How I Knew It Was Time to Leave a Great Job to Advance My Career

A career shift is a huge deal, so how do you know when you're ready?
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A career shift is a huge deal, so how do you know when you're ready?
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Photo Credit: Belathee

When the official job offer popped into my inbox, I was beyond elated. To finally have an offer to do what I love for an innovative and game-changing brand? Incredible!

But I was also conflicted. My current job was a good one. I worked at a company with a culture that fostered independent thinking and engaged my creative and analytical skills. I could mentor and teach others and receive mentorship myself. So would it be a mistake to leave? Would I regret it? What if the career shift didn’t turn out how I hoped?

The thing is, I wasn’t unhappy in my present role. I had managers who supported and challenged me, coworkers who were fun and intelligent, and I loved the work. But not every career transition comes from external influences such as a bad boss, a stifling culture, or unrecognized contributions. According to LinkedIn’s 2015 global survey of recent job changers, the top reason that people switch jobs is career advancement. This was the case for me.

So, how do you know when it’s time to start looking for a new role, either internally or somewhere new?

When considering a career transition, it’s important to evaluate your professional priorities in isolation from your current job or prospective opportunities. Once you identify your goals, you can better weigh the pros and cons of a move. It’s easy to stay in a comfortable but stagnant job to avoid taking a risk that may or may not work out. The unknown is scary. LinkedIn’s survey also found that the primary obstacle to transitioning to a new job is not knowing what it would be like to work at another organization. It takes a leap of faith to discover what’s best for you.

When I was making my decision, I relied on a lot of self-evaluation to guide my choice. Here’s a look at my rationale for leaving my job to advance my career.

01. I knew my strengths.

First, I honestly evaluated my personal strengths. As a client-facing marketing strategist, I saw two career paths: moving up the ladder into management, which would mean that my focus would become more dispersed for high-level strategy work, or choosing to become a specialist. As I looked at where I thrived the most, I realized that I longed to position myself as an expert in my respective field.

So when I looked at the next managerial role in my current company, I saw that my responsibilities would expand to oversee the strategy work for a bigger portfolio of brands in a variety of industries. While stimulating in its diversity, dividing my attention more would frustrate me. I also realized that if it didn’t bring out my personal strengths, I knew my contentment wouldn’t last.

If you’re an entry- or mid-level employee, picture yourself in the leadership positions. Would you like it?

02. I hit a learning plateau.

With a few years under my belt, I was a seasoned employee. I had grown my skill set, earned a promotion, and taken advantage of the many learning opportunities my company and role offered. I sought out and created opportunities to challenge myself and take initiative. But I still came to a point where I no longer felt intellectually stimulated by my day-to-day work.

If your role fails to fuel your intellect independent of your own ambition, it may be time to move on. You can always find ways to grow in any company, team, or role, but you shouldn’t have to look too hard. Otherwise, your talents may become stagnant, which may lead to negative feelings—for some, that’s frustration; for me, it led to apathy.

03. I was stuck in a routine.

A routine keeps you on track day in and day out. Sure, it helps structure your life, but an overly predictable schedule can also restrict your professional growth. You’re less motivated to take chances outside of your norms when you’re comfortable.

I found that my job-related routines were thwarting my creativity and even my productivity. I had tried-and-true methods for crafting and executing strategy problems, which was helpful at first, but then my work became repetitive even with new projects. Designer and developer Vitaly Friedman reflects: “Routine is deadly for creativity. It’s deadly for innovation . . . because it hinders spontaneous decisions, random experiments, and weird ideas.”

To break free of a routine, you need to shake up your ways. And sometimes this means your job. With new responsibilities in a new atmosphere, I knew that I would stretch outside my comfort zone. Creating new routines would refresh me.

04. I wanted to expand and diversify my skills.

I was secure in my job and confident in my abilities. I had reached a point where I wanted to broaden my skill set and challenge it in new ways. Because I desired to be a specialist, I wanted a role in which I would have more control over shaping and optimizing the strategies I developed.

If you feel like you have maximized your growth opportunities, don’t waste time. Find a role that allows you to apply what you know while learning new things. I found an opportunity to do just that. Even interacting with new personalities and working within new processes can bring your abilities to the next level.

05. My long-term career goals put me elsewhere.

With all of the above in mind, I compared my current job and prospective role. I projected my long-term career goals and evaluated how each role did or did not help me get there. While the professional relationships I formed had shaped my career growth thus far, I wanted to grow even more—and in different ways. My passion for marketing went beyond implementing best practices. I wanted to develop new and original solutions even if this meant I would no longer be in a client-facing position.

Granted, my objectives may change—as yours might, too—with more experience and exposure. I’m far from a guru! But you have to think about what’s best for you right now without wallowing in what-ifs. Make a decision, and stand by it.

When weighing options, it’s easy to fall into a grass-seems-greener mindset. Make sure that you analyze your situation with intention before jumping ship. But remember, it’s not the end of the world if you make a move that doesn’t work out. It’s just as valuable to find out what isn’t a good fit, and there’s always going to be another opportunity out there.