Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Before deciding whether to stick it out in an unsatisfying job or explore available options, here are some important questions you might want to ask yourself first.

By Susan R. Meisinger

When Hurricane Matthew made recent headlines as it traveled up the eastern seaboard, I wondered if the people who lived in its path were prepared. Did they have a "go-bag" strategy in place, maybe a list of things they knew they would need to take if ordered to evacuate?

I wondered again about advanced planning when Massachusetts officials first closed the shellfish beds in the Cape Cod town of Wellfleet and then recalled recently harvested shellfish because of a norovirus outbreak linked to shellfish from that area. The closure came the day before the annual Wellfleet Oysterfest, which draws more than 10,000 oyster-loving visitors. If ever an organization needed to have a Plan B in its hip pocket, it surely was the festival's organizing committee. Did they have a backup plan for holding an oyster festival without oysters?

But even as I contemplated the importance of organizations having contingency plans to survive in the face of the unexpected, a recent conversation with a friend reminded me that it's also important to be prepared with a go-bag or Plan B when managing your own career.

During our conversation, my friend shared that he was no longer happy with the organization for which he was working. Rapid growth had led to changes in management and the management structure; which, in turn, meant changes in leadership style and corporate culture -- all coming with additional workloads. While he was very busy and remained challenged and successful in fulfilling his day-to-day responsibilities, he questioned the long-term wisdom of staying where he was. He was so busy, he felt he couldn't look for another position, but he also recognized that his sense of frustration with what his employer had become was beginning to bleed into how he dealt with the people he worked with. He was smart enough to know it was not a good formula for success.

He had fallen into a situation that many people find themselves in: performing their job duties well while also feeling stressed and unhappy, with no time to look for a different job. Like many people, he'd spent so much time working that he spent no time preparing a career go-bag or Plan B.

I wonder how many HR executives find themselves in similar situations, in which they have completely immersed themselves in the work at hand, doing more and more with less and less, until one day they look up and realize they're not having a good time. They're miserable and want out, but are so busy that they don't have time to look for another position.

My advice: Don't wait until you have no time left. Get your go-bag together now. Decide now what your Plan B might be so that you are able to answer yes to the following questions:

         Do you have a financial safety net? If you had to, could you afford to walk out the door, and survive until the next challenge?

         Have you maintained your professional network? Did you dedicate time and effort to making sure you kept in touch with colleagues that you respect?

         Have you dedicated time to your own professional development, or are you the cobbler's child taking care of everyone else, but not yourself?

         Is your LinkedIn profile up-to-date, or do you have a current resume -- something that actually reflects all of your knowledge, skills and abilities?

Here's the rub: If you're able to answer these questions with a yes, it's less likely you'll want to leave your current position.

If you have a financial safety net, you're much less likely to get stressed out when things get tense at work, and you're more likely to stick it out. It's a lot easier to deal with a challenging situation when you have the confidence that comes with the knowledge that you have the option and resources to leave.

If you've developed a network of experienced HR and business executives, people who you respect, you have a brain trust that you can turn to for help in solving workplace problems. That network should also include a trusted professional who you can call and ask "Am I crazy or are they?" -- an amazing resource considering how many employee-relations issues can test one's sanity.

If you've paid attention to your own professional development, and paid attention to the need for continuous education, you're more likely to be prepared to handle new challenges in the workplace. Just as important, you're more likely to ensure that other executives in your organization continue to develop professionally, adding value to the organization.

If your resume and LinkedIn profile are current, it means you've probably looked at the profiles of other HR executives to see how yours compares. It's an easy way to see if there might be gaps in your own experience that need to be filled.

So take the time to have a go-bag or plan B. You're worth it, and having it could mean you never have to use it.

(Oysterfest's Plan B? Import the oysters from out of state.)

Susan R. Meisinger, former president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, is an author, speaker and consultant on human resource management. She is on the board of directors of the National Academy of Human Resources.


Oct 25, 2016
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