[Career Coaching Tips] Your Job: Leave or Stay?

Signs of a slow recovery abound which should mean that some form of job uptick will occur. While it’s pretty clear that a rising economic tide will not lift all ships – some jobs, for example, are likely lost forever – the 18-month logjam in the job market appears to be breaking up.

The question for many, as people start to take new jobs with other companies, and their jobs and other jobs as well start to open up, is easy: Stay or go? While it’s not Tom Cruise playing air guitar in his underwear, whether you stay in a current job or take a new job with someone else it is risky business. The key question to understand though is to figure out if there is risk, and if so, how big and what type of risk is it?

Why is this important?

Staying hunkered down in your current job may seem like the least risky of all, but if your job market cohort is steaming ahead, picking up new skills and new experiences while you’re standing pat then you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

The flip side is true as well: if you jump to take a job that bombs, you expose yourself to the uncertainty of the job market and how you’ll explain what might look like a misstep.

Two things crossed my coaching radar that brought home this point home of job market navigation.

First, Deloitte released a report  titled “Managing Talent in a Turbulent Economy: Keeping Your Team Intact”  on talent retention that stated “A resume tsunami” may threaten unprepared companies as key employees who held on to their jobs in tough times seek out better opportunities when economic fears recede” (Pdf here ).

Second, I had a chance to spend some time with a colleague who is trying to figure out if he should leave or stay at his current job – a role that appears stalled – or jump to one of two different possible new jobs.

The Deloitte Talent Retention Survey

Two big ticket items popped up for me from the Deloitte survey, taken in August 2009.

According to Deloitte, almost 50% of the employees surveyed are considering leaving their job, and only 45% of surveyed employees expect to stay with their current employer.

On top of that, Deloitte believes that “30% are actively seeking new employment, a figure that could rise as more employees venture into the job market once the recession end.”

Interestingly enough, a broad number of employees say that additional compensation is the most effective retention tool, though research (pdf here) has shown the effectiveness of that tactic to be short lived. Deloitte also notes “When asked to name the most significant factors that would cause them to switch jobs 12 months after the recession ends, 36% of all surveyed employees chose ‘lack of leadership’ followed by compensation increases at 35%.”

If Deloitte is correct – and my hunch is they are – it means that many people will start to take a look at the risk of taking the new job versus staying with their current role.

Risk Assessment

In the case of my colleague, it turned out that the key thing to figure out was not a matter of risk, but a matter of how much risk did they wanted to take on.

The current role they hold has the likely prospects of running aground: the company is thinly funded and the likelihood in the current fundraising environment to get fully funded is low.

My colleague has at least two job change options: take a role with a start-up that is thinly funded but close to home, or alternately take a similar role with a company that is a going concern with a long commute. To compound the mix, there are two small kids at home (along with a stay-at-home spouse), which means the long commute role will mean less time with the family. The new job with the close commute brings greater risk of having a job that falls apart.

My advice?

Stick with the current job and work hard to get an offer (and accept) from the longer commute job. All the options are somewhat suboptimal, but a bird in a hand (steady employment) means that my colleague has the challenge of getting time with the kids, versus the possible challenge of being without income and needing to support the family.

The steady job gives him some air cover, and if he can grind it through for 2-3 years he can move to another job with a shorter commute when (hopefully) the economy is better. The other possibility is that the roles lends itself to telecommuting – so perhaps 5 days of long commuting becomes two or three.

Cut to the chase

It might be easy if choice were easy. Sometimes they’re not. And as the economy picks up and the job freeze logjam breaks, people will have some decisions to make in terms of whether they move or stay.

In doing so it helps to understand the choices, and figure out what’s best short and long-term.