Many people leave a job believing they will be leaving their problems only to find the same challenges somewhere else. When this isn’t true, the person who goes because they think it will be easier to work somewhere else is often surprised to find different—but equally difficult—circumstances. It’s easy to believe that things are better across the street, and sometimes that turns out to be accurate, but it’s not often the case. How do you know it’s time to leave your company?
Every company and every work environment has positives and negatives. A company might pay every well but demand more from you than you are willing to give. Another company might pay less but have factors that are worth more to some people, like work-life balance and a different level of freedom. There is no doubt that when you leave your current company, you are trading one set of things you don’t like for a new set of things you will not like—most of which you will be unaware of before you decide to cross the street.
This doesn’t mean that it isn’t time for you to fly. It very well could be, but to be sure, you have to know what you are leaving and why.
Why Are You Leaving, Really?
One of two things is often true for people who are struggling with the decision to leave their current company. In the first case, they know the source of their dissatisfaction and are clear about why they are going. In the second case, they can describe a sense of being unhappy, but can’t quite put it into words. If you want to find a better situation, you need to know why you are leaving.
Maybe you want to leave because the person you report to is a monster. Or perhaps you believe you are worth more money somewhere else or doing something different. These reasons—and dozens more—are good enough for you to leave. However, even when your reasons are clear to you and any objective party kind enough to listen to you share your circumstances, you are still challenged with ensuring you end up in a better scenario.
You could be leaving because you are bored, burnt out, or consumed with the feeling that there is something more you need to do. The work may not provide a sense of purpose, meaning, of fulfillment. It may feel as if it’s time to move on. All of these reasons are valid, and they are also enough to justify moving on. When these things are true, you might first want to ask yourself if the reason you are unhappy is that you are not engaged with your work, not trying to improve everything you touch, and not proactively creating a role that allows you to feel different about your work. If you recognize that you aren’t bringing your best self to your work, changing the place you show up to each day isn’t likely to make the difference. There are, however, some situations where putting forth your best effort will not be permitted or rewarded, in which case, a change is necessary.
There is one thing you need to know before you decide to leave your company: what is it that you want?
You Have to Know What You Want
You don’t want a new job. You want what you believe a new job provides you that you think will make things better for you.
You might believe you want a new manager, one who isn’t a monster. If you believe that is true, you may be disappointed. A manager who is not a monster might also be one who ignores you, refuses to help you, or generally neglects you. You may find out that your apathetic manager is no better for you than the tyrant you left. Maybe you want a manager who cares about the people in their charge, working with them, developing them, and helping them produce the results they’re capable of but haven’t unlocked. That is clarity about what you want and need.
You may believe your current environment is stifling, that your creativity is being smothered by your company’s buttoned-up, bureaucratic, non-entrepreneurial culture. Surely another company will have a greater appreciation for the ideas and deals your current company rejected with what felt to you like extreme prejudice. Moving from one corporate company to another similar corporate environment may find you right back where you started. Because you have grown accustomed to a particular compensation package, the smaller, more entrepreneurial companies that might find your non-traditional deals interesting might also be the kind of companies that lack the resources to give you the salary you expect. You have to know what you want.
Unless and until you are clear on what you want and why you want it, you aren’t likely to find a better situation. So what is it that your next role needs to provide you? What are you willing to live with to have what you want?
Explore Your Options
None of what I wrote here should discourage you from exploring. If you are struggling with the idea of leaving your current company and role for a new one, it should inspire you to do the work necessary to decide why it is that you are leaving and working to find clarity about what it is you want. It should also cause you to research potential roles and companies to be as sure as possible that your new situation provides what you want—with downsides that you can accept.
You are not likely to find a place that you can call home and do your very best work if you bounce from one job to another, believing that your company is solely to blame for your happiness and job satisfaction. It might take you more time to discover what you want and where you might find it, but it is better to do the work and be patient than to move from one company to the next, leaving one situation you find untenable for another you find equally or more difficult.
When you are sure the reason you are unhappy isn’t the result of you not giving your work your best effort, using your creativity and imagination to make the role what you need it to be, it’s time for you to explore your options. When you know what you want, why you want it, and have found a place that can provide it, you are most of the way there. However, you also must be sure you are willing to give your best effort to your new company for it to be time to leave your existing company.
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