Working as an IT professional is a demanding and competitive role, and like anything in life has its ups and downs. How many employers does the average IT pro work for in his or her career? It seems like a straight-forward question, but the answer is surprisingly complex because the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn’t track this data. Even if it did, you’d have to ask what constitutes a career change? Suffice to say the average IT pro will at least change employers a few times over a 20-30 year career.
Most experienced IT professionals can relate to having worked too long in at least one job over the course of his career. It’s amazing how sometimes a great job can seemingly change overnight into a caustic situation. Other times, the epiphany is more of a slow burn that builds up over time.
Moving on can be necessary at times for professional development, financial or even health reasons. So how can you tell whether that feeling is all in your head or whether it really is time to look for greener pastures?
CIO.com spoke with industry professionals to help spot the warning signs that indicate it may be time to quit your day job.
1. The Numbers Don’t Add Up
This can be a number of things: Perhaps you notice vendor bills that are normally paid on time aren’t any longer or maybe you notice the stock price tumbling. “While one bad quarter does not make a bad company, if you are seeing quarter over quarter trending downward, that is a compelling sign that the company may be in trouble and your job may be at risk,” says Dave Sanford, executive vice president at WinterWyman, an IT staffing firm with clients throughout the northeast.
2. Where’s My Money?
If you aren’t getting paid on time, it’s likely your company is navigating some dangerous financial straits. Dusting off your resume and preparing for the worst can only be in your best interest.
3. Your Company Doesn’t Invest in Its Employees
When you feel like there is room for advancement and your company is supportive when it comes to professional development, it shows in your work. You are compelled to do your best. The opposite is true for companies that don’t create clear advancement paths or don’t help their employees grow professionally.
4. You Dread Going to Work Each Day
If your passion is gone, this is an obvious sign that something is wrong. Whether it’s long bouts of boredom or a boss from hell, working in a situation like this is not good for you professionally or for your health.
If going to work ties you up in a knot or you’re losing sleep thinking about work, this is a strong indicator that it may be time to start looking. “Everyone deserves to find a job that meets their values, the opportunity to use and excel in your top skill set and doing something that you love. Once your ability to get a solid night’s sleep doesn’t occur, you are not performing at your best,” says Jayne Mattson, senior vice president at Keystone Associates, a career management and transition services consulting firm in Boston.
5. Your Company Has Undefined Goals or Isn’t Keeping Up With the Industry
If the buck gets passed on a regular basis and no one can answer important or time-sensitive questions, this could be an indicator that it’s time to start preparing to leave. “If your product is dated or becoming obsolete, or if your competition is a better provider of the service you are offering, this is strong indicator that things are not going in the right direction and it may be time to explore other professional options,” says Sanford.
6. Communication Has Slowed
“When times are challenging, most companies tend to under-communicate. They aren’t necessarily skilled in the art of delivering difficult messages, and rather than share bad news in the best way they can, they don’t say anything,” notes Sanford.
If you’ve noticed an obvious silence from your boss or too many closed door meetings, it could signal that it’s time for you to investigate. “If your boss isn’t talking, find out why. The answer could help you decide if it’s time to leave,” says Sanford.
7. High Turnover Rate or Key People Leaving
Turnover happens at every company, but if you notice a brain drain of all the best performers in your office then maybe it’s time to start networking. “Turnover is inevitable in any organization, but if many of the best people are moving on to do other things, it’s a bad sign and could signal the company isn’t as healthy or strong as it once was or needs to be,” says Sanford.
8. Restructuring and Reorganizing
Did your boss suddenly change? Are colleagues or teams being moved around without explanation? “I was with a specific team for years when suddenly it was decided that I didn’t belong on that team but on another one,” says Linda Cole, Internet consultant and editor. “I was removed from the one team, but never included on another. Then it was decided that my websites should be combined with other related websites. ” This can often be a sign that the company is struggling to find its focus.
If your company CEO changes, it often means reorganizing to work towards his new vision of where the company should be. This could potentially leave you or your team holding the proverbial bag.
9. Your Company Has Instituted a Hiring Freeze
You may know about it or you may not, but when you start noticing that people who leave or are fired are not being replaced, this can be a warning sign that your company is in a financial pickle. It may be time to start looking around for other indicators. “I watched rather startling layoffs of groups of people occur over the course of a year or so. The work-load wasn’t decreased; it was instead picked up by those who remained. I should have seen the red-flags,” says Cole.
Feel like you’re doing the best job you can, but you just can’t seem to advance? Have you told your manager how you feel? Are you the best candidate for the promotion you have been seeking? If you answered yes to these questions, then perhaps it’s time to start looking for another employer that is a better fit. “If you are not being asked to take on high-visibility assignments and your subordinate is now in the spotlight, being asked to lead a major project working directly with your manager,” says Mattison, “it may be time to leave your job.”
Rich Hein is a senior writer for CIO.com, covering IT careers. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, on Facebook, and on Google +.