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How to Know When to Leave your Job

When is the right time to move on from the job you’re in? When things are going well or when you’re miserable?


If you have a career plan, these decisions may be easier because you’ve set goals and you know what you’re aiming for. You’ll have spent your time developing new skills and gaining the experience you need to progress. Then you’re no longer making a decision based on how long you’ve been in a job, but how much you’ve learnt and how close you are to being ready for your next challenge.


But if you don’t have a plan or your plan has led you somewhere you weren’t intending to go, you'll need to re-evaluate your situation so you can move forward with confidence and assurance.



Deciding when it’s time to leave your job


There are a lot of factors that can contribute to your decision to leave a job. Maybe you need to move for family reasons, perhaps you’re having a baby (or your partner is) or perhaps you have the boss from hell and you’ve decided you need to get out.


Signs that it’s time to leave your job


There are some sure (and unwelcome) signs that it’s time to leave your job.


Here are 15 signs that it’s time to leave your job:


  1. You go to sleep every night dreading going to work the next day.
  2. You spend more time procrastinating than working.
  3. You’re constantly off sick or trying to find excuses not to go to work.
  4. Your work is affecting your health i.e. you drink too much, work too many hours, overspend and don’t look after yourself.
  5. You constantly rant to others about your job.
  6. You’re overqualified for your job.
  7. There’s no room for advancement in your company.
  8. The environment at work is toxic and negative.
  9. You’re frequently headhunted.
  10. The company culture doesn’t suit you.
  11. You feel oppressed by the work environment.
  12. Your job doesn’t fulfil you.
  13. You find yourself justifying your job. Who are you trying to convince?
  14. There's more about work to complain about than praise.
  15. You’re reading articles about leaving your job (ahem).


When to leave a job you love


It may sound crazy to leave a job you love, but there are good reasons for moving on, including wanting to progress in your career, change direction, stretch yourself and develop new skills.  Maybe you simply want to travel or take on a challenge outside work like starting a business or retraining.


Sometimes, it’s the right time to move on because something significant has happened at work or at home. Maybe your manager leaves or there’s a shift in the ethos of the company. Other external factors can have an influence too. For example, if your partner is offered their dream job in another part of the country or the world or you need to care for a family member who’s ill.


You may decide to leave a job you love because you’ve got stuck or too comfortable in your role and you want to stretch yourself again. If you’ve got a career plan, it could be that this is driving you to move on – it’s time for the next step and you’re ready to take it.



What if you only love parts of your job?


If you love parts of your job but don’t like others, you may think it’s time to move on. But moving on isn’t your only option.


Note the parts of your role you like and dislike and look into the possibility of changing the focus or scope of your role. This could delay the need for you to leave your job.


On the other hand, when you’re tolerating too much of the bad to enjoy moments of the good, it’s a sign that it’s time to move on.


What to do if you hate your boss


We don’t have to like everyone we work with, but if you hate your boss or find it hard to get along with your team-mates, it could make for a lot of miserable days at work.


Determine whether you can do anything fix or improve the relationships that aren’t working. Would an honest conversation with a colleague help you figure out how you could work better together? Do you need to talk to your boss to build a better working relationship or is the situation beyond repair?


Problems with your boss can have a particularly damaging impact. If your boss bullies you, deliberately side-lines you or treats you like their personal dogsbody, you may decide to contact HR and report the situation so it can be handled appropriately.


What to do if you work too many hours


Working too many hours seems to be endemic these days. Life becomes very monochrome when you work too many hours because you end up having neither the time nor the energy for a life outside work. There’s usually a limit to how long you can live like that.


If there’s no opportunity to reduce your hours, it could be that you need to make a change. That might mean leaving your industry too if long hours are the norm. But if you’re feeling burnt out, exhausted and purposeless, it may be your only real option.


How to resign


Depending on your reasons for leaving, it could be that you’re looking forward to or dreading your resignation. Either way, do it so you don't generate ill ill – either yours or in others. Give the notice required by your contract but if that’s too long, you may need to negotiate a faster exit by using vacation time or losing pay.


Hopefully you'll have planned for this day and know what you’re doing next. But if your decision to leave is sudden or the result of a confrontation, you may have less wiggle room.


Just do your best to remain dignified and at least appear to consider your employer’s needs. That way, when the anger and upset has subsided, you won’t have a nasty part on your CV that chases you around.



How quickly can you resign from a new job?


If you walk into a new job and instantly realise it’s wrong for you, you can resign immediately. If you’ve been there for a few weeks, you can still leave, but it would probably be better not to put it on your CV.


There’s no minimum period of time you have to work somewhere before you’re allowed to leave – after all, nobody can stop you leaving. But before you leave, it’s worth checking your employment contract and taking time to consider the impact of leaving quickly on your career and reputation.


Is leaving a job a good idea when a bonus is looming?


Your personal circumstances are going to answer this question for you.


  1. If your bonus is financially significant for you, it wouldn’t make sense to leave before getting it. If your next employer is willing to wait, it makes sense to hang on and get the bonus.
  2. If the money isn’t that important to you and it’s a case of now or never, it could be better to leave than hang around and lose the new job.
  3. If you’re leaving because you’re miserable or want a change, hang on for the bonus because it could give you useful cash for funding your next move.


Leave on good terms


No matter how bad things get at work, try to avoid just walking out. Apart from the fact that you might need a reference, you don’t want this incident to follow you around if you work in a small industry where everyone knows each other.


How to stop your current employer finding out you’re moving on


Despite your best efforts, it isn’t always possible to keep your impending move completely secret. Even if you don’t tell anyone at work, the fact that you’re planning to leave can seep out in many ways through what you say and how you behave.


If you’re job hunting in a small industry, someone else could easily let the cat out of the bag. That’s a risk you run when moving on.


But what about if you want to use social media to look for your next role or to let others know you’re looking around? How can you keep that kind of information under the radar?



Don't do your job search on company time


Not only do you run the risk of getting found out, it also doesn’t look good to potential employers that you’re using paid time to further your career.


Be discreet about your job search.


If you work in a tight-knit industry, approach your job search with care. Don’t blab about the fact that you’re looking for something new at work. Even if someone is your friend, they could easily give the game away without meaning to.


Create a limited-view CV


Create a CV that hides your contact details and removes identifying information.


  • Remove your name and replace it with ‘Confidential Candidate’.
  • Make sure your name doesn’t appear anywhere in the document or file name.
  • Use an email address that doesn’t reveal your name either.
  • Don’t name your current employer or the brand names of what they produce and only describe what the company does in general terms.
  • Leave references off your CV until you have a firm offer and are ready to share your news.
  • Only give your mobile number to recruiters or hiring managers.
  • Add a request at the end of your cover letter that your job search be kept confidential.


Raise your game incrementally


If you suddenly start looking for career-building opportunities and turn into a model employee overnight, your boss and colleagues are going to smell a rat. Once you’ve decided to leave your job, up your game little by little so you don’t set off alarm bells. Ideally, make a career plan so you can prepare for your next step as soon as you join the company.


Separate the personal from the professional


Don't go to an industry event as a representative of your company then let it be known you're looking for new opportunities. It looks unprofessional and may get back to your boss. Use the event to network and gather information. You can follow up afterwards (from your personal email) if you're pursuing career options.


Choose recruiters and job boards wisely


Don't submit your CV indiscriminately. Minimise the risk of your job search getting back to your current employer by working with a few specialist recruiters who understand your need for discretion.


Change your settings on LinkedIn


On LinkedIn Navigate to “Settings” and look for the option “Turn on/off your activity broadcasts.” Uncheck the box, hit “Save changes” and you’re ready to start editing your profile without anyone knowing.


Write a smart headline


LinkedIn allows you to write a headline that appears right under your name. Make sure this headline reads like a networking headline rather than a self-promotional one. It will make you just as attractive to recruiters but won’t raise the alarm with your boss.


Don’t use hype in your summary


Your summary needs to convey the message that you’re successful and happy in your current role. This way, your employer won’t get alerted to the fact that you’re trying to move on and recruiters will still see you as a desirable candidate.


Choosing what to do next


If you have a career plan, you’ll have already made some decisions about what you want to do next. However, it’s also possible that your role has led you to change your mind about your next step. Perhaps the plan you had is no longer relevant or feels less exciting or ‘right’ for you.


If so, seek the advice of a career coach so you can unravel what's gone wrong and what's going to be right for you next. Sometimes your plan is still a good one, but a bad experience has caused doubts and fears to surface. Before you make any radical decisions, review your plan and then talk through your options and adapt your plan accordingly.


Looking forward rather than back


However bad your job has been and no matter how damaging it feels, make sure you work through your feelings with a professional career coach so you can look forward rather than back. Once you’ve left your job, whether you loved it or hated it, move forward with vigour and look forward to something better.


If you need any help or advice about your job situation, do reach out to us.  We are here to help you take your career to the next level.


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