How to know it’s time to go

It's not always easy to figure out when, or if, you should leave a job.

It’s the afternoon before a long weekend. The clock is moving so slowly, and you’re in your office barely containing your rage. Or maybe you received some feedback from your boss that you didn’t particularly appreciate, and now you’re in the breakroom thinking to yourself: I am SO done with this.

Most of us know these feelings will pass, but what if it is time to move on? Can you do your boss’s job? Are you ready to start a search or branch out on your own? Do you love your position but just can’t take this particular work environment? How do you know when it really is time to make a change?

Lars Schmidt has spent the last three years as senior director of talent acquisition and innovation at NPR. He recently left to start his own firm, Amplify Talent. On taking this leap, Schmidt says, “Walking away from a job you truly enjoy is a difficult decision. Walking towards the unknown that comes with starting a new business makes it even tougher.”

He says making the change was something he’d contemplated for many months.

“I reached out to my network and sought out mentors and other founders and entrepreneurs in an effort to learn more about what it takes to start and build a successful business,” Schmidt said. “One piece of advice I received from a founder when I asked this same question was the following: ‘You know the time is right when the urge is so great you can’t not do it.’ This stuck with me.”

If your current position isn’t challenging you any longer, it may be time to look elsewhere. The desire to gain additional knowledge, take on new challenges, acquire enhanced responsibility, and earn more money are often the driving forces behind career changes.

Robin Schooling, a human resources consultant, blogger and owner of Silver Zebras, suggests viewing your career progression as a lattice, not just a ladder.

“You’ll be able to see the interconnectivity of the typical jobs in your field,” she says. “Over the course of my career I’ve changed positions vertically (promotions) but I’ve also moved laterally in order to gain experience in a new industry or in a different sized organization; in some instances this necessitated moving into roles with ‘lesser’ titles and, on occasion, initial lower salary.”

If you don’t want to start a business or make a career change, but you just want to leave, ask yourself why. Are you just having a bad day or is this position really not a good fit?

Sometimes we’re told things during the recruiting and interviewing process that don’t accurately reflect the everyday culture of a company, the parameters of a position change no longer align with our skills, or we simply discover that we aren’t cut out for sales/quick deadlines/a desk job, etc. If you dread going to work each day, if you stress about it to the point that your health is impacted, or if the thought of meeting with your boss fills you with panic — it’s probably time to start looking elsewhere.

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