Most of us are so busy doing our jobs that we simply don't have time to contemplate, much less pursue, a new job with another employer. When we do make a change, it's often due to a downsizing, a disagreement with a boss, an unexpected job offer, or a failure to get an expected raise.
You probably know what I'm talking about. You recognize that something is wrong, but you ignore it so you can get on with the daily chore of slaying another dragon at work. But it's time to start reading the signals your career is sending you.
Let's look at some examples of the most common triggers of job change. (If you think you need to change not just your job, but your career, see “Career Change: Is There A Magic Pill?”) It's up to you to decide whether one or more of these is a compelling reason to consider changing jobs or employers.
• You're the key player: You know you're at the top of your game when everyone—including people outside of your own department and from other companies—comes to you for help and advice. This realization might make you want to keep your job rather than leave it, especially if your company recognizes your expertise and supports and rewards you for it.
On the other hand, if your boss treats you like a proprietary asset and restricts your movement in your professional community, it could be a sign that he doesn't know how (or want) to develop you further. Are you allowed to attend professional conferences and mingle with your industry cohorts? Does the company pay for relevant continuing education, or does it discourage you from developing skills beyond your current job?
Like it or not, being needed doesn't make you grow. It may be time to go.
• You're alone: Everyone needs a good mentor to guide, promote, and pay attention to them. Good people don't keep working for employers who ignore them.
Your boss—or some other notable person in your company—should be monitoring and feeding your career (see “The Right Way To Get Coached”). A leader’s role is to enable employees to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure their continuing value to the company. If you feel alone, and there isn't someone in your company who is helping guide your career and professional development, then it may be time to go.
• You're two steps ahead of your employer: Good companies have different ways of incubating change; make sure you understand how your company does it. It may be frustrating to have your ideas welcomed but not immediately acted on. However, what really matters is whether the company embraces new ideas that contribute to its success.
If you believe your company's failure to implement your ideas is a signal to seek greener pastures, stop and ask yourself whether you're presenting your ideas effectively, and whether they're sound, profitable ideas for the company as a whole. It may be that you need to sharpen your own ability to judge the overall value of new concepts.
If, however, you find that you're always ahead of the company and no one is listening to you, it may be time to go.
• There are too many obstacles: Cross-pollination of perspectives, ideas, and skills enables a business to profit from what is today known as "our greatest asset—our people." Your greatest growth potential will be realized through exposure to many disciplines within your company. If your contact with other departments or functions in your company is limited and you feel stuck in a corner, then it may be time to go.
• You don’t get a share of the profits: If you contribute to the bottom line, you should share in the profits. When a key player leaves a company, it can be a disaster for the employer. Does your company recognize how your key-player contributions pay off? More and more employers are realizing that some type of profit sharing is the best way to pay people. This approach not only helps control costs and expenses, it also engenders loyalty and responsibility for the company's success. An employer who isn't on this track doesn't deserve to have the best employees.
• The best headhunters are calling: When recognized headhunters start calling you, it means one of two things—either you have arrived professionally and your worth is known throughout the land, or your industry is expanding at a profitable enough clip that it's willing to pay a premium for your services. Either way, you win (see “Fun Facts About Headhunters”).
If you feel these triggers being pulled in your career, then it may be time to move on.