“How can I tell if it’s time to move on to another job or organization?”

I hear this question a great deal. More at this time, the start, of the year. It doesn’t seem to be limited to bosses either – I hear the same question from team members and supervisors with a fair amount of frequency. And it’s certainly not limited by geography or industry.


Case Study 1 – This week I was working with a female client based in Belgrade, Serbia. Relatively young, she’s having what would appear to be a successful career with a large multinational firm. With a plum job in that country with a high status company for that sector, she’s been cited on numerous occasions for great performance and been told to expect a promotion in the near future. She knows such jobs with high profile companies are hard to come by.
Case Study 2 – Another client of mine lives here in the US. He’s in his 30s. He’s been with a smallish firm in the northwest for about six years, is leading a department, and the bosses know he’s the best they can get for it. He feels comfortable in a small enterprise. He feels that many of the good DBAs in the business are often asked to move to jobs for which they are not well suited at companies like Microsoft and when they do, they become unhappy. He wouldn’t want to get sucked into a situation like that.

Outwardly, both of these individuals probably look like “keepers” to the company honchos. They perform well, are nice folks, and appear to be the type of managers that a company wants to grow into larger roles.

But they are both desperate to get out. So, part of my work is to slow them down a bit. It would be easy – but wrong – to simply take the first job that looks attractive. In each case, we’re trying to ensure that their next job is right for them. One where they’ll want to stay for a fairly long time.

Published stats are pretty clear on a few things:

    – they tell us that the average person will have eight jobs over the course of her or his lifetime. Assuming they enter the workplace at 24 and leave it at 70, they have 46 years to get through, or a little more than 5 1/2 years per job. Of course some have fewer jobs and others have more.

    How can you tell when it’s time to start looking around? Whether the decision is for yourself or if you’re wondering about someone who reports to you, it’s good to know. Here are a few clues:

    1. You feel that you haven’t been fairly treated by the company for more than two years running. Ones compensation, title, and job responsibility all come into play here. How was the last appraisal? What your boss tells you – or doesn’t – about promotional opportunities also play here.

    2. You aren’t turned on at work. This isn’t a “nice-to-have” thing. If you don’t look forward to your job most days, then you’re probably just going through the motions. This lack of enthusiasm will affect your performance ultimately. That will catch up at some point, and when it does, it may mean that someone else is making a decision about your career.

    3. Sarcasm has become a bigger part of your humor. While I realize that sarcasm is a cultural thing to some extent (works better in the UK than in the US; works better in the eastern US than in the western; doesn’t translate well in Asia often.), if you’re using it more and more, then you should take note.

    4. You find yourself spending a lot of time watching TV shows where people win huge amounts of money, or get big-shot jobs. Fantasy is fine but it shouldn’t be the major part of your “entertainment”.” If it is, give some consideration to why. Chances are you aren’t satisfied with some key parts of your life but haven’t admitted it to yourself.

    5. Your love life is diminishing or non-existent. It’s tough to be a great partner when you have an inner voice telling you that this is not where you should be, or deserve to be, in life. There’s no such thing as keeping your job separate from your career, by the way. It always spills over. Then the innocent get hurt.

    6. Significant weight change. People under stress usually eat a lot more than previously, but in some cases they dramatically reduce their weight. Many athletic coaches contend that your ideal weight was when you graduated from college. Perhaps that’s too extreme, so add a couple of years to your grad age and compare your weight back then to now. Most very-successful people are not significantly overweight. Although there are many other reasons for weight changes, significant changes over a year or two are a warning bell.

    Effective managers look after the company’s needs and they assist with their team players’ needs. One of the best rules for a fully satisfying life I’ve heard came from Eddy Hartenstein, former CEO and founder of DIRECTV. He told his executives to, “First look after yourself, then look after your loved ones. After that, give me your best.” He was an enlightened guy who had a business which thrived as a result.


    Career Coach