How to Know When It's Time to Make a Job or Career Change
There’s a saying in the careers industry that you’ll know it’s time to make a job or career change when you start asking yourself if it’s time to make a change.
While there is truth to that, there’s more to making your decision. This guide will help you identify some of the reasons why you may want to make a job or career change and give you practical strategies and tips to help you with your decision.
What May Make You Want to Make a Change?
The first step is to assess the reason — or reasons — why you may want to make a change. Change can be difficult — it usually is — so you want to make sure that the reason you are considering a switch isn’t something temporary that will fix itself, if given enough time.
Some of the reasons why you may be considering a job or career change are internal reasons. These can include:
How you feel about going to work. Do you dread getting up and going to work on Monday? Does that dread spread its way into your weekend? Do you start feeling anxious or depressed on Sunday afternoon as you anticipate the upcoming workweek? Do you find yourself complaining about your job to others?
You feel physically or emotionally threatened at work. If you are in danger physically or psychologically at work, you should start developing your exit strategy.
Your skills are becoming obsolete. Technology has had a dramatic impact on almost every industry, and if it’s affecting your job, you may find you have a gap in the skills you need to be successful in doing your work.
You are overwhelmed by your job. If you find yourself constantly worried at work because you can’t handle the responsibilities of the role, or you didn’t get enough training to help you master critical tasks, that can make it very difficult to enjoy your work. You may not have articulated it, but you’re overwhelmed.
You’re bored at work. Maybe you’ve been in your position for several years and you’re just not excited anymore about the work you’re doing. If you’re not growing in your job, it’s easy to start thinking about doing something else.
There is little to no room for advancement in your current job. Maybe you’ve worked your way up to the top spot you can get in the company. This is especially true in smaller companies, where a limited number of management positions are available.
How you feel about your co-workers and/or boss. Do you like the people you work with? Are you appreciated for the work you do? (This can be expressed in either a “thank you” or in your financial compensation.)
Company politics are affecting your work. For example, you work for a family-owned business and there is animosity among the family members.
If your job requires you to do something that you no longer enjoy doing. For example, traveling four out of five days of the week might have been fine when you were in your 20s, but it’s wearing on you now that you’re in your 30s and have a family. Or you take customer service phone calls, but you’re tired of being beat up by unhappy customers.
You researched competitive salaries for your type of job and discovered that your company pays less than the industry average. If you’ve previously asked for a raise and were turned down, you may be motivated to seek out better compensation elsewhere.
There is little or no opportunity for increasing your salary significantly in your current position. How are raises or requests for salary increases handled at the company? Is there a regular performance review process? Are there opportunities to increase your salary much beyond 2-5% annually?
You realize you’re not getting any younger. If the thought of working for this company for another year — or five years — makes you feel your mortality, it may be time to make a change to a different path.
What you’re doing now isn’t your passion. Is there an opportunity for you to turn something you’re doing as a hobby into a full-time job? Or could you start a business of your own — either doing something related to your current work, or a current hobby or interest?
You have a different plan for yourself. Maybe you didn’t see yourself staying at this job, or in this career, for this amount of time. If your long-term goals aren’t aligned with what you’re doing now, it may be time for a change.
External factors — that you have no control over — can also impact your decision to make a job or career change. These can include:
The company you work for was bought (or they bought another company). Both of these can impact your job as company management assesses redundancies in personnel between the two companies.
There’s been a change in leadership in your department or in the company. One of the top reasons for making a job change is when you get a new boss. Maybe he has his own former employees he brings into your department, or maybe his leadership style just doesn’t feel right to you. In either case, it may lead you to think about making a change.
You were asked to do the same job for less money. If this hasn’t ever happened to you, you may not believe it’s possible, but some companies ask their employees to take a pay cut but continue to do their full workload. If you can’t afford to make less but work the same amount — or more — this may prompt you to look for a new job.
Your workload was reduced, along with your opportunity to earn more. If you work in commissioned sales, you may find your sales territory reduced, which may impact your ability to earn even the same amount as before.
You’re in a dead-end job. For whatever reason, the job you’re in now is “the end of the line” with this company. Folks who make it this far at this company usually don’t advance any farther, and generally retire from this role.
The industry you work in is dying or going through significant changes. Consider the mortgage industry in 2008, or the newspaper industry today. Or the feast-and-famine cycle of the oil-and-gas industry. If you’re in an industry that is likely to go “bust,” the decision to change careers may not be left up to you.
Remember, you want to assess whether the internal and/or external factors that are prompting you to consider the change are temporary (short-term) or something you would be permanently affected by.
You should also assess the “temperature” of these factors and how they affect you. Some of them may be more of a minor “inconvenience,” while others may feel unbearable. For example, while you may be working in a dying industry, as long as you have a job, you may not be interested in switching jobs or changing careers. But you’re a frog in a pot of water that is slowly heating up. The question isn’t “if” you will eventually be affected by changes in the industry, but “when.” If you take charge of managing your career, you will be in a better position to handle career change, not just react to it when your boss summons you into his office sometime down the road to let you know your services are no longer needed.