How do you know when to take another job? I’ve been at my current workplace for two years. Everything is fine here, but I think I could push myself harder and learn more at another employer. Is it time to move on?
The decision about when to stay at or leave a job is a personal question, and the issue sounds like something that might appear in Proverbs (Prov. 26:4-5):
“Leave a job after two years,
lest you become stagnant in your career.
Stay in your job beyond two years,
lest you fail to develop deep skills.”
I doubt Solomon himself would have prescribed a single right answer. Deciding what to do requires wisdom. And wisdom is best applied in community. Consider asking people who know you and your specific situation to sift your heart and help you discern your next steps.
Consider Concrete Choices
To start, you always pick between concrete choices in life. You never choose between the job you have and “a job in the abstract”—the abstract employer won’t send you an abstract job offer. A decision to leave means leaving for a specific alternative—even if that alternative is unemployment and job searching.
Keeping that in mind can be helpful in two ways. First, it can keep you from dreaming about what greener fields might be out there. If you don’t have a job offer that is better, you don’t have greener fields to leave for. Second, the only way you can really answer the question about staying or leaving is by having concrete alternatives: if you are wondering if it’s time to move on, try applying for jobs.
If you are wondering if it’s time to move on, try applying for jobs.
See what options come your way and compare those—not the “idea” of a new job—with your current role. The opportunities that come (or that don’t) will help you see how God might be leading you. You may be able to push yourself harder or learn more at another job, but if doors don’t open, then maybe God wants you to find creative ways to push yourself harder and learn more at this one.
Seek Healthy Motivations
Next, ask yourself what emotions are motivating your desire to leave. Do you want to flee from a problem (like Jonah)? Have you lost hope (like Peter returning to fishing)? Or do you feel a call to something new?
A desire to leave from a position of weakness is not the same as a desire to leave from strength. There is likely a mixture of emotions; find wise counsel to help you draw out what deep waters are driving you (Prov. 20:5).
Await Right Timing
Practically, it’s helpful to think holistically and seasonally. How would changing jobs affect your community, your family, or your involvement in church? Is that a wise tradeoff, and is this the time in life to make that tradeoff?
Is it time in your life to try for the “dream job” you want to have when you’re 50, or do you need more preparation? Moses needed 40 years of shepherding as preparation for his calling. What skills are you building, and do you still need to build to go where you want?
A college grad should not try to be the CEO of a big company right away—and a fresh PhD shouldn’t try lead the Federal Reserve. Those are fine career aspirations, but plotting a path from where you are to where you want to be is not always a straight line—nor can you always see where God is going to open opportunities or draw your heart.
Aim for Godly Success
Finally, consider the gospel pattern embedded in your options. The world will tell you to accumulate influence and pursue your professional success, but you should ask yourself where the most kingdom fruit will come from.
Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that our labor is not in vain because of Christ’s resurrection: our work today will ultimately bear fruit because God brings life out of death. As counterintuitive—and countercultural—as it may seem, consider where dying to the world’s ideals and trusting God’s resurrection work might be the most faithful and fruitful option.
Our work today will ultimately bear fruit because God brings life out of death.
I have a good friend who spent a decade pastoring a resource-rich church with great influence located near a world-class university, then left to revitalize a small rural church that was without a pastor. As the world thinks of influence (and, if I’m honest, as too often I do), his last position had much more potential for ministry fruit. He was reaching the world’s best and brightest for Jesus!
But God’s leading was to leave. My friend is laying down the things the world would grab, trusting that God can bear fruit through his patient sacrifice and humble service. He may never be well-known and he may never pastor “world changers” again, but he will do ministry with profound eternal significance.
The good news is that, at the end of the day, you have freedom. You can trust God to use your bad decisions as well as your good. Though I’m ashamed to admit it, one major reason I left finance to attend graduate school was out of pride and arrogance. Yet God has provided amazing kingdom opportunities through it. My motivation was driven by pride, not humility, and yet what I did out of evil ambition, God meant for good (Gen. 50:20).
The good news about serving a God who brings life out of death is that whether death occurs because of humble sacrifice or sinful ambition, God brings life in the end. Because of the resurrection, we can trust him with our job choices.