By Folarin Longe
Resigning from a job, even one that we don’t like, can be quite stressful. Unless it’s done on the spur of the moment or in the heat of anger, the decision to resign is usually the result of many days of reflection and consultation. It often stems from a sense of hopelessness that a particular job situation cannot be satisfactorily improved or resolved, hence our decision to move on and hopefully improve our lot some place else.
On the surface, there appears to be nothing wrong with this line of thought. In fact, it almost seems the logical thing to do. However, I’ve noticed a rather strange phenomenon over the past year – the rising number of people who resign from an organization, only to return within a few months, often to the same job and on the same pay as they left. Assuming that their old employers haven’t suddenly improved their retention skills overnight, the answer to the question seems to lie more with the job seekers themselves. In my experience, many people simply don’t consider all of the options available to them before deciding to quit. This is unfortunate because most of us have at least six legitimate career options at any given point in time. For example, we can:
1. Stay in our current job but look for ways to become more satisfied and successful.
2. Change to a different job or assignment in the same department of the organization.
3. Change to a different job or assignment in a different department of the organization.
4. Change career within the same organization.
5. Find a similar job in a different organization.
6. Change career outside the organization.
Let me illustrate how I tried to apply some of these options to my own career.
My first, full-time job after completing my national youth service was as an industrial relations officer at the giant Chevron/Gulf Oil terminal at Escravos, near Warri in Nigeria’s Delta State. It involved working a seven days-on, seven days-off shift, with working hours from 6 a.m to 6 p.m daily, and regular helicopter flights in pretty murky weather to distant offshore platforms and rigs. I hated it and would surely have resigned if not for the wise counsel of a friend’s elder brother who advised me never to leave a job until at least two ‘budget cycles’ (or two years in plain language; my mentor was an ex-Wall Street executive) had been experienced. His point, of course, was that while any new endeavor can appear stressful at first, the more familiar one becomes with a job the more enjoyable it tends to get. He was right. Sometime in my second year, everything changed. I was no longer a rookie and I had developed a sense of how things worked. With increasing mastery of my role, my job satisfaction increased too.
But, what happens when we like what we do and have simply become bored with the routine involved? In my case, after a few years in the industrial relations officer’s role I felt myself ready for a change. Fortunately, I managed to persuade my supervisor that a stint in the training and development department at the head office would be beneficial to all parties concerned. Here, the solution to my growing lack of motivation and interest was to change to a different job assignment in the same department/function. In larger corporations with multiple locations, changing to a similar job or assignment in a different department or location of the organization may have the same effect.
It’s often said that people don’t leave bad organizations, they just leave bad managers. For some people, troubled relations within the workplace, be it with supervisors or colleagues, are a major inducement to seek greater job satisfaction elsewhere. Taking a similar job elsewhere in the organization often allows people to stay with an organization they truly like while continuing to work with the competencies that have served them well up to this point.
Sometimes, it’s simply a case of wanting to gain work experience in a new field. For example, a human resources manager might decide that a period in Marketing or Operations would be good preparation for a move into general management. Unfortunately, many organizations resist career changes by their most talented people more from the sheer inconvenience of finding replacements than out of any real philosophical opposition to the idea. Luckily, with perseverance top management can usually be persuaded to take a broader view of the matter. Besides, such a move can be a great idea for another reason: your current employer is more likely to be patient with you as you seek to learn the ropes in an unfamiliar role. New employers tend to be much more insistent on quick returns from their investment in high-priced, new professional hires and are generally less willing to wait for an on-the-job education at their expense.
Please don’t get me wrong, there are often genuine reasons why seeking another job or changing career outside of one’s current place of employment makes good sense. However, there are quite a few options one can try before having to make that decision. I suspect that many of the people who have made the decision to return to a previous employer would probably agree with me.