All too often, people miss the signs that their job might be in jeopardy or that it's time for them to move on to something else. Whether it's an impending layoff or simply your own increasing unhappiness, here are eight signs that you should consider looking for another job.
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1. Your company or division is struggling financially. If your employer is having financial troubles, and especially if you're hearing rumblings about layoffs, it makes sense to begin looking at your options. Remember, job searches can take a while--so even if you ultimately choose to stay where you are, you'll have given yourself a head start in case your job does end up in jeopardy.
2. You notice that you're getting a lot more feedback in writing. If your boss used to give you feedback in person and now she's putting criticism in emails, she may be creating a paper trail to build a case for firing you. Many companies require written documentation of problems and warnings before an employee is let go.
3. You've been miserable, angry, or bitter for months. Everyone has days when they feel like they hate their job, their coworkers, or their boss. But if that goes on month after month, it's a good sign that nothing is going to change and you should start looking for somewhere where you'll be happier.
4. It feels like your boss is always hassling you about something. If your boss feels that way too, there's a problem. Some people receive chronic critical feedback--because their work had chronic serious problems--but somehow, all they focus on is how they find it annoying to be "hassled" so much. They're missing the bigger picture and the ultimate point, which is that there are serious problems with their performance.
5. Your aspirations for your job don't match up with the reality. If you keep thinking that your job would be great if only X were different, it may be time to accept that X will never change. X might be your boss, or the work itself, or even your commute. Whatever it is, make your decisions about your job based on the reality you're dealing with, not on how you wish things were.
6. You imply that you're looking at other jobs and your boss doesn't seem to care. Smart bosses will try to move heaven and earth to keep a great employee, but they won't object when an employee who they consider mediocre is thinking about leaving.
7. Your boss shows no interest in your problems. If you approach your manager with concerns about not having enough resources to tackle that new project or about butting heads with the department down the hall, you want him to care. If he's unmoved, he may be signaling, "I'm not willing to change anything for you. If you want to make a change, it should be to a new job."
8. Your boss tells you. If you hear words like, "I need to see significant improvement," take them at face value. Many people block out these messages and then are blindsided when they're let go later on. If your boss tells you you're not meeting expectations, he's not kidding.
If you're getting signals that you're in danger of being fired, consider taking control of the situation by talking to your boss--and meanwhile, start looking around for other jobs. The worst thing you can do is to stay in denial.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.
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