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It’s Sunday afternoon and Tracy is pouring over a stuffed inbox to try to get a jump on the next week, a task that dependably takes much of the joy out of what should be precious time off. She’s also ruminating over feedback she got during the previous week, and is also anxious about tomorrow’s executive presentation. Then, a check of her phone finds a second text from a headhunter… an enticing title, a more innovative company and more money. Who could say “No”?
You’ve most likely experienced a similar situation — was tired if not resentful of a job and the amount of time and energy it required, and dreamt of something better. As soon as you think you found it, you walk into your boss’s office with a two-week notice.
Having coached a great many tech executives over the years, I’ve seen this pattern play out in myriad ways, and have engaged in it myself — fallen prey to the shiny object syndrome in thinking the next job will be far better than the current one. However, unless you get down to the root causes of why a current position isn’t working, chances are that the same problems will be taken along for the ride.
Related: “The Great Resignation,” And The Future Of The Workplace
Here a are a few proven ways of making sure that you’ve addressed any pivotal issues before jumping ship.
1. Ask yourself why you joined the company
Do a little memory check of your current position. Recall particularly how it felt when you got the job offer and what you loved about taking it. Was it the mission and purpose? The company leaders, or your immediate boss? Was it the chemistry with colleagues and other team members, or perhaps it was the title or money? Remember these feelings and motivation(s), and examine which actually still exist in this current role.
2. Be mindful of your enduring value
Now consider more broadly the time you’ve been there. Did you get the things that you wanted? What have you learned? What have been your personal and professional wins? Take a moment to catalog all of these, big and small, and celebrate.
All too often, we gloss over wins and spend time griping at setbacks. Thinking about your value and contributions will also remind you that no position is perfect, and that the next “dream job” will have ups and downs, too. Focusing on what is going well can get you through the long hours, the difficult feedback and conflicts, and remind you of the purpose of your professional life.
Related: Feel More Valuable: 3 Ways to Raise Your Self-Worth
3. Be your own advocate
Consider what else you can still learn at this job. Ask what new skills could you practice and who could be a valuable person to advise you, then begin having conversations that can make that happen. Start with your boss: add to that relationship, perhaps by having a direct, firm and upbeat conversation about why you joined the company, what you’ve accomplished and where you’d like to go. Perhaps that’s an expansion of your current role, getting some additional training, trying something new or being matched with a mentor to move in a different direction.
4. Build relationships broadly
If your boss is reluctant to work with you, or that relationship is strained, look beyond. What relationships have you built or can build with other leaders in the company and/or among peers? Look at the people you admire the most and reach out to them for a one-on-one conversation. Get their opinion on a thorny problem you’re struggling with, or ask them questions to draw out their own path towards leadership. It can be intimidating to reach out in this way, but one of the biggest regrets I hear from people who have left jobs is that they spent too little time cultivating a better understanding of their colleagues.
Related: How to Find the Right Mentor: Insights From an Immigrant Entrepreneur
Once you’ve engaged in a good faith effort at these steps, it’s okay to start interviewing, but remember that it’s not all or nothing… you don’t have to leave tomorrow. Instead, start by doing research: have conversations, look around and talk to people at other companies, and while you’re doing so, be sure to have conversations within your present company. It’s okay to have multiple futures for a career, so take a few months to explore different possibilities.
It’s always flattering to be wooed by another company, but unless you develop the muscle to have these important conversations, you could find yourself in the same situation job after job, and wind up like Tracy with her Sunday afternoon dreads. Better yet, even if these conversations and efforts don’t result in a dream resolution, or a new position, you’ll have homes valuable skill and developed relationships that will serve you in the end, trust me.