When most professionals feel stuck in their job, they start looking for an exit strategy. Before you jump ship, wait a second! If you haven’t considered your options for growth within your current company, you may be missing some great opportunities.
Especially if you work for a larger organization, there may be ways to improve your job, make a pivot, and build a stronger career trajectory, all without starting over at a new company. I’ll explain why you should do this work before leaving, and how you can take action when you find new opportunities for your career at your current employer.
Why Consider Staying at Your Current Company
There are many practical reasons to stay with your current employer. For your career, it’s important to think about building consistency on your resume. If you’ve moved companies every two years for the past ten, potential employers might wonder about your staying power. While the stigma around “job-hopping” has lessened as our work economy evolves, it’s still a factor.
Consider what you would be giving up if you left your current company. Whether you benefit from your seniority, accrued vacation time, great insurance, or awesome perks, it’s hard to give up the good stuff. Benefits like this are available at lots of companies, and sticking out a terrible job because you have lots of vacation days is not the best recipe for a happy, healthy career. But you also need to consider how much benefits matter to you.
Next, think beyond the practical benefits your company offers. Take some time to think about what you enjoy about working for your current employer. Whether it’s a connection to their mission, you like the company culture, or you enjoy the office space and/or location, make a list of the bigger things that you like.
Then ask yourself, does this company has enough positives for you to consider staying longer? If it does, it’s time to look around and figure out where you might want to move within your existing organization.
Staying Power: Identify What You Need, Then Ask For It
To find long-term success within a company, you’ve got to learn how to advocate for yourself, strategically. Identify what you need to succeed and pitch it to your manager through the lens of how it will benefit the company.
Remember, if you’ve proven your ability to get the job done, there’s a high probability that your manager would be terrified of losing you. In most cases, company leaders would rather invest in current employees than go out and find someone brand new. It makes financial and business sense to make sure employees grow with the company, so you probably have more leverage than you think to improve your own situation at work.
Before you can advocate for yourself, however, you need to get clear about where you want to go within the company. First, find out why you’re feeling “itchy” in your current job. Make a list of the frustrations and problems you see in your job as it is now.
- Do you want to keep doing this job or a similar one? Then identify possible solutions to the problems you face and bring them to your boss. In practice, this looks like a sit-down meeting that you request to talk about your position, performance, and future with the company. Talk through your frustrations and propose solutions. Make sure you talk about how these improvements will help you do your job better and make progress toward a previously stated goal.
- Do you want to move into a new area within your company? Then start by researching opportunities and narrowing down the departments or job titles you’re interested in. In a bigger organization, you may be able to sit down with an HR representative to talk about options for professional development, training, and pivoting into a new role. If you’re in a smaller company, talk to your boss. Be honest about your loyalty to the company and your interest in learning and growing in a new area, and a good boss will understand and support your career.
Prepare & Pivot Within Your Company
Once you’ve identified new opportunities for career growth within your company, do everything you can to prepare for success before you apply internally for a new job. Study and read up on new ideas during spare moments during the day. Start networking within the department, group, or team you want to join. Take folks out for coffee, join an established happy hour, or request a formal interview. Every work culture is different, so do what feels appropriate. But the idea here is to make yourself known and show people that you’re curious about how you could learn and contribute to their work.
And even if the team you like isn’t hiring right now, put in the work to become known. That way, when it’s time to hire you’ll be at the top of the list. As a known quantity within your organization, you’re three steps ahead of the competition for an open job.
Remember, if you’ve done the work and built up trust at your current company, you have leverage to forge a new path within the organization. Don’t be afraid to speak up before jumping ship and starting on a new job search. Your current employer may not know you’re frustrated, so if you see a brighter horizon within the company, give them a chance to keep you around. They will likely do what they can to help you grow so they can keep you on staff.
Contributed by Mac Prichard, the founder and publisher of Mac’s List, where he writes regularly about job hunting, leads classes on job search skills, and hosts the “Find Your Dream Job“ podcast.