A CEO’s Advice on Making a Really Tough Career Decision

March 22, 2017, 9:37 PM UTC
Sharon Price John
Build-A-Bear Workshop CEO Sharon Price John, poses for photos on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange after ringing opening bell, to highlight National Teddy Bear Day, Wednesday, Sept. 9, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Richard Drew—AP

The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for, “How can you find career support outside of your friends and family?” is written by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

When I’m facing a difficult circumstance or decision, I try to give myself some quiet time to listen to my conscience before I make the final call. In the end, as much as everyone around you cares, you have to own your decisions, especially the tough ones, so it’s important that you are at peace with them.

A few years ago, I was offered the opportunity to be the president of the Stride Rite Children’s Group during a turnaround situation. On one hand, it would be a bigger title and more responsibility. On the other hand, I would be leaving a job I loved in an industry I had worked in for years. It really boiled down to deciding between taking a chance to advance my career with a new position in a different industry vs. maintaining the status quo with a company and business where I was already successful and comfortable.

My friends, family, and mentors were landing on different sides of the fence. Some of my friends were concerned that I could be making a risky move from a secure situation. My potential new employer and executive recruiter were both convincing that this was an amazing opportunity. The executive recruiter was also willing to bet that if I took the job and turned around the division, I would be offered a CEO position within three years.

See also: Here’s What You Should Be Doing to Get Ahead in Your Career

After weighing the practical matters, I went for a long run on a familiar wooded trail. I stopped to gaze through the trees onto a small, peaceful pond where I found myself seeking guidance, for an answer—maybe even a sign.

I had been at my company for seven years, starting as a vice president of a small brand and eventually becoming the senior vice president and general manager of a key division. Had the time come to move on?

Just then, several swans glided onto the pond’s surface, a black swan landing among them. For me, this “black swan moment” was not burdened by the negative connotations from the investment community—it was simply rare and beautiful.

I don’t know if it was a “sign,” but it did make me wonder. Maybe my true potential would never be achieved unless I was willing to recognize the rare moment, take a chance, and be different. I decided to accept the new position.


Call it intuition. Call it trusting your gut. Call it seeing a “sign.” No matter what you call it, listening to your own instincts can be very rewarding—if you’re brave enough to do it.

And, as it turns out, three years later, after successfully turning around the Stride Rite Children’s Group, I was offered the CEO position at Build-A-Bear Workshop.

Perhaps the best support “outside” of your friends and family is actually seeking for answers “inside” yourself.

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