Recently I was talking with a friend of mine, giving him some advice about whether he should move on from his current job. It was a very difficult decision for him, as he loved the company he worked for and had helped build them from very early days. He is a loyal person by nature, however, despite all that, he was not happy. He was having a hard time putting his finger on exactly what was not making him happy and thus, was struggling with the decision whether to find a new job. After several conversations with him I told him, "The problem is, to your current team you are still little Johnny".
He was experiencing something that happens to many of us. It is not necessarily something done out of malice and is something that is quite natural in many aspects of life. People often times only see you as the person you were when they met you - they don’t see the growth you have made.
When I said this to my friend, he asked me what I meant. I reminded him of what it is like to go to a family reunion. To your aunts and uncles, grandparents and cousins and often times your parents and siblings, you will always be “little Johnny” or “little Jenny”, the smart, cute little boy or girl who they remember running around without a care, getting into trouble here and there, and generally not very serious about anything. The problem is, you are now a 30-something grown adult, successful in business, in a successful a long term relationship, and a loving father or mother. You are so much more than that little kid. But, they still see you as that.
However, for people who have met you more recently, it is much easier for them to see you as you now are. They never knew “little Johnny” or “little Jenny”. Their view of you and all you have to offer is different, which brings a different level of respect. You have only ever been who you are now.
The same thing can happen in business, especially when you have been at a company since the early days. Sometimes they only remember you as the smart specialist that they hired. They have a hard time seeing you as the person you have become. The skills you have added. The teams you have built. The professional growth you have achieved.
When this happens, it is most likely time to leave. You will not be able to achieve your true potential or experience the growth you deserve without some unlikely changes at your current post.
When you start talking to new companies, they will be like those newer relationships in your personal life. They will value the totality of skills you have. They will value the things you have accomplished. They will recognize the potential you have and see you as the person you are.
It can be difficult for some to come to this realization, but it is important for your personal growth, your professional growth and most importantly, your personal happiness for you to be able to recognize this.
If you are still “little Johnny” or “little Jenny” to your company, it’s time to leave.