More than a year ago I made a very difficult decision to leave my employer of 13 years. I left behind security, stability — and family — in favor of a more dynamic environment closer to people served by the conservation district system.
Now I’m working three hours away from family, only seeing them on weekends. Even though it still strikes some people as an odd choice to make, this job change was the right decision. Here’s why.
Table of Contents
My old job was simply getting stale. I’d been through enough that rarely was I encountering something new, as in really interestingly new.
Of course, that also meant I felt quite capable of handling just about any problem or issue that landed in front of me. But I came to realize that this comforting feeling of confidence was also a bit of a safety blanket I had wrapped around myself. Once I recognized that, the sense of staleness become pervasive.
Because of that sense of staleness, I found myself looking for new challenges. I began doing some consulting work to keep my interest piqued and my capabilities sharp. The new job has provided all the challenges I could wish for, and having worked through some difficult situations has increased my confidence even more.
Sure, there are more ways to make significant errors in my new job because, well, it’s new. But it’s work I’ve done for five years before I made this jump, plus much of my 13 years working across Washington State gave me a wide, deep base of knowledge and experience to draw upon.
It is fascinating to me that I felt less stability at the job I had been doing for 13 years than I do in my new job. My previous employer is under intense pressure to cut costs while also fighting a quiet battle to remain an independent voice for conservation. My new employer has a permanent tax base, so we are assured of a steady stream of funding that helps assure our long-term success.
At some point my role in my previous position morphed from being the new rabble-rouser questioning what we did and why we did it, to the person who had been there longest who had the historical memory to explain why we did, or had done, things a certain way.
Sometimes the historian becomes part of the inertia that retards the evolution of an organization. I did not want to end up being perceived as the person who was constantly trying to slow things down. I wanted my organization to be overwhelmingly successful. And it sounds odd to say this, but one way to help make that happen was to take my foot off the brakes by leaving.
I’m pretty opinionated. Those who know me best know the truth of this self assessment. In the old job, I did not get many opportunities to try to guide the overall strategy of the organization. In my new job, this is a key aspect of my role…and I like it.
I also had extremely limited opportunities to manage professional staff in my old job. Every day of the new job is chock full of supervisory challenges and successes.
It’s hard to imagine but I’m having more fun in the new job than I had in the last several years with my previous employer. It is so very satisfying to take my 18 years of experience and parlay that into an organizational strategy and service delivery system that is working well. Sure, there are many improvements I can and will make, but the lessons of the past couple of decades are holding true.
I can’t end this without talking about the feeling of guilt that also came with my departure from my previous employer. I remain in contact with my ex-coworkers. I enjoy interacting with them and respect their perseverance in the face of some substantial challenges. I follow the issues they are grappling with. I empathize with the frustrations and difficulties they bravely face every day. And I think about them every day, and quietly wish them well as their situation continues to evolve.
I have a great board of directors and some amazing staff. Our partners are eager, active, and committed. We have a stable funding source and enough natural resource issues to keep us busy as far into the future as I can imagine.
I simply feel blessed to have this incredible opportunity to deliver conservation the way I believe it should be done. My way is not the only way, and it certainly is not the right way in every situation. It is working, and despite the challenges of having a family several hours away, I truly feel incredibly lucky every day.
How about you?
How do feel about the last job change you made? Was it easy or difficult? Was it the right thing to do at the time? Do tell!