By Friday, my husband and I will have closed on a new home on the other side of town exactly 2.5 years to the day since we signed for the current one. We loved this house when we bought it. It has a gorgeous view of the Cambridge Reservoir, an expansive flower garden of a yard, and huge windows overlooking it all. But, as it turns out, it wasn’t quite the right fit. So, we found another one that looks to be a better match for our family. We are excited about the opportunity, even as we’re awash in a sea of moving boxes. Making the decision to move was a big one, and it has me thinking about other big decisions that come up in our careers.
I’ve talked to many people over the past year who are facing similar situations in their work. What once felt like a great opportunity no longer feels like a fit. The excitement has worn off, or something has shifted in the organization, and now the job that was once so exciting feels like a daily grind. They’re putting their best foot forward, but they’re not inspired or empowered. They want their time and effort each day to mean something, and instead they find themselves just going through the motions. A situation that doesn’t fit anymore saps their energy and leaves them feeling disappointed, stressed and stuck.
Despite those negative feelings, making a change can be complicated. I see clients and potential clients make these two mistakes, either of which can get in the way of their long-term career success and happiness:
- Staying too long: In this case, what I hear people say is “It’s not that bad…” They make excuses and accommodations to offset the situation and avoid making a change. They tell themselves that things will get better, or (worse) they imagine that the problem is entirely with them, and if only they were (fill in the blank) the situation would improve. They sense that things could be better and have fantasies of leaving but are afraid to take the next step. Holding onto something that just doesn’t fit anymore because it’s familiar and comfortable can leave you feeling stuck and depleting. It saps your energy, until you’re no longer your best work or living your best life.
- Making the leap too quickly: On the other hand, jumping too quickly to something else isn’t always the right move either. Sometimes there’s a core problem that’s getting in the way of a role working well. If this isn’t addressed, it will carry over to the next job, and the one after that. For example — someone who hasn’t yet learned how to say “no” effectively or to delegate may find themselves working long hours and feeling overwhelmed. If they blame their boss for giving them too much to do, or the company for overloading them, they may switch jobs before really learning what they could be doing differently to manage their workload. As a result, they find themselves repeating that same pattern in their new job. Another problem with leaping too quickly is jumping into a situation that isn’t really better. The fantasy that “any place will be better than this” causes them to leap too quickly into a new role without doing enough due diligence.
The biggest misconception is that once you sense the need for change, the first step is to start job hunting. Despite that impulse, it’s typically not the best move.
Here’s what I suggest instead:
STEP 1: PAUSE AND ASSESS
Take a step back to understand why your current job isn’t working and how you can avoid repeating those patterns somewhere else. Without doing that work first, you can end up right back where you started. Sure, you might have a different boss and a new commute to work — and that’s all exciting at first — but without addressing the problem at its core, the experience of dissatisfaction will ultimately repeat.
A realistic assessment can also help you manage expectations about what might not change in a new position, and whether or not it’s worth it to make a move knowing those things. Through this process, you get to see what’s actually in your control and how you can create a different outcome.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY NEEDS VERSUS WANTS
Another important step is identifying your must-haves versus your nice-to-haves. Just like in the housing market where no two houses are the same, comparing jobs can also feel like apples-to-oranges. Do you choose between the home with the gorgeous view and the tiny bathroom, or the one with a palatial bathroom and a small garage? It’s the same give and take with a job. Do you choose the one with the bigger mission, but a long commute, or the lateral move next door? Knowing your deal breakers will help you evaluate new opportunities against your current situation.
Doing this clarity work will do one of two things:
- Powerfully prepare you to step into a new role that meets your core needs.
- Shift your perspective about your current job and/or empower you to make changes that resolve your dissatisfaction.
Either way, you’ll have the energy and clarity needed to propel you forward. If you’re still feeling stuck or too close to your own situation to see the forest for the trees, you’re not alone. I’ve been down this road many times with many clients. If you’d like an expert and unbiased outside perspective, let’s chat. I’m here to support you!