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Knowing when to Leave - No Path Foward

Several times through my career, I worked at an Acme Co that I really enjoyed. The work was challenging and fulfilling, I had to work the occasional late night or weekend but not at the expense of friends and family, and the pay was commensurate to my skill level (yes, that is usually code for “we are going to underpay you, but I am being sincere Acme Co paid me according to my skills). However, there came a point where I realized I had reached the end of my advancement path with the company.

One such time this happened was early on in my career. I was working in Information Technology providing desktop support to a call center and the administration/management staff. The I.T. staff was small, about 6 people in total and 4 of them only handled website concerns leaving just my boss and me to handle all the I.T. problems for the company.

I worked hard for them. Even though I was only hired to do desktop support I learned how to manage Active Directory, manage the IP Phone system, organized rooms full of strewn about I.T. assets, and setup an inventory tracking system from scratch. I knew there was a low level I.T. position above mine that would one day be filled as the company grew and I felt that my boss was training me for that position. Right up until a new guy showed up in the cubical opposite of me one morning.

Needless to say I was pretty disheartened. Still, I figured there would be other positions; maybe they lacked the time to finish training me and I would be able to get the next position that needed to be filled. As the weeks passed, however, I realized the undeniable truth that this was the position and salary I had been hired for and there was no advancing from it. It was an important distinction as there is a huge difference between an employer not promoting you or increasing your salary this time around, and an employer telling you flat out that you are at the end of your career path with them.

As an employee, it is important to understand that there is nothing wrong with an employer who has this mindset. Matthew 20:1-16 tells a parable of a man who hired various workers throughout the day to work in his vineyard. At the end of the day when it was time to pay, the people who had worked all day were mad that they received the same pay as those who only worked for a couple of hours. The owner of the vineyard pointed out that they had agreed to the pay and had no room for complaining that he had been generous to those who were hired late in the day.

While the parable has a larger meaning about equality in heaven, it is also true that as an employee you agreed to a position and a salary and have no room for complaint if they like you and want you to remain in that position at that salary. However, once your skills outgrow your position, if your employer has no desire to advance you to a position that will continue to grow your skills it is at the very least time to start thinking about moving on.

I ended up leaving Acme Co within a couple of months of the new guy showing up on good terms. I was upfront and polite about my reason for moving on and they were understanding; after all it is just business. Any place that is hostile towards you for leaving after they tell you there is no path for advancement is a place that is probably pretty toxic in other areas as well and probably not a place you need to be in regardless.

Acme Co is a conglomeration and caricature of the different places I have worked and the accounts of others related to me, any resemblance to actual places I may have worked is unintentional. This story is provided only as a generic data point. As with all such advice, "your mileage may vary" and we highly recommend talking to peers and mentors before acting on anything just because of what you may read here.

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