When is the Right Time to Leave your Job?

Much has been written — including in this column — on the subject of staying in your job. Not jumping too quickly or too often. Why continuity and sticking with it is a good thing. But let’s face it. There are indeed times when leaving your job and moving on to a new opportunity is the right thing to do. The key is recognizing when these times take place. Experience suggests when at least two of the variables below are present, it may be an opportune time to consider moving to a new role.

1. You are too comfortable. The Comfort Principle states, “Nothing important ever happens when you are comfortable,” and it’s true. Comfort means complacency. Comfort means relaxing. Comfort means you aren’t growing or stretching yourself. Comfort is like sugary foods — it tastes great but you know it isn’t good for you! Being comfortable at work feels good. But the best know that comfort is an enemy of continual growth, crucial for success in a fast-changing world. So whenever they get too comfortable, they force themselves to break out of the cycle.

2. Limited room to grow. “Grow” means both in terms of responsibility as well as personal growth of skills and capabilities. If you are truly stuck in a repetitive role and don’t see any realistic chances of changing this within your current employer, well, this is something to seriously consider.

3. Cultural disconnect. We all have our own values and principles and organizational cultures we work best in. One of the highest stress situations one can be placed in is when there is a clash between one’s personal values and the culture of the company they work in. This results in unhappiness, misery, and high stress. And no job is worth all this!

4. A “once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”Ninety-nine percent of job opportunities are lateral moves or, at best, incremental moves. But there are those one-percent occasions where the potential role is a game-changer. Perhaps a step-change in responsibility or compensation. A role that likely won’t come by your way again. And this is honestly the biggest career mistake I have made. I stayed blindly loyal to a company and naively lulled myself into believing my loyalty would be rewarded. And two or three times I had the real step-change roles placed in front of me, and I turned them down out of a sense of loyalty. It was in retrospect a foolish decision. Because corporations don’t reciprocate in terms of loyalty — one day you are a star, the next you are not — and because those types of roles don’t come down the road very often. My mistake, but one you can learn from.

Many people leave jobs for the wrong reasons and make a mistake. Conversely, many people stay in the wrong place out of fear of change, being too comfortable, and miss growing and becoming all they can be. It takes wisdom to know when to stay, and courage to act when you need to go. I wish you both wisdom and courage!