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10 Signs It’s Time For a New Job

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How do you know when it is time to leave your job? And no, I’m not talking about when the security guards show up to escort you out of the building. How do you know when you have reached your current potential at your job, or when your job is getting in the way of you living and enjoying your life?

I have been contemplating my role with my current employer a lot lately. We recently completed our annual performance review and goal setting process. You know the drill, you sit down with your manager with a list of all the accomplishments you and your team made the previous year, and you talk about how well you did in certain areas and which areas you have room for improvement. Then you discuss what you plan to accomplish in the coming year. The details may be different at your job, but the basics are likely similar.

This year, I have been doing a lot of thinking – not just about my accomplishments and goals, but about my job in general. There are a lot of attributes about a job that help determine whether your job is satisfying or whether you should start looking for something new.

Here is my list of 10 questions you should ask yourself to help determine if it may be time for you to move on:

1. Do you continually learn and improve? If you are not improving your skill set or learning something valuable, you are be selling yourself short. Do you have opportunity for personal and professional growth? Six months from now will you still be in your current role? How about 2 years from now? Does your next promotion rely on the person higher than you on the totem pole retiring or transferring? The answer to these questions should play a large factor in your decision to remain where you are or move on.

2. Do you have a job, or a career? Most people use these terms interchangeably, but there is a big difference between a job and a career. A job is usually a short term means to an end; a task you perform in exchange for money and probably what you are doing right now. A career is a chosen profession that often takes development and planning. Career planning is the ability to look ahead and think about where you want to go and what you need to do to get there. Take a long hard look at your current role in the workforce and ask yourself if it fits into your career plan.

3. Are you satisfied with your job duties? This is a tricky question. Not everyone loves the job they have – they call it work for a reason. But there are jobs that I would not find satisfying. I am a creative person and I would not enjoy working on a factory floor installing the same widget on the same piece of equipment day in and day out. I need a creative outlet to be satisfied. That isn’t to say the job isn’t honorable or important. It’s just not for me. Others may feel a similar way about certain jobs. If you find yourself unhappy with the type of work you are performing, it may be time to start looking elsewhere.

4. Do you dread going to work every day? If the answer is yes, or even if the answer is yes most days, then you should consider something else. Your life is not worth wasting on a job you don’t enjoy.

5. Is your voice heard? Do you contribute to decision making or do your observations fall on deaf ears? Most people need the feeling of ownership in their work. It is that type of buy-in that makes going to work everyday fun and exciting. Showing up and punching out just doesn’t cut it for me. I need a challenge. I need to solve problems. I need to be heard.

6. Do you get along with your coworkers? Like it or not, your coworkers are likely a big part of your life. Working with someone you just can’t stand to be around can make you day (and possibly the rest of your life) miserable.

7. Do your work hours interfere with your life? Are you always on call? For some people, this is a way of life. I’m not talking about firefighters, police, military, medical workers and others. Their life is a life of service, and I don’t think we can thank them enough. I am talking to the managers who carry a Blackberry with them 24-7, and even check e-mails and receive phone calls during a family dinner. How about the father who misses baseball games and dance recitals? Did you postpone your family’s vacation so you could work late on a proposal that never went anywhere?

8. Is your commute reasonable? I love my commute; it is 15 minutes each way. My commute is just long enough for me to mentally prepare a list of things I need to accomplish throughout the day. I realize I am lucky to have such a short commute – many people have commutes that stretch 1.5-2 hours each way. That is 3-4 hours of your day that you do not get to see your family, you do not get compensated for, and you often cannot use productively.

9. Is your company healthy? Earning a six figure salary is wonderful until your paycheck bounces, or is repeatedly deposited late. How about that bonus that was promised but never delivered? Did the company’s stock tank this year? Are there merger or acquisition rumors? Impending layoffs? Pay attention to what is going on around you. It is much easier to get a job interview when there are fewer people applying for a job, and it is much easier to get a job when you already have a job.

10. Are you fairly compensated? How do your salary and benefits compare to your peers in your industry? Are you paid a fair wage? And no, fair does not mean the top of your respective pay band, it means fair, or average. Do you get a reasonable amount of vacation days, health insurance, retirement plan, tuition assistance, or other benefits. Consider your total compensation package when you consider this. If you are grossly underpaid, it might not hurt to look elsewhere, or at least ask for the raise you deserve.

I would like to make two additional observations about this list…

1. Compensation was listed last for a reason. Money is not the most important aspect of your job. Sometimes the best option is to take the higher paying job, but that is not always the case. In my opinion, health and happiness far outweigh the value of money.

2. I am well aware that sometimes there are few choices in which job you work. There are many times when any job is better than no job. But, I am of the firm belief that you should make the best of your situation – whatever it may be. You should always strive to improve your situation, skills, and performance – no matter what your station in life, and no matter what job you perform. After all, the ability to create income is your greatest asset. Take care of it, and the rest will fall in place.


Published or updated January 11, 2010.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 deepali

I’ll add another (which is going to be a topic of a future post) – is what you do in line with what you believe?

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2 Ryan

deepali, I struggled with adding that to the list, but I thought it is something that deserves it’s own article. There are too many avenues to consider for a topic as meaningful and important as ethics and morals to add to a top ten list such as this. I look forward to reading your article.

In reality, this could have been a 15 part list or something similar. I am sure readers can add more comments such as yours.

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3 Randall

Nice article. I’m going through some ‘growing pains’ with my own job and these were all points I’ve been thinking about already.

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4 deepali

Weird – the second half of what I wrote disappeared (or maybe it was really early and I wrote it in my head). Anyway, I’ll modify to address your comment – I like 10-part lists, easier to wrap your mind around. :)

But I think these are good questions to periodically ask yourself. One interesting thing – my boyfriend’s answer to #7 is yes… but he’s ok with that. Even if I’m not!

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5 Mrs. Micah

As a corollary to #4, are you completely miserable while you’re there?

Because while I dread going to work most days, I’m often happy enough once I actually get there. Or at least content. Dread sucks, but if the time isn’t spent miserably it may not yet be time to quit.

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6 Ryan

deepali, I agree, most people should periodically ask themselves these questions, unless their job is their true calling in life. For most people, their true calling is their family or something other than their job.

I’m very familiar with #7… I was in the military for several years, and my wife was a nurse who worked every shift in the book. We have since settled into 9-5 type jobs with a Mon-Fri schedule. We couldn’t be happier. :)

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7 Ryan

Good point Mrs. Micah.

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8 Katie

This list is why I decided to end my military career. In the last year, I have gone back and reviewed the list to second guess my own judgement, but the answers stayed the same. Now, I am working a job that does take me away from my family, a second job which does not take away from family time because it is when they are in school, and going to school full time. But the difference to me is that this is SHORT term while I improve my skill set. I do not envision myself doing my two jobs for the rest of my life. I am exicited about the 9-5 (or even 7-5) M-F job aspect and every weekend off!

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9 deepali

I’m not sure I could do the 9-5 M-F, simply because I love to flex-time… But I do try and keep the ratio of work hours to other hours at an even keel. I’m also in school, so I have to ensure that gets its proper attention as well (plus all those other things one is supposed to do!). If only I could convince BF to do the same… But he loves his job and is ok with it being like that. Endless source of frustration between us. :)

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10 Ryan

Best Advice,

I agree with your statement that happy people are productive people. But, I also think you can be happy and not be in the best job for you. I think it is important to reevaluate your role often and determine if you are reaching your potential. These other questions may help you find something better for you and your situation. Or, they may reaffirm that your current job is the best for you at that time.

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11 Ryan

Katie,

My wife and I both got out of the military for the same reasons. The new life we have (M-F, 8-5) made everything worth it.

And I understand what you are going through as well. I went to night school while I was on Active Duty, and even took on-line courses while deployed. My mission was to finish my degree so I could have more options when I separated from the military. The short term sacrifice was well worth it. I wish the best of luck to you and your family! :)

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12 Bernard Ng

Yep, I have the feeling of dreading to go to work too recently. However, I am also having 2 hearts about moving on. It is always a sense of uncertain if we move on to another job, will it be better? I guess I might have to wait till the push factor of the current job getting higher, forcing me to take a choice.

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13 Ryan

Bernard, I feel the same way right now. I don’t have a problem working for my current employer, but my current job has stagnated. I am currently evaluating my options. I hope things pick up for you! :)

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14 Gail

Apologies for posting a comment so late, but I am wondering — where does bad management fit into this? What if you have a boss who is a screamer? I guess I would want to add a question like, “Are you properly appreciated at your job?” to address this because one could answer each of these questions positively, yet still not feel appreciated enough by the boss.

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15 Ryan

Gail, you are welcome to comment on any article on this site at any time!

You bring up a great point – bad management is a big factor in determining whether or not to stick around longer. I guess I built this list based on my current personal and professional situation. Being appreciated is another thing to consider. Everyone wants to know how they are performing and that their coworkers and managers want them around. To be honest, it would be very easy to make this list twenty items long. In the end, different things have different value to each person. For some it’s money, others respect and recognition, and for some like me – it is opportunity. Because I know the more opportunity I have now, the more I can grow my career. I look at it somewhat like compound interest in that respect. The better I do early on, the longer I have to grow and progress.

Thanks for the comment. :)

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16 Alice

Today being a monday I woke up and just could not imagine going to work, I wanted to call in sick….give so many excuses and this has been happening for a long time now.
This website has really helped me my boss is like what Gail describes never ever appreciates.
I do what i like but the work environment is so unfriendly it makes me sick.
So today I have made up my mind it is time to move on.
Thanks again for the website.

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