“How do I know when it’s time to move on?” inquires Josephine, a senior postdoc.

She asks because she’s not quite sure if she’ll be able to find a faculty position, or even another job, besides being a post-doc.

A lot of times we try to rationalize our fears about moving out of our comfort zone by making a list of pros and cons. Sometimes we make up more reasons for the cons, like financial security, project completion, or friends/family.

While these may be “rational” cons for leaving your current position, ultimately those reasons may be the very thing preventing your career growth.

So how do you actually know when it’s time to move and what do you do about it?

I offer up 4 steps to knowing when and how to move on:

    1. Recognize your fears.
      When you find yourself focusing more on the fear of moving on, rather than on the excitement of your current position, it’s time to start considering the next steps in your career growth. Moving on may feel risky, because it its. There is a real risk of failure. However, the ability to take on risks is critical for a successful scientist.Successful scientists are leaders who take risks, despite fears. So it’s important to know how to take action, and to manage emotions. These scientific leaders will be the ones to move research to new levels. So, do what you’re afraid of.Helpful tip: Speak with a trusted mentor, peer, or coach who has done it before and find encouragement within him/ her. Those who genuinely believe in your ability will give you practical, sage advice as to how to accomplish that transition.
    2. Define your why.
      While it’s almost impossible to eliminate those fears, you can mitigate them by focusing on your core beliefs and passion. While the future can be vague, you’ll always know the general direction toward your goals by focusing on your core vision and beliefs.When you’re focused on opportunity which you feel passionately about, you create a drive. That drive or motivation is fueled more by the need for success rather than the fear of failure. Your excitement can also help mitigate those fearful feelings.Helpful tip: Read some of the current material from Simon Sinek, author of “Start with Why” and “Leaders Eat Last”. He helps leaders focus on their core beliefs, and inspires them to take action.
    3. Take action.
      Don’t get stuck in over-planning and over-analysis. The cure for paralysis by over analysis is action. Many times, taking simple steps toward your goal can help eliminate that paralysis.I know I’ve been espousing “clarity” in goals, but sometime clarity isn’t so clear for many of us. Sometimes, it’s in those moments that we have to recognize that our emotions can dictate our desired goals. The rest of the path will become clear once we can take a few steps back to identify where our goals lie, and then take those first few steps.Helpful tip: Create a simple checklist. Email a confident collaborator. Invite a trusted colleague to coffee. Update your C.V. Outline your specific aims.
    4. Quit.
      Now knowing when to actually quit your current position and to take that plunge, for everyone that can be completely different. For academic faculty, it may be a little more straightforward; you are awarded a lab start up, then you make the necessary date of departure.However, that decision may not be as clear for early career scientists who choose a career in the commercial industry. It’s all very difficult and may be emotionally charged. My friend and colleague, Colin White nicely gave 5 solid ways to know when it’s time to make that move to quit.

Admittedly, it is a very hard decision, but growth is necessary for all leadership success. Therefore, growth will always include some very uncomfortable decisions and action steps. So get uncomfortable.

How and when are you making those moves? Do you need help?

Please reach out to me and tell me what’s your why, and I can help you with the how.

To your success.
Happy Sciencing