This column originally was published in the November 2015 issue of 425 Business.
Long gone are the days of working for the same company for decades — or even for one decade. Yes, we still might be able to celebrate our parents’ retirement from a company they dedicated their entire careers to, but most of us who have entered the workforce during the past 10 to 15 years already are working for our second or third company.
This trend has little to do with loyalty. Some boomers may frown upon millennials that ask for too much from employers, such as more flexible schedules or benefits, than was offered to those now retiring. But the job-hopping blame doesn’t land on those of us trying to find a comfortable career; rather, the problem is with those who have been hiring us, causing epic proportions of 20- and 30-somethings to change jobs more than any other generation. It leaves our parents and grandparents to ask if we’re being too emotional or too impulsive.
As startups continue to bloom in areas such as the Eastside, office cultures constantly shift. Managers become executives who hire sub-managers to lead growing teams. That position you applied for? Forget the job description. For many who live or work along the Interstate 405 corridor, constant change is part of the 9-to-5. Knowing when that means your job — or the future of your company — is on the line, and when it’s time to look for a new job, is far from just an emotional decision.
Leaving a job is a decision some Eastside residents have had to make several times in the past few years. Take Charles Koh, who lives in Renton and is the vice president of product at Buckitdream, an early-stage company based in California. Koh used to run community management for Google in its Kirkland office. He’s also managed social media and events for a few other companies on the Eastside, and has contracted with Amazon.
Koh admits his job swapping has a lot do with his being a poor fit with the company, especially regarding leadership. “It’s important to work for someone you believe in and can learn from,” he said.
Work environment is especially important to Koh; if the work culture is toxic, it’s time for him to leave.
“It’s important to find a healthy work environment that is a safe place to communicate your ideas and collaborate with one another,” he said.
Koh tries to stick with a company as long as possible before quitting. He calls it “fighting it out,” and wants to try to better work with his boss before he, or his manager, ends up fired.
“There is no guarantee that your next boss will be any better,” Koh said. “It’s important to have a conversation with your boss and come up with a better understanding that’s triggering the misalignment. Oftentimes, having low visibility with your boss or not being transparent with working styles can cause conflict. Having increased communication and managing expectations can have a positive impact.”
That said, be alert to signs suggesting your job is on the line, such as obvious dips in your performance or people being let go around you. If that’s the case, it’s probably time to leverage your network and start looking for a new opportunity as quickly as possible.
Of course, you may want to leave a job for reasons that have nothing to do with how great your boss, salary, or PTO policy is. The more you actually like your job (especially if it’s particularly cushy), the harder it may be to wrestle with your own needs. You may find yourself wanting to go back to school full-time, desiring a better commute, or desiring a full-time job if you’re on a dead-end contract, even if those choices lead to a lower salary.
Wanting to be home more often, advancing your skills, or having a more stable career are all valid reasons to leave a job, regardless of the salary you’d be leaving behind. Knowing that you need to be a better person (whatever that means to you) is a sign that it’s time to leave a job.
Perhaps the best sign you need to quit is if you absolutely hate your job at the end of each day. Just be sure that when you quit, you do it right. Give appropriate notice. Don’t burn bridges. And be sure your family will have enough money in the bank to pay for the mortgage, food, and the rest of the bills until you find another job (which you should do before you quit, but sometimes sanity trumps salient advice). Don’t jump from the frying pan to the fire.
Remember: We work to live, not live to work. If work is causing you to fail to thrive, love life, and enjoy what you have, it’s definitely time to start looking elsewhere.