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Should I Stay or Go?

By Andy Warren,

Today we have a guest editorial from Andy Warren as Steve is on vacation.

Recently I was reflecting on my own career decisions and whether I had stayed too long or not long enough at various jobs. The short answer is “yes”, but it’s really hard to know that at the time when you’re making (or not making) the decision if you’re doing the right thing. Looking back, I have distinctly different thoughts on the “what if” view I had at the time.

Thinking about the benefits of staying longer is notional; there’s no guarantee it would have netted the experience or opportunity I hoped for. I think the decision is a bit emotional, too. The other side is much more concrete. If you stay,ed too long you look back and know you should have changed sooner. All the signs were there and you put the decision off, perhaps out of loyalty or stubbornness or just fear of change – it feels like wasted time and energy.

The latter has only happened a few times to me, but it has definitely shaped my thinking. At this point in my career I’m clear on the trade-offs that accompany each new job or project, and I know that there will never be a job that is perfect. I accept that. But I also know that when I’m not happy because of the work or the work place it’s time to go.

Now you might be thinking that’s premature. The smart move is to talk to the boss or the client, explain your discontent, and get things changed for the better. That might work. In some scenarios I might do that. But in most cases it’s me that no longer fits (or was a fit to start with) and the company is unlikely to change to suit my needs, even if it could.

I’m not advocating leaving because you had a bad day, or even a bad month. You should always consider external factors that may be affecting your view (health, family, etc.) when you make career decisions. But if you’re not happy at work and you can’t see that changing, it’s time to go. Do it on your own time table, do your best to move to an environment that better suits you, and of course do it professionally. 

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