When you’re feeling frustrated in your job, it’s natural to imagine an escape. Fantasizing about that mythical new job with the inspiring manager, supportive colleagues, lack of office politics, greater flexibility, etc. might be the only thing that gets you through a stressful work week. Once you make that transition, everything will be better…
If only it were that simple.
It may be true that it’s time to leave a toxic work environment. But finding a new job won’t necessarily solve everything. I was recently speaking with an executive coaching client. He came to me initially with a desire to make a career change. After experiencing frustration and burnout in his current executive position, he thought that finding a new job would alleviate his stress.
Interestingly, this insightful client soon recognized that the challenges he sought to address by leaving might actually be of his own making. Sure, he might have some frustrating colleagues and an overwhelming workload. But he realized that much of his pain could be attributable to the way he manages these stressors.
Rather than focus on a career change, he decided it would serve him best to first focus on development areas that he could address within himself. He astutely concluded that if he did not work on himself, he was very likely to find himself in a similar situation in his next job.
Are you trying to run away from your own issues?
If you’ve been struggling at work and considering a career change, ask yourself what’s motivating you. What are you hoping will change if you leave? How will a new work environment be better?
In some cases, finding a new job can help. Sometimes external factors, such as an incompetent manager or an unethical work culture, are out of your control and the best course of action is to change jobs. But often it’s not an external factor that’s undermining your career success and satisfaction.
Here are some questions to consider before making a career change:
- Is your perfectionism leading to increased stress and burnout?
- Is your tendency toward conflict avoidance keeping you from addressing tensions with leaders or colleagues?
- Are your insecurities and self-doubt undermining your confidence in your ideas and positions?
- Is your limited visibility preventing you from influencing others and making your voice heard?
- Does your lack of understanding of how to manage office politics keep you from advancing to the next level?
- Does your inability to say no and set reasonable boundaries leave you with an overwhelming workload?
- Are you overlooked for promotions and challenging new opportunities because you don’t have powerful relationships with influential leaders?
- Do poor impulse control and unchecked emotions alienate you from your peers?
Focus on yourself
If you answered yes to any of these or related questions, fleeing your current job for a new job will not help you. In order to achieve the career success you desire, you need to strengthen yourself. Until you address the internal challenges that hold you back, they will simply follow you wherever you go.
Identify your highest priority challenge – the one that most undermines your success – and set a goal to address it. Are you struggling to set boundaries with your boss? Consider educating yourself on negotiation strategies that can help you more efficiently manage your workload. Is conflict avoidance your challenge? Focus on learning and developing new conflict management strategies. Take a course, read a book, or speak with a mentor you admire in this area.
Leverage your current work environment as a practice ground for new behaviors. If you wait until you transition to a new job to address these development needs, it will be much more challenging to follow through. You’ll be caught up in learning your new role, building relationships with new colleagues, and executing against new goals to focus on your own professional development.
Even if you’re fully committed to leaving your job, regardless of the source of dissatisfaction, act now to tackle internal challenges. You’ll be much more confident stepping into your new role if you do.