How to Know When It’s Time to Leave a Job
Knowing when it’s time to move on from anything, especially a job or career, doesn’t always feel cut and dry. There’s usually some hesitation, a weighing of the pros and cons, lots of internal conversations, and more. Sometimes, we lack the confidence to trek uncharted territory, too. In her new book, Next Move, Best Move: Transitioning Into a Career You’ll Love, author and career & development expert Kimberly B. Cummings tackles this dilemma head-on with some tried-and-true practices of her own.
In an exclusive excerpt below, she writes about the importance of an exit strategy, the misconception that you have to “stick it out” in a position that makes you unhappy, and her own personal experience with a career transition.
Career Affirmation: I can walk away from a job or company that no longer serves me
I could not write this book without discussing the right time to walk away from a job. Not every opportunity is a great one. This may be an unpopular opinion that perfectly fits into the “millennial mindset” that many other generations frown upon, but I’m going to say it anyway: You don’t have to stick it out. If you are unhappy, feel like your growth is being stunted, or learn there is a proverbial glass ceiling at your job that does not support your growth, you do not have to stay. Like Jim Rohn once said, “If you don’t like how things are, change it! You’re not a tree.” Sometimes, leaving a job can seem like an easy decision. However, I want you to be strategic and allow this to be a conscious decision, not just because you are frustrated, feel underemployed, undervalued, and under-appreciated, which are all valid reasons, but because you are consciously choosing to embark on a job search to ultimately find a career for yourself, rather than just another job.
Before some folks tear me to shreds for encouraging you to leave your job, I will share that I believe it’s important to exhaust your options and have a strategic career conversation before leaving. I also do not advocate leaving a job before you have another one lined up unless it’s an extremely dire circumstance or you have six months to a year’s worth of savings and you like playing Russian Roulette. Before submitting your letter of resignation, it’s important to have honest conversations about your career trajectory with your manager or skip leader.
- Ask for feedback about your performance from your manager or skip leader.
- Understand the trajectory of your career at your current company.
- Understand the current climate of your industry and how that would impact a job search at that time.
- Ensure you have built strategic relationships with mentors and sponsors who can advocate for your next career move, regardless of whether it is internal or external to your current company.
Before making a career move, I stress to my clients that the work needs to begin well before any moves are made. This theory is one of the main reasons that I wanted to write this book! Too often, we try to fast track the next move because we’ve reached a certain place in the current role where we feel we can no longer be happy. If you are already at that place and know it’s time to go, I will not advocate for you to stay.
It wasn’t until I was preparing for my fourth professional move that I felt myself make a truly strategic career decision. Earlier I had shared that I was performing well – basically overperforming. I was also in classes to complete my Master of Science in counseling that required an external internship, all while innovating various ideas and strategies that the career-development office was working toward executing. I exceeded my goals, but my manager felt I had untapped potential and could further exceed my goals. It goes without saying that I was pissed. I was angry beyond measure. I had worked so hard that year. I could not understand why I was not being promoted when others in the office received promotions while doing less work and made fewer contributions to the office than I had in the past year.
At that moment, I felt that I had to take control of my career versus waiting to be recognized and provide an opportunity to myself. Women and people of color often wait to be recognized as high performers to be promoted and rise to the next level in an organization. I want you to switch that mode of thinking. You can create a career that rewards you with opportunities, rather than waiting for someone in your current company to tap you on your shoulder and indicate it’s time for you to rise. This is why having this book in your hands is so important. We need tactics in our careers, so we know what to do.
This was the first time I felt like I truly made a strategic move in my career and not just moving because I was unhappy or simply believed my time had come to an end with a certain employer. I was performing at an organization, doing work that I thought was meaningful, and was excited to continue to excel as a leader in the industry. I had to sit back and think, “How can I grow my career in the same field but just not at this organization?”
It’s essential to understand when it’s time to leave and assemble a career strategy that allows you to be ready at all times. You should always have options, even if you are happy in a job. Options don’t always have to look like a way out either. Each new relationship you build may provide you with options. Each task you complete in your career strategy may provide you with new possibilities. Each time you add a new skill to your toolkit, you are creating an option. That is why developing a career strategy is so important. Logging into your work computer each day with your head down, hoping that change will happen, is the farthest thing from an option. If you are on the fence about embarking on a job search, there are several reasons that you may think it’s your time to go. Let’s examine the seven most common reasons that may serve as signals to either start your job search to get a new job or have a serious conversation about getting promoted or increasing your current responsibilities.
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