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By Jimmy Guterman


Jimmy Guterman is editorial director of Collective Next and a curator of TEDxBoston. Previously, he served as a senior editor of Harvard Business Review.

You made the leap to management. You’ve learned quite a bit and you’ve offered your employer good value, but you’re two years into your new role and you feel like you’ve hit some sort of a ceiling. You know your current position won’t satisfy you much longer. You feel … stuck. You know you have to move, but in what direction?

When many young managers wrestle with whether it’s time to leave their current position, they frame it as a binary: stay or go. But, especially for people working for medium-sized or large organizations, there are at least three options to consider beyond staying in place.

First, do you like the team you work with but it’s your particular role that’s getting you down? If you have a good working relationship with your boss, you might want to start the what-do-I-do-next conversation with him or her. Besides, if you have a good boss, it’s possible that he or she has sensed that you’re antsy. If you have ideas for how you might be more useful to the team (and happier), start talking about it before the current role becomes unbearable to you. If your boss values your work and knows how much you like being on you team, you might be able to find a more rewarding role within it.

Second, are you dubious about your own group but like being part of the organization as a whole? There might be other groups where you fit in better. This might initially be a lateral move (same role, different team) rather than a promotion, but a more agreeable team can help you extend your stay at your current company while you figure out whether it’s the place for you longer term.

Third, is it the organization itself that you want to get away from? Do you find major faults in the company’s vision, its flagship product or service, or the way senior management treats everyone else? We all have different levels of tolerance for those issues, but sometimes there’s a fundamental incompatibility between company culture and who you want to be. In that case, chances are you’ll be more effective and happier somewhere else.

These are three broad categories, but they do provide a useful structure for considering what your next move should be — when you realize it’s time. Once you decide if you would prefer to stay with your current team, explore other parts of the company, or just get out, you’ll start your search with a more specific — and attainable — goal in mind.

Sharon Jordan-Evans and Beverly Kaye’s Love It, Don’t Leave It argues for staying at your company, if possible. The section Up Is Not the Only Way champions lateral shifts as one way to keep working at a company if your current position is no longer right for you.

If it’s time to move on, Rob Yeung’s The New Rules of Job Hunting offers particularly useful interview tips, among them how to compensate for your weaknesses.

Of course, if you just want to ditch the idea of a job completely and go off on your own you can always Leave the Bastards Behind.


One Response to “Should I Stay or Should I Go? It’s Not a “Yes” or “No” Question”

  1. Jay Bennie

    I once found my self in this very dilemma, I had built up experience as a hands on developer but through situation became an architect then project manager for a team in charge of strategic change. I was good at it, but there was a hollow feeling. Once i had built and created new and useful stuff, now i made people conscious that everyone was performing to a metric, their KPI’s and KRI’s and when they didn’t preform it was our job to systematically determine what to improvements were needed to make things better. While intent of all this human and performance measurement is laudable, there is a sinking feeling that when people are treated as numbers their real value, their real worth to themselves and the companies is eroded until there is nothing left. Its depressing. I choose to leave, to return to building, but in doing so I was starkly aware that I’d given away my excellence in a field over the 5 years I was a pm, and I was also giving away a profitable future in a profitable enterprise. Its now 6years on, I live in a perfect home with a happy family and i write amazing software for fortune 500 companies from my loft. That took a lot of hard work, and a brave decision, but my advices is always follow your heart, ethics trump accounting every time, and it is far easier to work in something you believe in for not much, than to work for something you don’t believe in that pays well. You will profit both ways but never put profit before wealth.