Making Confident Career Choices

Be clear on whether you are going to stay and work it out, or leave a job and move on
August 8, 2019 Updated: August 8, 2019

Your ability to swiftly make and act on career decisions can be short-circuited by thoughts that feed fear, worry, and doubt. Avoid this by motivating yourself with thoughts that produce the emotions of courage and confidence.

A healthy work-life often begins by being in a job you want to be in, or leaving one you don’t want to be in.

Here was one of the peculiar things I observed while working in HR. When an employee spoke to me about whether they should make a job or career change, there was a 50 percent chance their supervisor was simultaneously thinking about replacing them.

This urge to part ways wasn’t always due to performance issues or the supervisor’s style. Often times, both parties sensed it was time for a change. They were becoming increasingly detached from each other and weren’t sure what to do.

Stalemates like this can’t be ignored. At risk is the cost of turnover, a decline in productivity, or the employee’s apathy might spread to others in the department. This requires an intervention to motivate some type of corrective action.

I had to determine if the employee was receiving a career calling and what the hold-up was in answering it. We believed if an employee’s motivation was more toward leaving than doing their job, then leaving was best for everyone. Why didn’t they pull the plug?

The reason for this inertia was explained to me by a former colleague. He said, “Only when the pain of staying exceeds the fear of leaving will an employee make the move.” His wisdom outlines the path toward resolution.

I would create an atmosphere where the employee felt safe talking about their individual plans and goals. Then I would guide them to look at their fear and how to face it with greater confidence. I assured them it was okay to pursue their individual plans and they had an obligation to themselves to do so.

This was usually enough to influence an employee’s decision to either make a move or delve more optimistically into their decision. At this point, they might even feel confident enough to engage their supervisor in this process.

My son Brian accepted a personal trainer job after graduating from college. When his supervisor started burdening him with administrative tasks, this took him away from training and severely cut his income from commissions.

It took Brian two months to decide the pain of staying exceeded the fear of leaving. Within three weeks of his decision to leave, he was offered a much better corporate job in logistics. But rather than cut ties and move on from the gym, he negotiated to work evenings and weekends. He didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

I told him easing out like this was a mistake. Loyalties were already severed and there’s nothing wrong with making changes to your career. Move on. The only reason you look back is to retain friendships and protect your references.

Sure enough, it wasn’t long before his supervisor and coworkers began to ignore and exclude him from activities. This hurt Brian’s feelings in ways he never anticipated.

People who decide to stay when others leave don’t like watching sloppy and indecisive departures. They prefer to see that the person leaving is confident, happy, and excited. Then they usually forget about them within a day or two. Oh blah dee, life goes on.

Here was the rule of thumb I was provided. The most confident moves are motivated by thoughts of running toward what you want with enthusiasm. The least confident moves involve thoughts of running away from what you don’t want with doubts and hesitation.

My son made the mistake of focusing his thoughts on running away. They produced the emotions of worry and fear that held him back. Just as easily, he could have focused his thoughts on running toward a better career field that he had no doubts about wanting.

Another low confidence indicator is resigning with the request of a counteroffer to stay. Even if this subtle extortion delays your departure, you run the risk of being remembered as disloyal. Then the next time you’re involved in a controversy, others may say, “They should have left when they threatened to.”

You have good reason to be confident in making a move when you think you are…

  •   Making this decision on your own accord rather than to please someone.
  •   Resolved in knowing what you want and what you will accept.
  •   Certain you have honestly considered all the pros and cons.
  •   Feeling increasingly upbeat, positive, lighter, and self-assured.
  •   Hearing more encouragement than discouragement from within.
  •   Absolutely certain there is nothing else you would rather be doing.
  •   Feeling proud, happy, and inclined to tell the world about it.

Here was the lesson my son learned from his first real transition: While changing jobs ranks high on the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, prolonging the inevitable can potentially add more stress to everyone involved. Cut the cord when you decide to.

Jeff Garton is a Milwaukee-based author, certified career coach, and former HR executive and training, provider. He holds a master’s degree in organizational communication and public personnel administration. He is an originator of the concept and instruction of career contentment.