Hear Jill Nowacki present at the NJCUL Convention

Should I stay or should I go? It’s a question often asked from executives pondering their professional lives. Sure, it comes with different variations: Does leaving now make me look like a job hopper? If I stay and hope for the next promotion, will I still seem ambitious enough? Will I regret turning down this definite offer for the promise of potential?

There is no easy answer to this question that many talented executives grapple with and even the best mentors struggle to provide guidance beyond, “it depends.” While it may seem like consulting a Magic 8 ball to see if sources say yes is as helpful research as any other you may find, there are other ways—and a few questions you can ask yourself to help you decide:

  1. Have you found yourself telling friends, family, your dog that, “this is just a really crazy time…” for more than the past year? Every company has those phases that don’t feel like what you thought you signed up for. You might be navigating a core conversion or finalizing a merger that has taken your attention from the things you love most about your career. With those, you know that the promise of getting back to the work you love is just on the other side. If it feels like one distraction after another keeps you from growing in the direction you want, it may be that moving on is worth further consideration, though. Do an honest assessment about how you are spending your time and if you are able to use your best strengths, then talk with your supervisor about where your focus is compared to where you would like it to be. You may find the opportunity to get back to what you love without needing to find another job. 
  1. Does someone at your workplace actively invest in you? Having a champion at work who believes in your talent, ambitions, and potential—and helps you find and stay on track to reach them—may be the single greatest reason to stay with an organization (even when there isn’t a formal career ladder for you to climb). Leadership opportunities are often created for those who shine, and a strong champion can make sure the right people see you shine.
  1. Where do your values align?  I posed this question about deciding next career steps on LinkedIn and an admired thought leader commented on his choice to start a new endeavor, “I had become comfortable and less challenged.” For many, the position of being comfortable in a career would be boldly listed in the “reasons to stay,” column: Many executives aspire to a place of mastery, knowing they will go to work every day and perform exceptionally. Then, there are those who thrive in a place beyond comfortable. Is a place of comfort a pro or a con? The answer can be found in individual values. Those who place stability in their top two values find it rewarding to reach their career stride and achieve total mastery. Someone who prioritizes growth may be more energized when they are stretching for the next new skill. 

These few questions offer a place to start thinking about the next steps in your leadership journey. What questions do you have as you map out your career? I look forward to joining you in October for a deep discussion and to share some valuable tools to help emerging leaders and their champions navigate the best path forward! 

Jill Nowacki is President/CEO of Humanidei, a human capital strategies firm founded to help credit unions become the workplaces of choice for today’s workforce. Jill works with organizations to put action behind the idea that people are an organization’s most important asset, creating diverse, talent-rich, inclusive teams where individuals show up for work as their best selves.