Should I Stay or Should I Go?

By Robin Madell

iStock_000001256887XSmallOne of the toughest career decisions you’ll ever make is choosing whether to stay with your current company, or pursue a new opportunity with another organization. While on some level it’s important to “go with your gut,” you don’t want to hinge your future job direction entirely on intuition.

Instead, it’s important to conduct a thorough, data-driven evaluation of whether it makes more sense to try to advance your career internally, or leave. You can do this by looking at the pay, title, role fit, and culture at your current company compared with those of other prospective employers.

Culture can be a major factor in your happiness and success within a company. Yet it’s not always easy to pin down what culture is, since it is, in essence, just “how things get done.” Despite the inherent challenges in culture evaluation, there are effective informal ways to determine whether your work culture is one that is likely to help you or hurt you in the long run. One way is to consider whether you are in a work environment that’s truly “women-friendly,” regardless of a company’s reputation based on awards and accolades for diversity initiatives.

Specifically, evaluate the relationships you have with your male colleagues. If you feel there’s a distance from them that’s keeping you from being able to reach your full potential in the organization, it may be an indicator of second-generation gender bias. Look for trends such as being subtly sidelined for promotions, or mommy-tracked into staff roles to “accommodate family.”

Staying Where You Are
If after evaluating culture you think you may want to stay with your current company, you can next focus on “knowing your ask”—being able to negotiate for yourself on what’s most important to your success on the job.

“Knowing your ask” is about helping to identify whether your current company can meet your needs by providing you with the right tools to succeed on your path—crucial information in determining if you should stay put or move on.

Deborah M. Kolb has written extensively about successful negotiation tactics—and the power of identifying and asking for what you need—in her article “Asking Pays Off: Negotiate What You Need to Succeed.” Kolb emphasizes the importance of looking beyond the basics when you’re considering a new opportunity. Instead of simply considering the standard points like the amount of vacation time and bonus that a particular role offers, you should think about what you really need to reach the goals of the position.

What resources do you have that could help you perform at your full potential and push your agenda forward? What type of management support could help legitimate your work? Take the time to write these points out and understand which ones are crucial to your success.

Kolb’s research has found that women who negotiate conditions like these to aid their success experienced four advantages over women who failed to negotiate such conditions:

  • Higher performance reviews
  • More leadership development opportunities
  • Greater job satisfaction
  • More likely to stay with their company

Those are four good reasons to know your ask. Below are a few points that Kolb suggests to help you negotiate successfully and assess your work environment to better determine if you should stay or go.

Don’t Assume; Be Strategic
Kolb identifies three incorrect assumptions that many women make when considering new leadership opportunities. These are:

  • My choice is either yes or no.
  • My appointment speaks for itself.
  • I can pick up the slack.

She suggests that women take the time to overcome these faulty assumptions before focusing on what to ask for, and then take a strategic approach when it comes time to negotiate.

  • See the gray. First, don’t see your decision to accept or decline an opportunity, or to stay or go, as black and white. Through smart negotiation, you can suggest ways to make the role fit you and your skill set better. Kolb advises that “communicating the value you bring to the role is a prerequisite for getting what you want.” You might start by thinking about what skills you’re missing, or that others may perceive that you lack. With this information, you can identify what you need to request that would make the role a tighter fit. And if your current company can’t provide what you need, this may be a reason to consider outside opportunities.
  • Garner support. Second, since rarely is anyone a perfect fit for a new role, it’s important to negotiate for visible management support. If you find out that your current company won’t provide you with a persuasive introduction from key leaders to help grease the wheels for a successful start internally, then use this information as part of your “stay or go” decision-making process.
  • Secure resources. Third, though opportunities may come to you because of your willingness to go the extra mile, it’s important to temper that tendency with the ability to secure resources so that too much work doesn’t land on your shoulders. If your current employer isn’t willing to pony up sufficient resources to help you reach corporate goals even after you’ve tried negotiating creatively, then consider whether the writing is on the wall for that position.

It’s always hard to know when to leave, especially if you like your boss and direct team members. If you do decide to take a new path, remember to leave gracefully. You just may come back—as CEO.