Today, the amount of time someone stays in a job or at an organization looks much different than it once did. Gone are the days of staying at one company for your entire career. Shifting personal or organizational priorities, the allure of a new opportunity with more compensation or a better cultural environment prompts professionals to change jobs more often than ever. Yet there is a diehard group of professionals that despite all the shifting demands and priorities, and red flags abound, they hold on, sit tight and stay put. These are the people who just stay too long, compromising their marketability and sometimes overall happiness. Often, this is the result of waiting for the “right” time — some magical point in the future when leaving will be right.
Here are 5 reasons (or excuses) people stay too long when they’d really rather leave.
1. Retirement is right around the corner.
This is the ultimate milestone – the one everyone waits for. Making a change prior to retirement can feel extra hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right. It’s important to really assess the situation. How far away is your retirement? Will you actually retire at that point or is this another reason to stay too long? Do you want to work after retirement? What type of work do you want to do? These questions will help to determine if waiting for retirement is necessary or even right.
2. You’re waiting on a bonus or promotion.
This situation can be incredibly immobilizing, because there is always another incentive or bonus you can hold out for … another reason to stay too long. You have to ask yourself what trade offs you will have to make for the amount of potential payout to determine if the money is worth it? Bonuses and promotions are illusive, often dangling promises that don’t always materialize and leave people feeling resentful.
3. Something big is happening in your life and more change feels risky, hard or scary.
Perhaps you are finally building your dream home or your high school graduate is starting college. This is a scary time to make a change, especially one that impacts your financial stability. Again, there is always another big milestone in life’s journey. You get used to the idea of being done paying for college, just in time for another kid to start college. The good news is life events are likely things you’ve been planning for. It’s important to trust yourself. Building a new home or even a kid starting college is not a reason to stay in a role you dread. Change and growth are always better than staying stuck or miserable.
4. Things will get better.
Sometimes you are in a role at a company where nothing feels right. It’s never been what you imagined it would be, but you are invested so instead of leaving, you continue to hold on to the belief that it will get better. You convince yourself things have to improve eventually. BUT, they don’t. Sometimes, a job or company just isn’t what you thought it would be, and instead of holding out for things to change, it’s best to make the change and move on.
5. The known is better than the unknown.
Many find comfort in the familiar, even when it’s ugly. You reason that the boss, role or company you know is better than the one you don’t know. At least there are no surprises. You subscribe to the belief that it’s the same everywhere. You accept dysfunction as normal and acclimate accordingly. Sooner than later you realize that you have compromised too much, but stay because you don’t know how to make a change. Growth happens when you begin to imagine other possibilities.
If you are looking for a reason to stay too long in a role or with your current company, you can always find one. And you don’t have to justify your decision to anyone but yourself. But it’s important to remember there is no ideal time to do anything, and this includes a career change. And sometimes the best thing you can do for yourself and your career is learn how to get uncomfortable, embrace change, and trust yourself to do what is necessary based on what’s best for you.