Should I Stay or Should I Go?

There are so many different paths we can take through life. I was always intrigued by Robert Frost’s The Road Less Traveled, but how do we know whether we should leave the path we are on or not? Read on…. (picture from Sesquicentennial State Park, Columbia, SC, USA)

Do you have the tune of The Clash’s song in your head now?  Sorry for the ear worm.  

That was the song that was running through my head on a recent bike ride as I was summarising a lot of conversations that I have been a part of recently:  should I stick it out in my current job, or should I find something new?

I think it depends.  Journalists around the world are talking about “The Great Migration” and how now is one of the largest shifts of employment, at least in most of our lifetimes.  Whenever we read that everyone else is doing something, of course we start asking ourselves if we are missing out on something.

But it’s important to remember that the grass isn’t always greener.  More money, more status, or a better title doesn’t always lead to greater job satisfaction, and definitely may not lead to a better life.  Changing companies comes with a cost as well.  A cost of needing to build your network and your brand again, which may have brought a lot of advantages and efficiencies that you might not have thought about.

Early in my own career, I started using a Decision Matrix as a tool to help me make major life decisions.  Whether it was changing jobs, moving countries, buying a house, or even entering a major relationship, I applied a logical, analytical approach as a balance to trusting my gut.  

The major advantage of this wasn’t necessarily the decision itself, although I think using an analytical approach caused me to think through what my gut already “knew”.  The greatest advantage I have found is both in providing clarity to the things that really matter to me, as well as improving my decision making capability the next time.  

Once a decision was made, with time I could determine if it was a good or bad decision.  The method to evaluate this wasn’t intuitive to me the first time I was unhappy with an outcome.  This occurred back in 2006 when I sold my house in an Indianapolis suburb at a significant loss.  Because I had a financial loss, I was beating myself up for my “bad decision”.  

My father, who has been my mentor in many such things in life, and taught me to use the decision matrix reminded me to bring up the decision matrix we had reviewed and discussed together when I bought the house.

He asked me to look at all the factors we had considered.  Then he asked me, “Was Anders in the picture when you bought the house?  Did you consider that you might move to Europe and want to sell your house in Indianapolis?”

Well, no.  At the time I bought the house, I had resigned myself to life as a single (after a series of all kinds of disastrous online and speed dating things).  Buying the house reduced my living costs, gave me a much better location and living environment, and provided substantial tax advantages.  Everything I knew and evaluated at the time said that it would have been stupid not to buy.  So I did.

But life changed, life happened.  A relationship formed that I never would have expected or guessed, and I moved countries and life.  It also happened to be at a time when the local real estate was crashing.  I considered being an absentee landlord, but frankly didn’t want the stress as I had a demanding job in another time zone that consumed my time and energy.  I took a loss.  It didn’t mean it was a bad decision at the time I made it.

That experience gave me a powerful lesson in making decisions that gave me a mantra I use often in my teams, “No decision is a decision and it’s usually a bad one.”  We are often scared of making a decision because it can go wrong.  So we wait and worry, pause and ponder, but then time effectively makes the decision for us.  And it’s often not the best decision for us.

By strengthening our decision making capabilities through analytical analysis, we have something stronger than our gut.  We also develop a tool for life, a tool that we can pull out for every decision that has consequence.   My iCloud is full of various decision matrices that have helped me to hone and develop this critical skill.

So if you are wondering, should I stay or should I go?, then don’t just wonder about it.

Start thinking about the things that are important to you, both in the job and in your whole life.  Don’t worry about whether something might be considered silly or superficial to someone else.  If it matters to you at all, include it.  Then assign a weight to it.  Ability to have lunch out with friends might be something to consider in looking at a new job, but it probably isn’t as important as what you will do every day, what you will learn, what you will create, what the company culture is, and how your boss is.  

Then, start exploring.  Start talking to others.  This doesn’t mean that you have to start applying for jobs yet.  In fact, I think a great starting point is to start with friends from the university, colleagues in your current company, anyone you can think of who might be doing something more interesting than you are today.  Talk to them to see if it really is more interesting and ask specific questions to understand the things that you consider important.

Start adding columns to your matrix with your different options.  Give each option a value for each thing, how well it meets it.  Keep a running total of the product of the weight and the value, then sum them up for each option.  Be honest with the values, and if you don’t know, don’t guess.  Ask.  It’s awfully hard to learn that you guessed wrong after a change is final.  

Make sure you include your current position for a baseline comparison.  In a sense, that helps give the answer… Should I stay or should I go?  

Then if something else does look a lot better, you can start looking about how to get there.  Maybe you need to apply for a posted position with your CV or cover letter.  With internal transfers, it might be possible to speak with your HR representative or the manager of the relevant area to see if they have openings coming up.  Time is of course a factor.  The more specialised or higher in management a position is, the more time it will take for it to be available.  Often these only open up when someone in it leaves.  Be realistic with this timing, as if you are more senior, the right job for you might only open up a few times per year. 

I hope that you might have some ideas now to help you if you have “Should I Stay or Should I Go” repeating in your head.  

If you would like to have specific ideas and brainstorming for you, or help in building your own decision matrix, contact me to schedule an individual coaching session.  I am offering 50% off all coaching that is booked during the month of February.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.