I have spoken one-on-one to over 150 engineers over the past two months or so in what has been a 45 minute to an hour discussion around where their career is at and how things are travelling.

Several times the question comes about – should I stay or should I leave?

The arguments for staying are given as uncertainty in the economy, better the devil you know than the devil you don’t, accrued long service leave entitlements which have not been crystallized, an assessment that there are absolutely no jobs available – so why look and many more.

The argument for leaving is a steady chipping away at their self-esteem as the environment they are within strips them of career prospects. No more no less: self-esteem. A useless commodity? Or what makes life worth living?

Now I’d think it was a no-brainer if you had self-esteem and mental health being impinged on the one hand and I don’t care – just about anything else on the other hand – which one I’d choose.

If we call this out, these are no more than excuses and here is what I think about the excuses:

Uncertainty in the economy

This uncertainty in the economy is not a temporary phenomenon. So; if you think it is going to change in 6, 12, 18, 24 or more months from now – I think you are going to be disappointed. Given the permanent, steady global shift of manufacturing to China, the steady stream of acquisitions taking place of major infrastructure assets in Australia and through-out the Western World, the global uncertainties as a consequence of what is happening with Brexit, unbridled debt the west finds itself with, political uncertainty as electorates hand in hung parliaments regularly, the consequences of mass migration, Islam-o-phobia and so on this situation is not going to change soon.

Uncertainty is the new certainty.

Rather than focusing on being employed, the objective should be on being employable.

So this means forgetting about permanent hire and treating every job out there as temporary. After all; irrespective of you being loyal and sticking around because your perm job is stable; if your company is bought over, if your company is not doing well and needs to survive or something as simple as your boss resigns / is made redundant / retires / gets hit by a bus and all your political corporate capital disappears – guess what happens to your perm job?

So you can see that your decision to stay is based on everything outside of your control. You may be the perfect employee but does this guarantee your job? Leave aside guarantee – how much more likely is this scenario as compared to you retiring in this organisation you are in say 3, 5 or 10 years from now? I think you know the answer.

So if you are unhappy where you are and are uncertain about whether you should stay or leave just think – it is better I leave on my terms on my time frame as compared to leaving on my company’s terms and on their time frame?

Use time now to your advantage to decide about the move in xx period of time. Then project plan backwards from xx date. But unless you have the flag in the ground about an end date, especially if you are unhappy where you are – you will never leave and when you do it will be most unexpected and you will be least prepared.

Better the “devil you know” than the “devil you don’t”

The “devil you don’t” can be detected through appropriate networking and access to experts who can help you get to better understand a company’s culture before you join. And the devil you know may blind side you if they leave or are made redundant (and you have no control over that) so you may well have the “devil you don’t know” in the same company you are within even without leaving. It is something you do not have control over and relying on this uncertainty is not going to do you any good over the long term.

Accrued long service leave entitlements

Then there is this bunch of individuals who are really unhappy where they are at, waiting to be made redundant, yet working with such a high ethic that they will be left to survive (i.e. not made redundant) as a writhing fish with minimal water yet without the water quantity being increased so they can really thrive. So they are leading tolerable lives but not really enjoying what they do.

With one third of your life being spent at work, do you really want to reach your 70’s and then say – wow, one third of my life has been a waste? Is hindsight like this avoidable? Sure. Guess who is in charge of that decision?

No jobs available

Then there is this other bunch of individuals who are so pessimistic about the jobs available, that when I speak to them about job transition strategies they say “but there are no jobs available – how will you locate one?”

And my response?

Is it reasonable to assume that across 2016 there will be zero hires – so not a single person being employed for the whole year? As you’d know, things happen. There are a million and one reasons why people leave jobs several for personal reasons and several who see the light and move on. Then there are some companies getting the work even as others do not. So some companies are hiring. Even in the most pessimistic economy where say 30% of businesses are failing, 70% of them are not. So why focus on the 30% failing when you can focus on the 70% who are not? Sure there are fewer jobs out there, but that is where access to an expert will help you leverage yourself better. But to assume there are zero jobs available is unreasonable. It’s almost an excuse to stay.

So what is the take away from this?

Make the change if you feel change is necessary – on your terms.

Not when you are handed a lemon, at a time of uncertainty to you, as a shock to your system.

Uncertainty is your new norm. Find a way to deal with it.