BY Tracy Brower 4 MINUTE READ

Sometimes a job or a company isn’t what you’d hoped it would be when you signed on. It’s always important to give everything your best effort, but when you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, it might be time to make a change.

First, it’s essential to know that it’s a buyer’s market (with employees being the “buyer,” that is). Futurists have been predicting a “war for talent” for years now. Well, it’s here and that’s good news for workers. In fact, according to the latest US jobs report, we’ve had 100 straight months of increased employment, and by 2020 the predicted shortfall of highly skilled workers will be nearly 20 million. This means that as an employee, you can afford to be choosy when it comes to the work you’re doing and the company you work for.

Of course, you should always start by committing to be successful in your current job and company – and make an effort to focus on the things you do enjoy about your job. But if you’ve done your best and things still don’t feel like they’re working out, it might be a sign that you need to start looking for new opportunities. Here are five signs to watch out for.


Every job has its downsides, but it’s time to make a change when you feel like your work doesn’t matter. To be fulfilled at work, you need to have a sense of purpose and connection to the bigger picture. You need to feel like you and your work matter to the overall success of the team and have the opportunity to take risks and stretch.

Stay at a job where you feel stimulated. Not every day has to be exciting and packed with deep meaning, but if you’re not getting these things at all, it’s probably time to move on.


Even if your current job isn’t perfect, it’s smart to stay with a company where you can see the next step. On the other hand, if the company lacks opportunities for development, training, or mentorship, it might be time to move on. One of the symptoms of burnout is when you can’t see future growth opportunities. It’s your responsibility to go after new options and make yourself known, but if you can’t get anyone’s attention in your workplace, you’ll want to find a place where you can.


A sense of belonging is critical to our happiness. We experience social pain in the same parts of the brain where we experience physical pain, according to a 2014 study. If you’ve tried your best to connect with your colleagues, but still feel excluded or disconnected from your team or your colleagues, you may be in the wrong group. Cultural fit is personal and relative. The best organisation for one person may not be the best for another. So, just because you look around and see satisfied colleagues, the team may still not be the best fit for you. Consider trying another team or job within the company, and if you still don’t feel a sense of comfort and connectedness, move on.


This is perhaps one of the most significant factors in knowing when to seek another role or another company. You must be able to be fully yourself to be at your best. Of course, you still need to conduct yourself professionally – you don’t want to show up to work in your pajamas, and you can’t just stop showing up whenever you don’t feel like coming to work.

But in general, you need a place where you can apply your skills and talents, rock your unique sense of humour, and be appreciated for the unique gifts you bring. If the company doesn’t value you, or if they don’t recognise you for your contributions, it’s time to consider going elsewhere.


The bad behaviours that the company tolerates say a lot about its culture. If there is a lot of bad behaviour in your company and they don’t hold those perpetrators accountable, the environment can become toxic. Pay attention to your organisation’s heroes. Do their actions reflect your values and principles? If they don’t, take it as an important clue. Of course, the physical environment matters, too. Another way companies communicate their values – and how much they value employees in particular – is through their facilities. If your office fails to support your work or leaves you sapped at the end of the day, it may be another signal to leave.

There is one caveat in this discussion: In addition to deciding it’s time to leave, you’ll also want to consider your vision for what’s next and how you’ll get there. Rather than just getting out of your current situation, you’ll also want to get on with pursuing a positive vision of your future. You want to be energised to take the next step.

In this tight job market, you have more choices than ever, so take advantage of them. Commit, invest, and give a job and a company a fair shot. But trust your instincts when it’s time to make a change, because there are so many options out there, and you deserve to be at a company that recognises (and rewards) your skills and talent.

Tracy Brower, PhD, MM, MCRw, is a sociologist focused on work, workers, and workplace, working for Steelcase. She is the author of Bring Work to Life by Bringing Life to Work: A Guide for Leaders and Organisations.

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