Gord MacKay is a certified career development facilitator with 20-plus years of experience in manufacturing
Many people find it difficult to recognize the signs that it's time to start looking for new employment. Do they see them but hope that things will improve, making a move unnecessary?
It's more likely that they do recognize the signs but succumb to a common aspect of human nature: to procrastinate until forced to take action.
Many people are content to carry on in whatever situation they're in because it's comfortable and familiar. People don't generally like change, and this becomes more pronounced as we age. So let's look at the signs that indicate that it might be time to move on to something new.
You've been in your position for five years or more, and there's no sign that a promotion is coming. I once worked with a man who had been doing the same job (inside sales) as me for more than 20 years. I was in my early 20s and he was in his mid-40s.
I asked him one day how he could do the same job for so long. He said that he enjoyed the work, was happy with the company and got regular pay increases. It didn't matter to him that there was no challenge in it. I left a couple of years later to take an outside sales role with a competitor. There was no way I was going to do that inside sales job for half of my career, no matter how comfortable it may have been.
People who came after you are moving ahead of you. This could indicate that management doesn't consider you to be the right material for promotion. Perhaps they feel you're at the limit of your abilities. It's also possible that you may have declined previous opportunities for various reasons and they have decided to leave you where you are. This happened to my dad. He declined a couple of promotions due to the locations of the positions and that was it. He was never offered anything above his position again.
You don't get asked for input. Whereas once you were included in strategy or development sessions, you're now on the outside. You don't even hear about certain meetings until after they've happened. It's a sign that others feel that you have nothing to contribute. While it could be argued that this might also be a symptom of "clique-ism," the social aspect of it should be secondary. If the people involved felt that you could make a valuable contribution, you'd be invited to the meeting whether you were one of the gang or not.
You apply for a role and your boss tells you that you're "too valuable in your current job" and that it would be difficult to replace you. That's the oldest line out there. You are not too valuable to move or lose. Nobody is. Your boss is gently trying to tell you that you are not going to be considered for that position. It may be that the opinion is that you've reached the limits of your abilities and they have no wish to prove that the Peter Principle is alive and well.
There's been a change in senior management, possibly due to a takeover or reorganization. The new people at the top either favour other people or want to bring in fresh faces. This is something I experienced when my employer and another company were purchased by the same individual and then merged to form one bigger company. Unfortunately for me, the senior management of the other company was put in charge of the new entity and they did not like the people from my former company. Despite having a good performance record, I felt unwelcome, unappreciated and unhappy. I left within a year.
What can you do if you're seeing any of these signs, but don't want to wade into the employment market? What can you do to improve your chances of being promoted? There are options. When was the last time you participated in professional development? When did you last take a career-related course that wasn't mandatory? Have you let professional certifications lapse? Have you ever updated your file with Human Resources to reflect volunteering or community activities? Is management aware of any new or enhanced skills you've developed? If you don't think these things matter, you haven't been paying attention and you can't always count on others, such as your immediate superior, to keep everyone informed. While it may rankle you to "blow your own horn," if you don't, nobody likely will.
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