Move Up or Move On: How to Know the Right Next Move in Your Career

career career advice Feb 18, 2024
Black Professional Woman Thinking

Throughout any career, professionals will frequently encounter a pivotal decision: whether to ascend within their existing organization or explore new horizons elsewhere. Deciding whether to "move up" or "move on" is not just about climbing the proverbial corporate ladder or seeking greener pastures. It requires a profound reflection on how the direction of your career is currently serving you.

Here are some key considerations to this complex decision-making process that will offer insights and actionable advice to navigate this critical crossroads. This was also the subject of my last TV Segment on AM Northwest. You can watch the segment below. 

Reconnect to What Matters

The foundational step in this decision-making process is what's essential for you in your career. This goes beyond the surface-level questions about your skills or what you love. Instead, you want to take an introspective dive into understanding:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What does success look like for you?
  • What narrative is getting in the way of what you want?
  • What narrative no longer suits you or makes sense for your life or career?

You may have focused on developing your expertise in a singular area or field when you started your career. However, over time, you've grown and expanded your knowledge, skills, talents, and interests and may want to take a more integrative approach to the work you do in the world. Exploring the answers to these questions will help give you the clarity you need to know the direction you want to take in your career pathway. 

A Gallup poll revealed that employees who feel a deep connection to their work and believe it aligns with their values are more engaged, productive, and likely to stay with their organization. This underscores the importance of aligning your career with what matters to you and the narrative that will bring you long-term fulfillment and success.

Look for the Growth Opportunities

You want to consider your personal and professional growth when thinking about growth opportunities. If you're going to "grow" in developing a self-care practice or spending more time with your family, you'll want to ensure your professional opportunities align. Similarly, if you have an established self-care practice, you want to ensure that your professional growth opportunity will not disrupt existing plans and practices.

With this information, you can determine whether your opportunities are within your current company or elsewhere. Internally, this could mean seeking roles, projects, or departments, and externally, researching the broader market to understand what opportunities are available and how they support what matters to your personal and professional growth opportunities.

Networking plays a pivotal role in this phase. Connecting with professionals in roles or organizations you're interested in can provide valuable insights into potential opportunities and the realities of those positions.

Check for Workplace Value Alignment

Company culture matters when deciding whether to move up or move on. In the past, your fast-paced, competitive workplace may have suited your energy and ego earlier in your career, but today, it's starting to feel a bit toxic. This doesn't mean you have to move on, particularly if you can create a bubble around your work that minimizes the impact on the overall culture.

Spend time evaluating how current opportunities align with your values and their impact on your family commitments and lifestyle preferences. Staying in a misaligned environment can lead to stress, unhappiness, and burnout, so weigh this against any potential benefits.

Employees who perceive their workplace values as aligned with their own are more satisfied and less likely to experience burnout. Studies found that value congruence between employees and their organizations significantly predicts job satisfaction and intentions to stay.

Prep for the Move You Want

While there are practical things you can do in preparation for moving up or on, like shifting family schedules or reacclimating to a commute, this will focus on the mental and strategic work needed to get ready. 

Regardless of your career move, you must build your personal brand, upskill where needed, and shift your mindset for what's next. Your online presence should incorporate your discoveries and how they've shaped your direction. With advancing technology and AI, it's always good to show your understanding of these changes and that you know how to leverage AI in your current and future roles.

A report by the World Economic Forum highlights the increasing importance of continuous learning and skill development in today's job market, particularly regarding AI. Engaging in professional development makes you more competent and ensures you're ready for the opportunities ahead.


Deciding whether to "move up" or "move on" is a multifaceted choice that demands a deep understanding of what matters most to you. Uncovering your career narratives and aligning your values, you'll navigate this critical crossroads confidently.

Remember, this decision is not just about the immediate benefits but also long-term fulfillment and success in your career.


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