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.