We may be living through the “Great Resignation,” but before drafting your resignation letter, it’s important to take a hard look at whether quitting is the best way to achieve your long-term career goals. Five factors to consider: 1) Do you have a sponsor in place? If so, it may be a worthy gamble to double down, work hard, and let them know how committed you are to the organization’s success. 2) Your company may have unforeseen opportunities. Your colleagues’ departures could mean opportunities for you to take on new responsibilities, build new relationships, and be seen with fresh eyes by management. 3) You’re crushing your goals. If you’re overdelivering value to your team and organization, generating innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and earning a standout reputation for your efforts — why leave now? 4) You’re not ready. Change can be exhausting, and you need to make sure that this is the right time for you — and/or the people who depend on you at home — before you shake things up. 5) It’s a great time to negotiate. Employees have unprecedented leverage at this time to reasonably discuss pay, working conditions, growth opportunities, workplace flexibility, and career development.
Has there ever been a better time for employees to quit their jobs?
Whether you call it “The Great WorkQuake,” The Great Resignation,” or “The Great Reset,” up to 41% of employees are thinking about changing careers right now. There are a lot of reasons for them to consider leaving. A strong labor market is pushing up wages and benefits, and companies are offering additional perks to attract new talent. Some workers may be fed up with their existing company’s toxic or unappreciative culture, inflexible work arrangements, or pay inequity. Some may be suffering from burnout or general work/life dissatisfaction. Some are leaving their jobs simply because they can afford to — U.S. personal savings hit a record high of 33% this year. Add in the opportunities to “work from anywhere,” and you can understand why we’re seeing employees quitting in record numbers in 2021.
But before drafting your resignation letter, take a hard look at whether quitting is the best way to achieve your long-term career goals. After more than 20 years as a Fortune Global 50 executive and coach to the C-Suite, I know that the changes we’re now seeing — mass departures and a reshuffling of the organizational chart — mean unprecedented levels of opportunity for employees at all levels.
So how do you know whether staying at your current company might be the better decision for you? Here are five key factors to consider:
1. You have a sponsor in place.
Much has been written about the value of mentoring, but experts know that the real value lies in sponsorship. A sponsor is someone who knows you and your work, and will vouch for you. A sponsor is someone with power, clout, and influence in your organization who will speak up for you at promotion and compensation time.
If you lucky enough to have a sponsor at this time, it may be a worthy gamble to double down, work hard, and let your sponsor know how committed you are to the organization’s success. During times of change, when turnover is happening and opportunities become available, they will likely put forward your name.
This happened to me earlier in my career, when I was an HR director. Our CHRO told me he was leaving the company, giving no explanation other than that HR “would not be a great place to be over the next year.” (It turned out the company was downsizing and had massive layoffs later that year, but of course he couldn’t tell me.) I was stunned when he recommended that I leave HR and move to the legal department, but doing so kicked off what became my 10-year career in ethics and compliance. It was one of the best career moves that could have been suggested to me — a guided opportunity that paved the way for my advancement to the C-suite.
2. Your company may have unforeseen opportunities.
As key employees are departing companies, they’re triggering an organizational shuffle. Their departures could mean opportunities for you to take on new responsibilities, build new relationships, and be seen with fresh eyes by management.
If you’ve been building the right relationships, you can take advantage of this moment to both develop your skill set and add value to the organization. You could end up with a new role — either a great lateral move or a promotion — or an opportunity to lead or participate in a strategic initiative that offers you increased visibility.
The pandemic has led many companies to revisit their strategic goals and initiatives. As in poker, sometimes it’s best to just hold ‘em until you see everyone’s cards and can make an educated decision around your future.
3. You’re crushing your goals.
If you’re overdelivering value to your team and organization, generating innovative solutions to seemingly intractable problems, and earning a standout reputation for your efforts — why leave now?
For example, one of my clients is an executive in the manufacturing industry, dealing with extreme supply-chain problems. Client orders impossible to fill, because of product shortages. The pressure to make goals was intense, customer relationships were soured, and no one had any great answers — except my client. Her diplomacy skills and the client trust she had built over time resulted in 100% retention with her book of business, and zero turnover with her direct reports. She became an inspiring role model for the rest of the company, sharing and showcasing her relationship-building strategies.
Over the past few months, she has turned down multiple lucrative offers to leave, because she wants to build a track record that will help her make an even bigger leap when it comes to her next move. Her ability to demonstrate bottom-line results and sustained professional growth over a period of time will stand out to her next employer. And the best reward for her long-game thinking? Despite her belief that “it would never happen there,” she was recently promoted.
4. You’re not ready.
Moving to a new company is exciting — and can disrupt your whole world. For many, this is exactly what they need in their career development. But you’ve got to be ready for it. A growth mindset, openness to learning and listening, and a positive attitude are crucial to your success in a new role. If you’re starting in a remote or hybrid environment, you’re likely going to have to be more proactive about acclimating to your new team. Change can be exhausting, and you need to make sure that this is the right time for you — and/or the people who depend on you at home — before you shake things up.
5. It’s a great time to negotiate.
Not completely happy with your current situation? Employees have unprecedented leverage at this time to reasonably discuss pay, working conditions, growth opportunities, workplace flexibility, and career-development benefits such as executive education and coaching support. Use this moment to approach your manager and have an open and professional dialogue around what’s possible and what will help you do your job even better. Keep it friendly and conversational — and come armed with data about your performance to make it easy for them to go to bat for you. Savvy companies are focused on retention and acutely aware of the risk and cost of losing great employees like you.
If you’re evaluating your work situation and not quite sure whether to stay or go, reflect on these questions:
- How satisfied am I in my job now? Consider everything from equitable pay, meaningful work, acceptable working conditions, benefits, job stability, healthy workplace culture, and opportunities for continued growth.
- What is likely to change (both positive and negative) at my company over the next six to 12 months? How could those changes benefit my career journey? Remember that a bad situation can still be an opportunity to grow given the right conditions.
- What actions can I take to increase the likelihood of moving into a more fulfilling within my company? Don’t hesitate to ask this question of your manager or other trusted advisors.
If you believe you have the ingredients you need to make the most of staying put, speak with your boss, sponsor, HR, and other people who support you. Demonstrate a powerful case for what you bring to the company, and express your commitment to being flexible and achieving company objectives. Stay connected with others, creating informal information networks, and don’t stop building your industry connections. Know your organization and manager’s goals and volunteer strategically to contribute where you can make a positive impact. Staying put and doubling down is often the most effective strategy to get you the role and work life you’ve been dreaming about.