Jobs and the Future of Work

Are you sure you want to leave your job?

Arthur Steinmetz
Chairman, OppenheimerFunds
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As someone who has been with the same firm for 29 years, I don’t have much experience with leaving employers. But early in my career, I did switch jobs for the most fortunate of reasons. I came to OppenheimerFunds in 1986 because the analyst role I accepted back then offered greater responsibilities and a clearer career path than I had at my previous firm.

Of course, that is a good reason to change jobs. But I know the choice between two courses is not always so clear. Even if your gut instincts are leaning in one direction, you’ll want to be sure you make a decision that is in your long-term interests. You’ll have to do your due diligence and gain a thorough understanding of your options. Answering the following questions can be a good place to start.

  1. Are all your reasons for considering a job transition valid? You may be thinking about quitting a job because it doesn’t offer what you need or you’re frustrated with dealing with recurring problems. If you haven’t given up all hope yet, spend a little time testing your assumptions. Try something you never have before or solicit opinions from people you don’t normally engage with. You may gain a new perspective or a different way to deal with problems that could significantly change the dynamic at your job.
  2. Have you had a serious discussion with your current boss? It’s worth scheduling time with your manager to talk candidly about the challenges you’re having with your current job. If the scope of your role feels too narrow, or, at the opposite end of the spectrum, if the demands of the job have become excessive, your boss may have solutions. When given the opportunity, people can surprise you.
  3. Are you playing your card of another offer carefully? If you already have another offer, but are still open to staying with your current firm, you can have the conversation with your boss from a position of strength, negotiating for things you might not have had the confidence to raise otherwise. Still, you may not want to reveal the offer during your talk. Bosses react differently to that news. While you might hope to elicit a counteroffer, some supervisors might read your having gone through a full search with another firm as a sign you’ve lost your commitment to the current one.
  4. Is inertia keeping you in place? Staying with the devil you know to avoid the one you don’t shouldn’t be the only reason for keeping an unsatisfying job. Change is scary and challenging. If you’re young, you may not have enough savings to carry you over until you find a better job, and later stages of life present inescapable commitments like mortgages and family financial obligations. Only you can determine if it’s financially feasible to jump ship. But fear of the unknown shouldn’t be what stops you from taking that leap. I firmly believe that you’re never too old to reinvent yourself. When you do land a more fulfilling job, your only regret may be that you didn’t act sooner.
  5. Are you realistically evaluating another offer? When you’ve reached your breaking point with seemingly intractable problems, it’s easy to imagine a new place will be free of them. But no job is without its challenges. When applying at another firm, you’ll want to learn as much as you can about its culture. That includes reaching out to acquaintances, former colleagues, or any LinkedIn connections who may have worked there. It’s true that you can’t ever fully know a place until you’re inside and on the payroll. Still, getting a close look from the outside will help you avoid any “grass is greener” assumptions.
  6. Has your current situation become intolerable? Of course, if the answer is “Yes,” it’s time to take action. You might think you can keep toughing it out, but you have to be honest with yourself about the toll that stress is taking on you — and the people you go home to every night.

Always stay classy

If the answers to these questions lead you to writing a letter of resignation, you’ll want to exit gracefully. Burning bridges is never a good idea, regardless of how much satisfaction it might momentarily bring. You never know when the arcs at various stages of your career might cross again. The lasting impression you’ll want to leave with everyone — including your most difficult colleagues — is that you are a class act.

This article is published in collaboration with LinkedIn. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

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Author: Arthur Steinmetz is the Chairman, CEO and President at OppenheimerFunds.

Image: A businessman walks through a station in Tokyo June 27, 2008. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao. 

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