Clarify your goals before making a move

Dear Joan,
Your recent article about facing your fear and leaving the job you hate hit home with me. I’m 36 and I’ve been working for the same company for 10 years, as a sales professional, and I hate my job. While I’ve been successful throughout my time with the company, I’ve been promoted five times, have consistently achieved my goals, and have a great working relationship with my accounts and all of different departments within the company, I can’t stand the work that I do.

Two years ago, I was promoted to a highly visible position at a national level and for two years I have been miserable. The company has gone through a transition during this time and I no longer feel that the loyalty and dedication that I show for them is reciprocated. The compensation does not meet the industry standards and does not recognize my performance. My manager, (the Vice President) does not provide the support that I and my colleagues need, and my schedule involves extremely long hours and extensive traveling, which forces me to sacrifice valuable time with my family. I put on a good front, but I feel both emotionally and physically drained and have agonized over what to do next.

I have an excellent employment agency that I can work with that specializes in assisting people to find employment in my industry and at my level. My feeling is that not only do I dislike the company that I am working for, I do not like the work either. I’m afraid that if I work for a different company doing the same work, it won’t be long until I am just as miserable. I know that I can always change again if that would be the case, but I don’t want to waste anymore time doing something that I don’t enjoy.

Also, if I leave my current position without knowing my next step, how would a perspective employer view that? I have always heard that you should not leave a job without having another job, but I feel like I need the freedom from my current position to explore my opportunities in other areas. Financially it would be tight but my husband and I could manage. I’d appreciate your opinion.

Burnout isn’t just a result of having too much work; it’s a result of getting too little appreciation. It’s no surprise that one of the biggest reasons people leave their jobs is because they don’t feel that their contribution is valued. It sounds as if there are a lot of reasons why you are trying to escape. But before you jump, let’s take a closer look at why you want to leave and what some other options might be. Rather than running from your job, why not run towards a job?

Ask yourself these questions:

1.      You wouldn’t have had ten successful years in sales if you weren’t suited for the profession. It seems that your dissatisfaction began when you were promoted two years ago. What is it about your "highly visible, national" position that you don’t like? It’s important to isolate the specifics about the job, so you don’t make the same mistake again.

2.      Think about the jobs you’ve held in the company. Which ones did you enjoy most and why were they so satisfying? Have you ever considered going back to one of those jobs, and perhaps even staying with your company? Your record is so good, they would probably be happy to accommodate you. It’s not unusual for sales professionals to try management and then go back out to the field.

3.      Which issue is most important for you: making more money, travelling less, or being recognized and supported by your manager and others? Another way to ask this question is, "If they make me a counter offer, what would make me stay?" It will help to isolate the biggest issue. For instance, if you had more time with your family would you be happier with your salary? Clarifying your priorities will help you define what you want.

4.      Why not begin working with the employment agency while you’re still employed? You would be in a much stronger negotiating position. If you quit your job, potential employers are likely to be suspicious about the reasons. However, if you do leave now, be sure to leave on good terms and have a positive reason for leaving.

5.      Can you do some informational interviews while you are still working? Call your trusted advisors and colleagues and tell them you are re-thinking your career options. Ask them who they would suggest you talk with about other sales positions and related professions.

The key is to learn from this situation and make your next move on purpose, rather than running away in frustration without taking advantage of the lessons learned.

Joan Lloyd is a Milwaukee based executive coach and organizational & leadership development strategist. She is known for her ability to help leaders and their teams achieve measurable, lasting improvements. Joan Lloyd & Associates, specializes in leadership development, organizational change and teambuilding, providing: executive coaching, CEO coaching & leader team coaching, 360-degree feedback processes, retreat facilitation and presentation skill coaching and small group labs. Contact Joan Lloyd & Associates at (414) 573-1616,, or 
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