If you are at a crossroads -- wondering whether you should stay at or go from a company post -- don’t make this big life decision unless it is on your terms and for the right reasons. Statistically, you have a better chance of being promoted from within than hired from the outside. And although the compensation can be as much as 20 percent higher for outsiders, the performance of newcomers often lags behind that of internally elevated individuals.
Likewise, if you’re considering joining a startup, remember that the failure rate of new businesses is estimated to be as high as 75 percent. While daunting, these stats are not deterrents: just additional reasons to think things through.
To gain the clarity in making a decision, consider three simple questions. Each question offers a chance to reorient you to your deeper priorities and aspirations. If you signed on to your current job out of convenience, necessity or desperation and now have a better offer on the table, don’t waste your time with these questions. If you feel some level of confusion or uncertainty about whether to stay or go, however, inquire before you leap.
Do I truly connect with this job? A current position has a way of imposing a certain grip. Sometimes, the pull is purely financial, so we stick a position because of the compensation, benefits and lifestyle it affords. Other times the attraction lies with the intrinsic connection with other people in the workplace and the responsibilities entailed. But when the total benefits seem elusive, ask whether the job is a good fit. Take a presence/absence test by reading the statements on this checklist and seeing if they ring true:
1. I feel supported in my efforts to get my best work done and to succeed in my role.
2. I have the necessary resources to do my job effectively.
3. I receive recognition for a job well done.
4. I have opportunities to learn and advance in my career.
5. I receive competitive compensation and opportunities to grow.
Alone each of these factors are important. If all these statements are true, these elements together pave the way for a meaningful connection to a job or organization that truly draws out the best in personal performance. Stop settling for just one or two of these positive factors; recognize that disengagement starts when there are multiple missing pieces.
Does this job have an unrealized upside? In life and work, expect a good return on an investment. Everyone wants to know that what they do matters at some level, whether it's social, monetary, or an experience. Whether people have been at a workplace18 months or 10 years, they have already made a critical time investment. Uncertain about whether to stay? Consider whether there is an unrealized upside yet to come.
If you have cultivated solid relationships, then you may be a phone call away from an invitation to join an exciting new project team. If you have managed up well and put your talents on the radar of decision-makers, then that choice assignment or leadership role you’ve coveted could be around the corner. Without a crystal ball, how do you know whether waiting around will add up to false hope or valuable patience? Test it in two dimensions and use these questions to check for unrealized upside:
Upward on the organizational chart:
1. How much does my boss really know about the value I contribute and the results I deliver?
2. Are there other organizational leaders whoneed to know I have untapped capabilities?
3. Is it worth communicating openly with a few trusted people to see if internal movement is possible?
Across the organizational chart:
1. How much have I learned from my colleagues and is there more growth that I want here?
2. Am I contributing to others' performance and sparking ideas that could lead to other opportunities in the near future?
3. If I leave now, what is the likelihood of maintaining supportive relationships with the colleagues and leaders I respect in this organization?
If your answers to these questions are vague, then there may be some hidden upside to explore before departing the current organization.
Related: Starting Up? 4 Ways to Turn Your Former Employer Into an Ally.
Does my leaving now allow me to shape the story I want to tell? A person's work history amounts to a collection of diverse relationships and experiences held together by a common theme. How someone chooses to tell the story about acareer path is a significant factor that opens, closes and guides the person through his or her next moves. Before you quit your job, ask whether leaving helps you tell the story. Try out statements like these:
“There were things I wanted to contribute, but over time I realized I was just unable to do so in my previous role. Now I’m searching for opportunities to do my best work within a culture of innovation and growth.”
Or “I was successful in my previous position. For me to thrive, however, I need to be consistently challenged. I’m not willing to rest on past success; I want to grow as a professional.”
In each of these vignettes, the story about the “choice” to move on is framed in a specific way. If your story can be told in a way that elevates your capacity to contribute your highest potential, then you can let go of the fear of explaining your departure. If you can envision speaking with a recruiter or interview panel and telling the story of your exit with a confident voice, then you know you have the conviction to make the leap.