How do you know if you’re in the right job?

How do you know when it’s time to leave or time to change?

In our recent podcast, Advice for Our Younger Selves, the Think Tank covered what advice we’d offer to the younger versions of us. But how do you know when to leave a job? What are the questions to ask yourself? What are the signs to look for? 

For me, I’ve always grappled with when to move on.

Like most folks, I struggle with change. I’ve also had the privilege to work at several wonderful places and have been torn by a sense of loyalty (& lets be honest, stubbornness) that made it hard to move on, even once I no longer felt like I was really serving myself or the organization.

Not only is it stressful to stay in a place too long, it’s also a hit professionally when you’re trying to climb that corporate (or not so corporate) ladder.

If you’re thinking about whether you’re in the right role, right organization, right now, stop and  take a gut check. Here are three questions to use when asking should I stay or should I go.

Does my company  align with my goals and values?

Start with the organization. Does the company you work for align with what you want and where you’re headed professionally.

Maybe the role you’re in today isn’t the best fit but the organization is one you want to stick with. Or maybe your role is a perfect fit but the organization isn’t right for you. Sometimes the culture of a company won’t align with your value system and that’s OK. Move on to another one that will.

I highly value autonomy and empowerment. I’ve learned that I don’t work well when micromanaged, but I love to be coached and offered feedback. My goal is to constantly be learning and developing, so it’s imperative for my success to be at an organization that aligns with that goal.

What are your goals? What are your values? If your company is at odds with them, then you are definitely in the wrong spot.

Am I in the right role?

This is a question I ask myself regularly. My role is perfectly suited to me and I love it. But it is also challenging, the hours can be inconsistent, and I get tired. It’s important to spend some time reflecting on where you want to be and what your role is in this moment.

Instead of reacting emotionally when I’m tired or frazzled, I review my professional goals and I ask myself am I just tired or is this role no longer serving me. If I’m just tired, then I look at scheduling a personal break. Even though I love my job, I still think the regular reflection is important. It keeps me from being complacent or allowing short term “bad moments” to dictate my decision making.

I’ve been in positions before where I worked hard but my skills and talents weren’t right for the job. I’ve also been places where the job wasn’t right for my skills and talents. You spend 40+ hours a week at work and it’s a huge waste of your time if you’re lukewarm on it or not performing to your capacity.

Are you passionate about your role? Does it fulfill you? Do you have the skill set for it? Do you have the drive to be awesome? If not, you might be in the wrong role.

Am I being compensated fairly for the effort I put in?

I can’t stress the importance of understanding the whole compensation package before asking yourself this question. Most folks think about compensation as your paycheck. But equally important are the items that don’t necessarily pencil out to dollars in your bank account today:

  • Retirement plans (401K matching, pensions, etc.)
  • Healthcare benefits
  • Profit sharing, bonus pools, stock/share options
  • Paid time off (vacation and sick)
  • Flex time or telecommute options
  • Professional development opportunities
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Additional perks (childcare, gym memberships, meals/snacks, etc.)

When looking at your compensation, your salary is one component but there are so many other considerations that can be as important as your salary because they are serving your future financial, physical, and mental health.

There are also some intangible compensation elements that make a difference. I had a manager once that took my whole team out for manicures (we were all women) after a big success. The reward was so minor but the feeling of accomplishment being celebrated with the whole team had an incredibly positive effect. I’ve also worked places that had employee recognition sharing system. All these little touches are ways to compensate performance.

Compensation can come in many forms but when you step back and really look at what an organization is investing in you and what you are investing in it, the pay off should match the effort. Not all organizations can offer the same type of compensation so this isn’t a value judgement on what is “good” or “right” but rather a question of are YOU getting enough for what you put in?

Are you making what you’re worth? Are you getting benefits that show the organization values you? If you feel like you constantly come up short, then it’s time to assess whether your current job values your worth.

Instead of being scared to leave an organization or a job, we need to be constantly assessing whether this role is still serving us professionally. If it is, then give yourself a high five and go kick some butt. If it’s not, then give yourself a high five and go find the next opportunity.

Don’t get so attached to a job that you don’t see the writing on the wall. You should be growing and progressing through your career and it’s much worse to stay in the wrong spot then to grow into the next opportunity.


Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash