Over the last six years since graduating from college, I’ve quit, been laid off, gotten fired, and had contracts end. I’ve had horrible bosses, evil co-workers, and I’ve also left jobs that I loved. Still, even when I’ve hated my job, hated my co-workers, hated the company environment – I still had a hard time with the idea of leaving.
It can be difficult to know when the perfect time is to leave a job. Sometimes certain factors outside of work can force you to make that decision (like moving to a different city), and sometimes it’s what happens during office hours that pushes you to make that life changing decision (layoffs, ending contract, incompatible co-workers).
But as a new graduate without much work experience, how do you know when to make the move?
Here are some signs it might be time to look for a new job:
Less hours or reduced duties
It can really put a strain on your finances, and it will be hard to stay satisfied at work if your hours are being reduced, or if your duties are being scaled back. A lot of employees depend on extra hours to supplement their regular pay cheque.
If your fellow co-workers are maintaining their hours and daily tasks, while yours have dropped off noticeably, it might be a sign that your job is at stake. If you think this is a situation that can be worked on, try talking with your boss about your performance.
About eight years ago, I worked in a call centre because I knew I could count on at least two or three extra hours of overtime every day. That extra money each month was crucial for someone like me – who was living pay cheque to pay cheque. When the overtime opportunities suddenly dried up for people in my work group (while other groups maintained overtime hours), I was left scrambling to find a new job to supplement my income.
The temporary solution
For 20-somethings fresh out of school, the job market can be tough. A lot of new graduates end up taking jobs in retail or customer service just to make ends meet while they look for a career job. But if the job hunt takes longer than expected, it might be tempting just to forget about your career and start living life with the temporary job.
I once took a job knowing that I only wanted to spend a year there, gain some experience, make some money, and move on. But when the work was easy and the pay was good, it became too easy to get comfortable. I left that job having stayed there almost a year longer than I had anticipated. While it was a job in my career field, I felt like I had missed opportunities elsewhere that could have been more valuable to advancing my career. And while I’m glad I recognized what I was doing as soon as I did, I can see how I could have let myself stay there for years – it was just that comfortable.
Loss of enthusiasm
While there is no requirement that says you have to be passionate about your job, you do have to like it enough to want to do it every day. If you wake up every morning and absolutely dread the idea of going to work, or you spend most of your day in the office surfing the internet, you might want to start searching for a new job. When you are bored at your job, chances are you will start to get careless and make mistakes – which isn’t good for your career, and isn’t fair to your employer.
If there are a few tasks that you do very well, or if you have a unique skill set that nobody else has in the office, you might get stuck with those tasks – even if you don’t want them.
Being a “specialist” can be good or bad, depending on the way you want to shape your career. If there is a high demand for your skill, becoming a “specialist” will work to your advantage. However, if you are looking to develop new skills and become a more well-rounded employee, being pigeonholed into a “specialist” role can be a huge detriment to your career.
I had to make that decision early on in my career. I had the option of specializing as a graphic designer, or positioning myself as an all-around marketing professional. Even though I loved the idea of designing, being creative, and working with my favourite software as a graphic designer, I knew there would be more opportunities to grow in marketing.
You’ve outgrown the position
Going to a job every day that doesn’t provide you with engaging and challenging work can be extremely discouraging if your goal is to learn and constantly improve your skills. The best thing to do is voice your concerns to your boss. Ask if there are opportunities to attend conferences or take courses in order to build your skill set and keep on growing as an employee. If there aren’t any, it might be time to update your resume and start networking.
You might get let go
If the company is going through a restructuring process, or is in the middle of being sold or merged, you might want to dust off your resume. Even if you don’t think your job is in jeopardy, it might not be a bad idea to throw a few resumes out there just in case. When a company goes through any sort of massive change, there is always the possibility of cutbacks and layoffs – no matter how secure you think your job is.
For me personally, even if I’m happy at my job, I’m always interested in new opportunities. While I might not be actively applying for positions, I do make sure to occasionally sweep through the list of employment links I have saved, and I’m always networking … because you just never know what might come up.