Decision Time: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

We’ve all been there – a crossroads in our life when we are forced to choose between staying at a comfortable job versus exploring a new opportunity. The first option offers safety and familiarity, while the second offers new challenges, new surroundings and a bit of mystery and excitement as to what the future will bring.

In a way, being in this situation is much like a poker game. Those who have gambled and won will tell you “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” One needs only look on Facebook or LinkedIn to find a nauseating number of memes professing that only with risk comes reward. However, many a brave soul has taken a leap of faith only to later wish they hadn’t, and those are the ones you rarely hear about.

When weighing the pros and cons of accepting a new position, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration. Let’s look at a few.

Challenge vs. comfort

One of the most common reasons for changing jobs is career advancement, which brings new challenges, new experiences and even new scenery. A new opportunity can allow you to take the skills you’ve acquired at previous jobs and add to them. As the saying goes, if you’re not green and growing, you’re red and rotting. No one wants to stay in one place and do one thing their entire career. Once you feel stagnant, it may be time to move on and expand your horizons.

However, with change comes uncertainty. Will you be as good at your new job, or as happy? Will you have job security, or will your new role become outdated while your old role remains in demand? What about work/life balance? How much of these will you be giving up in exchange for a new experience? I don’t believe comfort should be confused with stagnation. If you’re comfortable in your current role, there may be no reason for a change.

New connections vs. old friends

Who doesn’t like making new friends? Unless you join a company that is unusually cliquish and unwelcoming, each new job will allow you to make new friends and expand your circle of connections. While it’s inevitable that as you move through your career you’ll lose contact with some, you’ll remain close with others and they will often be the source of future leads, referrals and career opportunities.

On the other hand, one negative person can ruin a job experience, and when it comes to accepting a new job, you won’t know until it’s too late. There have been a number of articles written lately about workplace bullying and toxic coworkers and bosses. If you’re unfortunate enough to experience this, you know there’s nothing a new job can offer that’s worth working with someone who makes your life a living hell. Obviously this shouldn’t be a reason to shy away from new opportunities; however, it may be a reason to appreciate your current job if you have a great working relationship with your coworkers and managers.

Incentives vs. reputation

Aside from career advancement, the other popular reason for changing jobs is incentives. Whether it be salary, PTO, benefits, flex time, etc., often the grass appears greener on the other side of the fence. If your current employer doesn’t offer competitive pay, benefits or scheduling flexibility, finding one that does may make your life a lot easier, which in turn may lead to greater job satisfaction.

But nothing comes without a price, and the cost of a new job with better incentives is starting over from square one. Were you known for your work ethic at your last position? Were you known as the expert in your field? Were you the go-to person when it had to be done right? Well, no one at the new company knows that. Unless you were recruited by someone who already knew your reputation, you’ll be starting from the ground floor and rebuilding your credibility. If you’re lucky, it won’t take as long as it did at your last job, but if you put in many years building your reputation and establishing your expertise the first time, most of your new coworkers won’t know this until you’ve worked with them for a while. Again, while this shouldn’t be a deterrent from exploring new opportunities, it should be taken into consideration to ensure the advantages of the new opportunity outweigh the challenges.

Decision time

Life is full of difficult decisions, and deciding whether or not to start a new job or remain at an old one is especially difficult as it affects so many aspects of your life. Where you work, where you live, who you work with, who you socialize with, where you will work ten years from now – these are all determined by your present career decisions. Even if you choose to leave your current job only to regret your decision and return later, your career path may still be different from never having left. Ultimately, there’s no one who can make the decision for you – only you know what’s best for your career. But never make the decision out of frustration or emotion. Only after carefully weighing all aspects of each option should you decide whether accepting a new job or remaining at your current one will move you closer to your career goals.

By John Feldmann

John Feldmann is a Senior Communications Specialist for Insperity in Houston, TX. With over a decade of marketing and employment branding experience in the recruiting and human resources industries, John specializes in employment- and HR-related content development for a variety of media types in order to communicate Insperity's brand to both business professionals and job seekers. Follow John on X @John_Feldmann.