In this month’s Ask the everywoman Experts, three thought leaders give their advice to a Network member asking whether she should stay in her secure job — or take the plunge and look elsewhere…
“I joined my company after graduation, and it has always been a great place to work. I have progressed steadily through promotions and been able to switch divisions for secondments. I enjoy what I do on a day-to-day basis, which is important to me, and I am also paid well. Lately, though, I have been wondering whether I am just a little bit too comfortable in my role — I am in my mid-forties, and aware that I haven’t experienced any other companies or business cultures. I have a bit of work FOMO when I see colleagues leaving to take up positions elsewhere and wonder if I am taking the easy option by staying here? I have never really stepped out of my comfort zone, and I feel that if don’t make a move I could conceivably stay at this company until I retire. Should I stay or should I go?”
DON’T START WITH ‘SHOULD I STAY OR GO?’, START WITH ‘HOW AM I MOTIVATED?’ SAYS MOTIVATION EXPERT, KATE TURNER.
It’s good to recognise you might be in a comfort zone — and it’s very easy to stay there because to get out of it, it’s going to be uncomfortable and none of us like to be in that position. My first thought was how often do you get outside your comfort zone in life generally, and how used are you to feeling that feeling? That’s going to be the first stopper if you’re looking to make a move. It’s going to feel uncomfortable and uncertain and that’s likely to pull you back in.
The second thing is that if we’ve been in a job for a long time, we can often fail to update the version of who we are. Your skills, behaviours, experience and knowledge will all have grown since you joined and that all makes you who you are today, so explore who you are in your current reality. Once we claim that, we own who we are today and we can launch forwards to who we envision we can be in the future.
Start by looking through the lens of your motivation. Ask yourself, ‘what do I really love about the work I do and want more of?’ and ‘What gets me into a place of flow where I feel unstoppable?’ You need to understand this because whether you move or find it in the organisation you’re in now — that’s the bit that needs to be satisfied. Ultimately, the question should be ‘who am I?’ and ‘where can I show up fully as myself and fully contribute?’ Looking at the words you’ve used in your question — security, predictability and stability — these might actually be what you are looking for and having that firm ground to stand on might be what makes you so successful. Or it may be that you need something new now. From that place of understanding, consider your own organisation and see to what extent it does that. You’ve been there a long time and you’re a valuable asset so you could ask for what you need to really show up for the next 20 years. Or you might think, ‘I’ve settled, this isn’t what fires me up these days, I do want to go elsewhere’. But in all cases, you do that in the knowledge of what pulls you forward. We often think, ‘what job should I go for?’ But that’s the outcome. We need to start with ‘how are we motivated?’ Because it’s from that place that defines what success looks like.
Kate Turner is founding director of Motivational Leadership, author of CREATE Motivation: Unlock the leader within and a leading expert in motivation in the UK.
DON’T COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS, ONLY TO YOUR ‘IDEAL SELF’ SAYS EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE EXPERT, ALINA ADDISON
I have a curiosity around your question ‘should I go, or should I stay?’ because when we live in this land of ‘should’ we only stay in pain — the grass is always greener, as they say. When I read what you said about your role being a great place to work, with promotion and secondment opportunities, enjoyable work and well paid — it was clear the ‘should’ is driven by the comparison with what other people do.
The term ‘comparative suffering’ was coined by Brené Brown, and looks at this tendency to compare ourselves with others and therefore suffer in the process. You talk about having FOMO and that is comparison from a place of scarcity, rather than abundance. There is enough for everybody, and maybe your friends were not happy in their job — yet you seem happy from what you’re saying. So, rather than comparing yourself to other people, compare yourself to your ‘ideal self’ instead. What really fires you up? Is it learning? Status? Recognition? It’s not about what you ‘should’ do, but about what you ‘want’. But take a moment to appreciate what it is you have, and maybe do a one page exercise writing down ‘what I have and what’s missing?’ And you might decide the only thing that’s missing is that you’re not really challenged and stretched enough.
If you are too comfortable you can always move yourself out of your comfort zone, wherever you are. I advise people to be uncomfortable, to look to stretch themselves to keep learning, because we only really learn when we are out of comfort zone. What type of requests could you make of your own company? Could you ask for coaching, does that make you uncomfortable? In which case, go and do it. Could you do an MBA and is that out of your comfort zone? Then make that request. When my clients present me with a black or white ‘should I do this or that’ scenario — I also ask what is the ‘blue’ option? And they say things like, ‘oh maybe I could grow by going…but going to Canada within the same company’ because there are always some other unusual options in every situation that we might not have considered.
When I read about you talking about not having experienced other companies and your fear of retiring in the same job, my reaction was — great! You sound like you’re in an optimum job for you so why move somewhere else? Some people have lifetime careers and keep going up to become the CEO. If there is scope to keep growing in your job, I would really invite you to explore that.
Alina Addison is founder of Adaptaa, an executive coaching and leadership development consultancy specialising in emotional intelligence.
ARE YOU MISSING OUT, OR DO YOU HAVE WHAT YOU NEED RIGHT WHERE YOU ARE? ASKS EXECUTIVE COACH, PENELOPE WALLER
Before making any decision, the first thing I would do is assess where I am, starting with whether my human core values are being met — do you have safety and security, have you got the value and appreciation that you want, is there variety and do you feel as if you have community connection and understanding in your workplace? I would then map out from 1 -10 how far those core values were being met for you.
Secondly, look at the culture you are in. What is the likelihood you’ll be promoted from within versus from without? Do you give value to the company and is there opportunity for continued or expansive development while you’re in situ? Often in companies, people move out and come back in at a higher level having either acquired a skill set or by being appreciated for having more experience. However, some cultures do bring people on internally, so I would look at the one you’re in. Are you likely to continue to get recognition and promotion if you stay? Consider too, that we can sometimes take a leap out of a business and think you’re going to expand your skillset or try this new industry when it can be quite hard to get that continued development and training outside of a business. It can be costly or hard to make the right connections, and sometimes it can be much easier to get continued development inside it.
I experienced this myself when I was working in finance and my company paid for me to train as a coach while I was still working rather than having to leave the business and find a way to get onto my new career path.
The last piece is around the FOMO – you sound worried that you’re missing out on something brilliant out there and in your mind, everyone else seems to be moving around and having a great time. I’d really think about what your experience has been in the work that you’ve done — and recognise that in reality, it’s unlikely that other people in your shoes would be having a significantly different experience to you. It’s crucial when you’re considering making a change like this, to turn the mirror back on yourself first before you start thinking it’s the fault of the system or the organisation that you’re not happy. Is it you or the organisation that needs to make some shifts before you decide to leave or not? Because ultimately, remember that you take yourself with you wherever you go.
Penelope Waller is Director of 4D Human Being offering energiser programmes for individual and team wellbeing, communication and connection.