IT Employment

10 signs that it's time to look for a new job

Changing jobs can be a life-altering decision that requires considerable courage, especially in the current economy -- but it's easier if you're convinced it's the right thing to do. IT pro Becky Roberts put together a list of factors that helped her decide on a career shift.

Changing jobs can be a life-altering decision that requires considerable courage, especially in the current economy -- but it's easier if you're convinced it's the right thing to do. IT pro Becky Roberts put together a list of factors that helped her decide on a career shift.


This article is also available as a PDF download.

Before I quit a job I had held for nine years and four months, I gave the topic of job-changing a great deal of thought. However bad a job may be and however much you dread Monday mornings, making the decision to leave the job -- especially one you have held for some years -- is never an easy process. Even if your boss is an ogre, your pay raises haven't kept up with the cost of living, and your skills haven't been relevant for six years, you know you can handle this job.

There's a large degree of comfort in your current responsibilities and the company you're familiar with. Part of your brain knows you're capable of more, but another part is fraught with self-doubt and wakes you from sleep at 2:00 AM in a cold sweat, beaming an image of you in your new job frozen by ignorance, out of your depth, and facing termination.

So how do you know when it's time to go? Based on my experience, here are my top 10 indicators that it's time to make the change.

1: You know you aren't performing to the best of your ability

We all go through slumps, bad days, even bad weeks when we just don't care, don't give it our best... but what if that week turns into months? If you just don't have what it takes to give it your best, something needs to change. This is a common sign of burnout or of being overworked, underworked, underchallenged, or out of your depth.

If lack of motivation is the only issue, it may be possible to effect change within your current company by requesting different responsibilities, more training, or another position. But if none of these options is available, it's time to update your resume.

2: You start gravitating toward coworkers you can be disgruntled with

Think about the people with whom you choose to socialize at work. Whose company do you seek out? Are you drawn toward the malcontents, the people who derive pleasure from complaining about their boss, the declining benefits, and the unreasonable overtime? When people ask you what you like about your job, is it rather like when Uncle Bob asked, "What's your favorite subject at school?" and all you could think of was recess?

3: You can't picture your future with your current employer

Do you remember those irritating questions the last time you were interviewed: "Where do you see yourself in three years? Five years? Ten?" Perhaps it's time to ask yourself those questions again. But this time ask, "Do I see myself HERE in three years? Five years? Ten?" If the answer to any of these questions is "no," what is your plan? Where do you want to go? When were you planning to make your move?

As much as we'd all like to simply wake up one day to find ourselves in the perfect job, the chance of it happening is probably slightly slimmer than a one-eyed, polka-dotted aardvark materializing in your trash compactor. If you know that you want to be working someplace else at some point in the future, it's never too soon to make a plan.

4: You take inventory of your job's pros and cons... and the cons win

If you're having a hard time deciding whether to change jobs, try this simple exercise. Create a document with two lists -- things you like about your current job, the pros, and things you dislike, the cons. Next, apply a weighting to the items. This can be as simple as a value from 1 to 10 to rate the importance of each factor. For example, if the stringent dress code is on your list of cons but it isn't that important to you, give it a 1 or 2. But if the excellent health insurance is a pro, it would probably warrant at least a 7 or an 8.

Next, add up each list. If the cons outweigh the pros, it's probably worth at least considering a change. If nothing else, this exercise will force you to focus on what you specifically do and do not like about your current position and give you a more concrete idea of what to look for in a new position.

5: You look for ways to improve your current situation but you can't turn it into what you really want

Another useful exercise is to take your list of pros from the previous exercise and expand upon it. Elaborate on the items already on the list and add other items you wish you could claim about your current position. When you're finished, review the list for items you may be able to make happen at your current company. If you want more responsibility or more flexible hours, you might be able to work that out, whereas if you work for a missile manufacturer and happen to have developed pacifist beliefs since accepting the position, your only reasonable option is to seek a position in a different company. In other words, before jumping ship under the assumption that a new position will make all your problems vanish in an instant, make the effort to effect improvements in your current position. If trying to make changes proves futile, you'll be more confident that seeking a new position is the right thing to do.

6: Your skills are lagging and your position offers no opportunities to update them

How is your skill set? Are you able to keep your skills up to date? What would happen if your company went under today and you were forced onto the job market? Would you struggle to find a better or even an equivalent position because your skills are out of date? If this is the case, is there anything you can do to rectify the situation in your current position? Are there training opportunities you haven't been taking advantage of?

If it's not possible to stay employable in your current position, it's definitely time to make a change, even if you enjoy the job and your company seems stable. You may be able to supplement your company's deficit by paying for your own training, but without the opportunity to use your new skills in a work environment, such training will be of little value. To determine the current marketability of your present skill set, try searching for jobs equivalent to yours. Do you meet the minimum requirements?

7: You can't get enough positive reinforcement to keep your spirits up

Do you feel valued? Feeling valued in your job is one of those almost indefinable benefits or forms of compensation that can't be measured by any objective means. The degree to which someone needs to feel valued to be happy in a job varies greatly from person to person. Some people are perfectly content never to receive a word of praise or public acknowledgment of their achievements. For others, this type of recognition is more important than a generous salary.

The first step toward obtaining an appropriate position in this respect is to become aware of your own needs. The next step is to develop some techniques for determining whether these needs will be met when considering a new position, perhaps by asking appropriate questions during interviews or by finding current employees willing to talk. If you're already in a job that you otherwise like, figure out what you need in order to feel valued and find ways to communicate these needs to the appropriate person.

If the only time your boss talks to you is to tell you that you need to do better or improve your attitude, try explaining that it would also be helpful to know when you are doing something right. Try being proactive and ask your peers, your users, or your superiors to let you know if there's more you can do to help them. This could have the pleasant side effect of eliciting some positive feedback when they tell you that they're perfectly satisfied with your current level of service. If you still can't get the validation you need, it could be time to seek it elsewhere.

8: Your salary just isn't enough

Are you paid what you're worth? Although receiving inadequate financial compensation for your efforts is rarely the sole or even the most important reason that people change jobs, it's a significant factor. For most people, being paid what they're worth -- at or above the going market rate for their job function -- is an essential aspect of feeling valued. Don't know what you are worth? Try looking at comparable positions on job hunting Web sites, review compensation surveys, or update your resume and submit it to a headhunter to solicit feedback.

Being paid inadequately can be particularly galling if you happen to find out that one of your less experienced and/or less qualified co-workers is being paid more. Early in my career, I was given the task of training a new employee, an assignment I took on quite willingly until I learned that despite her lack of experience, her salary was almost exactly double mine. Although I continued to train her, my enthusiasm definitely waned. My request for a mere 5 percent pay increase was denied, so I took the only reasonable course of action and secured a position with a different company. In this case, salary was not the only factor, but it was the one that finally persuaded me to make a change.

9: You want to live somewhere else

Have a great job but hate the location? Even if you have the perfect job, unless your career is the single most important aspect of your life, disliking the area in which you live or having a burning desire to live someplace else is an important factor in deciding to change jobs. Since accepting my first IT job, the need to relocate has been a significant force in my decision to change companies three out of four times. In fact, of those three, I relocated twice without even having a job to go to.

10: Your company or work situation has changed radically since you were hired

Your job used to be perfect, but now it has changed. Maybe your company was bought out or your boss retired or got reassigned. Or perhaps your company had a significant shift in operating philosophy or in its mission, and now you're no longer working in the same environment into which you were originally hired. If such changes occur, you basically have three choices: Go with the flow and make the most of the situation, quit, or stay and complain. These types of changes can be so far-reaching in their impact upon your daily life that the result is not dissimilar to being forced to change jobs and companies. You may be going to the same physical location each day, but every other aspect of your job has been transformed. Even if you're not unhappy with the changes, this is a good opportunity to reexamine where you are in your life and make sure you take full advantage of the new circumstances.


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35 comments
tweakerxp
tweakerxp

When your boss show up at your office door with a new guy and says, " I want you to meet your replacement!"

jck
jck

I got 9 out of 10. Oh, and my suggestion for #11: You stop at a gun store on the way to the office. :^0

Oz_Media
Oz_Media

1) If you are some guy claiming to be a consultant who isn't sure how to stick to his guns and retain his orginal asking price, find a new job. 2) If you are an IT consultant that has attention issues, find a new job. How do these pople end up with a need to ask such questionns to begin with? MacDonalds is usually looking for people with such skills.

reisen55
reisen55

Hunter Thompson's most famous phrase and when you have genuine DREAD about going to a job, then you have one that can physically kill you! Everyone should have one of these horror shows in their life to judge every other position against. I had one in 2006 and clearly suffered a nervous breakdown. The one job I am glad I was fired from. When you dread, really dread, just going to the train station to get onto the train ... then get out as soon as you can.

brokenspokes
brokenspokes

1. Do enough not to get fired. Leave the rest for your own time. That explains why I use up 90% of my sick time even though I rarely get sick. 2. Never socialize with coworkers. Never! 3. I don't ever picture myself as an employee. I suffer as one to get paid. 4. pro: getting paid cons: pretty much everything else 5. If you can't change the situation, change your attitude. Ride a bicycle, jump out of an airplane, do rock climbing, take kickboxing. 6. Unless you're a consultant, skills will always lag after being with a company for a long time. It's like you end up copying and pasting. I work on open source projects on my own time to stay sharp. 7. Too bad. Keeping the spirits up is a personal responsibility. 8. Not enough moolah, sick time (so I can work on things I am actually passionate about), vacation time (to go up in the mountains or sit on a beach somewhere)--those are the only things that'll make me leave.

SerrJ215
SerrJ215

ALso the biggest sign that its time to leave. The paychecks stop comming.

jkameleon
jkameleon

1. Of course not. One has to perform just enough to avoid getting fired. Anything more is a waste of one's abilities. 2. Socializing with coworkers is generally a bad idea. A very bad idea. Don't do it. 3. I can't picture my future with any employer. But I need that salary. 4. There is only one possible pro: salary. Everything else is con. 5. Changing jobs isn't a way of improving my current situation either. 6. Ever heard of F1 key? 7. The only thing that still keeps my spirits up is the fact, that my boss's attitude is even worse than mine. 8, 9. The only reasons that make sense 10. The whole IT field changed radically, more than once. And it keeps changing, from bad, to worse. Now what?

Docpotter2
Docpotter2

In times like these it is best to exhaust every possibility in one's less than desirable job before stomping in an quiting - because having a job is using better than not having one at all - even if it is barely tolerable. One possibility not mentioned in this article is a lateral move. An employee of 4 years is valuable because he/she knows how "we do things around here" and has relationships - work gets done through relationships. When making a lateral move the company takes less risk and has a person who already knows the culture. If that doesn't work , then it is best to keep the job while looking because you are always more attractive when you already have a job. And make sure to "leave well" - don't tell people off or burn bridges - it is a small world!!!!

thewebbie
thewebbie

wow. 9 out of 10.. I must find a new Job!

Fregeus
Fregeus

Guess I better start packing! TCB

Slayer_
Slayer_

I love a lot of aspects about my job. Although our technology is dated, that doesn't especially bother me as I am a quick learner. When I started the job though, I was just a programmer. I was good with that, take assignments as they come, fix stuff, deal with customers. Nice stuff. But, naturally the workload has increased, I am still fine with that, and babysitting the others. But there is one piece I absolutely hate, and that is traveling. Every time we have a new client that is in Alberta (the province I look after) I for some reason, am always required on the installation team. Their excuse is they need me to run the conversion scripts... the script I wrote that is literately copy and paste into query analyzer and tell it too run. Traveling probably wouldn't piss me off so much if I had some seniority or any part of the decisions on when and how. But it's like work moves directly into your personal life, and I lose the ability to even choose what I eat, it gets chosen for me by a "group vote" that I have very little say in. So I like the job but I hate being forced around the country to do these installs, because I hate how it works out. I have no choice on hotel, so we usually get some stupid junky one that I can't sleep in. I have no choice on flight, so we often take those 4:00 AM flights because they save "$20.00" per person... too which we then aren't afforded breakfast or Lunch, and we will have supper at 8:00 PM, to which then we have to wake up at 6:00 in the morning next day to do it all again. Apparently I am "indispensable" on the team. It's nice to hear but it still pisses me off that I could in fact, do my job better remotely, then I can on-site. Oh and did I mention no overtime pay? Not in company policy, you have to work overtime, but your not paid for it. We are not unionized... So it's one big glaring aspect of my job I hate, the rest I accept and even enjoy. What should I do? Should I just ride it out, the once a week every month thing is over. Now we just have one end of September, one in October, and that's it till we get any more accounts.

Realvdude
Realvdude

I want you to train your replacement. You can quit on the spot and lose your severence and vacation, or train them knowing you've got 4 to 6 weeks to find a new job.

jkameleon
jkameleon

You say you were glad you were fired from that hellish job, yet... what else it there to fear on the job but getting fired? I presume it was an ordinary IT job, you weren't taming some crocodiles there, or something?

jkameleon
jkameleon

Generally, everything that does not involve a killing spree should be considered high enough spirit theese days, or so it seems. http://georgesodini.com/20090804.htm "I am not ready for the job market. I am ok what I do, a .NET software developer. Not at the top of the class, but I do a good job. I survived two general layoffs and other little layoffs they are having but keeping quiet about. I hear things." Rest in peace, colleague. You shouldn't be debugging against deadlines that much, I guess.

Realvdude
Realvdude

... without any employee knowledge.

Realvdude
Realvdude

Great advice and a comfort that I have the same woes as other people. In my case, I can pretty much count on no positive changes from the company, so this will help me analyize and prepare myself for change.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Can't sleep? Doctor's visit for it. Bad food? Doctor's visit, or ED visit for it. Missed meals? Doctor's visit. Maybe diagnosis of pre-diabetes that requires constant control of your food intake. Crappy flights? Have an anxiety attack, miss the flight, doctor's visit for sure. Or better yet, mouth off the the Canadian equivalent of TSA and get detained. Hmmm. Does Canada have a No-Fly list too? I bet you could bribe someone to put your name on it.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

Are we talking budget motels like Motel 6, Sleep Inn or Super 8? You might point out to your travel people that the selection of the cheapest hotel doesn't reflect well on the business. A higher-end hotel doesn't necessarily have to be more expensive. Talk to your travel office about negotiating a corporate rate with a mid-range hotel; they may spend the same amount of money, but you move to a better quality establishment. Even five-star hotels will negotiate corporate rates at a substantial discount from retail if they can be assured of repeat business. If the problem is you dislike the travel because you can't sleep in an unfamiliar bed, you are unfortunately going to have to bite the bullet and deal with it. From years of experience, I can tell you that no hotel bed feels remotely like your own. Best of luck with it.

GruntingDwarf
GruntingDwarf

If your company is so cheap as to pursue a $20 savings on airfares, then you should try to turn yourself into a (relatively) expensive traveller. For instance, if the hotel would be of a fair category then ask for service room every evening. Always order the best meals available. Tip generously. Also you could use cabs even to go a few blocks away. And so on... (All this assuming you're assigned a decent amount for daily expenses.)

PurpleSkys
PurpleSkys

must be almost time... Edited for "score"...8 out of 10...

reisen55
reisen55

Continuum Health Partners, outsourced IT to First Consulting Group in 2005. FCG was later thrown out by NY Presbertyrian Hospitals for screwing up and also the University of PA Health Network for the same thing. Roosevelt, St. Lukes and Beth Israel hospitals in NYCity. 11,000 computers Windows NT, XP, 2000 Stolen: 30 computers from St. Lukes Hospital Stolen: 1 system from Roosevelt Cafeteria Stolen: 1 system from the Pastor's office. FCG just masaged inventory to cover it up. Virus problems everywhere Porn rampant on almost every single system Malware equally rampant. Ghost reimage of systems did not resolve issues, within 1 week of image, all of the above would return. No firewalls. Medical professionals could not access patient data because systems were so compromised. The true end users were people wired up in hospital beds. Not corporate executives witha powerpoint presentation. Understaffed horrendously so. Code blue tickets constantly. No inventory of anything I lasted eight months in this living hell. ***** My previous manager did a BCP/DR study at the same time for Continuum. The data center in Secaucus NJ was a disaster too, an IBM mainframe covered by a blue tarp because of a roof leak. Servers too close together, overheating. Data tapes all over the floor. He found one server in a closet with a flood line running Windows for Workgroups 3.11 with patient data on it. What would you think?

brokenspokes
brokenspokes

Seems to me like the guy was mentally ill and nobody caught it. He was probably raised by an overbearing or doting mother. My uncle was the same way, except he blamed my grandfather for running my grandmother off. He had a Master of Finance degree and did well working at a bank--no girlfriend, very few friends. One day he just flipped out and tried to burn my grandfather alive. My other uncles were able to stop him after he threw the gasoline, but before he could find some matches. My family almost paid the price for ignoring my uncleś fragile mental health. Similarly, a bunch of innocent women paid the price for us ignoring a guy like Sodini. Sodini reminds of a guy I spoke to on the subway the other day. He was overweight and had a weird eye, and I thought he looked really, really sad. I went over there and told him he would probably make a good wrestler, just to cheer him up. He said he is afraid of getting his bones broken. A pretty intelligent guy, but I could tell there was still a heavy sadness in his eyes when he got off at the next stop. Itś people like him that we shouldn?t ignore. Unfortunately, Sodini?s career choice made it much worse.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

This is incredibly bad taste. If you know why this guy's name is in the news, and you still posted this, I'm fairly certain nothing you have to say in the future will be of interest to me.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I don't hate going to work every morning. I just hate the occasional travel. I guess I could just try and make myself so important that they can't afford to have me leave the office?

jkameleon
jkameleon

> "In simpler terms, blaming society because one of its members goes off the deep end is pretty much the same as using that individual's actions to show that society is deteriorating." ... and pretty much the same as blaming the said individuals for the deterioration of society. Maybe I'm just your typical old bore, I don't know, but as far as I can tell, society IS deteriorating. Value of values is determined on the free market, just like about everything these days, and the price of human life fell deep below zero. It's a high-supply and no-demand market.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

was my point passing you by. Read the sentence again: "But claiming that society is responsible for the individual's actions is as intellectually void as using the actions of a single individual to demonstrate the "faults" of society." In simpler terms, blaming society because one of its members goes off the deep end is pretty much the same as using that individual's actions to show that society is deteriorating.

jkameleon
jkameleon

In principle, it would be possible to persuade people, that society is going to hell just because of armadillos, and not because of its leaders, traditions, wars, etc. With proper PR, people can be persuaded about almost anything. Blaming armadillos is not very easy, though, it would require a lot of spin doctoring. Consequently, it's not cost effective. Blaming individuals from the fringe is far easier: "Society is going to hell just because of scumbags like Sodini, and not because of those in power". Now that sounds pretty persuasive, doesn't it? Far more bang for propaganda buck.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Hmmmmmm.... Looks like a phrase from a movie I haven't seen.

jkameleon
jkameleon

Generally, I'm trying to resist the temptation of moralizing as best as I possibly can. "Blaming" is probably not the best term for what I had in mind. Actually, the way people like Breaker Morant (some poor devil from the Boer War), Lyndie England, members of the deranged shooter brigade, etc are portrayed to us by the judicial system, mass media, and other propaganda outlets is more like some sort of scapegoating.

santeewelding
santeewelding

"...to blame individuals for society's faults." There is another possibility? Armadillos, perhaps?

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

If individuals are not to blame for society's faults, then who is? The web sites you link to have their own agendas; in that context, they are no different from the news sites. But claiming that society is responsible for the individual's actions is as intellectually void as using the actions of a single individual to demonstrate the "faults" of society.

jkameleon
jkameleon

... IMHO, he deserves sympathies as well. He lost it for a reason. As a matter of principle, I don't follow the news about who killed whom. They are just a tasteless entertainment, a waste of time, and they shouldn't be taken seriously under any circumstances. The only purpose of the news you are talking about (if they have one at all) is to blame individuals for society's faults. You obviously allowed them to shape your opinion. I came across the the guy's name only recently, in a totally different context http://www.amerika.org/2009/social-reality/george-sodini-what-the-media-doesnt-want-you-to-read/ http://www.corrupt.org/news/why_george_sodini_became_a_mass_killer

Madsmaddad
Madsmaddad

The company is doing well, with all these new customers. If you are indispensible, can't they set up a line for you to access the new systems from your office and make the changes? Save the risk in travelling. Else negotiate TOIL (Time off in Lieu) for when you have to do these long hours. I got tired of doing the travelling because I wasn't doing any productive work while driving, except dictating actions into my small tape recorder. Couldn't advise on many systems by phone because I was not in front of a terminal. When I arrived back home at Midnight I felt no compulsion to go into work until the afternoon, and everyone knew it. You can't work your best when tired. Negotiate on those points, everything else about the job is OK.

frwagne
frwagne

Explain that they can save the cost of your travel altogether by letting someone else on the team do the cut and paste into your conversion script, and point out that you'd be available remotely if there was a problem.

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