A lot of articles are written about signs that it's time to move to a new job, but most of them focus on external influences. A couple of common sign, for example, are being shut out of meetings and not getting assigned to new projects. These are supposed to be indicators that your presence at an organization may no longer be required. However, what if the organization actually likes you?
Here are a few signs that you might want to consider taking your IT leadership skills to a new organization:
- You can't face your staff anymore and hand down directives from on high. I've faced this one personally, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back and made me step up my search for a new job. Simply put, I was working for a relatively oppressive organization that, almost literally, felt that the only way to motivate employees was to continually tell them that they weren't doing enough and that more was required of them. Employees were evaluated by the entire senior management team and the hint of a negative interaction — regardless of fault — could doom the employee even if everything else was absolutely perfect. Didn't sing loudly enough at an event? You got called on the carpet. I wish I was kidding. My staff at this place was absolutely fantastic. They were hard-working, conscientious people and I couldn't keep telling them that they weren't doing enough. So, I stopped doing it and found a new job where the organizations treats people like adults.
- New projects bore you. Getting a new project is supposed to be a time of excitement or, if your plate is full, a little trepidation as you work to figure out how to fit it all into the fray. If, instead, you look at a new project, particularly something that would have once been interesting, with boredom, you probably won't attack it with the amount of zest that it deserves. If you're bored in general, it's unlikely that you'll be at the top of your game regardless of what you're doing.
- You don't quickly resolve a critical outage or situation. IT ebbs and flows... sometimes we can just move along and go on our way while other times, we have to be front and center and focus on the end user. One such time that we have to walk in the shoes of an end user is when we're notified of an outage. Sure, every outage needs to be triaged and prioritized so that you're not overreacting to minor issues and setting yourself up for burnout. However, if your answer to a reported outage is "It can wait until morning" when it really shouldn't wait until morning, think about why you're pushing the problem. Even if pushing the problem until the AM won't get you fired, what if it still affects dozens of users that are unable to get their work done as a result of your unwillingness to step up? This could be a sign of burnout or that your heart just isn't in it anymore. Obviously, there should be a reasonable line between work and life, too. If your employer is simply demanding that you work 24/7, it's understandable that you might loathe going in to handle an outage, but a situation like this should be looked at and analyzed too. Remember, the focus of this piece is internal and assumes that the organization itself is relatively reasonable.
- Compensation has become your primary motivator. Yes, money is important and is more than a necessary part of an employment arrangement. However, if it's become the only reason you go to the office every day, it's time to reconsider your environment and figure out why. It could be burnout of boredom, but could also be as simple as not liking the job anymore.
- You've been in the same job for 20 years. Personally, I'm of the mindset that staying too long in a leadership role at the same organization does a disservice for both the organization and for you, particularly if there's been no upward momentum or expansion of duties. New blood and new ideas are critical for an organization to maintain vitality. The same goes for personal growth. By experiencing different organizational cultures and challenges, the leadership experiential arsenal grows. Obviously, job hopping every six months isn't the best plan, either, so leaders need to decide when their prime time at the organization is coming to a close; it is possible to stay for too long in the same place. I've seen instances in my career where people at the top of the organization were there for simply too long and were actually damaging the organization by staying there; new ideas and possibilities were stifled and the singular mindset sort of left the organization decaying from within. Obviously, there are a lot of exceptions to the "too long" rule and it's a very personal call.
A job change is a very personal decision based on dozens of factors. These are just a few signs that now might be the time to test the waters and see what's out there.
Do you have any signs to add?
Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive with CampusWorks, Inc. Scott is available for consulting, writing, and speaking engagements and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.