Published March 27, 2013
We all have bad days at work. But if your terrible workdays turn into awful workweeks, months and quarters, it might be time to move on.
If you’ve been passed over repeatedly for a pro motion, don’t find your work fulfilling, and aren’t getting the compensation that you’d like, experts say these are signs that your career has become stagnant and that it’s time to take action.
“People tend to sit at a job for too long and they should be taking risks and getting promoted,” says Nicole Williams, LinkedIn’s career expert. While your first few jobs are to set your career pace and tone, if you are still in an unrewarding office environment in your 30s, it could have long-lasting damage to your career.
Facing a career transition is scary, especially in the current labor market. And while experts advise workers look before they leap, they also say a job should mean more than just a paycheck.
How to Tell Your Career’s Stalled
There are many subtle and not so subtle signs that it’s time to look for new work: are you coming in late and leaving early? Contribute less at meetings? Socialize less with the team? These can signal it’s time to shift gears.
It’s also a sign when you can’t shake the feeling that you just don’t fit in at the company, says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders.
Not all signs are obvious, sometimes it sneaks up on people, says Jolynn Cunningham, director of talent at Indeed. “Sometimes there’s complacency with people’s careers and it’s not always in your face.”
Failing repeatedly to get promoted or assigned important projects could also signal things have stalled. “When your boss stops caring that you’re showing up late, that means they’re not invested in you,” says Williams. “You’re as good as gone.”
One of the biggest red flags in a going-nowhere job is when you’ve stopped learning, says Brent Rasmussen, CareerBuilder’s president of North America. “If you’re no longer challenged, if you’re not given opportunities to continually grow and develop, it’s time to move on.”
You Have Red Flags. Now What?
Finding a new job is easier job while you have a job, so it’s important to keep working hard so you don’t lose your leverage in the job market or reputation.
But don’t wait too long to make the change. “The longer you wait, the more stagnant your resume is going to be,” says Heather Huhman, career and workplace expert at jobs website Glassdoor. “Sitting at a job for too long and not blossoming is worse than job hopping.”
It’s important to realize the difference between work lulls and hints it’s time to move on. Every worker faces downtime that takes a little energy to overcome and it’s important to realize the difference.
Here’s how to overcome your red flags and get reignited your career during a stagnate period:
Problem: You’re didn’t get promoted…again. “You have to really evaluate why you’re being passed on for promotions like the company not being able to pay you financially or you’re not doing the work,” says Huhman. In the past, people were automatically promoted after a certain period of time, but performance plays more a role now. “Every employee deserves to know why they’re passed up and if that means going above your supervisor, then do it,” says Huhman.
If performance expectations were clearly laid out in your review, be honest about whether you met them. “If on the second review you don’t get promoted, ask why,” says Williams. During that conversation, also ask how you can improve. If your boss has direct, tactical ideas, they’re invested in you and it could be a matter of you not being prepared for the promotion but if he or she doesn’t give you any suggestions, then you should leave, says Williams.
Problem: You’re not included in projects. “If you’re being passed over and left out of important projects or meetings, address your concerns with your manager,” suggests Augustine. During your one-on-one, reiterate your interest in succeeding at your job and find out if you can correct your trajectory within your organization. Augustine suggests developing a growth plan to repair any damage or fill in gaps in your skillset that may be holding you back.
Problem: You’ve stopped learning at your job. Outline a game plan for learning opportunities, whether it’s additional responsibilities, helping with projects outside your expertise or taking classes or pursuing a degree, recommends Rasmussen. When you approach your supervisor with this problem, emphasize the mutual benefit for you and your company and carve out a potential career path to get you to the next level.
Problem: You’re unhappy or bored at your job. Augustine suggests considering other options if your work has become so routine you could do it in your sleep and still do it well. Ask your manager if you could take on additional projects that are more challenging, which could also lead to a conversation about a future promotion, says Augustine. “You need to be in good standing with you manager to have these conversations. If you’re asking for more opportunities but your current work is sliding, it’ll be a hard sell.”
Problem: You don’t fit in. If you’re happy working at your company and the issue is primarily with your boss, Rasmussen suggests applying your skills in a new department—this may be your best bet. “If the company isn’t the right cultural fit for your work style and aspirations, then pursuing a job outside of the organization is likely the better route,” says Rasmussen.
The Big Question: Should You Stay or Go?
If you are hesitant to leave a company, completely moving within the company to a new team department could be the best options, says Cunningham.
Test the job market by sending out feelers before resigning and be sure to weigh the financial consequences of leaving a company including lost or reduce wages and retirement savings.
“If you’ve made repeated attempts to address concerns and it’s met with status quo, then it’s likely a sign that the organization is either not able or not willing to find resolution,” says Rasmussen. Consider whether you’ve valuable learning opportunities at the company, are passionate about your job, contribute to the organization in a meaningful way, have a supportive boss and have opportunities for advancement. “If your answer is no to these questions, find a place where the answer will be yes,” says Rasmussen.