Tim Sackett, executive vice president of, a contingent staffing firm in Lansing, MI, recently published a post that outlined what he thinks is the biggest career mistake people make. He writes: “Here’s my all-time favorite HR mistake: Telling someone to leave a position he truly enjoyed to go after more money and a promotion.” He goes on to say: “In my career, I’ve left two positions where I loved the organizations and what I did for them. Both times I left to take promotional opportunities with other companies. Both times I made the wrong decision. That’s a tough mistake to make twice.”
He goes on to say: “I used to give out this advice: Go ahead and leave because you’re going to have more than 10 jobs in your life, and you might as well move up as fast as you can. I don’t give that advice any more. In fact, I now try to talk people out of taking new jobs.”
I’m not sure how old Tim is, but I think he’s reached the same conclusion that many of us Baby Boomers have. Money and prestige are not the only things that matter in your career. In fact, pursuing them hardly ever leads to career satisfaction.
National surveys indicate that 70 – 80 percent of workers will consider leaving their current jobs when they feel more confident about the economy. Some will land in better jobs and become happier at work. Most won’t. Your satisfaction at work is based on three factors: the mission of your company, the people you work with, and the nature of the work you do.
I consider myself lucky to work for a nonprofit with a clear mission: connecting people to meaningful careers and helping companies grow by connecting them with talent. Many workers are drawn to jobs in nonprofits because they can feel good about working for a company that makes the world a better place. For profit companies have mission statements, too; whether it’s to make the best product possible, create the best customer experience, or change the way the world does business, a mission statement is a way to unite the team. If your company doesn’t seem to know why it exists (except to make money), you may want to find one whose mission you can support.
It’s an HR truism that people don’t quit jobs; they quit people. We spend more time each day with our coworkers than we do with our families; if you don’t like them, you won’t like your job. By the way, if the people you work with are miserable, go back to examining the company mission statement. Believing that the work we do matters goes a long way in helping us get along on the job. Without a mission we believe in, it’s easier to focus on how annoying we all are.
Lastly, consider the work you do. In the end, it’s all that matters. Does it stimulate you? Challenge you? Engross you? If not, why are you still sitting there? If you don’t have a mission that matters, people you like to be with, and work that you find interesting, then you should go. If you have all of the above, or even two out of three, maybe you should stay. More money does not equal more happiness.
Recently, I heard from a candidate who accepted an internal promotion and then, after considering it over the weekend, called the manager to say she’d changed her mind. She was relieved that the hiring manager didn’t take it hard. I’d say the hiring manager was wise. Sometimes, there’s no place like home.
“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.”
― Eleanor Roosevelt