions where management simply wasn't aware that the employee was looking for something different. One word of advice, if your manager does promise to give you more challenges, opportunity, or the like, make sure you get an established timeline, as it has happened that management will tell an employee what they want to hear only to avoid losing them, figuring that they'll forget about it after a few months time, so make sure to work on a plan and hold them to it. If they fail to deliver, then you can leave knowing that the opportunities truly weren't there.
- Following someone – I have seen several occasions where someone left a company for another, and talked about what a great experience it was. Former co-workers follow, figuring if it was that great for the first person, it has to improve their scenario,only to find out for whatever reason that it's a poor fit. Just because the guy that used to sit on the other side of the wall talks about what a great job it is across town, doesn't mean it will work for you. Every employee is unique, they all have different wants and desires and need different challenges and opportunities. What fit for them may not fit for you. Make sure if you do take a referral from a former colleague, that you filter out some of the noise and make a decision that's right for you…not for them.
Have I Considered Leaving?
Now that I've laid these items out, I figure it's worth noting my personal experience in the eight and a half years I've been here. I seriously considered leaving one time. I just got moved into a very high visible position for which few were qualified, so I was ‘peaking'. I hadn't gotten a raise in quite some time prior to that, but I knew that making money the primary issue was not the approach I wanted to take, so I waited until I was fully entrenched in the new position, doing very well, and knew that the company would likely have risk of not meeting important deadlines if I left, and took the opportunity to look around, get an outside offer, and use that as leverage to request a raise. My request was promptly authorized. I couldn't have asked for a better scenario.
Readers, what are some experiences you've had or witnessed in terms of the right or wrong reasons to consider leaving a job?