Career Change: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By Markey Read

Considering a career change or feel like you’re in a dead-end job? You start applying for random positions, thinking to yourself, anything is better than this job.  You see positions for which you have few qualifications and convince yourself that you can do that job, and that one too. When you finally get the next job, you tell yourself “I can always leave if it doesn’t work out.”

The Risks of Job Hopping

If you walk into a new job with the thought that you can “quit anytime” stuffed in your back pocket, you are more likely to repeat the same pattern of quitting when it gets hard and hop to a new job without really planning the next step. Eventually, you will have accumulated some seriously bad “job karma” and will find it increasingly difficult to be hired by quality companies for quality professional positions.

You know you have bad job karma when:

  • You find yourself defending why you left the last three jobs in less than a few years.
  • You can only seem to get low paying jobs event though you have a lot of years of experience.
  • You have collected a few stories about how previous employers mistreated you.

While there are times in everyone’s lives when working at any job is better than not having a job, this is a rough way to go through life.

When you accept a new job, you have entered into a contract – a contract of trust and integrity. And it is most important that you maintain your own integrity through all the challenges of your career.

You expect that the company will provide you with a reasonable working environment, pay you as agreed, offer opportunities for growth and development, and reward you for good work. In return, the company expects that you will show up and do the job as agreed, abide by their personnel guidelines, avoid abusing privileges, and generally support the business in succeeding.

This requires commitment from both parties.

Reflect on Your Commitment

the-risks-of-job-hoppingCommitment lacks in the workplace today. People are too accustomed to leaving when it looks hard or dismissing opportunities when they don’t look perfect. Instead of being grateful for the opportunities and benefit gained through employment, people often choose to complain and undermine the company’s plans.

In desperate moments of believing they won’t find work, people accept positions knowing trouble is ahead. Then when it gets rough, many choose to leave irresponsibly. This is not to say that people are not allowed honest mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes in judgment. What is required, however, is responsibility for having made the mistake.

When you choose to break the cycle and stay in that job, you will discover inner strength that will enable you to get and keep a job that really matters. If you are in a position that is sucking the very life from you but you have left a few positions already and are accumulating some of that bad job karma, take time to prepare for your next job.

The 51 Percent Question

First, determine if it is the actual job you are doing and not something in your personal life that is the root issue. Personal issues that are hard to confront can lead to misdirected dissatisfaction with a job.

the-risks-of-job-hoppingNext, use this time to clearly identify what parts of your current position are energizing and what parts are energy sucks. If more than 51 percent of your regular tasks are energizers, there is hope for improvement. You may find that some minor changes in how the daily tasks and responsibilities can make a huge difference.

Why 51 percent, you ask? That is because, if at least 51 percent of what we do all day is energizing, we can usually muster the will to do the other 49 percent. Ideally, 60 to 70 percent of our daily tasks and responsibilities should land on the energizing list. If you are teetering on that 51/49 percent balance for a prolonged period, you will not be able to sustain your productivity because you will spend more and more energy recovering from the 49 percent, and that will eat away at the precious 51 percent.

Inability to shift this balance is an indication that leaving is a healthier option than staying.

A Valuable Career Lesson

Consider this: staying in a difficult position will teach you to never compromise again. If you get clear about what works and does not work in your current dissatisfying position, you are less likely to accept inappropriate jobs in the future. Additionally, you will be better equipped to identify the signs in the future that change is on the horizon so you can proactively chart a new course for positive and responsible change.

the-risks-of-job-hoppingIf you realize that you have made a mistake and need to leave a position, get some help in articulating the real issue. Be clear that the job is the real source of dissatisfaction, not a personal life issue. And be honest with your manager or supervisor by letting them know that you are challenged in the position and either get the support required to master it or come to a mutual agreement about leaving.

And the next time you accept a position, do more research, get a full job description, talk to future co-workers about the company and the position, and watch for the signs of potential trouble. Always get a written offer so you can read it and make a counter offer.

If you are still not sure, talk to people whose opinion you trust. This could be a former employer, a relative, a mentor, a career counselor, or a former teacher. Whomever you choose, be clear that you asked for advice and be prepared to receive it.

Ultimately, the decision is yours, and so is the responsibility.


Explore professional development opportunities and additional career coaching through UVM’s Continuing and Distance Education programs.

Markey Read is chief consultant of Career Networks in Williston. 

An earlier version of this story was posted in 2015.