When is it time to go? Five make-or-break factors

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If you’re sitting in your office bored, ticked off or feeling down you may be thinking it’s time to go. BUT, you’re not sure. You are rationalizing staying because there is one more great thing you can contribute or you feel obligated in some way. We all go through this kind of mental tug-of-war at one time or another. Knowing when it’s the right time to give yourself permission to move on is one of those big life changers and with it comes anxiety.

There are some indicators of satisfaction that you can examine that will help you make that decision. Let’s review some of them to help you move that decision making along.

  1. Salary - I’m almost embarrassed to mention money. Not because “it shouldn’t matter”, it’s because I know it isn’t one of the top 3 issues. I mention it first because everyone does and I want to get it out of the way. What you are paid as it turns out are not the top 3-5 satisfiers for your career. It is something, however. If it is out of line or doesn’t pay the bills it is a big DISsatisfier and you do need to move on. If your pay is appropriate for the job you do, area you live in and meets most of your need, then you’re probably doing fine and this isn’t a big enough deal to make you leave.

  2. Boss - This one is the big one. The person that you immediately report to is the number one top item that will make work life great or bad. You don’t have to love this person or even be buddies but you do need to respect this person and feel that it’s mutual. Also, you need to be realistic about this person. Bosses will never be perfect. They are like the rest of us; they have bad hair days and also have their own quirks. The question you need to ask yourself is: “Can I be successful doing work with this person in the picture?”

  3. Job Content - This is all about the kind of work you perform. You need to feel like you have the skills, talents and background to perform the job. At the same time you should feel like you can make a contribution and grow. Job growth is not necessarily about being promoted. It is learning new tasks, taking on new responsibilities and making new contributions. The content of your job should be something that continuously stimulates and interests you. If you have reached a point where everything is pretty much the same, you need to move on before it impacts your self esteem.

  4. Work environment - This is both the physical space you do the work in and what is in the environment such as people, building and location. You can have a great job, great boss but have to commute 2 hours each way. Your life is potentially impacted too significantly. You may like the job but the environment you are in is too toxic because of interoffice relations. The people you work with could be your source of dissatisfaction and you may not even realize it. We form friendships and alliances with the people we spend so much time working with. At the same time they may feel freedom in complaining and pointing out all the things that are bad. This will have a negative impact on you. You need to examine this situation and determine what you can control and what you can’t. At the same time, you need to determine if you were to design the perfect work environment, would it be like this?

  5. Something else If all the stars are aligned and the items listed above are all working well enough for you, you may be tugged by “something else”. The something else could be a lifelong dream of being a nurse or something completely different than what you’re doing today. The something else could be a deep desire to move and live somewhere other than where you are today. It’s ok to give yourself permission to move toward something as opposed to away from your current career. This category of “something else” may turn out to be your calling.

Life is too short to spend too much time working at a job situation you don’t love and doesn’t nurture your soul. Your career should feel shamefully fun and more like an avocation. Making a decision like this can be tough but it is not a sign that you’re doing the wrong thing. It’s tough because it is a big part of how you spend your life. It’s tough because you want to make sure you enjoy the next thing. It’s tough because it’s a change.


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  • Melissa Kennedy
    Melissa Kennedy
    Wow, this is really a great conversation!@David - It sounds like you had a huge problem at your job. When you can't trust your boss, it's a really bad sign. How did everything turn out with your career change?@Patricia - That's a really bad place to be. If you are worried about changing jobs, why not look for a job while you're still at your current one? Even if you aren't certain about making a change, there are things you can do to expand your horizons and make your career more interesting. @Gerard - Exactly. Most people don't leave their jobs because they want more money or because they want more opportunity. It's because they aren't happy. Maybe someone offered them a job that payed more and provided more opportunity, but the reason they began looking was because they just weren't happy.@Gail - it sounds like you've really had a bad experience. Some workplaces love to pit younger workers against older ones. It's a shame because it really prevents teamwork and mentorship.@Vanessa - I'm glad you're doing better. Good luck with your search!@Lauren - If you were fired, it's best to be honest and admit that you were fired. Be as brief as possible and mention that you had already gone as far as you could with the company and should have moved on years before. Whatever you do, don't lie and say that you quit. It's way too easy for an employer to check and find the truth. The last thing you want is to be caught in a lie.@Amanda - I hope that you get well soon. I'm sure that your boss will be able to find a role for you. Having an employer who is there for you is priceless. Good luck!
  • Wilma
    Well mcaadmaia nuts, how about that.
  • Jenny
    Very true! Makes a change to see someone spell it out like that.
  • David E.
    David E.
    I have been in the working world (finance and accounting) for 23 years in multiple industries.  I have learned a few things over the years.  One important thing- making a mistake of staying in a job too long because 1) I thought things would get better, and 2) I didn't want to look like I was "job hopping".I was a group leader and one of the employees in my group complained that our manager was belittling her experience and college degree. One morning I got to work to find out that my manager fired her and never discussed it with me.  I looked like a fool in front of my team.  That was 4 months into the job- I stayed for 4 1/2 years.  What a mistake!!  Don't stay in a miserable job!
  • Lacie R.
    Lacie R.
    All 5 apply.  Glad to know I really am making the right decision to look for something else.  Thanks for posting.
  • Patricia C.
    Patricia C.
    I've been at my job way too long .... I know I need a change but with the economy and my age I'm really scared to leave.  I've been there almost 20yrs. I'm not even doing what I went to school for ... I need to move on .... The institution is only after money ... employees are a dime a dozen and if you want to keep yourself in good standing you must keep your head down, be a "yes" person and never say what you really want to even if they ask ...... their minds are already made up before they ask your opinion.
  • Toto C.
    Toto C.
    The people who started school in the late '90s are now entering the workforce. They lack any education which would give them cultural or historical context for their role in undermining their own class of worker. When they have served their exploiters they will be discarded thoughtlessly. They have been indoctrinated to think this is ok. Capitalism won, the workers lost.
  • Gerard S.
    Gerard S.
    Very well written, and item number one is true in most cases. Having been a people/business manager for over twenty years, I learned early in my career that people don't leave you for money, they leave you because they are unhappy. Unfortunately, jobs have a description and employer's fill a need. What I did eventually learn is that when it comes a time where you are literally paying yourself to be miserable, then it is definitely time to leave.
  • Christine L.
    Christine L.
    #2 on your list should be #1. I recently left a job I loved due to a bad boss, and like some of the others who have commented on this, I wouldn't have it any other way (unless of course I were to be offered his job)
  • gail m.
    gail m.
    i left a job last Friday because , of a hostile work environment,  this article is correct, money in most situations is not the issue, its management style,  the new work environment is to put workers against work and the young new worker is trained to believe to snitch on others so they get ahead. It's too bad money comes before ethics.
  • Vanessa
    I had all of the above issues, but it took a car crash to get me out of the job.  i am now looking for employment after a year out of work recovering.  It is not easy, but i would not have it any other way.  When you don't have a boss that has your back, and will sell you out in a minute to keep from getting in trouble it is impossible to work.  Thank you so much for the great information!!!
  • Maria
    Well, I know I am doing the right thing since all of these points pertain to me!Thank you! Maria
  • Alexander Martinez
    Alexander Martinez
    very helpful
  • Alexander Martinez
    Alexander Martinez
    very helpful
  • allison palu
    allison palu
    hallelujah! now I don't feel terrible about moving on. Thank you so much!
  • Patricia  Pines
    Patricia  Pines
    I have just left a role that has all 5 issues!  I was underpaid for the role, the boss was a cantankerous micro-manager who didn't delegate.  Not only was the job content boring, but there was very little to do.  The job environment sucked and thanks to a career counselor I have realized I am in the wrong role...
  • Lauren
  • Amanda Mccandless
    Amanda Mccandless
    well i have 3 out of 5 of the signs.  What I am stuck on though is that I am on LOA because of a broke foot.  They are willing to stick it through with me, but I am not even sure that I will be able to return to that situation because after a broken foot, I am not sure that I will be able stand for long periods of time.
  • DodsonGracie32
    Every body understands that modern life seems to be high priced, nevertheless some people need money for various issues and not every man gets enough cash. Thence to get some personal loans or just auto loan will be a proper way out.
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