When is it time to move on?

Yesterday, I had the chance to speak to a bunch of 2nd Year MBA students about their upcoming career transition back into the working world. Someone asked the question “How do you balance doing your everyday work with thinking about the next career move?” It’s a great question and one that I’ve pondered and discussed with many other MBA graduates. I wanted to share my answer and in general how I like to approach the idea of looking for a new job versus staying in your existing one.

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For me, I have a few principles that I’ve used to build a framework for evaluating whether I need to move on or stay in my job. Here they are:

  • There are always ups and downs, and while it’s okay to be concerned about some rough or stressful weeks, these things happen and that’s a part of life.
  • In most cases, you need at least 10-12 months to get something meaningful out of a job. If you stay for anything less, you might be selling yourself short. (There are always extenuating circumstances to this)
  • It’s okay (and good) to think about the future, but it’s important to not let it impact your day to day effort.

With that, I like to think of my career as 2-year sprints. During that sprint, I do 4 check-ins, one every six months. During the check-in, I ask myself the following questions:

  • Am I still learning everyday?
  • Do I like and respect the people that I am working for and with?
  • Am I committed 100% to doing my best work?

If I can answer yes with supporting evidence for all three questions, that’s usually a green light to keep going. If there is a no, or a lack of supporting evidence to any of those questions it means I need to do some additional probing to understand the root cause.

In some cases, there are  factors that cause me to answer no that I recognize and appreciate but am OK with moving forward on. In other cases, I need to either A) dig further, B) create an action plan for how I am going to work through it or C) it’s time for me to put the wheels in motion for moving on to my next opportunity

It’s not a binary decision of Yes/No, but it’s a simple framework for how I like to evaluate my job in the arc of my career. The main takeaway here is not the questions or the check-ins but the ability to dig deeper into understanding what’s causing my feelings and to do something about it, whether that means keeping up the great work or starting to search for something new. I encourage everyone to come up with their own framework and series of questions that they can reflect on every few months. I think you’ll find it will help you figure out if you should stay put or move onto the next gig.

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