Career Corner: When is it time to move on to a new position?

By | November 14, 2018

There are many reasons why you stay in a job.  You enjoy the work, you like the people.  The salary is good.  You are happy to produce solid results.  You feel important and get a lot of respect.  You regularly face interesting, stimulating challenges. Maybe the stress or anxiety about doing your job well is low.  Your employer is in strong market position, and staying put enhances your market value.  Maybe your reason for staying is as simple as the commute is short, or your family situation doesn’t allow you to consider a transition/relocation at this time.

Chances are your position isn’t characterized by all the wonderful attributes mentioned above.  Inevitably things change, and sometimes rapidly…the great situations described above can do an about-face in a matter of months, or even weeks.  Sometimes it’s just plain inertia that discourages change.  What if –

Routine becomes tedium

  • Your job has become boring.

“I started to feel like I was going through the motions every day. I was doing everything I could to get out of meetings that had become insufferable to me.”

  • You’re distracted and disillusioned.
  • You don’t have the impact you would like to provide.
  • What was once interesting gets “old” and you are tired of the same conversations, challenges and problems.

“Most of the time, I was passionate about the job, the work, the people, our goals, and our accomplishments. But one day things just felt changed for me. It wasn’t a sudden change but a cumulative one. “

Stress mounts

  • Sundays are ruined by the thought that the next day is Monday and you have to return to work.
  • You feel burdened.
  • You find yourself less patient with your co-workers; what was quirky now becomes annoying.
  • Stress is affecting your mental and physical health.

“The stress of my job was certainly affecting my family.”

Work changes

  • Goals set for you are unattainable.
  • You are not aligned with a new leader or a new strategic direction.

“The new CEO wanted to focus on an initiative that I thought was ill-conceived, with little chance of success. Unfortunately, my group would be responsible for implementation and also be saddled with the subsequent failure.”

  • New ownership or new senior management have changed the culture – in a way that no longer fits with your values.
  • Market changes or new technology makes your role less promising than it had been.

“I clearly needed to shift my role to maintain my relevance to the organization. But I kept hitting organizational roadblocks.”

Stagnation ensues

  • Your position hasn’t grown and your skills are not being optimally utilized.

“I was being pigeon-holed into inpatient services since that was my history, rather than being recognized as a manager first, who could apply my skills to ambulatory care.”

  • You’re not learning much.
  • Fresh challenges are few and far between.
  • You strongly feel you’re ready for more responsibility.
  • You realize you’ve been at your job for so long that maybe it’s just time to try something new. There’s a whole world of possibilities out there and you want a new adventure.

The decision to consider other opportunities – or to actively seek them out – is not easy, and entails balancing the pros and cons of giving up what you have now for what you can do or get elsewhere.  This requires a lot of “be true to yourself” introspection, and should also include consultation with others who know you personally and professionally.

What to do?

Evaluate your current situation in detail. What are the positives and negatives of your job? Why do you feel that way? A person who can be a sounding board—a mentor, a friend, a coach—can be invaluable in this analysis. Gaining someone else’s perspective can shed a different light on your situation and your interpretation of circumstances.

Can you make some changes and re-inject energy and interest into your work? Is there a specific problem with your current position that could be addressed by moving to another position within your current organization? Would changing some aspect of your current position be helpful? Being able to offload a particular responsibility might change the balance enough to change your outlook. Are personal circumstances causing you to look at your work with a jaundiced eye? Would an opportunity to re-charge make the difference? Sometimes dedicated time away from work, like a sabbatical, can shift your perspective.

If you decide to leave your current position and look for something else, do a cost/benefit analysis.  List the things that you like and don’t like about your present position and the things you seek in a new position.  Hypothetically, what would you be giving up in exchange for what advantages?  Documenting it helps clarify the dimensions.

If you are considering leaving your present job for another, specific one, your situation has moved beyond the hypothetical. Your evaluation of what to do is similar, just more focused. Get input from people who know about the new opportunity, company or professional setting.  Sharpen that cost/benefit list: look at what you will be giving up compared with what you will be getting, or hope you will be getting. Evaluate the likelihood of your actually getting what you hope for, and the relative values of all things considered on your list. A deliberate and thoughtful process will pay off; take the time to do it.

About the Authors: Jeff Zegas (CEO) and Susan Servais (Senior Vice President) are team members at ZurickDavis, a retained executive search firm exclusively serving health care organizations.