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May 28, 2024

Deciding on Your Career Path: Stay or Go?

Written by Mariateresa Romeo

We are usually highly motivated to seek a new job when we are not satisfied with the pay and benefits, struggle with balancing personal and professional life, or don’t see opportunities for career growth. When the main reason that binds us to our company and probably made us accept their offer in the first place, whether it is money, career advancement, or work-life balance, fails, we convince ourselves we deserve something better and feel empowered to go out and get it.
But what about those situations of limbo, where we are not entirely unsatisfied with our current job but are not happy with it?

It’s important to acknowledge that these feelings are valid and not to be dismissed. For instance, when we achieve the promotion we’ve been working towards, we may be content with the benefits and paychecks. However, certain aspects of our work routine or our relationships with co-workers and clients may persistently hint at the possibility of better opportunities. Or even worse, we don’t feel acknowledged for our efforts or live in conflicting relationships with our managers, but that’s not enough to make us say, “I quit.”

Suppose it is true that 51% of employees actively seek a new job, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2023 Report. In that case, it is equally valid that many employees are constantly indecisive about keeping their current job, although they know it is not what they truly want, and moving forward with their career path. This is confirmed by the elevated number of “quiet quitters” (59%, always according to Gallup): they do what they must do with the minimum effort and are psychologically disconnected from the organization. They are not fully engaged in their current organization but have not moved to leave it yet, and probably not all of them are entirely motivated to do it.
If you are reading this article, it is likely because you are all too familiar with the situations of indecisiveness I am discussing. It’s important to remember that feeling torn and not having a clear plan for your career is a shared experience that many of us have faced, including myself. Based on my experience helping individuals with career issues and transitions, I want to offer some food for thought to help you escape the quicksand.

Consider the time factor

For how long have you been experiencing this indecisiveness? Is it a result of a recent change, such as a new role, a new boss, or a company reorganization? Or is it a thought you have been cultivating for a long time between the ups and downs of your experience with your current employer? In the first case, you might need to adjust to the change, and giving yourself time to see how things sort out before making any decision might be a good strategy. On the other hand, if it is more of a recurring or constant thought that has been accompanying you for a while, it is probably time to face the matter.

Even not choosing is a choice

When I say you need to decide, it doesn’t necessarily mean you must seek another job. It means that whatever you choose, whether to stay or go, you are entirely into it. Put aside any complaints, resentment, and dissatisfaction, and commit yourself to either seeking a better opportunity or pursuing your career where you are, rebuilding trust with your employer if necessary.

Staying in limbo is, for sure, the less healthy and practical choice, as it doesn’t lead you to what you want, it puts you in situations where others make decisions about your career for you, and it causes you a lot of emotional distress.

Put things into perspective

What helped me and others escape the quicksand was reconnecting with my purpose and having a long-term goal to achieve. If you look at your current situation from that perspective, how is it helping you achieve your goal? You might realize that although it is not “the best place to work,” it allows you to build your next career phase by giving you the necessary resources (e.g., money, flexibility, skills). Otherwise, you might conclude that it doesn’t serve your purpose, but you can take several other actions to get you where you want to go.

If you still don’t have a purpose or a long-term professional goal, you might be surprised to discover that your indecisiveness will go away as soon as you start exploring it.

If your values and identity are at stake, don’t ignore them

Being passive and waiting for things to change without any plan or the intention to play a role in the game is never a good choice. Most of all, when you realize that the root of your dissatisfaction and desire to change is a misalignment or conflict with your values. Through our daily interactions with managers and co-workers, we experience whether our organization respects us as individuals and shares the same values. Besides the communication campaigns and market accolades, it is not the “best place to work” if you feel bullied or discriminated against for your age, nationality, gender, religion, or race; similarly, if, in your role, you are asked to compromise your integrity or act against your principles.

I emphasize those aspects because some people tend to minimize them and believe they matter less than a failed promotion or unfulfilled promise for a salary increase. They significantly affect your level of engagement and commitment to the organization, and you must put them on the scale when you question whether it makes sense to stay or go.

Shift from tolerance to acceptance

Unsatisfaction with the current job and desire for change often accompany frustration with some work dynamics and relationships, resentment, discouragement, and other emotions that jeopardize one’s effort to overcome indecisiveness.
So, whether you keep your current job or actively pursue a new opportunity, an emotional shift from tolerance to acceptance can help you navigate this career phase and effectively convey your emotional energy on your goal.

To clarify, when we tolerate, we bear something unpleasant or annoying and keep going despite the difficulties. However, we still think things should be different and tend to judge others and be resentful. Accepting means recognizing a situation without attempting to change or protest it. It comes from being aware that we can only change things under our control. It allows us to move forward and do our best with what is in our hands.

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