The surefire way to know if it’s time to move on from your job
Imagine it’s 2pm at work.
You’ve had a busy day. You haven’t eaten and you are hungry. You step out of the office building and walk to the food court. Everything looks and smells great right now. You make a quick decision, buy something unhealthy and eat it.
Then regret strikes.
You ask yourself, ‘Why did I eat that? It looked good at the time, but I know I shouldn’t have.’ Now you’re doing the walk of shame back to the office.
Some people treat their careers like this.
They are busy with work, ignoring the signs that they badly need some self-care, and then when things get bad, they rush out to find the next job – and often regret it.
You might be one of them. You work hard, stay busy – busy, busy, busy – and don’t notice opportunities that could improve your current job and accelerate your career towards your goals.
Then, something changes…
A new manager you can’t stand joins the team, the company announces job cuts, you miss targets and the pressure mounts. Now you realise you need to find another job, and quickly, so you look at online jobs, apply for a few, go to a couple of interviews and accept the best available one, only to regret it three to six months down the track.
But unlike the food court analogy, where you can make different food choices each day, you can’t do this when it comes to your job and career. You don’t get to choose a different job to work in every day, so don’t treat your employment like your lunchtime choices.
Given that timing and objectivity are critical in the process of finding and changing jobs and a career, I’m often asked, ‘When is a good time to start looking for a new job?’
I say, ‘It depends what time it is on your job maturity clock.’
Consider a classic analogue watch or clock with a long hour hand and a shorter minute hand. If we go in a clockwise direction around the watch or clock face, we follow the phases of how your learning, results and satisfaction in your job will typically track over time.
Stages of the job maturity clock
Stage one: the learning phase.
This stage is typically your first two to three months in a new job. It is the phase of high learning and low results.
Stage two: the growth phase.
This stage will typically range from six to eighteen months. During this stage, you are gaining knowledge and understanding of your environment and analysing its strengths, weak- nesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT). You have settled into your job and are achieving results. Your productivity and results keep improving. This is the phase of high learning and high results.
Stage three: the maturity phase.
This stage can typically range from one to three years. It is the time when you’re achieving your peak performance in the role.
You know your environment well. You are highly productive and making a difference in your job. This is the phase of low learning and high results.
Stage four: the stagnation phase.
This stage can come as early as eighteen months or up to three years, depending on your career trajectory, the speed of change in your role and the company and industry. In this phase there is little or no learning and personal development, so you are no longer growing in the role and you can do your job ‘with your eyes closed’. This is the phase of low learning and diminishing or low results.
Sometimes your results remain high, but the expectations of performance have gone even higher. In the words of a number of high achievers, ‘I have become a victim of my own success’.
Job maturity learning and results
I recommend to people that the learning and growth phases are too early to look to change jobs. You really need to get to the maturity phase and achieve results to even be open to exploring opportunities. This stage has a good give-get ratio, where you have received investment of time, energy and resources from your company, and you are giving back results and making a difference.
It’s in the maturity and stagnation phases – the second half of your time in the role – that you need to switch on to opportunities within and outside your organisation, and be ready to explore and assess each opportunity on its merit and fit with your values and goals. Like professional athletes who move between clubs, timing is critical to maximising your value.
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