Today we’re going to look at part 2 of our 3-part series on Career Crossroads, and it’s all about identifying the problem and whether leaving your job is an appropriate solution.
Last week we spoke all about making sure you’re aligned to your life and career vision, and that you’ve also aligned to the key criteria of an ideal job right now. Now I want to take a step back and identify the real problem. The reason why is because one of the worst things we can do in this situation is jumping into a future state or a future job opportunity but we do it for the wrong reasons. And as a result, we don’t get anywhere and it just leads to more frustration and you start kicking yourself because it has ended up being worse than before!
Identifying the problem, not the symptom
There is a magic book at the moment called The Road Less Stupid. In this book, the author talks all about “not paying a stupid tax.” And one of the things he refers to is about making decisions that cost you commercially and cost you achieving your life goals. Essentially, what we want to do is identify the real problem, not the symptom.
If you feel that in your current job you’re not being paid what you’re worth, that’s what you feel and therefore it’s a symptom. However, the real problem is that you don’t have a unique value proposition in the market. You’re not branding yourself well enough or you haven’t delivered enough of a track record to warrant that income. Then the symptom of that will be that you get called up by recruiters saying, “this is the salary package” and you’re left thinking, “I’m worth more than that!”
The second example of a problem masquerading as a symptom is when you feel that your boss isn’t treating you well. Maybe they’re just not appreciating the work you’re doing or maybe you’re not being put on any development programmes. And there’s a conflict because you feel like you’re really valuable to the organisation, but you’re just not getting where you want to get to.
Well, these are all symptoms and the real problem here is that you haven’t got that track record; you haven’t fostered that relationship where your boss is your number one customer. That’s why it’s really good for you to get away and really think about your performance as a leader because you don’t want to shift jobs now and go to a new place and have history repeat itself.
3 criteria for assessing the problem
1. Functions of the job that you’re doing now
Do you like the job and its functions? Do you value doing that kind of work? Then dig a little deeper and consider the title, the salary, the job requirements for travel, development opportunities, workload, how many hours you’re working in a day, what kind of flexibility. Make a list of all of these things and ask yourself how many of those currently tick the box against your ideal role.
2. How you’re being treated
Next take a look at the other side of the job, not just the functional role itself, but how you are being treated. I believe something like 75% of people leave their job because of their boss, not because of the function. So have a look at how you’re being treated in the role by your boss and your peers.
3. The general environment
What’s the behaviour of the leadership group as a whole and what’s the culture of the business?
Each one of these in isolation can be enough to say you’re going because if you’re doing a job every day you don’t love, or there are no prospects for growth, or the salary is not enough, and in the end, something is going to have to give. You might have the best job in the world, but if your boss is treating you poorly, you will run out of steam and you’ll be looking for something else. Or you might have the best job in the world and a great boss, but your workplace has just got the worst culture and you just can’t handle it. Or the organisation is doing something that is morally questionable and your values are being compromised.
Are any of these deal-breakers?
Now you’ve got to work out whether any of the issues you’ve listed above are things that you can change or adjust your behaviour towards.
Let me give you some examples of deal-breakers. Not earning enough money because your family needs more. Or you’re not doing the job you were hired for. Or you’ve been in the job far too long and there’s no chance of being promoted, and you just desperately want to get to the next level. How you’re being treated eg. your boss never turns up to one-to-ones, they aren’t giving you feedback, they compromise your values all the time. Maybe there’s just no energy in the business anymore.
If something is not a deal-breaker, the key question is can you do something more to own the problem or to change the situation? It’s such a critical step in this process because you’d be really disappointed in yourself if you went to a new job and got in a very similar situation and your new boss started doing the same thing.
So in this example, having a conversation with your boss might just be the answer. “Hey, look, I know you’re really busy, but I just need some feedback every now and again. I just need some recognition or acknowledgement. I need to know if I’m going to hit my bonus or not for the work I do.” That kind of thing. Have a good, strong, courageous conversation with your boss. That might be 20 minutes easily spent rather than trying to go through the whole rigmarole of finding a new job, which might take you six months to feel comfortable again.
What if I really do want to go?
If you come to this conclusion, then clearly there’s a deal-breaker (or multiple) at play. So what you’re saying here is that you need a fresh start, a new job, a new kind of boss, or a new culture.
What’s really important about being comfortable with this decision is that it is going to lead into part 3 next week, which will tell you the kind of job you’re looking for and help you create a few options. So if you’ve done the steps before this properly and thoroughly, then in the interview process, you’re able to interview them to make sure you get the right boss or the right culture or the right career growth. Another thing to consider is that sometimes leaving could be horizontally and diagonally within the organisation you’re already in, so you don’t necessarily have to go anywhere else.