On occasion I get time to meet with old friends or take walks outside the office with former or current coworkers. It is wonderful to get a chance to talk about life, current events, reflect on topics in a respectful and trusted form. In a recent interaction with a friend of mine the question of when to change jobs was discussed. Here are a few thoughts and pointers based on that discussion and a few of my own experiences.
In the beginning of a new job everything usually feels exciting. Coworkers are curious and approachable. People should be eager to show you the ropes and have intro-meetings to get you up to speed. In some situations you need to actively seek these interactions, in other situations people seek this with you. The idea is to stay open minded and a “rookie” as long as possible, it will enable you to learn the most. Sooner or later you will exit the honeymoon phase and instead enter the phase of expectations not being met, conflicts, and people actually starting to show their real selves. This is common group psychology and normal. However, if you find yourself 6+ months into a job and still not seeing the end of the conflict phase. Perhaps you should start evaluating month by month if you honestly can’t seem to find a way to get through to people and start the really productive collaboration phase. In some cases the culture you meet in a new work place isn’t a fit for you and you need to start evaluating your options.
- Have you exhausted all the tools in your tool box to get ramped up as needed and to reach people?
- Is it an option to discuss how to reach collaboration phase with your team perhaps with your manager or someone else you trust in the organization?
- Have you discussed the matter with your mentor (see previous blog posts on mentorship)?
- Is it just the growth with the new job that feels frustrating? Do you need to acquire new skills or ways to interact with new types of people?
- Have you lowered your guard and admitted your weaknesses in front of other people? Sometimes that is all it takes to start a trust foundation and rebuild relationships – even in the work place. Heart to heart discussions could help solving conflicts.
- Have you read any books on conflict resolution, the art of listening, group psychology? Sometimes a little self-education is the best way forward.
If all of the above have been properly evaluated and vetted, and the situation still feels exhausting, draining, non-motivating, and without no hope or end, then perhaps the job you thought you signed up for actually wasn’t a fit – be it the job or the work place and culture. In some rare cases a new job just isn’t the right job, and you can choose to quit. To quit a new job quickly, once, is ok on your resume. People with experience understand that mistakes of this sort happen. However, it is easy to spot a serial quitter if too many jobs have been signed up for, but not stuck out more than 6 months. Then it turns into a reflection of if you have problems with team collaboration or people skills in general. So 1) be careful to interview any new work place just as much as they interview you, to avoid the new-job quitting scenario and 2) try to grow as a person and stick a job out longer than 6 months, unless it is directly hostile of course, if you already have done a few quick-hire-quits. And last, if you find yourself being a serial-quitter, then it is time to perhaps re-evaluate your interview style, your career choice, your skill levels, or your evaluation process of potential employers.
Drowning or Sailing
I’ve forgotten who told me, but I’m pretty sure it was one of my mentors who shared the logic about drowning on the job. The point being that if you feel like you are “drowning on the job” not able to cope with tasks or overwhelmed by the ramp up required, it is both good and bad. If you are feeling this way a total of five days a week, you can be sure you bit off more than you can chew. If you feel this way four days a week in the beginning of a new job, it is a good sign. The first part of the learning curve is the steepest. However, if you feel like you are drowning on the job four to five days a week even after a year, you are probably on a path of burning yourself out, so time to ask for help or to pull out and admit defeat. If you feel stressed to the limit and can hardly step out of bed in the morning, I would sincerely recommend either external or internal coaching, depending on who you trust and what kind of mentors, managers, and coaching you would need help from.
Two to three days of drowning per week is a good motivation rate still. However, if you only feel like you are drowning a total of one day a week, then it is time to look for your next challenge, if you really want to accelerate your career and learning or growth. You grow the most the two to three first years in a job or a workplace. You can continue to grow if you take on new assignments or more responsibility, but after a while it truly starts feeling like you’ve done and seen it all. If that is your current state, it is time to shake the ground a bit. Not necessarily change work place, but definitely job role, team, technology (area of expertise) or take an evening class on some new topic (e.g. learn how to dance tango?). You need to stimulate your brain, or else you slowly but surely will get bored. Bored is bad. In most cases bored people turn either bitter, and start creating negativity around them, and thereby start hurting the team more than helping it. Or they become unproductive restless souls int he office, wasting other people’s time. So, one-day a week drowning is a good sign, in my opinion, to start looking. No haste, but start looking.
Bad Boss or Hostile Workplace
Obviously if there is any sign of harassment, hostility, or other type of violence going on, you need to prioritize your safety and well-being above all. If you can’t get the legal help and protection you need, you need to get out of there. There will be other jobs, but there is only one of you. It is their loss to lose you, your dedication, and your unique talents. There is no reason to stay and suffer under bad circumstances or incompetent management.
Lack of Growth Path
Another reason to start looking for other options is if you see no growth path. Have you tried all roles that you are interested in? If not, plan out to learn the skills to get there. Have you considered a side-move? Explore other teams in the organization. Is there a promotion within reach in the next 2-3 years? Is there a reasonable manager to help you get to your goals? Are there classes that could be offer on the side? Plan and execute for your own growth, if you still like the company and culture.
Sometimes the role you are aiming for gets assigned to someone else. In that case you could evaluate how long it would take for that person to move, or for the company to grow to need another person in that role. Is that person someone you can study and learn from for a while or not? Does another team has the need (faster) for such a role? Evaluate your options. There are always options!
Of course the above reasons are not the only ones to motivate change of jobs. There are many life events who will lead to evaluations. Also, unpredictable events such as acquisitions, bankruptcy, market crashing and reorganizations. Further, I haven’t touched on the topic of compensation and salary etc. More of that in another blog perhaps.
Maybe you at some point have a change of heart of what you want to do with your life? Don’t be afraid to evaluate such a step if you think it will make you a more fulfilled individual. I have friends who switched from high tech to yoga teacher or to jewelry designer. There are many paths for a rich career and personal growth path, so don’t settle for “just fine” or worse “boring”. Get the most out of your path. Why not start your own company if everything else fails?
There are pretty much no bad experiences. You either win or you learn. I think the only thing that holds us back from our fullest potentials is our fears. Question for you when in doubt: why do you choose to let your fears rule your life? Aren’t you in charge? Don’t you want to experience more?
Hope you enjoyed this post. Feel free to post questions below if you have any.