It is no longer the norm in this generation to begin a career in the mail room and retire 35 years later as one of the top managers. People change jobs often and for any number of reasons. Leaving a job can be a difficult decision especially if you have a strong sense of loyalty to a company or you are dependent on the salary and benefits they offer.

If you are thinking of leaving, here are six signs it might be time to look for another job.

1. Apathy

In an ideal world everyone would do what they love and get paid for it. For some, that’s simply not the case. They needed work and they took a job. The hope is that most people would learn to like things about their job and would do it to the best of their ability until they got promoted or something else better came along. Apathy is different. Apathy creeps in when you’ve been in a job too long and you no longer care.

Signs you may be feeling apathetic include:

  • Total lack of stress even during difficult periods of work.
  • Checking out either physically or emotionally (web surfing, long lunches, coming in late).
  • Not caring about the general well being of the company or if reports get done on time.

2. Glass Ceiling

We all know it’s illegal to hold certain demographics back from choice jobs but we know it happens anyway. I’ve heard many a woman discuss how hard it is to get promoted during her fertile years until she announced quite openly that she was done with having children and her work would always come first. In other companies, you only have a chance at a top role if you’re over or under a specific age. No one will admit this but you can be pretty sure you’ve hit the class ceiling if you notice no one else in your demographic has ever made it higher than you currently are or if you hear the subtle comments, “We thought of you for this role but you have young kids and there is too much travel.” This one was said to me. I wanted to shout, “You have no right to decide for me what is best for my family. That is my choice to make!”. I didn’t. Instead I calmly explained that in the future I’d like to be considered if something like that ever came up again.

The glass ceiling can also happen in small companies where there is only so far you can go and only so much money that can be earned. At some point you may have to decide that you can stay at this level for life or it’s time to move on to something else.

3. Boredom

Boredom can relate to the glass ceiling. If you’ve made it as high as you can go and you’ve been doing the same thing for years with no opportunity for growth, it can be extremely disheartening. In truth, this is why I was so ready to leave my last job. I had hit the class ceiling. The only women in management roles were empty nesters. I had been with the same company for 12 years and in the same position for 6 of those years. I did my job well but I simply wasn’t using my quota of brain cells in a day. It had lost its challenge and when I suggested further training and specialization, I was told there wasn’t money in the budget and maybe in another 5 years. The thought of doing the same thing for 5 more years had me thinking there might be something else for me somewhere.

4. Emotional Leakage

Getting angry at your spouse? Yelling at your kids? Taking your work frustrations out on the dog? If the emotional baggage you are bringing home from work is leaking into your home life on a regular basis, this is a sign that things need to change. Deep seated resentments can take years to form. Cumulative stress compounds and can make your life miserable. There are times in any job where the stress will leak over into other areas of your life. If you are regularly finding yourself stressed out, angry or bitter and it’s consistently leaking into others areas of your life, it’s time to find something else.

5. Mistrust

Trust is foundational in working relationships. Has something happened that has caused you to mistrust your employer? Do you sense they don’t trust you? I can’t work in a place where mistrust is the default. If managers are constantly looking over my shoulder or checking up on me to make sure I’m doing my job properly, I don’t feel trusted. Yes, trust has to be earned but to last long term in an organization trust has to be there and it needs to go both ways. Some things that can contribute to mistrust include questionable ethics or financial statements, lying, cheating, rage or gossip.

6. A Better Offer

Sometimes a new job opportunity comes out of nowhere. A friend tells you about a job posting at his company. You happen upon a job posting and apply. Careers aren’t like relationships. Looking while still employed is ok. Be open to new opportunities along the way. If you find something better and think it will be a great fit, apply and see where it takes you.

There are many reasons to leave a job. Making the decision to leave is often the hardest part.

What are some of the reasons why you’ve resigned from a job?

Kathryn has been a staff writer for MDJ since January 2009. During the day she works in an office. In her off hours, she volunteers as a financial coach helping ordinary Canadians with the basics of money management. Kathryn, along with her husband and two children live in Ontario.

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Politics! OMG, can’t people just do their own job and leave me alone?

For me it’s boredom. Once it reaches that stage for me, it’s time to move on.

Out of school, I took a job for an oil contractor, which moved me from province to province for a year. This was difficult with a fiancee in Ontario, so I took a new job in the GTA. Good decision.

Good post as always, Kathryn. I’d add that to me it’s the “fuzzy cases” that are the trickiest. I left a job due to a combination of #2 (glass ceiling) and #5 (mistrust), but not the blatant kind that one easily recognizes (whether or not it is stated openly). It was more looking upwards, and realizing that to continue to be successful in my career I couldn’t be myself, I would need to change who I am (#2 in a fuzzier way) and that while I stayed true to myself, my superiors were recognizing individual achievements but not holistically giving me credit for how I was developing or trusting me with higher levels of responsibility (#5).

The reason I bring this up is not to tell my life story, but to highlight that it’s not just the “this is happening to me” factors but also the “this is what the future looks like” factors.

Finally, I’d add a big #7 – work-life balance exceeding your tolerances (this was essentially a topic of one of your earlier posts)

I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to do the research phase of my masters in biology at a government research facility. Hanging around there, and the subsequent contract positions that it led to, taught me enough of the federal administrative process to land an entry level job through competition in a different city. A decade and 2 relocations later, I find myself in Ottawa, looking at a different glass ceiling – language.

Newsflash here – many areas of the country, my hometown being one of them, are not functionally bilingual. I don`t think I heard anyone speak French outside of school until I was 15. Couple that with the requirement that all supervisors in the federal public service be bilingual, and I’ve hit my ceiling until I can learn French. As the federal government no longer pays for French training (and justifiably so – it`s ridiculously expensive), I am now in the situation where I am giving up my evenings and weekends to learn a second language so I can advance in a workplace that operates almost entirely in English. While not the end of the world, it is somewhat disheartening to wonder if I`ve reached the pinnacle of my career at the age of 29.

I know, poor me, right?

I was let go before I could resign. I knew I wasn’t going to stay due to 6 of the “7” reasons noted in the blog and comments. The biggests reasons for me were “no work/life balance” and “mistrust”.

Hmmm…. #1 (apathy) and #3 (boredom) sound familiar. Oh well – the money is good. :)

My conundrum: I suffer no.’s 1-5 — daily! Alas, no #6.

I have a gov’t job which pays 40% more than an equivalent private sector position (not to mention the minimal hours, extended vacation days, pension and benefits). However, it is the most horrid job I’ve ever had. The actual work is painfully mind-numbing and soul killing, and the “bosses” are the most atrocious, heinous, sociopathic(?) people I’ve ever encountered. As well, the system is deeply inept, incompetent, and impotent. Tax dollars well wasted, indeed.

I would dearly LOVE to move on with immediacy but I have family and finances to support. It will take me a few years to dig my way out of the government grave, but what else have I got to do!

Scott: I sympathize with your dilemma. I was given company stock at the last place I worked which I had to relinquish if I quit. It was very hard to throw that away, but I had to do it to keep a little piece of me from dying.

I love to beat a dead horse so….it’s even WORSE inside the walls of government. Why? Because a vast swath of employees/civil servants are under the same precepts Kathryn lists. It’s not just ME being too itchy for my own good — it’s the whole machine. These people live for their coffee breaks (they certainly don’t work for them!) **No disrespect to Frugal and his family! Things may be different on the East coast…** . Ever wonder why everything in the government takes 4-6 weeks to process? It’s difficult to have that sense of urgency when you know you will NEVER be rewarded for your stellar performance — poor workers get paid just the same as great workers. Industrious people who can’t stand it leave; the hole is filled with people of congruent ilk who stick. Thus the whole environment is boiled down to the bare minimum workmanship. Believe me, I see it and live it everyday. It is, however, incredibly difficult to give up all those public sector perks.

Long live bureaucracy!

These are all good reasons. It’s always been the “leakage” (ew) thing with me, I’m an emotional person and am not exactly overburdened with patience and combined with working in a notoriously stressful industry the result can be explosive. Honestly at this point I’d give almost anything to be bored for a while instead of putting out fires constantly … sounds like I should try government eh Scott!

I only left a job if the work environment did not suit me( anymore). I like to work in a pleasant environment since I spend a majority of my day at work. Fortunately I get on very well with most people, which is why I left only one job a long time ago. Since that one experience I have been very careful to pick the right environment which also benefits my employer. Fortunately I have had the privilege of choice in the past.

Mike4P: I see a big difference between apathy and boredom. I may have been bored at my last job but I did it well and gave it everything I had. When it comes to apathy, people cease to even care and their work ethic takes a nosedive.

Excellent points about work family balance. That issue is huge.

Kathryn, I meant that they are familiar as in I’m experiencing both of them. :) I agree they are quite different.

I’m right there with you all.

The problem in my office seems to be more related to politics. With a new CEO, came a entirely new way of managing things. He created a very tightly knit senior team that moves in a pack. They laugh and carry on with inside jokes in front of the entire staff. For a guy like me in middle management, there is nowhere left to go. The cliquey nature of the senior management is such that if you’re in, you’re IN and if you’re not a member they hardly pay any attention to you. The new CEO is very much into MBA’s, so without that – you are no longer considered for senior management.

None the less, apathy abounds as a result. There aren’t many jobs out there these days, so most keep their head down and keep at it. Lot’s of pent up turnover in the system, myself included.

Sometimes what you do for a living may need to change. For whatever reason some people “fell” into a particular field and then somewhere along the way they learned they didn’t really enjoy what they did. Sure, the pay may be fine these days, some of the coworkers are friendly, but at the end of the day they wish they were doing something else.

Then do something else. It is not worth spending a quarter to half of your day (depends on your hours) doing something you find simply okay or even worse. I dated a guy who spent a good 50% of our conversation talking about how much he hated his job. He was constantly passed over for promotions, partly because he did not have the proper upgrade in computer skills. When I suggested retraining or even going back to school he didn’t even want to consider it. The sad thing was his face lit up like a Christmas tree when he talked about architecture. He should have gone back to school to study that passion.

I know many will respond about all the financial sacrifices involved with doing something else. Yes, they do exist. My father decided to go back and finish his university degree after having two children and soon a third child was on the way. He continued with several levels of schooling. My family lived on very little until I was about 12 years old. But, my dad’s schooling and passion led him into a career he absolutely loved and eventually his salary was six figures. He didn’t care about the salary though, he loved the work.

As Kathryn writes there may be many reasons to move on to another job. Consider moving on to another career, if need be. Definitely do not stay in a job you hate. It will suck your life away.

I am so blessed and thankful that I have employment I love. It is challenging, at times exhausting, and frustrating, but mostly it is energy giving to me and it allows me the space to grow and help my students to grow.

PD….I feel like I should pay you some kind of therapy fee for your post!

Speaking of therapy…I know a private therapist who used to work for the government. He did VERY well for himself financially. Only thing was, he woke up every day, sat on the edge of his bed and cried. He H A T E D his job! He quit once, then went back because of all the perks and pay, and then quit again — this time for good. Now runs a private practice (but gets all his clients through the gov’t!).

For me, I can retire comfortably when I’m 55, period. So…do I spend time retraining myself into another career just to have to work another 10-15 (or even 20) more years past 55…or do I suck it up in exchange for 30+ years of retirement fun?

For some people (probably most people), their job is just that — a job. It’s not their passion. They fulfill that through other avenues.

As for the job-life-family balance…I also agree on the high importance of that. Just recently both my wife and I were approached by different companies for management positions. Both paid very well, however, that would have been the end of our marriage! Not really, but we would rarely see each other. So, we sacrificed money for time together.

No easy answers, really.

Before you quit, read “The Dip” by Seth Godin. It’s only 80 pages (a very small book), but it helps you to determine whether to quit or to stay. Tim Ferriss’s book 4-hour Workweek also has a great chapter about quitting your job – it’s not as hard as it seems. The toughest part is to be emotionally ready to quit.

i left one job because i wasn’t being recognized for my contribution. i was producing more than my older colleagues because i had a firm grasp of technology and how to use it. people around me couldn’t grasp the concept of a spreadsheet with more than 1 worksheet.

anyways, i was questioned as to why i was leaving at 5 on the dot, irregardless of the fact i completed 3 times more work than people who arrived early and stayed late.

i realized the managers put more emphasis on looking like you’re a hardworker than what you’re actually accomplishing so i left. and that was a big decision because it was a niche job that is very difficult to find in my city.

thanks for the post kathryn

Wow, what a great article.

I have had these feelings every time I quit a job… usually apathy or boredom makes a job a living hell.

Keep up the great posts!

Great article –

I will keep this in mind and always seek new opportunities for growth and development. :)