The most important factor in deciding to stay or leave a job

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There are hundreds of reasons to decide to stay in a job or leave it. Some of the reasons are logical; others, not so much.

What we do, though, is we drift along when we think about staying or leaving a job. We have something happen at work on Wednesday that makes us think we should leave and then the moment passes by over the weekend and we come back in Monday ready to face another, better week (we hope). Then two years goes by and we wonder why we are so unhappy in our job — and then get laid off.

Cubicle Warriors approach the decision to stay or leave a job differently. For one thing, they are very proactive about their job and the need for a job search. For another, they are personally loyal to their need to do satisfying work because it produces results. Results that help get the next gig with the next hiring manager.

Cubicle Warriors ask two consistent questions:

How long will this position last?

How long will it take to find the next job?

The intersection of the answers to those two questions becomes the decision to start looking for a different job. The job, of course, could be within the same company or with a different company.

Let’s look at each of the two questions.

How long will this position last?

This isn’t how long the position will last in the company, though if you know a position is at risk of being eliminated, it counts. This, instead, looks at the universe of factors that impact your satisfaction with the work, management and company in the job you are doing.

Simplistically, being 100% assigned to a project and the project end date is 18-months out, your logical time for how long the position will last is 18-months. That will vary over the course of time — funding could be cut or the project could be expanded, all changing how long a position lasts.

How long a position lasts can also be purely emotional — how long will I be able to stand working for my manager?

Or rumors start about your department being eliminated. If GM is getting rid of the entire Pontiac brand and you work in the Pontiac division, it’s a big clue your position will end.

Every month, using all your inputs, you come up with how long the position will last, based upon your best evidence.

How long will it take to find the next job?

There are national averages out there and if you don’t have a good indication of how long it takes to find a job in your area, the national average is a good place to start. Better would be having statistics on how long it takes to find a job in your area for your line of work. Being in Seattle, for example, with Washington Mutual going out of business, Starbucks laying people off, Boeing doing the same and even Microsoft having people hit the streets is a good indication it will take longer in Seattle to find a job then a place where layoffs have stabilized more.

Every month, using all your inputs, you come up with how long it will take, approximately, to find a job.

When months to find a job = months left for the position to end, you start looking

If your analysis says that your job will last another six months and it takes six months to find a job, you start looking.

You know that line that is consistently reported when companies get into trouble — the best workers for the company will leave first? That’s because they want to maintain as much control and influence on their careers as they can. They figure out how long a position will last and start looking when the time hits for finding a new job.

Does this work all the time?

No, of course not. You might get blindsided by a company decision to eliminate your department. Or you might have figured 18-months but the company cuts the funding to 3-months and you know it take 6-months to find a job.

But what you are doing using this analysis is consistently thinking through the stability of your job (or the sanity of your job…) and proactively doing something about it. And not sitting back playing career defense, waiting for the axe to fall.

How long will your position last? How long will it take you to find another job? Should you be looking right now?

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