Make a Break for the Great Beyond

"I gotta get out of here!"

As I built my career in cities coast to coast, this thought ran through my mind (and sometimes right out of my mouth) a few times. In San Francisco I worked for a Jekyll-and-Hyde-type who went from mild-mannered professional to screaming maniac without warning. Then there was the mirthless, hostage-like situation in a New York showroom where phone calls were recorded and hushed private conversations with co-workers took place in stairwells (one day, the CEO actually ordered me not to laugh any more – surprisingly easy to do, until the day I left!)

Prior to starting my consulting and public speaking practice, I was fortunate to have enjoyed many years at a couple of great companies and to have been promoted out of some icky situations. But the victories weren't always sweet enough to shut my wandering eyes. Once the writing was on the wall in dead-end situations, I plotted and executed clean breaks and made my way to better ones. These opportunities were better in every sense of the word – better working environment, better title, better money. But had I let desperation take hold, I would have settled for any mediocre offer that rescued me from my current circumstances, even if it did little to advance my career or personal situation.

I learned how to hold out for more, quite by accident, early in my career. A couple of so-so offers that I was tempted to take fell through, only to be replaced by really good ones. In the meantime, I realized that I could stick it out a bit longer in Crazy Town, and my confidence in my ability to get to greener pastures grew with each move.

Learn to stick it out until you’re truly excited about where you’re going next.

As I've navigated professional and personal transitions, one mind shift has transformed my trajectory: I get more excited about where I'm going than I do about leaving where I've been (and I don't leave until that's the case). Even better, I've found that the more my future-vision sharpens, counter-offers, competing overtures, and all kinds of other happy surprises tend to turn up. Time and again, pushing toward better opportunities has eclipsed any version of running away and settling for less.


Wherever you are in your life or career, keep the following in mind when the urge to flee hits higher degrees.

  • Every day you spend in a sub-optimal, life-draining situation can be used to plan your next move. And, the earlier you start planning, the choosier you can be. You'll be more comfortable holding out, negotiating, and generally taking the time required to craft an awesome opportunity. In my experience, some people are actually more comfortable waiting to make a move until their fight-or-flight instincts are triggered. That way, they can more easily rationalize the bad decision they "have to” make in order to get out. When the signals are flaring, start preparing!
  • The only thing worse than staying stuck is moving on to something only slightly better, then finding out that you could have landed a much better deal (Ouch!). Life doesn't have to be a series of incremental improvements (no matter how many times insecure people assure you that it is). A smaller number of big bets will change your game. Shoot for leaps and bounds.
  • You know that awesome feeling when you are looking forward to a vacation? You can (and should) feel that way about any number of career and life transitions. Learn to love sticking it out until you’re truly excited about where you're going next.

When it’s time to move on, focusing on what’s ahead rather than running away will always give you better cards to play.

Isn't that great?

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P.S. You'll probably also like these Girl To Great articles:

Escaping the Feedback Trap

3 Ways to Maximize Your Memorability

5 Random Realities About Public Speaking

Lean Into Fear and Loathing

Three Contrarian Ways to Convey Confidence

The Root of all Evil

The Path to Prolific Productivity

I launched the Girl To Great series at the urging of the many women I've mentored and informally encouraged over the years. In this series, I share tools and tactics born from my experience, that will help you get out of your own way, make better use of where you are right now, and ditch the insecurity that is at the root of cringe-worthy compromises and playing small. Learn more about Girl To Great

Carol SpieckermanComment