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Is it Time to Leave Your Job?

Dena feels stuck at work. She asks herself every week if she should leave her job.

“Dena” (not a real person) is married with young children.  She has a degree and four years ago took a job close to home that’s not really in her field. Dena comes to coaching to figure out if it’s the right time for her to make a career change.

My role as a trained coach is to ask Dena questions and to guide her through an interactive process that empowers her to clarify her feelings, her priorities and her options moving forward. Along the way, Dena also builds her self-confidence and her decision-making skills and feels proud of herself for taking a brave step and engaging in a process of change.  Here is a taste of what we explore in our first few sessions.

Together, we identify three big questions that will frame the coaching:

  1. What is the role of career in your life and personal identity?
  2. How does your career satisfaction relate to other areas of your life, such as relationships, personal development, home, health and money?
  3. What are your dreams for the near and distant future in career and any of these other areas?

I ask Dena – why do you want to leave your job?

Dena shares –

  • I feel unhappy a lot of the time.
  • My boss doesn’t really see me or appreciate me.  There’s no feedback.
  • It’s just a job, not a career. I’m hardly using anything I learned in my degree.
  • I always believed that career was about meaning. I want to make a difference, have an impact.
  • I’m helping someone else’s dream come true – but not mine. My heart isn’t in it.
  • I’m not growing, I’m not moving forward.
  • Also, it seems like most of my friends change jobs every couple of years.  I feel I have to explain to people why I’m still here.

I ask coaching questions and offer coaching tools to help Dena reflect more deeply on how she experiences these emotions – unhappy, not seen, not growing, not making a difference. We also leave time for Dena to feel her pain, not only in words.  Dena has a lot of examples and as she shares, more questions are raised.  She wonders if there are other reasons that she is feeling stuck, unfulfilled and unappreciated. Is it only a career dilemma or are there related issues that need to be considered? (It’s not unusual in coaching for more than one issue to arise.)  Dena recognizes other possible concerns, including a couple of troubling relationships. Together we agree to return to those later in the process and we continue exploring the possibility of a job change.  

I ask Dena – why do you want to stay at your job?

Dena shares –

  • My salary is reasonable and my schedule is pretty flexible.
  • Parts of the job are satisfying and some days I feel motivated.
  • Another job could also have issues.  I’d have to prove myself in a new place.
  • I’m comfortable here, they know me.  It feels like it could be a betrayal to leave.
  • Maybe it’s just not a good time to make a change.  There’s so much else going on in my life.
  • In terms of pursuing my dream, I don’t even know if I still have those talents and skills that I was good at when I was in school.
  • I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there who are better than me.
  • It feels too risky to leave. Life is so risky – why would I add another risk?
  • What if I end up with nothing?

With Dena’s reasons for and against quitting her job so clearly laid out, it is a turning point in the coaching. How will she decide?

I guide Dena to come up with a value (something deeply important to her) for each of the emotions and reasons she describes for leaving or staying at her job. She names twelve values:  personal development, fulfilling dreams, recognition, making a difference, satisfaction, comfort, security, stability, loyalty, flexibility, openness to change and taking risk.

Dena reflects deeply on her list of twelve values and explores through coaching exercises why and how each one is significant to her in the present and in relation to her dreams for her future.  She chooses her top five values that she believes ought to be like compasses in the big decisions of her life.

And now back to Dena’s big decision, we explore these questions:

  • How does leaving your job promote your values and move you towards your dream?
  • How does staying at your job promote your values and move you towards your dream?
  • How are these values being expressed in other areas of your life?

At this point in the coaching process, Dena already feels more clarity and confidence about making a decision that will be true to her own values. She’s learned and practiced a real skill that she will use again and again for her career and other life decisions. Dena is committed to developing a framework and a plan of specific goals that will promote her dreams for the near and distant future.

What do you believe is Dena’s next step towards a decision? Is it time for her to leave her job?

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