We often admire those who have long tenures in jobs. Some continue to do good work and enjoy job satisfaction for 20 or 30 years. These people often have a niche that is valuable to the organization, so they may be content with the same job for an extended period of time.
But longevity can be a sign of danger. One may have security, but longevity is not a good measure of success, accomplishment, or happiness.
Job satisfaction is never perfect in any job. For some, comfort and predictability rather than professional development are the sources of satisfaction. But for many of us who work in the academic and community medical arena, longevity can be a sign of professional inertia, ego-driven self-satisfaction, or enjoyment of being a big fish in a very small pond, where the competition is weak and the pressure for productivity is low.
In some cases, a person may work at a single institution for two or three decades but have a series of varied jobs during that time, each providing new learning experiences and challenges. Often this results in increasing leadership responsibility and professional growth. Others may find a better career path by leaving the home institution for a job that is a step up in another one.
So how does one know when it is a good idea to move on? Here are a few signs, but they will be of no use unless one is willing to be honest with oneself; sometimes it is better to have a discussion about it with a trusted senior colleague or friend. Here are some signs that a change should at least be considered:
1. Boredom: This is a no-brainer. If you are bored out of your mind with the job, then looking for another one, whether within your current institution or elsewhere, is a good idea.
2. A sense that there is no chance for advancement or serious professional development: That may be because there are no openings or one believes that gender or racial bias are part of the problem.
3. An unhappy or toxic atmosphere in one’s unit: There may be grudges or difficult personnel making work difficult or unpleasant.
4. The problem may actually be you: One may be trapped in a job that is a bad fit for one’s talents or desires, or the job, in retrospect, was a poor choice. Be careful with this one. Blaming yourself requires courage and truth; a trusted colleague is essential in this circumstance.
What if you want to move, but cannot due to family, geographic, or financial reasons? For this situation, a heart to heart with the leader of your group or the department chair is in order. You must ask for help and advice about how to make your situation more satisfactory. But keep in mind that this may require a change in your behavior.
I repeat: This process requires courage and facing the truth head on. But that will help you choose the best solution.