Determining when and if it's time for a job change isn't easy. Various factors influence timing of a job search, including your level of experience, industry, competitive landscape, market climate and seasonality, as well as personal reasons.
You may know in your gut that you need to make a professional move, but remain in your position. Company loyalty, seniority and satisfaction with compensation, corporate culture and leadership may make career sense (for a while), but other factors can sound more like excuses to delay the inevitable job change.
Perhaps you haven’t looked for a new position in years and don't know where to start or aren’t active on LinkedIn. Or, you haven’t updated your resume in 20+ years, feel anxious about networking etc. While you may have legitimate and understandable reservations about the job change process, don't let such concerns excuse "red flags" that signal it’s time to move on.
If you don’t know where to start, that’s okay. You can get help preparing for a job search. However, only you can decide when to take the first step. Here are 8 key signs it may be time for a job change:
- There's no more room for growth. You actively seek more responsibility but you've reached a dead end in your current role. You've plateaued and you’re bored. You spoke to your boss (perhaps more than once), but nothing has changed.
- You’re treated like a senior leader, but lack the title or compensation. You've progressed in your role and responsibilities, executive management includes you in meetings (and looks to you for expertise), but your title and pay do not reflect these changes. You've raised these concerns with your boss and HR, but remain dissatisfied by their response (or lack thereof).
- You don’t get a raise, promotion or bonus after a great review. Despite excellent performance, positive results, and support and accolades from company leaders, you're not materially rewarded for the value you bring to the company.
- The firm cuts resources repeatedly. Management reduced your budget significantly (perhaps several times), negatively impacting your team's productivity and output. In addition, the company is no longer dedicating funding for needed infrastructure and it will impact work quality. You feel like your hands are tied, unsupported and unable to succeed within the new framework.
- Management reduces staff with no plan for new hires. You and your team have been saddled with substantially increased workloads, travel etc., yet vacancies remain unfilled. Moreover, your new responsibilities don’t come with additional compensation or promotion. Besides the added stress of these increased demands, you worry about what this signals about the overall health of the company and your job security.
- The company makes strategic decisions that you don't agree with. Or, the company changes its strategic direction and you don't support the paradigm shift -- perhaps because it will negatively impact your area.
- Company or department restructuring will change the scope of your job. You don't want to pursue the new focus. Or, perhaps you worry that layoffs are looming and want to get ahead of that.
- A pending merger will impact company culture significantly. You do not want to be a part of the anticipated environment, the possibility of layoffs and the overall hit to employee morale.
When these signs (or others like them) sound familiar, you may conclude that seeking opportunities elsewhere is your best option to advance your career, increase compensation, acquire job security etc. That said, if a job change is at the forefront of your mind, ask yourself these important questions before making any final decisions to leave your current role:
- Do I know definitively that there are no other opportunities at my company? If you’d like to remain with your organization, but not in your current role, consider if a new position or move to another department/business unit can improve your situation, get your career back on track and allow you retain seniority.
- Did I have a thorough conversation with management about the ramifications of the merger/layoffs/budget cuts? When there’s uncertainty, we tend to make assumptions, some of which are later proven false. Find out if the changes you’re unhappy about are really for the long-term or if they're temporary, with plans for additional, positive changes in the future.
- Are there additional learning opportunities? Have you exhausted opportunities in your current position to learn anything new or gain good experience? Have you asked your boss or HR if the company will pay for professional development, a certification or advanced education? If you're not quite ready for a job search, taking advantage of these benefits will help you pursue a new opportunity in the future.
- Am I ready to commit to a full-scale search? Looking for a job takes a lot of time, so make sure you have the capacity for it. You'll need to update your resume and LinkedIn profile as well as engage with your professional network on a regular basis. Depending on what else is going on in your life, you may or may not be ready to jump into job search mode. That said, your efforts will pay off in the long run when you eliminate the dissatisfaction and anxiety of your current job.
Deciding to look for a new position is a major decision and changing jobs requires significant effort, regardless of your professional level, industry or functional area. If you've carefully considered your situation and know a job change is inevitable, don’t let fear hold you back.
Create a realistic plan. Take action by ticking off your to-do list one thing at a time. Before you know it, you’ll get back on track to professional satisfaction, career advancement and less stress.
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