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The Crossroads along a Successful Career Path

As is true in almost every profession, along every successful career path there are times when we reflect on where we are and what we’re doing, and question whether the path we’re on is taking us in the right direction.

Everyone has bad days at work. Everyone has times when it feels like the weight of the world is on our shoulders, and the next stone might just cause us to collapse. We all have cycles when we feel that our jobs are boring, frustrating, or too stressful.

In other situations we may believe that our skills are being underutilized and it’s time to take the next step. We may feel that we are under-paid or under-appreciated. And in these situations we may start to ponder whether or not it’s time to make a career move, even checking out job sites or other job resources just to see what’s out there.

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But it’s critical that we make these decisions for the right reasons. Even in the best of times we may be faced with an opportunity—or the promise of one that can lead us to question where we are and what we’re doing. This may come in different forms and from any number of different sources. It may be something that we found on our own, or a prospect that was presented from someone else. Regardless of the source there are crossroads along every successful career path, each challenging us with whether we should stay, or whether we should go.

So when is the time right to move on?

There’s never any shortage of advice on the topic, and that advice is often contradictory. Some advise that, unless you’re extremely miserable, you should try to stay the course to build a resume that shows longevity and progression. Others say that the landscape has changed, and tenure can even be a negative. We can be tempted by the fruit from the tree in the neighbor’s yard, or stymied by the fear of change or the uncertainty of a new and different playing field.

Mentors, co-workers, career consultants, family members, and the powerful draw of social media are among the more prominent influences that help shape our decisions. But when the chips are down and a decision has to be made, it is ultimately in our hands. It’s our career. It’s our family. It’s our choice. So before making the decision, make sure that whatever choice is made, it’s made with our best interests in mind.

Are you running from your current situation, or are you looking to run to the next opportunity? Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of your decision. What does a new job solve that you’re not getting in your current situation? It may solve a key complaint or concern, but how much better is the new situation? “Running towards” answers are easy. “Running from” answers should be carefully considered before making a final decision. Here are a few thoughts to consider before making that decision:

  1. Is the new job a better opportunity? Leaving a job because you’ve found a new and better opportunity is a good reason to move on. Just make sure that this new opportunity really does fit the profile that you’re looking for—for you, your career, and for your family.
  2. Are you looking to leave because you feel you are in a difficult work environment? Working in a difficult environment could mean a number of things. One of the more common reasons could be a difficult supervisor or co-worker that treats you poorly. Another might be chronic uncertainty over the future of your role, the department, or the company. Simply stated, any environment that affects your ability to complete your work properly is a difficult work environment, so leaving in hopes of finding a more positive environment can be a good reason to move on. However, be sure to reflect on the reason, and potentially your part in the difficulty if it may come into play. Are there other options? Have you tried to resolve the situation? Is this perceived “difficulty” something that might follow you to your next opportunity? Be smart and objective. Don’t let others drive you out of a great position if it’s something that can be managed. Be sure you’re making the decision for the right reasons.
  3. Does your current company offer you the opportunity to advance? Many individuals cite career advancement as a prime reason for a career move, and a new company may allow that to occur faster. Just remember that it’s likely that you will also want to advance beyond your next role as well. There’s an expected rhythm to a career, where we take on more responsibility, get new challenges, and increase our income. While many individuals may choose work-life tradeoffs at various times, there still should be potential at your job. What decision will put you in a better position five years from now? Ten years from now? Make sure you are thinking both short term and long term with your career choices.
  4. Does your job allow you to develop your skill set? Even if promotion isn’t immediately available, it can be advantageous to be in a position that allows you to continue to learn and expand your skills, whether that’s your current employer or part of what attracts you to another opportunity. Especially in a career field where roles and responsibilities are continuously evolving, this type of career prospect can be much more valuable to your long-term growth and development, and should be a consideration. Make sure that you’ve fully explored the opportunities before making a final decision.
  5. Are you looking for an actual career change? Often we believe that changing careers will require changing employers. However, that’s not necessarily the case. Retail offers many different career opportunities that offer transferable skill sets that may provide loss prevention professionals with the change that they are looking for. Obviously this will depend largely on the career change, but ask questions and make educated decisions.
  6. Are you making a quality-of-life decision? Work-life balance is critical to living a happy and productive life. However, the point where the scales are balanced isn’t necessarily the same for everyone. This can also change at particular points in our lives under different conditions and circumstances, and may play a critical role in our career decisions. Travel, relocation, health, and family concerns are common reasons; but job satisfaction, motivation, stress, and other work-related concerns may be just as important. Will a new job change the situation? Can the situation be addressed at your current company? Weigh the options.
  7. Is your decision purely financial? None of us work for free, and financial considerations will often be a motivator when considering a career move. But is the financial compensation the sole reason for a career-changing decision? Strategic moves at the right times in our careers can substantially increase our lifetime earnings. But “buy” the same respect, short-term compensation doesn’t always transfer into long-term gains. Those that find long-term growth and success make the most money in the long run. Be sure to consider, “Is it worth it?” when making these decisions. Every professional needs to make that decision on their own, as both the question and the answer can end up being very complicated. Just be sure that both the question and the answer fit your particular definition.

All of us are adjusting to life in a new normal, and the twists and turns of a successful career path can lead us in many different directions. However, what’s most important is ending up where we want to go. A career is an adventure, and we should do our best to get the most out of it at every opportunity.

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Give yourself a legitimate chance to develop and work your way up the ladder of success. Take the time to become an expert in your role and maximize your potential. Explore advancement opportunities, ask questions, and discuss internal options with your supervisor. Find mentors that are willing and able to give you sound advice.

But when the opportunity is right and you’ve weighed all of the questions and answers, don’t be afraid to make the right choice, and the best choice for you and your family—whether that means staying where you are or moving on to something else. Have a plan for how you’re going to get there, and be ready for the next challenge.

This article was first published in 2016 and updated in July of 2020.

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