In previous posts, we have talked about how to secure a job, how to approach the competency based interview, and what to do if you don’t get the job. One of our readers recently asked the question, ‘How can I spot when it’s time to move on, before I might not have the choice?’ This is a great question and therefore the subject of this post. There can be clear signs that the tide is turning and that it’s time to start looking elsewhere. The really key thing is to make sure that you are the one in control of your career and that you have time in which to take action. When you have some breathing space, a job search is a very different prospect to when your hand has been forced and you have to find something in order to make sure the bills get paid. Sometimes you change as a person and it’s important to recognise when you have lost motivation or the desire to continue in your job; before your employer does.
Of course it’s not always possible to recognise signs or to have time to act on them; in some cases there may be nothing to warn you of a forthcoming change. Staff members at Phones4U could have jumped ship after O2 decided to end its contract in January this year; but things didn’t really look that bleak with the other big mobile networks still on board. It would have been difficult to predict at the time, that this profitable business was going to go to the wall, in the space of a few days, within nine months. Some staff were lucky to be picked up by Dixons Carphone, but the remainder were simply cast adrift with no life-belt. It was brutal to watch but it goes to show that any business model is vulnerable when markets change course.
Sometimes it’s not as drastic as your employer going out of business. It could be that the company culture is changing, a merger is on the cards, or just that your personal relationship with your boss has become strained. So how can you spot the signs and take action before it’s too late?
Your employer is not adapting to the changing market
At any point, an established business can find itself struggling with new competition. The rapidly evolving technology space has greatly increased uncertainty in many markets with ‘disruptive’ offerings. Black cab drivers are currently defending their market against apps such as Uber that threaten to obliterate their businesses. Perhaps instead of focusing efforts on protesting, they should also be looking at how to compete better? Uber is not going away and at the time of writing is pursuing one billion dollars of investment to fuel its relentless expansion. It serves as a timely reminder that any industry can be turned on its head quickly. Uber as a company is only five years old.
Change can also come from regulatory measures, or shifts in consumer sentiment. Take cigarettes as an example. The market is dwindling as a double whammy of regulation and changing consumer thinking is taking its toll. The smoking ban and greater evidence of links to disease both drove people away from cigarettes and also spawned the electronic cigarette industry. Huge changes have taken place and it’s likely that in a few years, more people will smoke e-cigarettes than normal cigarettes, or maybe they won’t smoke at all. Cigarette companies have been responding to the changing market by diversifying for some years and now some are competing in the e-cigarette space as well. McDonald’s is trying to keep its place at the top after consumers have become aware of more healthy choices. Sugar is firmly in the sights of campaigners currently and the industry will have to adapt as the appetite for sugar falls away. The companies mentioned are gigantic with almost unlimited resources so you would think that jobs are safe whatever direction the board decides to take the business. Everyone needs to look down the road, however, to see what’s coming. A thriving business today can be wiped out in a very short space of time, along with all the jobs. If you look down the road and see the approaching storm but your employer doesn’t, then maybe it’s time to take action?
Your company is merging or being acquired
There’s no hard and fast rule here and every case should be taken on its merits, however, if your role is replicated in the other business you are merging with, it’s possible you could be in the firing line. This is not to say that you should resign immediately, far from it. It could be that there are greater opportunities in the merged company. Experience tells us though, that eventually ‘cost savings’ will be identified and this means job losses. It’s typically the support functions that suffer in these instances. HR, IT, finance and administrative roles often take the brunt of cuts when companies integrate. If you can see that your job is being carried out by another department in the other company then perhaps you should investigate options elsewhere. Again, this post is about taking control, and if you have made contacts with recruiters and companies in good time, you are in a much stronger position. You never know, you might find your dream job.
You’ve suddenly gone out of favour
This does happen and it is not a nice feeling. Whilst we hope that office politics won’t play a part in our career progression, sometimes we don’t have any control over what occurs. It’s fairly obvious when things change towards us in the work place. Maybe your manager has started to treat you differently, or you’ve heard rumblings from your colleagues? Have you been passed over for a promotion you were expecting? Has the general mood in the office changed? These are all signs that something isn’t quite right. If you start to pick up on a change in sentiment, it is in your interests to find out why. The reason might be imminent redundancies and your manager’s reaction is one of stress and upset. Alternatively it could be that your performance has come under scrutiny at a higher level. You need to identify the reason quickly as it could be something you can sort out. If not, then at least you’ll have time to look for something else before the situation deteriorates.
Your work is not enjoyable anymore
This happens to all of us from time to time. You may find yourself scraping into the office with one minute to spare; and it’s become a habit. You might get that sinking feeling on a Sunday afternoon when you think about heading into the office in the morning. Perhaps you just can’t motivate yourself at work and you are spending hours on the internet? These are all signs that your time in that role might be coming to a natural end. If you feel comfortable doing so, then you should speak to your manager to explain what is going on and to see if anything can be done. This depends on your relationship though and if your boss is supportive.
Work should be challenging and exciting, you should take pride in your job and be enthusiastic when someone asks what you do. If you’re not then perhaps that’s an indication of the way things are heading. You can also get too comfortable in a job. If it pays the bills and the work is easy, then there may be little motivation to move on. It’s likely that eventually, if promotion doesn’t happen, you’ll stagnate. This can be dangerous for your career depending on the job role; if you’re in a job where you have to perform, such as sales for example, there are very few places to hide when your motivation disappears. Clients will pick up on it and you may find it’s getting harder to hit target. This becomes a vicious cycle which can end up with you desperate to leave at short notice and taking a role that isn’t suitable, just to escape.
You’re not being developed by your employer
Every person wants to feel appreciated at work, and to feel that they are contributing and being recognised for it. There are numerous studies showing that money is not a primary motivator for most people, but if you feel that you are genuinely underpaid compared to your peers, then speak to your employer about it. You really should have evidence to back up your argument though. If your pay is in line with market expectations, but your career development has come to a grinding halt, then this can also be very demotivating. Development doesn’t always mean training, as companies invariably will reign in training budgets in tough times. You could however ask for more responsibility and some mentoring either from your line manager or another colleague. This costs the company very little and can motivate people greatly.
If your request for development is ignored, or promised and then not delivered, this is likely to be a recurring theme and could affect your chances of progressing in your career. The outcome of training is for people to be better at their job, or to go in a new direction like management for example. If your employer refuses to develop you then it’s probably time to move somewhere that will. When recruiters view CVs, one of the key things they look for is steady progression. Your current employer can seriously affect the flow of your progression if you get stuck in the same role for a number of years without any sign of greater responsibility. Evidence of progression could be moving from account manager to senior account manager for example, or perhaps being handed a key account to look after. This shows you are trusted and that the company is confident in your abilities. A lack of progression will eventually take its toll on your prospects, so take action as soon as you feel things are slowing down. You could even pay for a course yourself, I have seen plenty of people do this and it is very impressive to a prospective employer as it shows initiative and drive to succeed.
There can be many reasons for a change in your prospects, but what has become clear is that no industry is immune to disruptive entrants and other market forces. If you can see storm clouds gathering and your employer is doing nothing to address this, things may be about to change for the worse. Mergers and acquisitions could present opportunities depending on your job role, but some roles will always be susceptible to ‘right-sizing’ or ‘resource efficiencies’. If you’ve detected a palpable change in your line manager’s attitude towards you, there will be a reason. It might be down to your performance, or something else happening in the company. Either way, you need to address it. Enjoying your work is vital if you want to stay long-term. If you’ve had enough or you’re treading water then maybe it’s time to reassess? You need personal and career development in order to be happy at work, and to feel appreciated. If development has stopped or you are no longer challenged, it could be time to move somewhere else. The most important thing is to recognise when things have changed and to do something about it, before events dictate otherwise.
Lawford Knight is a specialist recruiter for marketing, digital and sales roles. We are passionate about recruitment and building long-term relationships with like-minded clients and candidates. Please contact us today to discuss your next hire or career move. www.lawfordknight.com
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