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People often quit jobs based on other opportunities that emerge (a better package), and those opportunities may end up being far less attractive than they appeared to be.
It takes time to figure out what you really want in your career. In fact, as we mature and evolve not just as professionals, but also as humans, we refine our understanding of what really matters to us, what’s important, and what we truly want to prioritise in life.
Consider someone who quits their job because they are tempted by a higher salary, only to discover that the extra pay does not justify doing a more boring job, working longer hours, or being part of a company that is in obvious conflict with their core values.
Scientific research tells us this is more common than we think, not least because there is only a tiny correlation between pay and job satisfaction (just 2% of overlap between them according to meta-analyses).
People are often tempted into new careers for the wrong reasons. Other than salary, there is a big marketing machine out there positioning jobs and organisations as utopias for spiritual fulfilment, personal growth, and astronomical career success. Recruitment has partly been co-opted by marketing, and it has never been easier for brands to curate their external image, reputation, and cultures to seduce smart and talented people into joining. But you shouldn’t trust everything you hear about companies, especially if it comes from them.
Just like our salary is valued in a skewed way (people would rather have a 5% increase if their colleagues get 0% than a 20% increase if their colleagues get 30%), our career self-evaluations are largely based on what we think of others’ level of success.
When people tell you that you shouldn’t stay too long with your employer, you immediately worry. And when you hear that so many people have allegedly found a sense of belonging, calling, or purpose in their jobs, you start to wonder whether there is something wrong with you.
Employee engagement data reports that only 3 in 10 employees are engaged at work, and scientific research shows that engagement only accounts for 9% of the variability between people’s performance (and half of that is dependent on people’s personality rather than how they are treated at work).
Likewise, most people are fed up with their bosses, not least because they are poorly managed, largely because organisations tend to appoint managers on the basis of confidence rather than competence, and politics rather than performance.
For every Michelangelo or Elon Musk, there are always millions of worker bees, but in modern times we discovered the utility of brainwashing them with purpose so they become spiritual workaholics. When companies turn their cultures into a cult, they attract possessed employees who are capable of throwing themselves into their jobs with 100% commitments even if they are overworked and underpaid.
This works out better for them, as compared to managing rational and balanced employees who understand that there is more to life than work, and that a job is just a job at the end of the day.
One of the best ways to develop new skills is on-the-job learning, and if your old employer didn’t provide many opportunities to expand your skill set, they may be interested in having you back after you learn new key skills somewhere else.
Consider someone who acquires new digital or analytics skills with a new firm, in order to turn into a key talent asset for their old employer.
Whether you like or dislike your job is largely dependent on your boss, with research suggesting that 30% of employees’ engagement and performance can be attributed to their direct line manager. As the saying goes, people join companies but quit their bosses.
It follows that if your old boss is no longer around, even returning to the same job you had maybe a very different proposition.
There is only one way to know what you want: try things out, experience, experiment. Unless you allow yourself to fail, you will never really succeed because in the best of cases you will not go outside your comfort zone and test the limits of your potential. And of course, learning from failures is the best way to enhance your understanding of your own potential as well as grow your career.
“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”
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