5 Signs You Don't Actually Need to Make a Career Change, According to a 12-Year Executive Coach

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Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE234
Leadership, Executive Presence & Career Coach
April 18, 2024 at 7:2AM UTC

As an executive coach and a CEO who hires people, I’m seeing a rise in professionals who are quitting their jobs before they have another one. Generally, they do this because they are exhausted and feel undervalued, ineffective and desperate. They see no way out of their pain and simply cannot spend one more minute in an intolerable situation. They feel they need to leave to preserve their sanity. Sometimes they quit because they are unfulfilled and think they can easily find something better. The problem is that a few months down the road, they often find themselves unemployed or facing the same issues in another role. 

I want to go on record as saying that quitting your job before you have fully evaluated the potential of the one you have, or before you have secured another job, is not the preferable course of action. I realize that some people have done this, and it has worked out fine. In my experience as a 20-year CEO and 12-year executive coach, however, that is the exception. 

Hiring managers can be leery of people who are not working. It is one red flag that someone who is working does not have. Keep that red flag down. It puts you in a position to negotiate a better salary. It also positions you to build resilience — a skill that will serve you well throughout your life and career.  

5 Signs You Don’t Actually Need to Make a Career Change 

1. You are unhappy at work but not sure what to do about it. 

Change for the sake of change is not a reason to change. Your unhappiness with your job might be stemming from discord somewhere else in your life. Ask yourself these questions to uncover what is behind the unrest.

  • On a scale of 1 to 10, how would I rate my fulfillment in each of these areas: at home; with my health; in my relationships; in other areas that are important to me? 

  • If it were a year from now and I was living my best life, what would be happening there? 

  • If my best friend was unhappy at work, what would I ask them?  

A change in perspective can help you dissect what is at the root of the unhappiness. Detach from the source of your stress. Dissect your stress. Is it an occurrence, a person or a group? Most often, one person is the root cause of misery at work. See the source of your stress as a situation and not an overarching reflection on you. Don’t let it be personal, pervasive or fear it will be permanent. 

Draw a boundary to detach from the source. A boundary is an invisible line between what you will and will not allow. The negative person can continue their punitive behavior. You can make a conscious commitment to disallow it from pervading your peace. Mindful daily practices such as meditation, yoga, physical activity and non-judgmental reflection increase the likelihood of creating space between what they say and what you think about what they say.  

2. Others are advancing at work and you are not.  

If the company is promoting others, there is room for advancement. Meet with your boss, mentor or sponsor and ask them this, “If you were me and wanted to advance to the next level, what would you be doing right how?” Listen with humility. Don’t defend yourself. Encourage frank and open feedback. There may be a perception of you that you can work on. 

Enlist their continued feedback as you work to demonstrate a shift. Stereotypes are difficult to break yet it can be done. Involve people in your progress. Show them what you are working on and ask them for advice along the way. 

3. You don’t like your boss.  

This is a predominant reason people leave their positions. You don’t have to leave the company to leave a bad boss. Meet with advisors to see what other opportunities might be anticipated. Identify an opportunity to pitch a new role for yourself.   

If these efforts fail, study how to manage up. Bad bosses are generally insecure leaders. Your goal is to earn their trust and stay off their radar screen. Continually report to them on your progress, position them for success and reinforce that you “know this is important to you” and other phrases that signify that you have their back.  

4. The company values align with your personal values.  

Companies establish values as their code of ethics. Unfortunately, some companies create values that hang on the wall and don’t live by them. Define your personal values – what matters to you and is non-negotiable at your core. Then, ask yourself if the company and you value the same thing. If these both align, it may be a boss or a missed promotion or a colleague that is out of alignment with your values. Mourn and let go of what has passed. Step into a role of not biasing yourself against your role or opportunities because of the behavior of one person. Meet with the person and ask them, “If we had a better working relationship, what would that look like for you?”  

5. You work for a growing company. 

Growing companies need top talent. Know your value proposition and identify opportunities where you can demonstrate your signature strengths. Companies that grow quickly sometimes don’t have processes and systems in place to retain top talent. Be part of the solution to design those systems.  

Work on your executive presence. Identify three people you admire and watch a YouTube video of each. Note the cadence of their voice, their eye contact, posture, expressions, body language and relatability. Write down two things that you admire most and will work on. Commit to how and when you will practice what you want to develop. You might spend five minutes in the morning talking in front of the mirror. You might video yourself delivering a speech and watch it without judgment, only curiosity. 

What’s your no. 1 sign that you don’t actually need to make a career change? Share your answer in the comments to help other Fairygodboss'ers!

This article was written by a Fairygodboss Contributor.

Mary Lee Gannon, ACC, CAE is a 19-year corporate CEO and an ICF certified executive and career coach at MaryLeeGannon.com. She helps leaders build influence, emotional intelligence, and executive presence so they can have more effective careers, happier lives, and better relationships while it still matters. For more executive presence tips, here's a link to her FREE eBook - 31 Executive Presence Practices for Leaders.

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