There are obvious clues that it’s time to move on from your current position: that gut-churning feeling when Sunday night rolls around and you have to face another Monday; the bullying supervisor who happens to be the cousin of the CEO; or the manager who puts roadblocks in the way of your career progression.
There are less obvious signs, too, and the trick is in knowing which ones are deal-breakers and which are, well, simply unavoidable aspects of modern-day work.
“People often look at external factors in isolation,” says Jason Henham, Managing Director of Melbourne, Australia-based business services firm Slate Consulting.
“For example, whether the boss is always in a bad mood or their current assignment is so boring it makes them want to cry.
“What people should do is ask: ‘In my current position, am I still able to achieve the career objectives I have set for myself?’
“This will help many people realise that they don't have career objectives in the first place and for those that do, it will help them remain focused on their target and not be distracted by what might be temporary circumstances.”
Before you make a career leap, consider the 10 signs below and ask yourself if you’ve really reached the end of the road at your current place of employment.
“Explore all avenues internally before you go outside,” advises Paul Feeney, managing director of Sanford Rose Associates, an executive recruiting network that places people worldwide. “People should evaluate their careers and their lives every six months.”
“Be thoughtful before you jump,” agrees Dr Todd Dewett, Professor of Management at Wright State University in the US. “Don’t make the leap merely for a few extra dollars – the risks are simply too high. Instead, think through the issues and you will drastically increase the odds of making the right decision.”
10 signs it’s time to go
• You feel threatened. “When things are so bad that staying is a genuine threat to your mental and physical health – you’re persistently sleepless, in fear of going to work, experiencing severe headaches or other ailments – leaving the job may be a smart choice even without options,” says Dr. Dewett.
• There’s no room to grow. “If you have surveyed the landscape inside the organisation and conclude that in the next two to three years there is little to no room to grow,” then it might be time to go says Dr Dewett. “Leaving a job is tricky,” he adds. “Make your decision slowly and rationally as opposed to quickly and emotionally.” For some, growth means more money. For others, it’s following their passions. Assess what’s important to you and whether in fact you can get there from your current job.
• You can’t change the things you don’t like. “We all have things that annoy us on the job,” says Edith Onderick-Harvey, executive consultant and president of Factor in Talent. “Is the issue an annoyance or something that is a real problem? Is it something you can change? Can you expand your role? Can you move to another job in the company? People often have more control than they think they do in making changes at work.”
• There are management issues. “Fifty per cent of employees leave their company not because of the company but because of [bad] managers,” says Feeny. “And [the company will] have lost a valued asset for the wrong reasons.” Stop and ask yourself if there’s a way around your management problem. Is a lateral move to a different department a possibility?
• The company’s values don’t match yours. If you’re a save-the-whales type, you’re going to find it hard to stay for the long haul at a mining company. Ask yourself: “Is the money I make worth the hit to my conscience?”
• The company’s reputation or profits are in the tank. The best people will leave a company if it is unprofitable or involved in a financial or accounting scandal or illegal ethics violations, says Feeny. “If you’re an accountant working for a company going through a financial scandal, you’re toast,” he adds.
• The job is too far away. Swiss research shows that long commutes do more than just take time out of our personal lives; they can contribute to health issues and increase stress. If the commute is the only thing you dislike about your work, explore flex-time options before throwing in the towel. Even cutting out two commutes per week can make a big difference in job satisfaction.
• You have other options. “Knowing you want to leave your current position is only half of the equation,” notes Dr Dewett. “Until you have solid options, leaving can be financially disastrous. [But] leaving a position – even a pretty good one – may be justified if the market is favouring professionals with your skillset.”
• Your life situation has changed. The career you started in your 20s may not match the person you are in your 30s. Perhaps you now have a family and have different needs. Take stock of where you are – and where you want to go.
• You’re over it all. It’s time to go when you realise that “you are completely unemployable and your only option is to start your own business,” says Tyson Schuetze, who traded in a steady paycheque to start his own real estate company. Let’s face it – some people are not meant to work for others. If you’re convinced you can handle being the boss of you, take baby steps towards your goal: research a concept, write a business plan, and take care of the legal matters – all while you’re still drawing a salary from someone else’s account.
Do your skills measure up? Assess yourself with CPA Australia's Career Guidance System.