We all pick a job for a number of reasons; growth, current opportunities, compensation, future prospects, the list is endless. The novelty of a new role can last for a good amount of time and steady growth is like the cherry on the cake. If all goes well, three to four years or even more can pass in the blink of an eye and we can settle into the rhythm of things. We might even end up being there for longer and truly become part of the future!
Comfort in an organization and role is great except the time inevitably arrives when one needs to question oneself – is it time to move? If one is content, answering that question becomes that much harder. So, how can one tell whether it really is time to move?
The best indicator of how well you are doing is that your responsibilities gradually increase at least on an annual basis. The only exception would be if you are senior enough with more than 50 direct reports. In that case, the expectation of growth would vary depending on the industry, department, location, and a number of other factors. For any managerial role under 50 direct reports, assume that you must expect a steady growth every year.
Look at your career graph carefully and spare yourself the flattery; have you been asked to take on more projects or manage more people in the last performance year? Working round the clock is not a sign of desirability, being entrusted with new and bigger projects is. If you notice stagnation in one performance cycle set-up some time with your manager to understand the reasons. If nothing changes or no concrete plan to change the status quo is agreed upon, it is time to move on.
Occasionally organizational changes, management changes, mergers, acquisitions, etc can have an impact on your role. Sometimes the organization is in a position to offer options to an individual regarding their future role but this does not always happen. It is best to ride the waves of change and allow things to settle before assessing whether one likes the new state of being.
A minimum of six months and a maximum of a year and a half in the new role will reveal whether it is beneficial or detrimental to your career track. If it reveals itself to be uncomplimentary in that your role is reduced, stagnated, or is not what you want to do, it is time to look for a new job. Pay heed to how you represent this experience though, just because it did not suit you does not mean you are obliged to be apologetic about it. Communicate the role objectively and factually on your resume and practice an elevator pitch out loud so as to train your mind to focus on how it enhanced your growth as a professional.
Staying for the Company
If the only good thing about your role is the company of some enjoyable colleagues, you need to think long and hard about whether it’s worth it. Oftentimes we don’t notice the undesirable aspects of the role or the direction of our career when we are surrounded by people who bring us joy. Human beings respond to joy, appreciation, and respect because it secretes serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins in our mind. In this rare scenario, being happy can stagnate you.
Don’t let brain chemistry fool you. Feeling good is great but if it results in a loss of purpose, it is of no benefit. Ensure that maintaining relationships at work does not take priority over what you are there to achieve. Set time aside to assess your progress to your objectives and course correct as soon as you feel yourself slipping.
In conclusion, there is no one way to lead your career, and no set amount of time you should stay at an organization. It is about what you aim to achieve, how much you learn, and how effectively you adapt to the evolution of your goals.