Ah, the end of the summer, when we return to our desks, energised by a relaxing break, only to think, ‘Is this it?’. The contrast between a horizon-expanding holiday and a headache-inducing inbox can make the urge to jump ship overwhelming. But how do you know whether to stay or leave? Ask yourself the following:
Where and who do I want to be?
Where do you want to end up? Will you kick yourself if you haven’t tried a particular role or industry? Knowing this can make it clear whether you're in the right place to start achieving those goals.
Am I challenged?
If your job's ceased to provide any mental stimulation, then rust-out - burn-out’s boredom-based twin - may be just around the corner. In her book The Progress Principle, Professor Teresa Amabile explains that we need to feel we're making progress every day in order to feel truly happy at work. Stop the rust by identifying how you can make tangible progress now, perhaps by learning new skills, or setting daily goals.
Could small tweaks make a big difference?
We nearly all mistakenly believe that if we're feeling unhappy, only a seismic change will suffice. The myth is perpetuated by media stories of bankers-turned-artisan coffee-makers. Yet more often the reverse is true. Small changes can transform how you feel - whether it's working from home once a week or setting up a regular check-in meeting with your boss. Think hard about what matters to you on a daily basis. Don't underestimate your own ability to change your work landscape.
Is it me?
Think back to previous roles. Do you frequently get itchy feet? If so, you may need to address your own expectations. Careers writer John Lees says that even the ‘perfect’ job isn't perfect every day of the week. If you’re enjoying it around three and a half out of five days, that's pretty good.
Where am I ‘settling’?
Routine and fear of change can make us settle for a job that’s ‘good enough’. What would enable you to move? If you need financial security, set up some savings. If it's a skills deficit, take a course. If fear holds you back, ask yourself: ‘What would I choose to do if I knew I couldn't fail?’
What’s my decision deadline?
Set yourself a deadline, with a review several months later if you opt to stay. This moves the question from hypothetical to real, and will force action. In the words of Tina Fey, ‘You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the water slide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute.’
Rebecca Alexander is an executive coach at The Coaching Studio. Many years ago she made the decision to leave her then job as section editor at Management Today. She is living proof that no decision has to be final. Email her at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter: @_coachingstudio