By Jim Grey (about)
In my last post I shared how to recognize when it’s time to find a new job. But I don’t mean for you to rush into it. In every job, you’ll go through rough patches that might clear if you work for it, or even just wait.
But how long to wait?
Counting the cost of moving on
When you leave a job, you leave behind the relationships and reputation you’ve built, and the mastery you’ve gained over the work. It’s hard to leave them behind, and it takes a lot of time to build them back in your new gig. Even when you’re positive it’s time to go, it’s hard to lose all of that. It might make you hedge your bets and stay.
It’s said that people don’t change until the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of changing. I think it’s similar when you contemplate changing jobs: the difficulty of staying or the benefit of the new job needs to be greater than the challenge of rebuilding relationships and expertise.
Bad reasons to stay
You might also resist leaving because you feel you’d let your coworkers or customers down. But if you stay for that reason, you are taking on too much responsibility for the company’s functioning. It’s the company’s responsibility to make sure it can function if anybody exits. I’ve seen people at all levels move on, from associate engineer to CTO and even CEO. Every time, the company found a way forward.
Moreover, nobody expects you to work there forever. The day you were hired, your boss knew he would one day accept your resignation — unless he were to resign first. If you’re good at what you do, your boss will be wise to work to delay that day as long as possible. But it will eventually happen.
The 90-day countdown
Changing jobs is a big decision. Give yourself time to be sure it’s the right choice — whether you’re fed up and ready to ragequit, or hedging because you want to keep the good things you’ve built up.
I use a 90-day countdown a colleague shared with me long ago:
When you think it’s probably time to leave, set a 90-day counter in your head. Decrement the counter each day until one of two things happens: conditions improve or you see a good path forward, in which case you stop the countdown; or the counter goes to zero, in which case you update your resume, reach out to your network, and get out.
90 days — one calendar quarter — gives you enough time to avoid acting out of pure emotion so you can think it through clearly, and gives difficult circumstances a chance to change.
Thanks to this song for giving me a great post title.