Determining when to make a job move or career change

By Lauren Easterling, in the Inside Higher Ed Carpe Careers series.

When I write these articles for Inside Higher Ed, I try to focus on what we commonly think of as positive topics — looking for opportunities, making the most of an experience and so on. One more difficult question that I feel we do not discuss enough, however, is: When do we know it is time to leave an experience, whether it’s a job on a career path or in a training position?

The topic of when to move on — to leave a position, to make that leap from what is known to what is unknown — can be scary, especially during our current pandemic. But sometimes it is necessary. Many circumstances and situations can motivate us to move on, whether it is an opportunity to advance or to leave an experience behind. And sometimes the greatest work related to moving on is just determining when it is time.

I have had several of these experiences. Most recently, when I decided to apply for and accept my current position in graduate and postdoctoral career development, what prompted me was a combination of what I could do in a new position and where I was at in my previous one. I decided it was time to leave my previous role not because of conflict or drama, but rather because I’d realized that I’d done and accomplished more than I ever expected I would, and like a growing plant, it was time to be repotted where my roots could grow. Making such a move allowed me to expand my career in a new direction — from working as a generalist in the area of instructional design and development to specifically focusing on graduate students and postdocs and developing my own specialties.

Earlier in my life, I made the decision to move from being a high school mathematics teacher to seeking a professional degree full-time out of a desire to focus on further learning after several years in the workforce. At the end of my degree, though, I found that my path had changed and started wondering why I had left teaching. That led to another shift, this time toward a doctoral program, which put me on a path that has led to my current position. Such shifts are part of how we grow and change. . . .

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