When Is It Time To Move On?

Intentionality is key for emerging leaders who want to increase their skills, knowledge, and gain experience as a leader. When coaching emerging leaders, I find that providing support and shedding light on the unwritten rules related to managing one’s career is critical. Let’s not forget that our careers are assets. One pitfall that emerging leaders can sometimes overlook is failing to recognize when the time has come to leave their current employer.

Never fall in love with your company to a point where you are not prepared to move on when the circumstances call for it. An example of this is Tonya’s (not her real name) story.

Tonya has been working for the same organization that she started with when she graduated college – 9 years ago. She has done quite well for herself, having achieved several job promotions and many accolades. Being loyal and hardworking, to a fault, has garnered her the respect of both her peers and executives. Tonya’s solid record of performance has resulted in her being identified as a high-potential employee who is on the rise. While she has worked tirelessly to make the company look good, Tonya has also been able to meet her family commitments with the help of her supportive husband, David.

Last week, when Tonya met with her supervisor for her bi-weekly meeting, she was offered another promotion! Her second one in the last 2-year period. This highly visible leadership role comes with a substantial salary increase and perks that she never imagined she’d have access to so early in her career. When Tonya called her husband to share the good news, he was excited for her until he learned that it would require that they move to another state on the west coast. Tonya could almost see the broad smile leave his face as they ended their call with an agreement to continue the discussion that evening. After all these years of hard work, not taking this promotion would be devastating, thought Tonya.

Over the next two days, Tonya and David seemed to discuss nothing else but the job promotion. At the end of day two, they couldn’t come to an agreement on how to make the move work for their family. Tonya dreaded turning down the position but knew that it was the right decision to put the needs of her family first.

After telling her supervisor that she would need to decline the promotion, her standing in the company seemed to change instantly. Not being able to relocate was a roadblock for Tonya that she knew, could not be overcome. Again, Tonya was distraught, but for a different reason. She was beginning to perceive that her career at the company that she loved and where she found her passion, was not going to take her in the direction that she had hoped. Over the next few months, it became obvious that her continued dedication would not be recognized or rewarded. Tonya has honed her skills and acquired a fair amount of knowledge and expertise over the years. However, the thought of leaving the company was extremely painful for her and initially never crossed her mind.

So, what questions can be reflected upon when faced with a similar situation and what can we learn from Tonya’s experience?

Reflection questions:

  • Do I believe I can still add value to the organization while achieving my career goals?
  • What do I value most about my career development? Does the organization’s approach to managing talent align with my values?
  • Why is it so difficult for me to consider moving to another organization? What’s really holding me back?
  • What will happen to my career if I leave the organization now and what will happen if I don’t?
  • How might this career change align with the vision I have for my career?
  • What support and resources do I need to make this decision?

Every situation is unique, yet there are several Insights to gain from Tonya’s experience.

  •  Create a vision with a corresponding plan for your career. Keep in mind that your plan may need adjusting along the way – so it’s good to remain flexible.
  • It is critical that as you spend your days adding value while working tirelessly for a company, you never lose sight of your two-pronged goal: gain valuable skills and invest in your talent.
  • A constant state of change is par for the course in most organizations; some changes, however, may not benefit you or your career. Do your best not to take it personally or internalize it.
  • Be intentional about preparing for what’s to come next in your career journey, even if you must wait for it. Preparation can be gaining new skills, acquiring a certification, volunteering your time in the community to keep your skills sharp, etc. Remember that preparation and waiting are opposite sides of the same coin.

Tonya did eventually move on and has found success at another organization.

Be mindful and watchful as you manage your career. Once you recognize that a change is needed, have the courage to do it. Don’t hesitate to engage a coach who can help you draw out your own solution and support you in your actions relative to navigating the career transition.

Don't miss these articles: