When should I consider leaving my company? This is a question we all face several times during our careers. I recently said good-bye to a friend retiring after 37 years at his company. That is extremely unusual these days. When our parents began working, it was expected that they would remain with their first company until they left with a gold watch and pension. It just was not considered that they would seek another employer 5 – 10 times during their careers. In those days, we didn’t see mergers and acquisitions as frequently as today. And, companies did not use “reductions in force” as a common management tool. And, employees seemed to exhibit stronger loyalty to their original employer who was not viewed simply as a way to “get a foot in the door to gain experience.”
All that aside, there are legitimate reasons for leaving one company and moving to another – I have done so a half dozen times in my own career. What are those reasons? When is it time to consider creating or updating your resume to seek employment elsewhere. Outlined below are 5 solid reasons for leaving your company. There may be others, but this list is a good starting point for differentiating good versus not-so-good reasons for tasting the grass on the other side of the fence:
- You have hit a dead-end – There are times when the road ahead, career-wise, is blocked and you see no detour around the block. For example, the only advancement opportunity is currently held by an individual younger than you that his perfectly happy in the role. Or, it has become clear that your manager does not believe you have the ability to advance. At this point, your only choices are to “buck up, Buttercup” and learn to be satisfied with your current role and find personal satisfaction outside the job OR move to another company. This is a perfectly legitimate reason for leaving. But, one warning… be sure you truly have hit a dead-end. Seek the advice of a trusted colleague to ensure that you are not being blinded by some other motive. Often, when you look objectively, there are alternatives you have either not sought or have chosen not to consider.
- You can’t achieve your goals with the current company – There are times when you should ask yourself the question, “In five years, which position do I aspire to hold? Can I achieve that goal in my current company?” If the answer to those questions is “no”, then it might be time to consider an alternative. When you fast forward those five years and find that you did not achieve your goal and have no immediate possibilities, it is too late. Don’t waste those valuable years treading water if you cannot legitimately attain your career goals in your current situation.
- Your values do not align with the current company – There are also times when the company simply has a set of values that you cannot tolerate in your own life. When this occurs, it is time to move on, rather than make yourself and others miserable. Your performance will soon decline anyway, so move early when you see a values mismatch.
- You have a “career accelerator” opportunity with another company – Sometimes you merely get the call from a recruiter that can accelerate your career five or ten years. Someone needs your exact skills and background and is willing to move your career ahead. When this call happens, it might be worth listening and responding.
- Your personal situation dictates a change – Sometimes, your personal situation might dictate a company change. For example:
- Financial concerns require that you take another position simply because it meets an important financial consideration.
- Relocation to a more desired area or to be near family is important. I once left an excellent position to relocate near an ill family member. I don’t regret this move at all.
- Commute, hours, or family considerations dictate a change. Always remember that your family comes before your career. Once those years are gone, you cannot get them back. A job change is often needed to meet a family situation.
- Health concerns often necessitate a job change.
There are also good reasons why you should NOT change jobs. These include chasing financial gain without considering the impact of a change on your long-term plans or chasing a title. If you spend your time merely chasing a bigger title or more responsibility, you will eventually be left unsatisfied.
So, take the time to conduct a career inventory. Before you change jobs, are your motives or reasons clearly one of those outlined above? Or, are you merely a rolling stone that needs a change every two years? Be clear about your objectives and ensure that the reason meets a key career or personal need.