After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Devil You Know

Do you plan to stay at your current job because your window provides a magnificent view of the city skyline? Or because your boss has repeatedly told you how valuable you are?  Do you have a great group of co-workers with whom you have shared daily lunch and office gossip for the last three years? Is your office is only a block from the train station?  Are you proud when you say your company name?

All of the above reasons, plus countless others (great cafeteria in the building, four personal days, summer scheduling, a Keurig down the hall) are acceptable justifications for staying where you are now – if where you are now is really where you want to be.

But I suspect that many of the reasons people choose to remain in their jobs are rooted in something other than real job satisfaction. 

I’d call it comfort, but the word “comfort” is often an overstatement.  Sometimes even workers who should be downright miserable seem emotionally trapped within their cuticle walls.  In these cases, the resistance to change may be more akin to cowardice or complacency than to actual comfort.

You may have heard the saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

But if the devil you know has a crimson complexion, a sharp tail, makes nasty demands, and keeps the thermostat at 90 degrees, I wonder.

On one of my recent recruiting calls, I spoke to a young professional who should have been extremely dissatisfied with his current situation.  His work content was unrewarding, his workday harrowing, his manager erratic, and any promotion would almost definitely be later rather than sooner. Still this young man was reluctant to leave the prestigious firm in which he had started his career for a different type of opportunity. 

Wrong?  Right?  Why?  Why not?  I don’t know.

Everyone has a different baseline when it comes to comfort, security, and tolerance of change.  Everyone has unique ambitions, hopes, and priorities.  So no one, least of all this headhunter, can tell an individual whether his/her life will be better or worse because of a job change. 

But I can suggest that you periodically evaluate your current circumstances with respect to your happiness, your fulfillment, your career goals, and your personal goals.  Do not let complacency or an unwarranted sense of “comfort” keep you from pursuing a better path.

In some cases, the devil you don’t know might not be all that bad.

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