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When I was growing up, my mother often told me to be sure to leave the party before I was asked to.  Although the advice she gave was meant to be applied in social situations, it is equally applicable for our professional endeavors.  There are times in everyone’s career when it is time to move on either to a different position or to retirement.  Quitting can be very challenging because it does involve many losses.  This is because we spend almost as much time at work as at home.  Nurse leaders are usually very invested in their work even when things are not going well.

Whenever one of my graduate students calls me for advice in this area, I advise them to write down the pros and cons of their current position.  This can be a very helpful as a first step in assessment.  There are times when the cons may far outweigh the pros, making the decision easier.  Ask what if anything you could modify in your current position to keep you more engaged.  The following questions can also serve to guide you in your decision making:


  1. Have I become negative or unhappy about my job?– It is important to assess your personal feeling about your job.  Have your professional concerns spilled over into your personal life.  Your job may be negatively impacting both your health and relationships with friends and family.
  2. Am I still passionate about the work that I am doing?– You will want to consider whether you are still passionate about your work. In asking yourself this question, you may find that you are no longer passionate about the work and have begun to feel burned out.  As we age, it also makes sense to consider our energy level and whether we can sustain the pace that may demanded in our role.
  3. Is this organization still a good cultural fit for me? – Whether we like it or not, the culture of an organization evolves over time in response to leadership changes and environmental pressures.  You may no longer feel a congruence between your values and that of the leadership that you work with.
  4. Are my ideas being heard or have I lost influence?– Chemistry is important on teams.  When leadership changes, you may discover that your opinions are not as valued as they once were.  For some leaders, the first sign that it is time to leave may be when they discover that they are being left out of key decision making meetings.      
  5. Is my pay today commensurate with my responsibilities?– No one wants to feel undervalued for their work.  In organizations today, leaders often find themselves taking on additional responsibilities with no increase in salary.  They may also learn that their organization is paying a higher salary to newer members of the team with less experience.
  6. Are my skills being utilized to the fullest?– Self-development is important to work satisfaction.  All of us want to continue to grow in our work through stretch assignments and unique development opportunities.  If this is not happening, you may feel your career is stalled.

The decision to leave a position can take courage.  Most leaders err on the side of waiting too long.  If you do decide to leave, planning is key.  It is always easier to seek a position, (unless retirement is the next step) while you are still employed.  Once they do make a decision, my experience is that most leaders tell me that they only wish they had done it sooner.


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