Ambition Pays: How Moving Roles Can Boost Your Bottom Line

What is the biggest career mistake that many high earning individuals make?

They stay in a job far past its expiration date.

And why is moving on from a bad job so hard to do?

Because leaving means change.

And let’s face it, few of us like change.

Especially when it means giving up on all the time and effort you’ve poured into a situation or simply anticipating the uncomfortable feeling of the unknown.

But you know what?

The truth is that walking away to take a job with more attractive benefits is not only good for you, it can also help keep you out of trouble.

How so?

Well, there’s the obvious fact that moving on can open the door to new possibilities and, as we discussed recently, can help you fast-track your way to financial independence.

More crucially, however, the truth is that moving on from an unproductive situation can help you avoid missed opportunities at best and disasters at worst.

But you know, when it comes down to it, walking away from an unfavorable work environment can help you avoid a potentially stalled or derailed career, a lifetime earnings shortfall, and even a long-term negative impact on your health and relationships.

Now, you might think, “this is all easier said than done,” right?

Well, here’s the thing.

It’s one thing to know when to walk away from a bad situation and another to take that leap into the unknown.

That’s why taking the time to assess the costs of staying comfortable, understanding what could be holding you back from exploring career opportunities, and knowing which next steps to take can help ease your transition into an unpredictable and yet likely rewarding future.

Understand Why You Haven’t Left

Now, before we dive into a discussion about the costs of staying in an unhealthy work environment, let’s spend a few minutes exploring why some individuals stay long past a job’s expiration date.

And, so, why do we do it?

Why do so many of us well-qualified professionals stay in a work environment that values us for less than we’re worth?

Well, the truth is that many of us don’t have logical reasons for staying in unfulfilling jobs because our decision-making abilities, especially when it comes to a vocation or earning money, are emotionally driven.

And what are we talking about here?

When Our Emotions are in the Driver’s Seat

Well, our decisions are largely based on our primal human instinct to either experience feelings like joy, love, and security or avoid feelings like anger, fear, or disgust from ourselves or the people around us.

And what do we mean here?

Well, when you decide to stay in an unhealthy environment, you might do so because of feelings like guilt of obligation, even when you know better options are out there waiting for you.

For example, if you’re dealing with guilt, then you may feel that leaving would waste all the time and effort you’ve invested in your current job and work environment.

Or, you might feel guilt because you believe that you owe it to a boss or the company for past opportunities they may have given you. At the same time, you may also feel a sense of guilt and shame for wanting to leave behind other colleagues you might otherwise call friends, in a toxic environment.

Now, beyond guilt and shame, the feelings driving your desire to stay in a job may be driven by higher emotions, like holding onto hope that an otherwise bad situation will someday improve.

Now, make no mistake, feeling hope in this situation is essential because, without it, we wouldn’t have a reason to get out of bed.

But even basing your career and income decisions on hope itself cuts both ways. That’s because, as Viktor Frankl pointed out in his autobiography, the human psyche can take a big blow when it realizes that the thing it’s anchored all of its hope on isn’t going to happen.

Understanding How Emotions Drive Action

Now, while it may seem like fluff, there’s science that backs up the notion that our decisions are driven first by emotions and then by logic.

Indeed, psychologist Daniel Kahneman, in his book, “Thinking Fast and Slow,” describes a concept known as System 1 and System 2 thinking.

Now, System 1 is the fast, intuitive, automatic process responsible for quick reactions and gut feelings. System 2, on the other hand, is the slower, more deliberate, and analytical process that helps us solve complex problems.

So then, when you find yourself in an unhealthy work environment, your decision-making process regarding whether to stay or go is influenced by both System 1 and System 2 thinking.

How so?

Well, your System 1 thinking, being fast and intuitive, might immediately react to negative stimuli in your workplace. That’s because if you’re constantly feeling stressed, anxious, or undervalued, your initial gut reaction might be to flee the situation. And this response is your brain’s autonomic nervous system kicking in to protect you from harm.

For example, if you overhear that you’ve been assigned to a toxic team even after several protests to your managers, then System 1 might trigger feelings of hurt or defensiveness without you consciously processing the context or intent behind the assignment.

On the other hand, your System 2 thinking, which is more deliberate and analytical, will weigh the pros and cons of leaving your job. Or, you might find ways to rationalize the stability of your current position or even criticize the prospects of finding a new job.

Ultimately, however, this slower, more methodical process might lead you to endure the unhealthy environment for a bit longer, especially if you believe there’s a chance for improvement or if you deem the perceived costs of leaving to be too high.

Either way, if you’ve been struggling to get out of a bad job situation and can’t understand why, then taking the time to evaluate “how” your body and mind might be processing the current situation could be the first step toward understanding your next move.

Evaluate the Costs of Standing Still

Alright, so now that we’ve talked about how your emotions and thinking processes can influence your decision to stay in a less-than-satisfactory work environment, let’s talk about the costs of doing nothing.

And I get it, by now, some of you out there might be saying to yourselves, “My work environment is pleasant enough and, so I don’t have a reason to leave, right?”

Well, your work environment might offer you sufficient pay and amenities to keep you satiated, but the big question here is, “is it the right job for you?”

More specifically, have you ever felt that your current role isn’t pushing you forward as much as it used to? Or maybe you’re now just going through the motions?

Well, the honest truth is that, more often than not, staying in one role for way too long, no matter how comfortable things may be now, might cost you significantly over the long term.

How so?

Well, let’s first look at it from the perspective of professional growth.

Cost: Career Stagnation

Now, early in your career, you might recall that thrill of tackling a new project, or the satisfaction of mastering a complex task, or even the pride in leading a team to success. Indeed, these were the moments that not only defined your career but also helped propel your career to greater heights.

And while these past accomplishments may have landed you a cush assignment today, if you’ve been in the same role for too long, you might find those past moments of glory becoming few and far between.

And so, without new challenges and responsibilities, it’s easy to fall into a staid routine, and that routine can become a roadblock to your professional development.

You know, when it comes down to it, you’re capable of so much more, and sometimes, to realize that potential, you need to stop and take a moment to step out of your comfort zone or risk getting left behind.

And how’s this possible?

Well, consider the rapid pace of development in the tech sector just this year alone should convince you not to sit on your laurels.

Indeed, everything that’s happened over the past 12 months should be evidence enough that a lack of innovation at large tech firms can become a very real threat to survival in very short order.

Remember the tools and approaches you mastered a couple of years ago?

With the advent of AI, they might already be on their way to becoming obsolete.

Indeed, this reality is especially true for jobs like yours because the tech sector thrives on change.

So then, from this perspective, you need to evolve with the changes to avoid being left behind.

Indeed, if you’re staying static, what you’re doing is not only missing out on the latest trends and tools to enhance how you do your work, you’re also likely missing out on the opportunity to be at the forefront of the next big thing in tech.

Remember, today’s innovations are tomorrow’s tablestakes in the tech world. So then, to stay ahead, avoid obsolescence, and keep your career moving forward, you need to place yourself in an environment that constantly challenges you to learn and adapt.

Cost: Financial Stagnation

Now, beyond the career mobility costs of staying in a bad fit job are financial costs that come along with it as well.

How so?

Well, imagine that you’re standing at the base of a mountain, looking up at the peak. Now, that peak represents your financial potential, and every decision you make to focus on your professional development is a step you take is a move towards reaching the summit.

And what if you find yourself stuck mid-way up that summit?

Well, this is what can happen when you remain in a less-than-ideal work situation for too long.

To be sure, you’re likely a high earner now who has enjoyed the fruits of your labor for quite some time. But have you ever considered that the annual raises you receive in your current static role might not be as lucrative as what you could earn elsewhere?

You know, there’s a common misconception that loyalty always pays off.

And sure, while annual raises are a token of appreciation, they often don’t match the potential earnings you could secure from a job change or promotion.

That’s because in the tech world, where there’s rapid innovation and evolving skills are in high demand, the market rate for your expertise can rise or fall almost overnight.

That’s why if you decide to stay in a cush job for far too long, you might be inadvertently capping your income potential.

And beyond a higher salary, think about all the perks and benefits you could be leaving on the table.

For example, the tech industry is renowned for its competitive pay packages. And so, taking a new role can come with a host of benefits that go beyond just a base salary.

And what are we talking about here?

Well, more specifically, we’re talking about better perks, lucrative bonuses, stock awards, and other financial incentives that can significantly boost your overall compensation.

And keep in mind that these aren’t just numbers on a paycheck, they’re tools for wealth accumulation, future security, and lifestyle enhancement.

Cost: The Emotional Toll

So, now that we’ve talked about the career and financial costs of staying in a role for far too long, there’s one last critical cost that you’ll likely want to consider, and that’s the emotional toll that comes from staying in a job far too long.

Now, you’ll likely recall the excitement you felt when you first started your role and the thrill of new challenges, or the satisfaction of problem-solving, and the joy of innovation early on in your career.

The big question now is, “do you have those same feelings about your current job today?”

You know, the truth is that, over time, doing the same tasks year after year can erode that initial enthusiasm.

Indeed, what was once a passion can slowly grind away into a chore. And you know, this isn’t just about feeling bored at work, it’s about the creeping sense of mental and physical exhaustion, and with it, a decline in your job satisfaction, which ultimately leads to burnout.

Now, it’s critical to note here that burnout isn’t just a buzzword. It’s a genuine state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion brought on by dealing with stress for way too long. This is especially true when your job no longer ignites your passion, and sucks energy out of you, instead of enriching you, which can bring on burnout much faster than you think.

Alright, so, maybe your job isn’t pushing you over the edge towards burnout, but there is the issue of mental stagnation that you should be aware of.

And why is mental stagnation important?

Well, the human mind thrives on novelty and challenge. In fact, it’s how we grow, learn, and evolve. But feelings of monotony can set in when you’re stuck in a role that no longer pushes your learning boundaries.

Now, it’s critical to note here again that this isn’t just about feeling bored, but rather, it’s about the impact on your mental well-being.

Indeed, a stagnant mind can lead to lower motivation, lower creativity, and even feelings of depression. And even as someone at the top of your game, you deserve a role that challenges you, and excites and fulfills you mentally.

So then, when you’re in a role that taxes you mentally, it can take a physical toll on your body.

How so?

Well, it’s a well-documented fact that our mental state can manifest as physical symptoms in our bodies. Therefore, a lack of motivation or enthusiasm in a stagnant role could lead to tangible health issues.

For example, you might find yourself feeling constantly fatigued, battling frequent headaches, or even grappling with chronic conditions that are exacerbated by stress.

To be sure, your body has its way of signaling when something’s amiss, and these symptoms can be its way of telling you that it’s time for a change. And while the financial and career implications of staying in a less than ideal work situation are evident, the impact on your personal fulfillment and health is just as significant.

Break Free from Your Stagnant Role

Alright, so now that you understand the motivations for not leaving a job, and the costs of staying, what can you do to prepare yourself to leave?

Indeed, what can you do when you find yourself in a role that no longer fuels your passion or challenges your capabilities?

Well, here are a few things you may want to consider.

Start with Self Reflection

First, start with a moment of self-reflection. You know, it’s easy to get caught up in the daily grind and lose sight of the bigger picture of where your career or even your life is headed.

That’s why, when you’re at this critical juncture and ready to make your next move, the first thing you should do is pause and ask yourself: “What do I truly desire from my career? And, “does my current position align with those aspirations?”

Remember, it’s not just about the paycheck, it’s about fulfillment, growth, and the legacy you want to leave behind to your family and in your community.

Tap into and Grow Your Network

Next, take some time to reignite or activate your networking efforts.

You know, the tech and business landscapes are ever-evolving, and connections are the lifeblood of opportunities.

They’re not just lifelines out of a stagnant or miserable job, they can help you determine whether your next career move could be just as fraught as the one you’re leaving.

So then, to up your networking game, you can start by rekindling relationships with former colleagues, make it a point to attend industry events, and always be receptive to forging new professional bonds.

Either way, you never know which conversation might lead to your next big opportunity.

Mentorship as a Change Catalyst

Another thing to consider as you prepare for your next career move is to work with a mentor.

Now, you might think that mentorship only applies to individuals early on in their career, but don’t underestimate the power of these relationships.

Indeed, there’s a wealth of knowledge to be gleaned from those who’ve successfully navigated career transitions similar to yours.

That’s why it’s essential to seek out wisdom from individuals whose career paths you admire and ask for their insights. You know, their perspectives can offer invaluable guidance, and help you avoid pitfalls and capitalize on opportunities you might not have seen on your own.  

Now, if mentoring isn’t for you, then at the very least, consider working with a career strategist. These professionals specialize in guiding top-tier talent and often offer tailored advice to help you transition into roles that not only match your financial aspirations but also offer the growth and challenges you seek.

At the same time, they can provide valuable insights into market trends, help you position yourself effectively, and even connect you with opportunities that might not be publicly advertised.

Why You Should Walk Away from a Less than Ideal Job

You know, when it comes down to it, in the ever-evolving job market, the only constant is change.

That’s why embracing this change, rather than resisting it, is the key to unlocking your full financial potential. As we’ve discussed, staying in a stagnant role can have profound implications on your career, finances, and overall well-being.

But the journey to breaking free isn’t just about recognizing the need for change, it’s about equipping yourself with the right tools, mindset, and support system to navigate that transition.

And so, by understanding the emotional and logical factors that influence your decisions, recognizing the costs of standing still, and actively seeking growth opportunities, you can position yourself for success in both your professional and personal life.

Remember, your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Every step you take, even those that lead you into the unknown, is a chance to learn, grow, and redefine your life path and more crucially, take you one step closer to becoming the master of your financial independence journey.