When to Start Looking for a New Job – Signs and Tips

By Dr. Cheryl Lane

If you’ve been in the workforce for several years, at least once or twice along the way you’ve probably wondered if there were signs it’s time to quit your job.  Of course, thinking about it and doing it are two very different things.  But knowing when to change jobs (or when to change careers) is definitely to your advantage.  After all, 40 hours of your life, week after week, year after year, is a significant amount of time to spend doing something you either hate or which is not truly in your best interest. 

Signs it’s Time to Update That Resume!

  1. The company you work for is having a lot of problems.  There are rumors of downsizing, closing, or bankruptcy, or the company’s earnings have been on a downward trend for months on end. 
  2. Your skills and experience aren’t being utilized.  Many people start in an entry level position and gain valuable skills and experience over time.  But they eventually outgrow the position.  If there is no way to use you to your full potential in your current job, you may want to think about finding a job which will.
  3. Your responsibilities have decreased, not increased.  This is never a good sign.  Regardless of whether it’s because your job description has been attenuated to allow for new positions in the company, or because you suspect your superiors are giving you hints that you are no longer wanted, this is a good time to consider a job change. 
  4. You dread going to work every day.  This one is significant, because life is too short to continue doing something you absolutely hate.  Regardless of the reasons, spending 40 or more hours a week at a job you hate will take a serious toll on your life over time.
  5. Your physical or emotional health is suffering.  If the stress from your job is affecting your health in any way, this is definitely a sign you should consider leaving. 
  6. Your values clash with those of your company.  Your values are a core part of who you are.  If your company is doing things (or selling things, etc) which go against your values (e.g., lying to customers) it is going to affect your attitude over time and will leave you feeling discontent with, if not constantly conflicted about, your job. 
  7. There is significant, ongoing conflict at work.  If there are issues between you and a co-worker or your boss, or if the workplace itself is typically fraught with conflict, it is going to drain you of energy and make it difficult to go to work each day.  Some things don’t ever change, and work conflict is a significant source of stress for many people. 
  8. You feel stifled or have no opportunity to grow.  If you constantly feel stuck in a rut in your job, with not room for growth or advancement, it’s time to consider moving on.  

The Signs are Clear – Now What??

Take Inventory….

If you’ve realized it’s definitely time to leave your current job, you may be wondering what to do next.  Well, there are many different options.  But one of the first steps, according to Dr. Randall Hansen, is to take time to assess your likes and dislikes.  What do you enjoy when you are at work, when you are at home, and in your free time?  The key to finding work which you really enjoy requires understanding what makes you tick. 

Research Your Options…

Once you have a good idea what you truly enjoy doing – what gets you excited – start doing some research to see if there are jobs or careers which might be a good fit.  While there are formal tools to help you do this through employment agencies and colleges, you can also do some research online. 

To Go Back to School or Not – That is the Question….

You may be thinking that you can’t change careers (or even jobs) without taking 4 years off to get a degree (or a new degree).  But these days, there are countless options which may be much less demanding.  For example, there are many online college courses and even degree programs which you can fit into your schedule much more easily than ever before. 

With many job changes, you already have a lot of skills to offer, but maybe just need a particular skill or certification which you don’t currently have.  Often just a couple of classes are all you need for brushing up job skills or learning something which will make you more marketable.  Many adults take a night class or online program while at their current job. 

How to Psych Yourself for a Job / Career Change

If you are like a lot of people, even though you know it’s time to leave your job, you are a pro at talking yourself out of taking any action.  Change is not easy, and like most, you probably have a long list of excuses.  (In my experience as a therapist, I’ve seen – and helped – thousands of people just like you, facing the prospect of change.  It’s frightening, overwhelming, but ultimately, exhilarating and rewarding!  Here are the most common self-defeating behaviors – and the best ways to overcome them) So, let’s nip those in the bud now!

  • I don’t have what it takes.  To counteract this self-defeating thought, stop and think about all you’ve already accomplished in your life.  Perhaps you’ve raised a family, managed a household, held other jobs for years, finished school, etc… Make a list of all your accomplishments, no matter how small.  You’ll be surprised at the length of your list.
  • I’m too old to start over or to go back to school.  You are never too old to start something new.  In fact, learning new things is one of the best ways to stay young!  Also, you’d be amazed how many people go back to school in their 50’s and 60’s and older.

It’s never too late, and besides, you’re going to keep getting older regardless.  Wouldn’t you rather be getting older with new goals and a job you enjoy? Life is simply too short to stay stuck in a job you hate.

A few other words of encouragement if you’re wondering about changing jobs:

  • Change can be invigorating – going in a new direction can greatly enhance your life and your outlook.
  • True job security no longer exists, so don’t hang your hat on that as a reason to stay in a job you hate.
  • Your relationships, your finances, and your health will all benefit if you are in a job you truly enjoy.

Hopefully this has inspired you to consider whether you should leave your job.  In a tanking economy many people have had to start over.  For some, it’s been the silver lining.  Don’t stay in a dead-end job or a job you hate.  Start exploring your options now and you’ll be amazed at the doors which will begin to open!


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