You find yourself wrapping up another week, with another small paycheck and no sign of a promotion in sight. According to your Facebook feed, seemingly everyone else you know has moved up at least twice since graduation, while you are stuck on a treadmill of copy-making and updating Excel spreadsheets. Your boss keeps assuring you that you are appreciated and that as soon as an appropriate internal opportunity presents itself, you’ll be on your way to great things. While that assurance may have seemed encouraging six months ago during your performance appraisal, it’s small comfort as your living expenses rise and your paycheck remains stagnant.
Unfortunately, you may also find yourself in that awkward stage where you aren’t quite qualified to apply for open positions at other companies, but you’re overqualified for entry-level jobs that pay more.
Before seriously contemplating a career move, it’s worth asking yourself the questions below and confirming your answers through peers and mentors. Keep in mind that each industry has its own idiosyncrasies.
1. How long have you been in your current position?
If this is your first job out of school, think twice (or even three times) if you haven’t put in at least two years. Of course, if extenuating circumstances apply—a family crisis, going back to school, office relocation, pending layoffs, or finding out that your department has been taken over by a person you don’t see eye-to-eye with—it might make more sense to leave after year one. Just be prepared to do some explaining if you do choose to leave your first job before you’ve completed two years. If you’re in a highly competitive industry, it might be worthwhile to grind through year two.
2. Where do you want to be five or 10 years from now?
It’s important to have an answer to this question if you’re considering a move. If you are reading this article, you probably don’t feel like you are getting what you need in your current job, and you probably don’t want to work part-time in retail or fast food. While it is helpful to know what you don’t want, it’s more helpful to know what you do want to accomplish in your career. Most of us want more money and more respect. You might feel like you aren’t getting enough of either where you are, and that can be frustrating. As difficult as it may be, try to remember what drove you to finish school. What did you want to achieve in your life and career?
3. What is it that you dislike most about your job?
This isn’t about the quality of the coffee in the break room or the receptionist’s annoying greeting. What skills and talents would you like to use more? How would you like to see your work rewarded?
4. Have you explored and exhausted all options where you are?
Sometimes, companies have internal opportunities but aren’t proactive about promoting them. If you would rather work in a different department, but would be fine working with the same organization, it’s worth asking someone in human resources (or someone else in a position to provide information who won’t spread a rumor that you asked) if any internal opportunities exist or might be anticipated. If your company offers tuition reimbursement and would be willing to subsidize additional coursework that would help you move up there or somewhere else, that’s an avenue worth exploring. If you do choose to take advantage of a tuition-reimbursement program, just be sure that you get the details about program requirements—some companies require that employees who leave within a certain time frame repay tuition funds.
Trust Your Gut
The decision to keep or leave your job is never an easy one to make. Sometimes, in spite of all the effort you put toward finding a role at a company that is a good fit for you, it just doesn’t work out. Sometimes, you join an organization only to see it change dramatically six months into your tenure. Sometimes, it makes more sense to leave than to stay and be uncomfortable.
If your gut is telling you that this isn’t where you belong and you’re better off leaving, it may make sense to do just that. It’s common for people to change employers every two to four years. Changing jobs isn’t a problem, but make sure you’re making a change for the right reasons.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.