Do You Feel Lucky?


Kathy Lavinder
Owner and Executive Director, Security & Investigative Placement Consultants

Are you gambling with your career? Remember the old song The Gambler? “You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away and know when to run.” A Kenny Rogers song may not be an obvious place to look for career guidance, but it turns out that there’s some good career advice tucked into his memorable lyrics. Let’s look at the four scenarios Kenny lays out:

Know when to hold ‘em – If you’re in a work environment where you are engaged by your current responsibilities, regularly encounter new and varied professional challenges (cutting-edge fraud investigations, for example), enjoy the team you work with, and feel appropriately compensated and appreciated by your employer, then you should probably stay put. With no compelling reason to exit, the prudent option is to ‘hold ‘em’ and continue your professional growth in your current environment. Employers value loyalty and employees who exhibit the maturity to know when they are in a good spot. The fraud employment market is fairly robust at present so you may need to rebuff occasional overtures from recruiters, as flattering as they may be. If you’re at all tempted, do a risk/reward analysis and certainly look before you leap.

Know when to fold ‘em If you’re unhappy with your work (for example, your fraud case load is one-dimensional or monotonous), there isn’t any upward mobility, or you don’t like your boss or your employer, it may be time to look for a new professional opportunity. Before you begin email blasting your résumé, stop and think things through. What kind of role do you want? What kind of employer – size, mission, culture, etc. – would be more appropriate? Learn from your unhappiness in order to get it right next time. Do your due diligences as you explore options.

Know when to walk away – This scenario really is rolling the dice. It may work out, but it may not. In my view, it’s rarely a smart career move to walk away without lining up a new job first. Employment gaps are not viewed favorably by most employers. Walking away also entails quitting. This can suggest a lack of persistence, determination or the ability to deal with adversity. The better option is to confront your issues, try to find better outcomes, or if that’s not possible, exit gracefully after landing your new professional opportunity.

Know when to run – If your employer is facing strong headwinds and there are serious challenges to the viability of your organization, put your career search into high gear. Do not literally run to the door, but get out in front of the bad news and adversity and make a concerted effort to find a new job. This advice applies to companies facing possible bankruptcy, shuttering of operations, reductions in force or technological developments that are disrupting the entire sector. Don’t be the last person left to turn off the lights. Stay abreast of developments and issues relevant to your employer and have your career parachute and action plan ready.