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Build Your Career Get Ahead

Ready to Move On? How to Tell It's Time to Quit Your Job

Ready to Move On? How to Tell It's Time to Quit Your Job
Credit: Amnarj Tanongrattana/Shutterstock

When you started your current job, you were in love with it. You were thrilled about the opportunity, loved the work, and got along well with your boss and teammates.

But at some point, something changed. There may not be anything seriously wrong in your day-to-day work life, or any big incident that made you angry. And yet, you still have a nagging feeling that something is off. The question now becomes: Do you take the risk and try to find something new, or stick it out at a "comfortable" (but unexciting) job because it's what you're used to?

If you're on the fence about finding a new job, the following telltale signs may indicate that it's time to take the leap.

Have you been in the same position for several years with no talk of significant raises, promotions or learning opportunities? Do you feel like you're no longer challenged and that you've gotten all you can out of the position? If so, you may want to look elsewhere for your next career move.

"If you don't see potential in your current company for a raise or promotion in the next couple of years, then you should think about leaving," said Fred Goff, CEO of job search platform Jobcase. "You should stay aware of your value in the marketplace and the general employment situation in both your vocation and geography." [See Related Story: Smart Tips for Quitting Your Job]

Perhaps you've tried discussing your career path with your boss and he or she just shrugs it off, or says you can discuss it "in the future." If the conversation never seems to happen, it might be worth asking why.

"If this is the case, you can and should talk to your supervisor about what your options are," Lily Zhang, a career development specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a writer for The Muse, wrote in an article. "Could you at least take on some new responsibilities? Or, if there isn't an opportunity for you in your current department, maybe there is in another."

If you've been passed over for a promotion more than once, Zhang noted that there might be something or someone preventing you from moving up.

"Perhaps ... you're unwittingly self-sabotaging, [and] if that's the case, you have something to work on," she wrote. "But if no one's giving you a clear reason on why you got passed over, it's likely that not much is going to change in the future."

You may not be as excited about your job as you were when you first started, but sometimes routine can be comforting. However, be wary when "routine" turns to boredom.

"There can be many signs that your career has grown stagnant," said Caren Merrick, CEO of Pocket Mentor. "Perhaps you dread going into work, or you used to be thrilled, but the honeymoon is over. You may feel tired and not energized, and you're watching the clock and racing out. You're not motivated, you're not learning or growing."

Jessica Manca, a personal career coach and founder of Managing Mindspaces, agreed and cited boredom as the No. 1 sign that it's time to throw in the towel. If you're just going through the motions or are procrastinating more than usual at work, you may want to consider looking for a more fulfilling job, Manca said.

Everyone has off days at work, but if you get the impression that each new day on the job is a little worse than the one before it, you may not want to stick around much longer. 

"I would say it is time to quit once the factors determining your job satisfaction are changing permanently for the worse, with no hope of improvement," said Elizabeth Jackson, a Utah-based web development professional.

If your company makes a big change — hiring new employees, changing its management structure, shifting your job duties, etc. — you might find that you no longer like working there, Jackson said. Recognizing this fact, and being proactive about it, is a healthy reason to quit, she said.

If budget cuts, layoffs and employee turnover are becoming the norm at your company, it's not a good sign of things to come. Zhang said even less drastic signs like slow growth or dwindling job openings could be a warning to get out while you still can.

It may not even just be your company: Take a step back and look at other players in your industry. Are the same things happening across the board?

"The realization that the industry you've built your career in is slowly disappearing is not one that goes over well for many people," Zhang wrote. "But the earlier you catch on to it, the better off you'll be."

Before you go full steam ahead on a job search, consider this: Perhaps the reason your career has stalled is because you haven't been talking to the right people. If your boss won't help you and you've never expressed your feelings to anyone else, how can someone higher up be expected to know?

Set up a meeting with your HR manager, or perhaps the manager of a different department, to see if there are any alternative career trajectories you can take while you're still part of the company.

"You should always first try to find advancement in the company you are in," Goff said. "Make sure [the right people] know what you are trying to achieve in one to five years."

Merrick noted that being prepared with information about what you want to do and your value to the company prior to your meeting can help HR connect the dots and match your strengths with their needs and opportunities.

"Offer to take on new assignments, or do work that no one else wants to do," Merrick told Business News Daily. "You will stand out and increase the likelihood that your boss or HR will try to work with you."

If internal advancement isn't a possibility, here are the next steps to take to find a more fulfilling job.

Think about what you want. Zhang said the best thing you can do to start taking your career in a new direction is to think about what else you want to do in life. She suggested asking yourself questions like these: What do you love about your job now? What are some things you've always been interested in? What are some interesting jobs you've seen friends and colleagues have?

"Take those answers and see what other fields utilize those skills and talents," she wrote.

Keep your profiles, resume and skills current. In addition to updating your resume, LinkedIn profile and other online portfolios, you should look into professional continuing education and training programs to make sure your skills are on par with industry standards, Goff said.

"There are countless ways to invest your own development, [like] listening to podcasts, going to an industry conference, or joining a professional association and going to weekly meetings," Merrick added. "You'll discover that your situation is not unique, and you can make great contacts while learning from the wisdom of others."

Tap into your network. Merrick advised enriching your professional relationships, both inside and outside your current company, to help in your impending job search.

"These relationships will always be part of your personal and career history, and whether you like it or not, they follow you," she said. "Many of the best job [opportunities] come from referrals. Someone sees your good work, great attitude and results, and reaches out to you."

Need more advice for landing a new job while you're still employed? Check out this Business News Daily guide.

Additional reporting by Elizabeth Peterson. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

Nicole Fallon Taylor

Nicole received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the managing editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.