When to make the leap to a new job

How do you know when it's time to leave your job? Follow these tips to help make your decision easier.

Everyone faces the dreaded "Monday Blues" once in a while. You may wake up in the morning convinced you'd rather have a root canal than head to the office, especially if you've been working on a tough project lately. You might swear that you're going to finally get that resume updated and sent out in circulation and be off to greener pastures. But then after a few days you're working on an interesting new project, and you're back to...

thinking life isn't so bad.

It's normal not to be happy with your job 100% of the time. If, however, you find yourself facing those Monday Blues every day of the week, you may have a problem. But how can you know when it's time to make a job change? It's not always an easy decision.

Thinking about leaving

The reasons why IT job seekers look for a new job are numerous. Often, the culprit is an unsupportive supervisor or dysfunctional team. In other cases, workers cite lack of fulfillment or life-draining work schedules and still others are looking to climb the career ladder or land a pay raise. In some cases, IT job seekers are jumping ship from IT altogether.

"There are people who are moving into other careers because the promise of IT isn't really there for them anymore," says Allan Hoffman, Technology Jobs Expert for career super site Monster, based in Maynard, Mass.

While all of these can be valid reasons to look around, it's important to be able to pinpoint exactly why you're unhappy. Career coach Jan Gordon, who runs a Web site at www.qualitycoaching.com, says, "If a person isn't clear about what's motivating them to leave and is not really identifying the problem, there might be things that can be done to address the unmet needs."

If you're considering a move in order to get a pay raise or promotion, be sure your expectations are realistic. While it's a bit harder to move up quickly than it used to be, "people shouldn't expect that they will move up and be promoted every six months or every year," says Hoffman. Unless you're truly stuck in a dead end position where you've been working a long time with no recognition, you probably should be patient in letting your career to develop. You don't want to be labeled a job hopper, he cautions.

What to expect if you do make a job change

There are a lot of good things about making a job change. You'll have a new set of colleagues, a new supervisor and a new environment than what you're used to. You may learn new skills and gain new responsibilities. There's a good chance you'll be seeing fatter paychecks too.

"People often make higher income after a move, even if it's lateral," says Gordon.

Remember, however, that each benefit can also be a drawback. If you've developed friendships at your old office and have a comfortable routine, finding a new job can force you to start over from scratch. You'll have to build new relationships and get used to a new structure for your day. You may find that a pay raise pushes you into a higher tax bracket as well.

Should I stay or should I go?

Although positive thinking can have a powerful impact on attitudes for some people, this isn't always the case. If you have recurrent negative feelings about your job, don't wave away your own feelings.

"When a person is discontent with their job -- whatever the reason -- they should look for a new job while keeping their present job," says career consultant Jim Kell, who works with JobHuntersBible.com. "In general, things usually get worse at work. This is often triggered by the person's view of the work," he points out.

If you're not sure whether or not it's time to look for a new job, you should try to decide whether the negatives of your job outweigh the positives. Kell suggests drawing a line down a sheet of paper, then listing reasons to stay on one side and reasons not to stay on the other, then reflecting on the results over a period of several days. "Then make that decision which brings peace of mind," he concludes.

Another option can be to see a career counselor. While you're likely to talk about your feelings with your friends and family, a career counselor can be an impartial resource to help you stay on track for your personal goals. They can offer you exercises and tips to help narrow down what you're looking for and guide you in developing a plan to achieve your objectives.

State of the IT job market

Whoa, you're probably thinking right now. It would be crazy to even think of changing jobs right now, with the IT job market being as bad as it is. There are thousands of IT workers out of a job right now due to downsizing and outsourcing. Shouldn't you just be thankful to even have a job?

While it is true that the market isn't rosy, "the job figures do show that there are new jobs being created," Hoffman points out. "It's still tough for IT workers, but things are picking up and looking a little brighter."

If you do decide to look for a new position, it's probably wise to keep your current job while you look. According to Kell, research indicates it's actually easier to find a job while you're employed, and that the longer you're unemployed, the more daunting your prospects. IT job seekers "should have a job in hand before they leave their present job, if at all possible," he suggests.

In addition, whatever the current market state, Kell points out that there's always hope. "The truth of the matter is there are always job openings. People retire, get fired, move, change jobs and die," he says. "The key, of course, is to be present at that company at the time the opening occurs."

Krissi Danielsson is a freelance writer and former TechTarget editor. You can reach her at kdd at danielssonarts dot com.


This was first published in June 2004

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