9 signs it's time to find a new job

new job

“Of all the strategems, to know when to quit is the best.” – Chinese Proverb

Knowing the right time to make a change at work is a sign of wisdom and indicates strategic thinking, foresight, and overall success as a professional. Much like learning when to say “no” at work, the ability to clearly recognize that you need a job change and the will to take decisive action (even if it’s difficult) to advance your career is crucial for both your professional and personal well-being.

The decision to look for a new job is often an easy one, and you enter the job market with a very clear desire to find something new. But, in many cases, it can be more difficult to identify the right time to leave your current job. You’re not that unhappy. The pay isn’t that low. Maybe you even have it pretty good in a number of ways.

So, how do you know when it’s time to start looking for a new job when the answer isn’t staring you in the face?

Your health

Dissatisfaction at work, even when it’s not extreme, can manifest itself in subtle ways in all areas of your life, even personal. For example, do you have a difficult time waking up in the mornings or getting to work on time? Are you sleeping too much or too little? Are you always procrastinating? Have you had a big change in your appetite or even your moods? Have your family or friends expressed concern about your health, behavior, or moods? Do you suffer from any form of anxiety or depression that you can confidently tie to your professional situation? Are you drinking too much or suffering from substance abuse issues? Is work-related stress taking a huge physical, mental, or emotional toll? Many of these health and mental health problems can be symptoms of a deeper unhappiness at work, and if you don’t address it head on by either finding a new job or making big life changes, the consequences could be devastating.

Your goals

Maybe you feel like you aren’t working towards anything any more. Instead, you’re just working. Not having both short- and long-term goals ahead of you that you can get excited about and that motivate you is an indication that you might need to make a change. Whether it’s starting a new research project, making more money, advancing to a higher position, hitting a new sales quota, launching a creative marketing campaign… if you don’t feel like you have anything to look forward to in your career, your lack of motivation will eventually show itself in your productivity level. Better to make a change before you become completely burned out.  

You’re on an island

Being isolated at work can be tough. If you don’t have a solid relationship with your leadership team and a good working relationship with most or all of your colleagues, over time, it can feel like you’re working in a silo. Not only is this typically bad for business, but it can also take an emotional toll and do some serious chipping away at your morale. If you feel like you’re working on an island in total isolation (after all, even Tom Hanks had Wilson to turn to), you need to re-evaluate whether or not your work environment is conducive to your health, happiness, and productivity.

Your wages have stagnated

In some cases, you may know you’ve hit the wage “ceiling” in your career and be totally fine with that, especially if you’re in the latter years of your working life. However, in most cases, you want to see steady increases every few years in your earning potential as your experience and professional standing grow more valuable. If you’re still in the “climbing” years of your career but have been stuck at a certain salary for a long time, it’s definitely time to re-think your current employer. Survey the field and research average salaries and career paths for your role. Get comfortable talking about money and asking for what you’re worth. If you know you’re worth more on the job market but your current employer won’t budge on your salary, it's time to start looking.

You’re not being challenged

If you’re not being challenged on a regular basis at work, it’s very likely you’re not growing as a professional. While you can probably “coast” along for a year or two without noticing any ill effects from this, long-term stagnation is not only boring, it’s also robbing you of the chance to advance in your field, to grow as a professional, and to move up into higher positions of leadership or a new salary bracket.

Your lifestyle has changed

The job you wanted at 25 may not be the job you need at 35. Big life changes can make those long hours you spent happily in the lab every Saturday seem like torture once you have a few little people at home waiting for you. All sorts of lifestyle changes can preempt or necessitate a job change, so you need to be honest with yourself about your priorities and what matters most to you in life (is it money? time at home? flexibility? the chance to travel (or not having to travel)? a good benefits package? working on projects you care about and truly believe in?). Take inventory of where and how you spend most of your time and whether or not you need a new work situation to accommodate your current priorities.

You’ve fallen out of love

With the job, that is… As often happens when we spend several years in the same position, what once was charming, wonderful and endearing about the role has now become annoying and makes us feel like we’re “tied down” or in a rut. When this happens, resentment builds, and we start acting out. Maybe we start to ignore our workload. We go to work angry or, maybe even worse, bored. We start taking more days off, spending as much time away from our job as we can. We start fantasizing about other jobs and maybe spend too much time at night looking at job boards and thinking “if only…” All signs that it’s time to break up and move on (and, yes, I’m still talking about your job).

You have more cons than pros

Most people who make pro/con lists to help with big life decisions love them... like, really love them. And with good reason. Seeing the pros and cons of an opportunity or decision written out can bring a kind of quantifiable clarity, a “smack-you-in-the-face” truth to almost any situation. So, if you’re still feeling indecisive, try making a pro/con list about your current job. If you find that your “con” list is three times the size of your pro list, well, you know what to do.

You work in a toxic environment

This may seem like a no-brainer, but many people stick it out in a toxic work environment much longer than they should and often to the detriment of their health and well-being. What is a toxic work environment exactly? Is it the one colleague you just can’t stand? Or a difficult boss that never listens? Not necessarily… Not everyone gets along, and every company, department, or university has its own infighting or problems. But significant, ongoing “drama,” instability, backstabbing, one-upping, incompetence, or lack of leadership is never ok, and leads to undue levels of stress, anxiety, and unhappiness – all big signs that it’s time to find a new "work home."   

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