If you've had any kind of job ever, there has probably been a time when you've gotten frustrated with it for one reason or another — maybe even had the thought that you must quit immediately and move into a cabin where no one can find you. Perhaps it's a coworker with whom you just don't jive, maybe you aren't being challenged enough, or maybe you are dreaming of trying a new career path entirely. And while having restless feelings on the employment front is totally normal, how to tell when it's time to change jobs, for real, is usually a process that requires some internal probing.
Job search coach Suzanne O'Brien tells Bustle that there are three main elements to an ideal job: the people you work with, the work you do (your job function), and the reason you’re doing it (the company’s purpose).
"In general, if you like two out of three of these areas, and you see opportunity for growth and promotion, it may be worth staying. If you only feel happy in one out of three of these areas, it’s time to make a move," O'Brien says. "There’s something better out there for you."
Making a list and considering the good and bad of all of these categories is a helpful way to get clear on your thoughts and feelings about the position.
Another thing to consider, on a basic level, is simply how you feel, as in, how the stressors, tasks, people, or environment of your workplace are affecting your overall wellbeing, therapist and social worker, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle.
"If you find yourself dreading going to work in the morning more than usual, or you have low motivation and you procrastinate more than you used to," Powell says, these are all signs that your body is telling you to look at what's going on in your day-to-day.
"It could be that there isn’t an opportunity for growth or upward mobility in your current position and you feel pigeon holed into your role," Powell says, and that can cause feelings of stress or simply bum you out. Similarly, if the work environment is not supportive anymore and you don't feel as though the leadership team has your best interests at heart, this can be really dispiriting. If nothing else, it means it's time to really take stock of your position and what you want out of a work environment.
Now, if you definitely want to change jobs or feel super stuck, know that shifting your current circumstance is totally possible, even though it probably seems daunting. And also important to remember, O'Brien says, is that even if you are really considering and actively searching for something else, making the best of where you are right now will always be a good first step towards change and personal empowerment.
"When you’re searching for a new job, you may be tempted to pull back on advocating for yourself in your current role, or going for that promotion or raise," O'Brien says.
"But this is is what I call a low stakes negotiation; it's the perfect opportunity for you to ramp up your game on negotiating, speaking up on your own behalf, and pushing back on difficult coworkers," O'Brien says. "When you’re planning to leave, you can afford to be bold. You’d be amazed how many of my clients get offered promotions once they stop trying to be liked and take the 'go big or go home' approach!"
Again, whether you decide you need to get out of your work situation ASAP, or you just need to recalibrate where you're at, it's all good. Just know that you definitely deserve a work environment where you feel useful and appreciated!