Categorized | Advice

Move on From a Job

Posted on 06 April 2009

Wait Not, Want Not

You have to know when to move on.

“I really felt stuck. I stayed, hoping it would get better,” recalls Marilyn Fox, a journalist who used to work for a music Web site. “It never did.” It took Fox nearly three years to learn that her job would never take her where she wanted to go. The wait-and-see approach to career management is a common phenomenon, and one that’s becoming even more common in this iffy economy. Workers are afraid to trade what they have–however lackluster that may be–for the great unknown.

“People sabotage themselves by playing it safe,” says Kristin Taliaferro, founder of, an international coaching service based in Dallas. Knowing when to move up or move on is fundamental to keeping your career moving along happily.

A job may be good at a certain point in your career, but people inevitably grow and change. They will always look for new challenges. Knowing when to move up or when to move on is the key to keeping your career on track. After all, if you feel like you’re stagnating, you probably are. “That inkling is telling you something,” Taliaferro says.

Fear is the main reason why people don’t move on when they should.

Designing a Plan
First, make sure your goals are clear. “Review them quarterly,” Taliaferro advises, “and make it a point to learn a new skill every quarter so you keep things fresh.”

Next, ask yourself these three questions. Be firm in your answers. “You can’t be wishy-washy,” Taliaferro directs. “You’re in one camp or the other, nothing in-between.”

  1. Do you enjoy getting up and going to work?
  2. Does your job completely drain your energy?
  3. Is your job furthering your goals?

If the answer to any one of these questions is no, it’s time for a change. “A lot of people hang around,” Taliaferro says. “They wait for someone to make things better for them, to offer them a promotion or a better assignment. It doesn’t work that way. If you want something, you’ve got to get it yourself.” That’s a lesson Marilyn Fox learned the hard way. “I guess I was expecting my boss to see how patient it I was, what a good job I was doing and suggest that I move up,” she says. “It never happened.”

Talking to family and friends is another way to gauge whether the time has really come for a career shake-up. Ask them if you seem happy in your job. “Tell them to be honest with you,” Taliaferro advises, “and really listen to what they say. If they say you seem stressed, or work too much, that’s a sign.”

Fear of the Unknown
Fear is the main reason why people don’t move on when they should. “They are afraid of not having enough money; they are afraid of seeming disloyal; they are afraid of the unknown; they are afraid of giving up the community of friends they’ve built up at work; and they’re just plain afraid of change,” says Taliaferro. It’s important to realize that postponing change doesn’t make it any easier. “People become more and more beaten down and lose their confidence the longer they’re in a job they shouldn’t be in,”

Fox now agrees: “The more I waited, the less confident I became. I started wondering if I could ever get a job doing what I really wanted to do. I just dreaded going through the whole search process again.”

But she did. She quit her web job with a small nest egg in the bank. For the next two months she hunted for a new job, one that would use her skills and challenge her. She eventually nabbed a spot as deputy editor for a new woman’s magazine. Fox now writes three to five features a month and travels around the world covering music and entertainment news. “I could kick myself for waiting so long to move on,” she says.

“Moving on is always awkward. Be prepared for it,” Taliaferro concludes. “To be successful, you have to get comfortable with being awkward for a time. When you think it’s time to move on, you need to do it as soon as you can. If you don’t, there’s a chance you never will.”

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