Stay or GoHaving doubts, questions or uncertainties over whether you should stay in or move on from your current position?

Rest assured, this is normal. By the time you finish reading this, you’ll have more clarity about which is the right next step for you.

There are two measurements of satisfaction at the heart of this dilemma:

1. How clear are you about your career vision? In other words, why do you do what you do?

2. How passionate and excited are you about your work overall?

There are no “right” answers to these questions. The most important thing is to be completely honest with yourself as you consider them. If you’re ready to decide, once and for all, whether it’s time to switch jobs, read on…

 

Forget What You Thought You Knew

Before we begin, first please erase your mind of anything you were ever taught about the job market. The 21st century world of work is a confusing, chaotic place. The “rules” you may have followed in the past –- the rules that are still being touted by some -– are outdated and no longer useful.

Here’s some of what’s different:

  • There is no longer a career ladder to climb.
  • Your career path will probably not be linear and straightforward.
  • Your career success will not be measured by how long you remain with an employer.
  • Many employers don’t feel a sense of loyalty towards their employees.
  • Workers have to take charge of directing their career choices on an ongoing basis.

With that in mind, let me share with you how the career process really works.

 

How the Career Process Really Works

In lieu of a linear approach, you need to view your career in a cyclical way. This allows for times of being actively engaged in building and launching your vision, as well as times to step back to reconsider who you are and where you’re going in a more mindful way.

Take a moment to study this graphic, and then we’ll break it down step by step:

 

 

1. Career Management

Let’s begin at career management. When you’re at this stage, you’re in a career that feels vital and satisfying. You want to stay on track, advance, fine-tune your balance and hone your leadership skills.

If you’re at this point, you’re on the right course. If you don’t  feel satisfied, it’s time for the next step…

 

2. Reevaluation

Next is reevaluation. Are you dissatisfied and considering a change, but you don’t see any sure alternatives? Do you feel trapped? Do you feel caught between wanting more and trying not to lose what you have?

Knowing something has to shift is the first step.

 

3. Renewal

Are you seeking a new vision for the future? If you’ve done your reevaluation and realize something needs to change, the next step is renewal.

Renewal is an active, inner-directed process that requires more than basic information about your skills. Through renewal, you delve into deep learning and fundamental growth to recover your enthusiasm and sense of purpose.

Renewal doesn’t always mean a new career or job, rather that your vision for your career and life are recreated to allow room and expression for a more whole, alive self.

 

4. Self-Assessment

As you find renewal, it’s time to move into self-assessment. At this stage, you’re ready to explore what you want and what you have to give — your interests, values, style and strengths.

This can be a mini-renewal process itself, or one aspect of a deeper renewal. A minor shift in career path may not require renewal, but successful change at every degree begins with a return to the questions “Who am I?” and “What do I want now?” Clarity is your goal at this stage.

 

5. Exploration

Exploration indicates you’re in the first stages of focusing your job search. With increased self-knowledge as a compass, you’re ready to identify promising options and begin a process of researching what you need to know to find the best fit for you — careers, markets, industries and specific organizations.

And that leads naturally to…

 

6. Marketing

You know what you want but aren’t sure how to find it. This step involves the nitty-gritty tools of the creative job search — the “how.” This process can be natural and enjoyable (even fun) if the stages preceding it have been completed successfully.

As you can see, these stages inherently flow from one to the other, creating a career path quite different from a linear one. This approach requires you to be continually evaluating your direction in life.

 

Which Phase Spoke Directly to Your Work Situation?

Are you finding that several of them may fit? Here’s how you can narrow things down further.

Refer back to my second question to you at the beginning of this post: How passionate and energized are you by your work?

On the left side of the cycle (Exploration, Marketing and Career Management), you’re enthusiastic and have ample energy to launch, build and grow your career. On the right side (Reevaluation, Renewal and Self-Assessment), there’s a reduction in energy. Instead of being focused on the external and how to create what you want in the world of work, you must become engaged in the introspective. You’re confused, maybe even frustrated, and you have more questions than answers about your future.

For a short, five-question test that can help you evaluate where you are in the career process, follow this link.

Now, back to my original questions for you…

1. How clear are you about your work vision? In other words, why do you do what you do?

2. How passionate and excited are you about your work overall?

 

If…

Then…

You can specifically and enthusiastically communicate your work vision.

You are in the right work. The question now becomes: Are you in the right environment? Is it time to shift some responsibilities, colleagues, departments or even employers? The key is to tweak your situation to better match your work vision.

You have a clear and passionate work vision, but not a lot of energy.

You may need a vacation. Are other aspects of your life draining you? Are there other issues you need to address? How can you explore getting more of what you need and let go of what’s limiting you?

You’re exhausted and unclear how you even got into your field.

It’s time to take a big step back to reevaluate your passions, purpose and direction. This doesn’t mean you have to quit your job tomorrow, but it does mean you have to understand it’s time to shift yourself into a new direction. To do that, you must give yourself some time to renew, to uncover what gives your life meaning and to explore future avenues.

You know what you don’t want but not what you do want, and your energy is waning.

You’ve stopped trying to make your current situation work any longer. You need to revisit what you want from your work and include a broader view of the rest of your life. Spend time uncovering your hidden vision, and dream big enough to design a life you love.

You have some clues about what you want but no idea where you might find it — but you’re feeling the energy coming back.

It’s time to begin the exploration process in earnest. Go beyond the traditional methods and be creative in your approach to finding the best fit for you. Give yourself enough time to be thorough.

 

 So… Leave or Stay?

It’s not always an easy or quick question to answer, but the questions above should help nudge you in the right direction. The key is to listen closely to yourself. The answer always comes from within. (Like this thought? Tweet it!)

Which phase of the career cycle are you on? How can you take the next step forward? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Image: Flickr