How To Know When It's Time To Leave

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This week, I've talked with two separate people who told me that, if asked about their current work situations, they would likely burst into tears. These are awesome, passionate, mission-driven people, who have so much to contribute to a team and a workplace. But they are encountering some big, uncomfortable feelings—something is calling them to take their next steps.  

The feeling that it's time to move on is an inconvenient one, with a lot of complex questions and daunting tasks.

  • When is a good time to leave when there are so many projects that depend on me, and so many things that are only half-done?

  • What will the team think of me abandoning them now?

  • How do I line up my next position without feeling like a secretive jerk betraying my current team/employer?

  • How do I even know what to look for as the next opportunity that will be right for me?

Mission-driven professionals often stick in the uncomfortable chaos of these feelings for a long while—out of loyalty, out of a sense of duty and guilt, out of a belief that if they just tried harder, kept at it, they would be able to shift the situation and make where they are the next step that they're looking for. 

Sometimes, that can be true—you can find a way to pitch a new position or set of responsibilities that will allow you to grow and move forward in ways that are meaningful to you.

But sometimes, your body knows on a deep level that it is time to make a change. There is an aching feeling down in the pit of your stomach. Your unrest reaches a level where it interrupts you while you're doing the things that you love most. There is a sense of worry that keeps you up from the hours of 3-5am. 

You guessed it—I'm speaking from experience. I was in a position that on paper was exactly what I wanted. The title and responsibilities were exactly what I was working toward over years of climbing the ladder. But for some reason, it felt like my body was breaking down.  I tried adjusting my schedule, taking a vacation, shifting some responsibilities, but the feeling persisted. I was SO confused. I finally had to get quiet and ask my body, "What's really going on here? What do you know that I'm not admitting to myself?" The answer came back immediately and clearly: "It's time." 

When I gave myself permission to be honest with myself, I knew that my true work was calling to me. Well, it had been calling to me—and now it was shaking me by the shoulders. It was time to take the next step. All the points on my Strategic Career Compass were directed toward opening Penney Leadership.

Change is uncomfortable, inconvenient, annoying, and overwhelming. I often think, "Wouldn't it be easier if I could just go to work and come home and be content? Why do I have to want things?" This is the plight of being a mission-driven person. 

But change is also an opportunity to fully express yourself and move into alignment in a way that allows you to shine and serve others at an even more effective level. THAT is what it means to be mission-driven.

Here are three questions to ask yourself if you have that maybe-yucky-uncomfortable feeling that it may be time for you to make a change:

  • In what ways does or doesn't my current role align with my personal mission and values?

  • Where is the fear in making change for me? Where is the opportunity?

  • If my heart or gut could speak to me right now, what would they say?