You’re disgruntled. You’re bored. You’re restless. You’re dogged by the sensation that there are other jobs at other firms in which you would be more fulfilled, better appreciated, better paid and better positioned for future greatness.
Are these simply seasonal jitters, or should you succumb to them? Here’s a checklist to help you find out.
Your job may be torpid, but if it suits your current lifestyle you could be a fool to throw it in.
"If there are demands on your personal life - like a new baby that keeps you up all night, a new house which you're settling into, or caring for elderly relatives, then it can make sense to stay in a job as part of holding pattern," says Linda Jackson, managing director at careers consultancy 10-Eighty. "If your resources are being stretched elsewhere, it may not be the time to stretch yourself further at work."
As a way of reappraising your job's suitability to your current needs and aspirations, it's worth asking whether it's the kind of thing you really aspire to now.
"When you were hired, you knew the organization and role was a good fit that met your work and life values. However, with the changes in the organization you’ve noticed you are no longer feeling satisfied with your work. The culture has shifted and you are not able to perform at your fullest potential. Ask yourself: If you were to interview at the company today, would you want to work there?" says Jayne Mattson, a senior vice president and career management coach at Boston-based Keystone Associates.
Are you still part of your boss's inner circle?
"Your relationship with your boss has changed," says Mattson. "For years you’ve had a fabulous working and personal relationship with your boss, but you begin to sense a shift in the organization’s culture and the boss’s leadership. You are being asked to take on more responsibility and do more with fewer resources. The relationship is deteriorating and you feel like you are losing your support system, confidant, and advocate within the organization."
"Does your boss still look you in the eye?" asks psychologist and author Oliver James. "Is his/her behaviour consistent with how it was in the past?"
Matton says you need to look at whether you're being left out of key meetings. Are decisions being made without your input and do you disagree on their direction. "You’re losing influence with upper management and are no longer “in the know.” Your subordinates begin to ask others for input and decisions, which further diminishes your authority," she suggests.
Beware when questions are being raised about your performance. "You need to be aware when it cones to your attention that your superiors - and maybe even your peers- are questioning your performance in terms of objective metrics like revenues and profits," says James. "Worse, almost, is when people start questioning your performance against subjective measures like 'playing for the team.' Most of this is utter rubbish, but it can be used against you."
If you're thinking of leaving because you want more pay, beware. Recent research suggested that most people's pay peaks in their 40s and that high pay in later life is predicated by very high pay in your 20s and 30s. Some people still get pay rises in their 40s, but they're a minority. Are you swimming against the tide?
"If you think you have evidence that everyone else at your level is getting paid more than you. and that your market value is greater than your pay, then you may want to raise it with your boss," says Jackson. "However, you need to be very careful about doing so - a lot of pay information is based upon word of mouth and simply discussing pay could cause ripples."
"Asking whether you're paid fairly is like asking the length of a piece of string," says James. "Finance people constantly compare their packages to others without really thinking what they're basing their assumptions on. You need to stop thinking about fairness and starting thinking about the value of your contribution to the company."
As a follow-on to point 4., Mattson says your position can be come untenable when you don't support the direction the company's taking and vocalize this to colleagues. "You are feeling frustrated; your input is not being heard because what management is hearing are undertones of dissent in your voice versus the content of what you are saying," she says.
Are you stuck in a job which is all about presentation and perception rather than actual performance? And is this getting in the way of your work? "At the end of the week, you have spent more time managing the politics than accomplishing something on your “to do list”," says Mattson. This is a bad sign, if so.
Is work-stress sapping your ability to relax? And is the prospect of work as appealing as a deep-fried gherkin?
Mattson says it's a bad sign when. "the pressures of work assignments, tight deadlines or disagreements with your manager have resulted in not getting a solid night’s sleep." It's also a bad sign when getting out of bed for work each morning is akin to anticipating a cold shower in Chicago. Mattson says: "We spend a majority of our lives working, so don’t ignore the signs that say “it is time to move on." You will find another job where you look forward to going to work each day!"
No matter how exhausted, sidelined, disaffected, disgruntled and realistic you are, it's no good succumbing to the urge to throw it all in without first verifying that you have other options. Check the market, says Jackson. It may be that you can't move into another job immediately. If so, which additional skills do you need? You may need to hold your tongue and keep working until you've equipped yourself with the qualifications and abilities you'll need to move on to something else. Bide your time.