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Do I Stay with My Friends or Take a More Satisfying Job?

Q: "For the last eight years, I've been working in a job I don't enjoy. Every time I think about changing positions, I stop short. My colleagues are like family, and the thought of leaving them is very painful. Recently I've been approached for a position in another company doing work that sounds much more satisfying. Should I stay with the folks I love or seriously consider the more fulfilling position?"

A: Wonderful colleagues can lead to choosing a life of "comfortable misery." It's often easier to stay with them in an unfulfilling job than take the risk of finding a better one. The question is: are nurturing colleagues a sufficiently good reason to stay in a position you hate? Or, do you want more from your career?

To find your answer, you'll need to do some objective analysis. Using a simple spreadsheet is a good way to examine both your head and heart. Down the left side of the page make a list of the career factors most important to you. Some you might include are:

Ideal job

Current job

The option to learn and grow 10 5
Great colleagues 10 10
Financial compensation 5 5
Using my best skills 10 5
Enjoying my work 10 3
The corporate culture 7 7
Chance to innovate 8 5
60 40

Across the top of the page, make two column headings: one for your ideal job and one for your current position. Then on a scale from 1-10 (10 being highest score) rank the importance of each factor for both your ideal and current jobs. For instance, great colleagues is probably a 10 for both your current and ideal jobs, while the chance to innovate may be an 8 ideally, but only a 5 in real life. Once you've scored all the factors, total each column. Then, divide the total for your current position by the total for your ideal one. This will give you an overall satisfaction index in percent form. If your current job provides only 50-75% of your ideal one, is that enough? To be truly happy typically requires at least an 80-90% correlation.

Now, take a look at the individual career factors. In your ideal job, how do great colleagues rank versus enjoying your job and using your best skills? If your people environment is much more important than loving your work, stay put. If a satisfying position outweighs camaraderie, check out the other position.

While there is no absolute answer to your question, there are some important tenets to consider as you grapple with your decision. Life is not a dress rehearsal. We cannot change the past or control the future. Today holds the greatest opportunity to fulfill your career's mission. As you contemplate your contribution to your family, company and society, can you say with confidence it's your best?

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