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To Stay or Not to Stay, That is the Question: How to Handle a New Career Opportunity

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Shakespeare did not have to deal with this, and my father’s generation rarely did either. During my father’s working days, employees basically had one option: stay. Much like Major League Baseball players used to be, employees in the 50s, 60, 70s, and 80s rarely left one organization to go to another. Today that concept seems antiquated.

Assuming you're going to face a career-changing decision within the next six months, here are seven things to consider.

Seven Career-Changing Considerations

1. Will you grow?

Work is a transfer of value. You contribute value to an organization, and in return you receive value. Part of the value you receive is the degree to which you will grow while doing that work.
  • Will you develop your leadership and communication skills?
  • Will you learn about the latest technologies and how to use them?
  • Will you learn to be more effective at strategy or planning or execution?
  • In other words, will you be challenged?
Mark had been a successful employee within a major hotel chain for more than 15 years. By the time I met him, he felt he was no longer challenged. He had an opportunity to take a job with a supplier for a number of hotel chains. In this new position, he would be traveling more while receiving only a small increase in salary. However, his desire for growth and challenges was so great that he took the new position. And he flourished. He told me that he was constantly learning more about himself, his skills, his strengths, and ways he could add more value to customers. He was exhilarated, and he was promoted twice within 18 months.

2. Will you make more money or have the realistic capacity to make more money?

"No money, no mission."

I actually learned that phrase from an executive at a not-for-profit organization. Every organization and individual needs a flow of dollars in order to continue to contribute value. As you consider this new career opportunity, find out as much as you can about what you will earn in the next 12 months and how much you can realistically earn in the next five years. Don't be shy about finding out about this. It doesn't have to be a deal breaker, but you need to know what is realistic.

3. Will you work with people you want to be around?

The vast majority of your day will be spent with coworkers. Before you take a new job, spend a few days with the new group. See them in action, and watch how they treat one another. Ask a variety of the employees what it's like to work there. Do this in private conversations, and see if any common themes emerge. Are these people you really want to be with every day for at least the next five years?

4. Will you be expected to behave in ways that are congruent with your values?

Values are beliefs that determine behaviors. This is a very straightforward concept. If integrity is one of your values, then you will do what you think is the right thing to do each day. If honesty is one of your values, then you will tell the truth. As I said, pretty simple stuff.

Here's the hard part.

You've been offered a job with a great salary, great benefits, and exciting challenges. You tell a few key family members and friends about the job. Now more people are excited. And then you start to spend some time with the employees, and you realize their normal behaviors do not fit with your values. What are you going to do?

For what it's worth, here's my suggestion. Explore some more, and see if you uncover the same pattern of behaviors among other employees. If you do, walk away from the job. I know that sounds harsh, but once you let go of your values, you lose yourself. And that is a very expensive and painful journey to go on.

5. Will you be allowed to use your strengths and passions the vast majority of the time?

You can achieve greatness when you deploy your strengths and your passions into meaningful work that matters to your organization and to your customers.

That could go into a Chinese fortune cookie, as long as it's a really big cookie.

If you spend the vast majority of your day doing stuff you are mediocre at and have no passion for, you're going to produce mediocre, passionless work. That is not the ticket to career acceleration, no matter how much you might be earning right now.

6. Are the amount of travel and the reality of relocation appropriate for you and your family?

Some issues go beyond just you.

Two of those are relocation and travel time. I'm not just talking about traveling back and forth between your home and your office, although that is an important factor. I'm also talking about the amount of time you will be traveling around the country and around the world. Relocating is another variable to weave into the family situation. I encourage you to take these two items very seriously and to talk them over with your family.

A career with no travel would not be the right thing for a lot of people. On the other hand, too much travel can have a devastating effect on crucial relationships. The same is true of relocating. It can generate great life experiences, but it can also have a damaging effect on your children's future. Consider these factors carefully.

7. Are you excited to take this job?

Now that you've thought about this situation rationally and discussed it with your family, what are you going to do? Time for the old gut check. Do you want this new job or not? If your answer isn't immediate and emotional, then hold off and take more time to think about it.

I recently met a CEO who turned down the job of COO four times before he felt he was truly excited to take the position. Once he took it, he did such a great job that he was promoted to CEO when the former CEO retired.

To stay or not to stay? That question oftentimes is the inflection point that determines a great career. Never moving can lead to a stale career, and moving too often can lead to an unfulfilling career. It's never easy to make this decision, so consider your next career move as carefully as a world-champion chess player.

About the Author

Dan Coughlin, business performance management consultant and keynote speaker, is the author of Accelerate: 20 Practical Lessons to Boost Business Momentum. He has provided more than 1,500 executive coaching sessions and invested more than 3,000 hours on-site observing executives and managers in more than 20 industries working for companies and organizations including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Marriott, McDonald's, AT&T, and the St. Louis Cardinals. He can be reached at or
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