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Your 4-Step Plan to Decide if it’s Time to Leave Your Job

Here’s a hypothetical: You just had your annual review and you didn’t get the promotion you were expecting. No judgment here on your emotions, but how you react shouldn’t be driven by them. If you let emotions drive you, you might leave the job without a plan, telling your boss off on your way out. Maybe you’ll still do that, but that’s not a trivial “tall or grande” decision. Mindfulness techniques can help you see the big picture.

Here’s how you can make the best decision for your career:

1. Give yourself time to pause and process.

This way, you’ll manage to avoid storming out of the office, identify what you are feeling, and find the facts of the situation. You do not need to make a decision right away. Take some time to think about what you are going to do next.

2. Consider your options.

You can stay and try to get a promotion next year; stay and plot an exit; leave with no plan; leave with a plan. You also have to think of your end goal. Maybe that’s to become CEO or to make six figures. Your end goal could help you make your decision to leave immediately, stay for a while, or work toward a promotion in the next round.

3. Write a pro and con list.

As you look at your options, it’s natural to want to make a Pros/Cons list for each. The instinct is a good one, but I think it’s a bad idea to make a list that assigns the same weight to each point. If you decide to leave, you may have a few silly pros, like how the move would anger your boss. But your cons may be serious, like missing your income. Why would “Sticks it to my boss” as a Pro carry the same weight as “Can no longer feed my family” as a Con?!

Think about it: the considerations that go into making a big decision are not all equal. Some are deal breakers, while others are merely inconvenient. So assigning those considerations equal weight can lead to skewed results “for” or “against.” For the Pro category, you assign up to +5 points according to importance. For the Con category, you assign down to .5 points depending on how serious that concern is.

3. Know your end goal.

If your true objective is to “earn six figures” then you won’t get there if you have no job, so, at least for now, you have to make a choice that includes having a job, unless you change what you want the ultimate outcome to be. So, in this case, that would likely leave you with “stay and plot an exit” and “leave with a plan” as the best options. Notice that these two options are not mutually exclusive. From this exercise, it now becomes clear that you could stay at your current job while locking down a really solid plan for the next one, instead of up and quitting with only a half-baked plan in the works. Gradually adjust your efforts at work to say, 80 percent, so that you have more time and bandwidth outside of work to research higher-paying opportunities, apply to jobs, and go on interviews. Then, once the right opportunity comes through, you’ll be ready to pounce!

A version of this article was originally published on Thrive.

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