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5 ways to seriously know it’s time to change jobs

By Elizabeth Exline

Much has been written about the so-called "Great Reshuffle" precipitated by the pandemic. Everyone, it seems, is looking to take advantage of a rebounding economy and pursue the job he or she always wanted but never thought possible.

Millennials are especially tuned in to this shift as more and more of them intentionally step away from the workforce to learn new skills and network before jumping into a different career.

Yet even with cautious optimism about overall job growth, including awareness about better salaries, work-from-home options and improved work-life balance, deciding when to change jobs is a process best approached with consideration.

"I’m concerned that job seekers may see this [market] as carte blanche and think, ‘I’ll be able to find something quickly,’" explains University of Phoenix Career Advisor Carol Camerino. "I would say it is a good idea always to leave graciously and only once you have a job lined up."

A proactive approach

Even if you’re happy where you are, the pandemic has taught us that things can change on a dime. That’s why Camerino recommends a proactive career management strategy no matter where you are, what you’re doing or where you’re going.

This means:

"Those things help to make a pivot easier," Camerino explains. "If you wait until you know you’re going to be out of a job, you’re already behind the ball."

5 signs it’s time to change jobs

Whether you’re contemplating a new path or just a new job, the enduring challenge is figuring out when the right time is to move. For Camerino, this means regularly evaluating the following five key metrics. Doing so will help you find ways to advance (or even change) your career.

  1. Keep an eye on your industry and your market. Also known as reading the writing on the wall, evaluating market changes can give you a pretty good idea of which roles will be in demand and which ones won’t. Camerino recommends checking the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for reliable industry insights. "When you keep those in mind, you can then stay ahead of the curve and strategize a little bit," she says.
  2. Watch for changes in your organization. When your company misses its target quarter after quarter or resources get diverted away from your department, it may be time to evaluate your role within the organization. "Employees who don’t assess the changes that are happening can be caught off-guard," Camerino notes.
    Other shifts to watch for include leadership changes (different leaders have different priorities) and internal changes. Also, pay attention to external crises that may lead to internal changes. (Hello, pandemic!) Watching for such signs or events "helps a proactive career manager come up with a plan," Camerino says.
  3. Tune in to evolutions within your department. If your industry is standing strong, and your company continues to do well, take a look at your department and your role within it. Has restructuring changed your chances for promotion? Were you passed over for promotion multiple times? Are resources being reallocated in anticipation of a downsizing? Answering yes to any of these questions may signal that it’s time to start looking around.
  4. Pay attention to innovation and its repercussions. "That’s a fancy way of saying ‘AI,’" Camerino explains, referring to artificial intelligence. Few if any professions remain untouched by technological advances. Instead of viewing them as a threat, however, look at them as an opportunity to find a niche and own it. "Knowing where AI is going to get plugged in and understanding what else needs to be done by a human enables someone to pivot," Camerino says.
  5. Know yourself. That’s shorthand for having a clearsighted grasp on your personal goals and values and how they align with those of your employer, Camerino says. "I think people have looked at what they want from their employers with a more serious eye," she says. This might mean taking a lower salary but getting more vacation time, or pursuing a flexible schedule that allows you to work from home (or not at all) on certain days.

Just remember that your wish list is something to negotiate, not demand, Camerino adds. "Offers can be rescinded," she says. "So, once you receive an offer, you need to be professional and polished and reasonable. It’s a negotiation, not an order form."

Career outside the box

When it’s time to move on from a position, Camerino offers one final piece of wisdom. "Be open to possibilities and be open to the long game," she says. Lateral moves, for example, used to not be considered a win. But today, anything is possible. Moving laterally, Camerino points out, may ultimately enable you to skip ahead faster if you join a company that offers more or better opportunities for advancement.

"You’re looking at the potential rollout of events that could happen," Camerino explains.

In the end, it’s not enough to wait to be fired or wait for something better. You have to look ahead, strategize and move according to your goals.

Sometimes, knowing what you want takes more than checking in with yourself. Here’s how to ask for career advice.


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