“They offered me a promotion,” I told my husband. And yet, the expression on my face didn’t exude any excitement. It was clear I didn’t want to take it. Things had been going downhill at my company for a while, and the offer of more money and increased responsibility was too little, too late.
“They’ll be other chances,” said Dan, who knew all about my situation, and knew that what I needed was validation that it was okay to walk away.
And that’s what I did.
In my wildest dreams, I never thought I’d turn down the opportunity to become a managing editor, but the situation was all wrong. Instead, I accepted a job closer to home where I’d make less money — even after factoring in commuting costs. But I believed it was a stepping stone to better things, and luckily, I turned out to be right.
It’s funny, when we hear about the motivations people have for making a career change, it often has to do with a higher salary or more upward mobility. I had a friend in HR once tell me that anyone who changed jobs without a guaranteed 10 percent raise was crazy. Well then, I remember thinking, I guess I’m riding the crazy train.
But the more I think about it, the more I realize that for a lot of people, changing directions isn’t always about making more money or climbing the corporate ladder; it’s simply about creating a better life. And that old adage that it’s all about timing? You can throw that right out — sometimes when the opportunity is right, the timing couldn’t be worse.
The best example I can think of is my sister Meg, who recently launched a home staging business. She had originally planned to ease her way into the space by finding an established stager to shadow and learn from, but in doing her research, she found that there wasn’t anyone in her area to shadow. Instead, there was an opportunity to go out on her own.
But here’s the rub. Meg, a mom of three, has been “out of the workforce” (a phrase that makes me cringe when used to describe stay-at-home moms, who do nothing but work) for more than a decade, and hadn’t planned on taking on any major work until her youngest child, Avery, would start kindergarten. Avery just turned 1 in January. But for Meg, although the timing may not have been right, the opportunity was knocking now, and so she decided to answer the call.
For others, there have been times where the timing is perfect, but other factors just don’t fall into place. Two years ago, Chris Walden was offered the position as VP and CIO for HealthAlliance Hospital. It was a role he had aspired to, and so he and his family relocated from Florida to Boston, ready to start a new chapter. But something just didn’t feel right. And so after giving it a year, Walden stepped down, realizing that although it was a great career opportunity, it just wasn’t the right move for his family.
“For me, it’s family first,” he told me in an email, noting that while he hopes to have another shot at a CIO role, his priority right now is to become part of a community and spend as much time as possible with his wife and young daughters. And if that means foregoing the title, so be it.
It reminded me of a recent LinkedIn post in which business leader and author Robert Herjavec said that we all need to stop equating quitting to losing, and instead think of it as changing directions. “Be open to listening to what life is telling you,” he wrote. “Open yourself up to the idea that quitting isn’t a bad word.”
I’d even go so far as to say that ‘quitting’ can be a great career move, and that taking a completely different route than the one you planned can take you to a much better destination.
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