When is it Time to Look for a New Job?

Should I enter the job market again to pursue my next career step? That’s a decision people rarely make overnight. Many dedicated professionals rank their jobs and their career decisions as some of the most important aspects of their lives. So, when is it appropriate to look for a new job and how will you know when it’s time?

When speaking with professionals who are entertaining the possibility of a new position, I always have them ask themselves one main question: “What would an opportunity have to look like for me to justifiably leave my current role?” It’s a very different question than, “Am I happy at my job?” or, “Am I open to a new position?” Everyone should have an answer to this question. That’s true whether you’re interviewing with multiple companies in the hopes of fleeing a toxic work environment or highly satisfied with a recent promotion. Defining a positive career step will not only ensure you won’t miss such an opportunity when it comes up, but also will help you better understand your current job satisfaction. We recommend taking the following steps to help define what that opportunity would look like.

  • List your grievances. This is an obvious first step and should be one of the main catalysts to your decision. You may not have any, and that’s OK. Remember, the point of this exercise is to not only help you better understand what an opportunity may look like, but to help you define your level of satisfaction in your current position. If you do have grievances, list them along with potential solutions. Does your employer have the power to implement them? Or are these issues out of your employer’s hands? Do your grievances justify leaving your employer? Would your suggested improvements simply be nice to have? This will become the start of your evaluation points and help you determine how active you should be in the job market.
  • Define what opportunity means to you. A positive career step can look different to different professionals. For some, it’s the opportunity to move into a new industry or have a better work/life balance. For others, it’s the ability to learn additional skills or move into a supervisory capacity. These don’t necessarily have to be aspects of your current job dissatisfaction. You’re simply painting the picture of your perfect job. No matter how satisfied you are in your current position, it’s important to know what future accomplishment means to you and if it’s possible to achieve those goals with your current employer.
  • Understand your relationship to compensation. Money is often the elephant in the room when it comes to making a job change. Despite your grievances and goals, our financial situations affect aspects of our lives beyond our jobs. Knowing where your financial package comes into play with your career decisions is important when deciding on a next step. Are you able to accept lower compensation to rectify your grievances or move into a role with greater opportunity? Do you feel your current compensation appropriately reflects your value to your employer?  Most people can agree that while compensation isn’t everything, it is, undoubtedly, one of the more important things. Weighing this among your other evaluation points is a vital step.
  • Research your market. Understand what the companies in your area are doing: Who’s growing? Who’s downsizing? Who’s making changes at the leadership level? Where are new ventures in the market? Before jumping into the job market, have a blueprint of companies that interest you and the value you believe you could provide.

As you develop your list of evaluation points, you’ll begin to better understand what’s important to you and how available it is in your current job. You don’t have to be actively looking for a job to have a running list of what opportunity looks like to you. Finally, it’s not as black and white as actively looking for a new job versus being completely satisfied with one’s current employer. More often, it’s a sliding scale between how much time and effort you should put into identifying a new job. Define the question, “What would an opportunity have to look like to justify leaving my current role?” This will help you understand where you currently reside on the scale.

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