When Is It Time to Change Jobs?

Our family loves to watch action adventure movies, especially if they include an exciting car chase scene. The chase is especially gripping if the hero runs into a roadblock and has a split second to figure out a way around it. In real life, it’s just as gripping but not so fun when you hit a roadblock in your job and are faced with the question, When is it time to change jobs?

Reasons to Leave Your Job

There are many reasons to consider leaving your current job–probably just as many friends and family members to offer conflicting advice about the subject! As a 57-year-old recruitment agency, we’ve heard every reason imaginable. Here are a few true scenarios where employees have decided to leave their current employer for another position (names have been changed for privacy):

  • Half of Natalie’s job responsibilities involve tasks for which she is not well suited.
  • Mike hasn’t succeeded in the role because the company hasn’t provided enough resources, training, and hands-on management.
  • Cheryl is tired of the long commute, and her worn-out sedan agrees!
  • It’s become clear that Aaron’s current job will never fulfill his career goals.
  • Her employer just can’t give Shelly enough hours to support herself.
  • Rick’s style clashes with his company’s culture at seemingly every turn.
  • Jana is always looking for a better opportunity, and one just came along.
  • No matter how hard he tries, Keith has never been able to win the trust and favor of his boss.

What to Look For In a New Job

Although there are many possible reasons for leaving one’s job, not every roadblock is a reason to switch jobs. If you’re thinking about leaving yours, the real question to ask yourself is, What do you hope to gain by changing jobs?

If it’s more money and a better title, think again, cautions a Harvard Business Review (HBR) article by Amy Gallo. While these may bring temporary satisfaction, they’ll rarely make you as happy as autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Making a lateral move may not sound flashy, but it could provide more interesting or meaningful work, which would provide longer-term satisfaction.

Several decades ago, people switched jobs very seldom, sometimes even staying with the same company their entire career. But the number of job changes has increased with each subsequent generation. According to Gallo’s article, because of the current candidate’s market, today’s employer may not only expect you to leave them, but could also be willing to hire you back later if you leave in good standing. That safety net could take some of the angst out of leaving for a better opportunity, especially if you both understand the long-term benefits of your taking another position. But this only works if you have a good relationship with your current boss.

We believe that, as a professional, you’ll benefit by trying to make your current situation work before throwing in the towel. Your recruiter will tell you that employers always like to see longevity on a candidate’s resume, even if many accept that job-hopping is a characteristic of today’s workforce, particularly with Millennials. But at some point, it may be prudent to leave.

How to Deal With a Counteroffer

In today’s candidate-driven market, your current boss may make a counteroffer when you announce your resignation. Now you’re faced with another difficult choice! HBR suggests asking yourself which opportunity will give you what you want in the future. Keep in mind that your current boss may doubt your loyalty from this point on, however. Plus, whatever made you consider leaving will probably not magically be fixed just because you stay. If it were that simple, you probably could’ve already affected the change you desired. Also, if you already gave your word to a new employer to come on board, your credibility is now at stake. If you back out and accept the counteroffer, you may burn a bridge with the new employer—a bridge you may wish were still in place a few months from now should your current position continue to frustrate you.

When is it time to change jobs?

You’ll know it’s time when the good you leave behind is outweighed by the better you’ll gain by moving ahead. Here are some examples of better:

  • More time, such as would be gained by a shorter commute or fewer required work hours
  • Further development of skills, knowledge, or new areas of proficiency
  • Opportunity to… (e.g., work for a more ideal company, change fields, be promoted, do meaningful work, achieve unmet career goals, earn a higher salary or receive better benefits)
  • A closer personality fit with the culture, the manager’s style, or with the position’s responsibilities


Photo by Risto Kuulasmaa

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