It’s easy to get comfortable in a job. After all, who doesn’t like a little comfort in a hectic world? But perhaps you’ve stayed too long in one place, even though a small voice in the back of your head keeps nagging that you really should move on. So why don’t you?
It’s not just anecdotal evidence that suggests this issue is particularly common among women (although there’s certainly enough of that). Academic research has shown that when women stay in a job for several years, they’re less likely to leave than a man.
There are, of course, powerful economic reasons for staying put. Why upset your – and possibly your family’s – finely calibrated day-to-day existence when you have a good thing, or at least an OK thing, going?
There are also emotional reasons why women tend to stick around in jobs they have long outgrown. Women tend to be loyal, and to put others’ needs before their own, which is part of what keeps us in one place. A man I once interviewed for a story told me, “Women make great employees, because they understand the company’s argument of, ‘We can’t afford to pay you any more.’”
In other words, women back down when told it’s not a good time for the firm to give raises. Men, he said, routinely ignored that argument. They would announce they had several other offers and threaten to quit if the company didn’t meet their request.
Perhaps one of these reasons for staying put sounds familiar:
- “They really need me.” We all convince ourselves this is true, but it’s funny how dispensable we become when the company needs to cut back. So often, hardworking women tell themselves their services can’t be spared, but who are we kidding? The fact is we want to believe this because it suits our egos. That doesn’t mean it’s reality.
- “This place is like a family.” I’ve never worked in such a cozy environment, but a few friends insist they have. And they didn’t want to leave their work family, partly because they felt so comfortable there, partly because quitting felt disloyal. Again, women tend to see our relationships with long-term jobs in almost the same light as a relationship with a person. We don’t want to hurt the company’s feelings or cause bad blood by leaving. But we should be putting ourselves and our livelihoods first – especially when the biggest chance we have to get a solid raise comes when we move from one job to the next.
- “This job is my identity.” The longer you spend somewhere, the more your identity can get tied up with the job. Sometimes it gets to the point where you feel you can’t move on because you can’t imagine what else you’d be if you weren’t that thing you are right now. Lack of confidence is a big problem for women. But it’s not enough reason to stay in a job you know you’ve outgrown. Getting a job offer and moving on to a new position where you acquire new skills can deliver a huge confidence boost (even if it seems terrifying at the outset).
Sure, it can be a wrench moving on from a familiar place and familiar colleagues. But there’s an excellent chance that more money – and fulfillment – await.
For more of Ashely’s take on this subject, check out her podcast over at The Broad Experience.