Job hunting in this scarce market is a daunting task, specifically when you already are employed. However, job security; while one of the top contenders for any level-headed employee, should not be the only criteria you consider when weighing the pros and cons of staying with your existing company.
About a year ago, after being employed for nearly four years with a fantastic company I started with right out of college, I began to recognize some of the signs that I was ready for a career change. I had a fantastic career mentor who taught me that every job should meet three core criteria:
- You are challenged – your work excites you, makes you work hard and gives you the opportunity to expand your existing skills.
- You are growing – similar to the previous criteria; your work should constantly evolve. You should have role models who teach you and help you grow not only as an employee for their company, but also as a valued member of your career circle.
- You are rewarded – this is last on the list for a reason. If you follow a job for the money, you are likely to be disappointed. However, you cannot stay in the same job forever if you are not appropriately compensated.
After thinking long and hard about the above three criteria, I recognized the following traits in my job that told me it was time to move on.
I stopped learning.
When I first started my job, I was right out of college and had a lot to learn. My manager was fantastic at helping me develop my talent and providing me with enriching assignments that helped me grow as an employee. However, four years later, I found that my work was turning into more busy work; I wasn’t learning from the same assignments I had been doing for nearly four years and was having a difficult time convincing my manager to expand my workload. Furthermore, the review process was slowing, and I found myself working on projects that ended up getting thrown out due to their untimely review.
I didn’t feel valued.
While my manager did a great job of verbally telling me I was doing good work and provided me with top-tiered reviews and occasionally one-off bonuses to reward my performance, I did not see a future of solid career moves that made sense, both from a career advancement and a pay perspective. I started to ask myself if verbal approval was all the company planned to give; my manager kept telling me I was doing a great job, but I knew I was vastly undercompensated for my position, and my requests to move to another department to further develop my skills went unheard.
I began to feel pigeonholed.
I was approached for a lateral move to a department that did not align to my career goals. While I was honored to be selected to manage a new project, I questioned the reasons for this lateral move that did not in any way advance my career. The position not only required more time, but it also involved a skill set I did not possess, nor did I desire to build upon. I questioned first, why I was being considered for a role that was outside of my interests and skill set, and second, why I was being asked to move to a role with more responsibility and no additional compensation. If my company really valued me enough for the role, their offer should have reflected that value.
I realized that I was in demand elsewhere.
I was overwhelmed by the idea of looking outside my comfort zone to new career opportunities. After all, I had job security at my current role, I was well respected and, while I was underpaid, I still was compensated well enough that I could live comfortably. However, I started getting emails, LinkedIn requests and even phone calls from individuals in my network asking me to apply for positions at their company. While I preliminary started looking for a new job, I saw this increase in outreach as a sign that it was time to move on.
My move made sense.
In the end, I decided to accept a position at a new company and have been employed there for almost a year now. The position included a title promotion and a healthy raise that put me more in keeping with what my pay structure should be for my experience and talent level. Furthermore, because I was already employed, it was easier for me to be selective about what I was willing to accept, and ended up negotiating a flexible work schedule conducive for my young children and a reasonable sign-on bonus to compensate for my mid-year move resulting in the year-end bonus loss. While I do miss some of the perks of my old company, I am confident with the decision I made to move to a more rewarding career opportunity.