How do you know when it’s time to leave your current company?
Timing a job switch is one of the most challenging – and critical – career steps. Sometimes, the need for a job change is clear: you’re unhappy with the company’s culture, a pathway to promotion isn’t available, or you’re interested in a different type of work. But if you’re chugging along at one company, it’s easy to fall into a comfortable routine and never think twice about opportunities elsewhere. I’m encouraging you to think again.
Diversity of Experience Matters
I know first hand how hard it can be to leave a great company. Before joining Lucas Group, I was with a fantastic company for 11 years, helping to grow their business from the ground up. My coworkers were like family and I was lucky to have a very close relationship with my supervisor, who mentored me. I started working at this company right out of college and really “grew up” here professionally. Over the years, I received my fair share of calls from recruiters proposing opportunities at other companies, but I never gave these a second thought.
I joined Lucas Group after a cross-country move to be with my now-husband. It’s no exaggeration to say I learned more here in a month than I had in the last year at my previous job. I had been with my former company for so long that every day flowed like clockwork. Lucas Group has taken me outside my comfort zone, introduced me to new perspectives and opportunities, and helped me become a stronger, better recruiter.
The Annual Check-In: When Is It Time to Leave?
This article isn’t a knock on tenure, nor am I encouraging chronic job-hopping. But when you concentrate the bulk of your professional experiences at a single company, especially early in your career, you may be constraining your long-term potential. There’s tremendous value in working with diverse peer groups, clients, managers and industries. You’ll gain exposure to different leadership styles, different ways of thinking, and different best practices. When the time comes for a new job, these experiences can help make you more marketable to future employers.
There’s no magic length of time for knowing when to leave. The work environment at some companies may be so dynamic that you never know what will happen on any given day, even a decade into the job. Other positions may feel stale after just six months. That’s why I recommend an annual professional “check-in” with yourself.
- What new skills did I learn this year?
- What previously known skills did I significantly improve?
- How have I grown as a leader?
- If I were to create my dream position, how would that position compare with what I currently do?
- What are three things I can do to close the gap between where I am today and where I want to be?
These questions can help you reflect on how far you’ve come and where you’re headed. Your answers may affirm your desire to stay with your current company, or they may prompt you to consider opportunities elsewhere.
No matter what you decide, I encourage you to think long-term and to remember the expression, “you don’t know what you don’t know.” You may not know that you’re missing a professional experience until that experience happens. You may not know that your earning potential could be far greater elsewhere. That’s why it’s so important to stay curious. Ask questions, consider other possibilities and guard against complacency.
One of the easiest ways to do this is by answering those calls from recruiters. When you speak with a recruiter, there’s no obligation to apply to another job. Instead, think of the conversation as an opportunity to gain expert market insight from someone who speaks to companies every single day about open positions and desired skill sets. It can’t hurt to know more.