Welcome to Refinery29’s career column Advice From A Nice Girl. Every month, readers can ask Fran Hauser, bonafide boss and author of the book The Myth Of The Nice Girl, their hardest career quandaries, from managing your overly emotional boss to overcoming your biggest work fear. But this advice column comes with a twist — the reader has to take Fran’s advice and report back.
This month, we hear from a 29-year-old senior research analyst who is looking for a new challenge.
Question: How do you know when it’s the right time to leave your job or transition? I am approaching my fifth year at my company; I love the people, I have grown so much, and I am hoping for a big promotion in six months. Yet I have this deep-seated feeling that I could challenge myself more and learn new skills elsewhere. I’m not sure when or if I should make the jump. What do you think?
Fran's Advice: What’s promising about your situation is that you’re in the driver’s seat — you’re not working in a toxic environment, and it sounds like you love your colleagues and have the chance for upward mobility. It’s such a gift when you find a company where you like the culture, the people, and are values-aligned. Also, because you’re in an exploratory phase, it’s worth waiting to see if the promotion comes through. If it does, the new role may provide new learning opportunities and come with a new title that could help with future career options.
In the meantime, look beyond your current track. Ask your manager if it would be possible to contribute beyond your current responsibilities, maybe on a high-profile project or cross-departmental initiative. Talk to colleagues and explore other options and career paths at your current company. Is there another department that you could move into where you would feel more challenged?
If the promotion doesn’t come through and if you’re bored and starting to not give it your all, it may be time to move on. For me, I knew this was the case when I found myself spending more time making grocery lists in my head than actually contributing in meetings! Start to pay close attention to your presence at work — if you’re distracted and reluctant to engage, that is a sign you may want to start looking for a different opportunity.
Recognize patterns in yourself, too. Pretty much every four years like clockwork, I moved on to a different company or took on a much bigger role at my existing company, so it’s not surprising to me that you are feeling this given that you are entering your fifth year. And that’s okay — often times new companies bring forth new challenges and that’s what our brains need to stay active.
There is no harm in exploring other options, even if you decide to stay in the end. Think through which specific skill sets you are looking to grow and start taking casual meetings with people in your external network to figure out which company might be a good home for you. Be sure to ask questions about the company’s reputation and culture and how decisions get made. You are the interviewer here!
You could also get your name out to executive recruiters to help you find jobs, negotiate higher salaries, and even pinpoint opportunities you may have never considered. Research the top recruiters in your field and ask to be introduced to them by mutual connections on LinkedIn. And try to attend relevant conferences where recruiters may be in attendance.
I’m confident that being bored at work and feeling stuck is a temporary situation for you. Once you pick your head up and start looking around, you will know exactly which direction to go.