Is It Time to Change Jobs?

Leslie Ninomiya loves her job. She got hired right out of junior college and worked her way up to section supervisor. Lately her section has been the division’s top performer and she enjoys great relations with her boss and underlings. She recently got another raise and promotion. “Why would I even think about leaving?” she asks, dumbfounded. “I’ve worked so hard to get where I’m at!”

The answer is, she shouldn’t, unless she’s looking to reach her full career potential by seeking out new opportunities for growth. If so, this could well be an excellent time for Leslie to leave.

The most dangerous career misconception is the belief that you only leave a job if you’re stuck in neutral or afraid of being fired. That false image of an employee as a passive victim of circumstances holds back many talented people from making steady progress toward their full career potential. Only you can take responsibility for keeping your career trajectory on an upward path. If you want that trajectory to take you as high and far as your talents and diligence merit, learn to know when it’s time to switch jobs. Here are the seven most important reasons.

1. You’re stuck in the wrong job.

There’s nothing more frustrating and destructive than being stuck doing work that doesn’t match your talents, training and energy. Employees get pigeonholed all the time. The reasons can be varied — everything from a failure of communications between you and your boss, getting yourself hired by the wrong company or department, office politics, even something as trivial as a clerical error at the company’s HR department. It happens all the time, especially in large organizations. If you aren’t sure whether you’re in the wrong job, ask yourself whether you’d be happy in your immediate boss’s job. If so, you should consider staying and developing patience. If not, take the initiative to get yourself reassigned to another job. If that isn’t possible, it’s time to switch. Your days are too precious to waste on the wrong job.

2. You have bad chemistry with the boss.

It’s possible to survive while working for a boss with whom you just don’t click, but it’s impossible to do your best. In a healthy working relationship, your boss is many things — mentor, teacher, confidant, cheerleader, friend, even mother and father. That kind of relationship demands good communications. If you feel awkward or strained when talking with your boss, your communications will suffer. If you’re brand new at the job, it’s possible a little time will fix the situation. But if you’ve been there for a few months and the situation hasn’t improved, it’s time to make a switch. Working for a boss you can’t communicate with is like going down in a diving bell with a leaky air line.

3. Your department has been losing ground.

Thanks to rapid technological advances and globalization, the pace of change is constantly accelerating. No employer is immune from the effects of this change. Departments and offices within a company will expand or shrink depending on changing strategies and needs. For example, your company might decide to outsource or simply abandon some or all of the functions being performed by your department. If so, you will have a struggle just to keep your job. In today’s economy you must keep an eye on structural changes to make sure you won’t get stuck in a deadend department. Sometimes employers announce changes in advance and promise jobs in other department. Often the moves are made with little notice. The more alert you are to coming changes, the more time you will have to make an advantageous move.

4. Your employer is about to be merged or restructured.

No change is more certain to cause dislocation than having your employer become bought out or merged into another company. Suddenly not even your boss can give you meaningful assurances because she too faces the same uncertainty. Virtually all merger situations entail substantial job cuts. Hoped-for savings from cutting redundant jobs is a major motivation for any merger. If you learn that your employer is about to be merged into another company, at best you will face dramatic changes in corporate policies, coupled with a likely reduction in your prospects for advancement. At worst, you will be laid off outright. Unless you are sure that your department is a corporate gem, it’s a good time to consider a job switch.

5. Your office romance is getting serious.

Most companies have fraternization policies that discourage office romances. If you are about to get engaged to an office mate, best to have one of you make a job switch before making the happy announcement. That will minimize the potential fallout on the career of the one who stays.

6. You’re constantly bored.

Everyone has bad days when work seems devoid of meaning and enjoyment. Usually it’s simply a function of your physical or emotional state. But if most of your days feel that way, you are either in the wrong job or have been put on a track leading nowhere. Keep your boredom secret for as long as you can and spend your energies looking for a new job. It won’t take long for your boredom to start affecting your performance and attitude. Better to make a switch while you can still get your boss to give you a good recommendation.

7. You’ve peaked at your current job.

This is Leslie’s situation. In her naivete, quite natural for people in the earlier stages of their careers, she sees her career goal as creating a comfortable niche for herself. There’s nothing wrong with that goal, but in most cases it’s the wrong way to reach your full career potential. She has peaked in her job and has more to lose than gain by staying. By moving she may lose that sense of comfort and security, but she will be able to take full advantage of her great track record to find a job that offers better pay and fresh challenges. If she stays on, she faces the high risk that her comfortable situation may change for the worse, possibly forcing her to move without the impressive track record and glowing recommendations. It isn’t easy to leave when you’ve peaked, but those who stay discover that it’s even harder being the old battleax trying to defend her turf against eager young recruits looking to make their mark in the world.