Every so often someone in my PLN will reach out to me to discuss a potential new job. Of course, I am always flattered anytime someone seeks my advice on something I understand is near and dear to their heart. We have all been there and quite frankly, many of us will be there again. For those who have held a single job or position for as long as you can remember, I am genuinely happy for you as long as you love what you do and couldn’t envision doing anything else.
Interestingly enough, for whatever reason, I have spoken privately with eight different people in the last month who are struggling with the very question many of us have contemplated ourselves……
Is it Time for a Change?
When I was asked this question by each of these individuals, I responded in the same manner in which I often talk to myself; by asking questions. Some of these questions include:
- When you think about leaving, what are the reasons that come to mind?
- What type of work makes you the happiest?
- Do you ever think about the reason(s) why you are where you are at?
- How does your family feel about the prospect of you leaving?
- What risks do you think there would be by seeking a new position
- Are there any internal candidates for the new position you are seeking?
- How do you think you would respond if you didn’t get the position?
- What do you think your new team would bring to you that your current team doesn’t provide?
- How do you feel each day (including weekends) when you walk into work?
- Have you accomplished everything you set out to do? If not, why not?
- Are you ready to face the type of scrutiny and gossip that sometimes comes with leaving your current community for a new community?
- Are you ready to commit the time it will take to make the type of impact your new school community deserves?
So if you are one who is currently struggling with leaving a particular job, school or district, take time to consider these comments, questions and responses I have shared with others over the years. I don’t profess to think that by doing so it will bring anymore clarity to your situation, but hopefully it will cause you to pause and reflect in a manner that brings you peace of mind and helps you avoid the pitfalls I have seen those I care about experience from time and time.
Top 8 Rules of Engagement:
- Never ever begin “looking” until you have given your principal/superintendent the respect and courtesy she/he deserves by letting her/him know. In my opinion, this says more about you and your character than it does about your supervisor whom you failed to tell beforehand regardless of your reasons for not doing so.
- If you are unhappy with your current situation, ask yourself – Have you given your supervisor an opportunity to know how you feel? Inherently by doing so you also give her/him an opportunity to “fix it.” It’s not yours to judge whether or not you think it will do any good. The responsibility is yours to provide the same opportunity that you would want as a leader….a chance to address someone’s concern.
- There will come a time when you recognize that someone you work with or for does not have a skill set as high as yours. The question you should ask yourself is what are you doing to help him/her get better? Great leaders help others around them elevate their own performance and in many cases, they allow others around them to help them get better as well.
- Not every principal/superintendent, etc. is going to let you do all of the things you would like to do as a classroom teacher or principal. I often will hear others tell me their supervisor won’t let them do what they want or feel they need to do. My response? You can choose to do nothing, thereby guaranteeing the status quo remains in place or you can do all you can do to surround yourself with others who share the same passion and work together to try and influence change in a positive way regardless of the skill set of the leader. Either way, it’s a choice.
- Don’t take a new position if you know it’s not the right time for the sole reason you think it’s the opportunity of a lifetime and you can’t let it pass. Let me say this. I have seen many “once in a lifetime opportunities” come around again. Stay patient and weigh all the benefits and disadvantages of such a move. Never accept a job in the moment it is offered that is based solely on emotion.
- If what is holding you back is you are afraid you will miss your students, guess what? You will! However, you will quickly learn that kids everywhere regardless of race or socioeconomic class, need positive adults in their lives to support, encourage, challenge, inspire and love them. In a child’s world their issues are real regardless of what we believe to be the level of importance in our minds.
- Be careful what you wish for. For those who have never worked in another school or district it can be easy to perceive that things will be so much better somewhere else. This calls for a period of reflection, but maybe not in the way you think I am suggesting. What I mean is that we should always reflect on our own attitudes and behaviors and try to determine what role we play in our own dissatisfaction of our current situation.
- Always reach out to others to help you gain a broader perspective in terms of motivation and fears. In my opinion, we all have them. It’s okay to admit you do.
Sometimes professionally it feels right, but personally something seems amiss and other times vice versa. If a new challenge is what you desire, I would argue for that for many of us, those challenges already exist in our current roles. No, better yet, those challenges exist for all of us. As a colleague from a neighboring district often reminds us all, our working lives should be more like running a marathon than a sprint. He makes a good point and what I have learned over the years is that success is in the journey regardless of where it takes us.
So if you are wondering, “Is it time for a change?” and “What will happen if it doesn’t work out?” I would argue that there really is no risk for those who have a high skill set because if things don’t turn out the way you hoped, you will still have other options because of that skill set. If you are contemplating leaving because you believe you may have found the perfect fit, remember that for some, no matter where they go they have the ability to turn their new environment into a perfect fit because the best people know how to “fit in” no matter where they go.
So, is it time for a change? It is if it no longer feels right. Trust me. You will know it when the time comes.
Just make sure you let your boss know how you feel just in case she/he realizes that keeping you is like training for a marathon. By not saying anything her/his only option may be to sprint to catch you as you walk out the door.
Either way, it’s our choices in how we navigate our current circumstances that ultimately will determine how our journey ends or for that matter, begins anew.