Q: For the last eight years I've been working at a job I hate. But every time I think about finding a new career, I stop short. My current co-workers are like family, and the thought of leaving them is very painful. Recently I've been approached for a position in another company doing work that sounds much more satisfying. Should I stay with my workplace "fam," or leave them behind and jump to the more fulfilling job?
A: Having wonderful co-workers can lead you to choose a life of "comfortable misery." It's often easier to stay in an unfulfilling, but cozy, position than to take a risk and try to find a better job. The question is: is having fun, supportive co-workers a sufficiently good reason to stay in a job you hate? Or do you want to push for a more successful career?
To find an answer to this dilemma, you'll need to do some objective analysis of your career goals. Laying things out in a simple spreadsheet is a good way to examine both your head and heart. To start, down the left side of the page make a list of the "career factors" most important to you – pick what you find most meaningful, but some examples you might include are:
- Great co-workers
- The option to learn and grow
- Chance to innovate
- Financial compensation
Then, across the top of the page make two column headings: One for your ideal job, and one for your current job. On a scale from 1 - 10 (10 being highest), rank the importance of each of your chosen career factors for both. For example, great co-workers would probably score a 10 for in both categories, while the chance to innovate might rank 8 in a dream job, but scores just 5 for your current career. Once you've scored all your career factors this way, total each column. The resulting spreadsheet should look something like this:
|Ideal Job||Current Job|
|The Option to Learn and Grow||10||5|
|Using my Best Skills||10||5|
|Enjoying my Work||10||3|
|The Corporate Culture||7||7|
|Chance to Innovate||8||5|
Now divide the total for your current job by the total for your dream career, and the result will give you an overall satisfaction index:
Calculation: 40 ÷ 60 = 67%
If your current job provides only 50 - 75% of the satisfaction you seek, is that enough? To be truly happy in a career typically requires at least an 80 - 90% correlation. To refine things further, compare the individual career factors you've chosen as well. In your dream job, how do great colleagues rank versus enjoying your job and using your best skills? If your co-worker environment is much more important than loving your work, stay put. But if a satisfying career outweighs camaraderie, it may be time to jump to a new job.
While there's no absolute answer to your question, there are some important things to consider as you grapple with this major career decision, beyond just your personal satisfaction. Remember – life is not a dress rehearsal. We cannot change the past or control the future. Only today holds the greatest opportunity to fulfill your career goals. Before making this choice, think hard about what you currently contribute to your family, your company and to society as a whole. Can you say with confidence that it's truly your best?