This can be one of the most challenging questions in a career, and one that I have certainly faced multiple times. If you leave a job too early, you run the risk of not leveraging all of the experience and skills the role can offer you. But on the other hand, if you stay too long, you can get stale and miss opportunities for career expansion or greater enjoyment. It is no surprise then that people can go around in circles on this and in many cases, stay in their job for much longer than they should simply because they are confused.
Here are six questions to ask to help you determine if it is time to move on.
- Are you enjoying your role? It may seem like the most obvious question ever, but people often overlook it and undervalue it. They say, ‘yes I am enjoying it, but…..’ like it is not important. It is important. If you are still feeling passionate about what you do everyday, like the thought of going to work and getting stuck into your projects and are generally enjoying your role, then move on to the other questions below. If you are not enjoying it, if there is no passion there and you are not gaining satisfaction from your work output, then it’s pretty simple – it’s time to look for your next opportunity.
- Do you like and respect your manager? Many people think that it’s normal to hate your boss and that you need to suffer in silence to get ahead. Sometimes this is true, but not as a general rule. There are times in your career where you may need to take a role or a project with a manager who is not your ideal boss, but you do it to get the skills or experience you need. When that is the case, you just have to get on with it, and take the experience for what it is. But in most cases, you should not have to grin and bear it. People usually don’t leave jobs or companies – they leave managers. If you don’t respect your manager, don’t feel like you are at your best when you are working for them, or feel that they don’t have your best interests at heart, then I would consider seeking out new opportunities if you have the option.
- Are you still growing in your role? Where are you at with your skills development and growth in your role? Each role has a different learning and development curve depending on what your entry point is. Looking at where you are on that curve can help you answer your question about the right timing to leave. If you still have a lot to learn, and more skills needed to get to your next role, then it may be best to stay for the development opportunities. However if you are nearing the end of the curve and a new role comes up that provides the chance for growth, then that is worth considering.
- Does the role align with your long-term goals? Reflect on your career aspirations and where this role fits in. Does it align? Sometimes after being in a role for a period of time, your overall career trajectory can change. If your mid-to-long term plans have shifted, then you may need to change roles to realign with your aspirations.
- Is your job making you sick or overly stressed out? This might be the easiest sign that it is time to move on. If you are constantly stressed, can’t find any semblance of balance, are always negative about your work/boss/company, or just plain miserable when you even think about work, then it’s time to move on. Work related stress is one of the major causes of illness and depression. You need to be able to manage your life with whatever job you have, and your health and happiness is a key component of that. If this isn’t possible, then you have your answer. If you have the option to look for something else, then do it immediately. No work is worth getting sick over. Move on now.
- Are you too scared to change? As I mentioned, many people sit in roles for far too long as they are fearful or making a mistake and taking on a new role that doesn’t work out. This is understandable, of course. Fear is a potent motivator. But it often motivates us to stay stuck. Changing jobs or moving companies does contain risk. You often need to build new relationships, different skills, and re-establish credibility. You need to ensure that you can mitigate this risk with the size of the opportunity and the potential for growth, or increased enjoyment in your role. Getting to the heart of whether fear is driving you is core to making a decision about your career future.
If you don’t like where you’re at, don’t feel valued for what you do, or don’t feel like you are a good fit for where you are, these are all good reasons to consider a move. Sit with these questions, tap into your intuition, and get real with yourself about the answers. And remember, sometimes we just feel like it is time, and you need to trust yourself with that too.