Recently, we moved from Bethesda, MD (one side of Washington, DC) to the historic district of Old Town, Alexandria, VA (the other side of DC). My commute promptly went from 15 minutes to 45 minutes (on a very good day). But instead of driving past a few strip malls and office parks, every day on my commute down the George Washington Parkway I see planes taking off into the sunrise, the Washington Monument, the Jefferson & Lincoln Memorials, and when in season, the cherry blossoms in full bloom. I drive under the Key Bridge and this morning, saw the college crew team out for their morning practice. Sure, the commute is much longer (an hour on some days). But I'm no longer driving past suburban strip malls and office parks. And I'm astounded by the beauty of the Parkway every day. It was on one of these drives that I was reconciling the common complaint I keep hearing: "I don't know whether I should leave my job."
A year ago and more, workers were just happy to have a job. But now with the economy turning, confidence is creeping back in, and many people are asking themselves: "Should I stay or should I go?" For years I have been telling people there's no perfect job. There's a right job for you at any given time. And what was right two or ten years ago may or may not be right now.
A job is a ride. It has ups, it has downs. But the equation isn't rocket science. Ask yourself what you most want to be doing at work right now. Then ask yourself what kind of environment and culture you most want to be in right now. Map to your current job. Is there a 65-90% match? Are you doing mostly what you want to do? Are you getting mostly what you want in return? Then stay the course.
There's also the X factor to consider. Let's take my morning commute. If I can handle 90% of the factors associated with a longer commute (gas $, longer time to work, breakfast on the run), then it makes sense to stay the course. But if I have a really old car, and I know if it breaks down I can't afford a new one, then it's time to make a change.
Look for the match. Look for the X factor. Compare your situation to what matters to you right now. Don't compare one job offer to another, or one job to one you hypothetically could have. There will never be a match. If you enjoy the ride, if it's meeting and exceeding the majority of your needs, don't change the route.
Like a commute, you still want to keep an eye on pending construction, listen for morning traffic tie-ups and take care of your car so it holds up. Your job, your career likely won't be perfect every day, or in the future. So that's one eye on the dashboard, one eye on the road, and a firm grip on what lies ahead.