All Articles Leadership Careers Knowing when it's time to move on

Knowing when it’s time to move on

6 min read


When you’ve invested a lot of time and effort in a company, it can be difficult to move on. It’s daunting to leave behind stability to start from scratch.

I speak from experience. I stepped away from a company that I had invested nine years in building to start, a purposeful media brand celebrating the achievements of remarkable women, and S.H.E. Summit Week, a leadership and lifestyle event week for women. I had to ask myself: What cost am I paying if I stay, and what am I giving up if I don’t make the leap? When I finally made that decision, I realized my personal work lacked purpose and my creativity was stifled. If I didn’t listen to the inner voice begging me to do something different, I would become a person I didn’t want to be.

As we build our careers and find professional success and personal stability, it becomes easier to put ourselves last and neglect where our true passion lies. When you pursue your dream, not everyone will understand your decision; they will question if it’s financially sound, expect answers that you don’t have  and maybe even tell you you’re crazy. I faced all those, but the rewards have been worth the risk every step of the way.

Career transitions are not for the faint of heart, but they are sometimes necessary if you really want to feel fulfilled. If you’ve been thinking about finding a new position, digging up those old business plans or even switching to an entirely new industry, here are three signs that now is the time to make the move:

You don’t like the person you’re becoming. Unfortunately, unhealthy work environments can bring out our worst habits. Situations can trigger defensiveness, a sense of entitlement or lack of confidence. Before you know it, you’ve become that person so consumed with negativity, turning off friends and family with the same complaints they’ve heard 100 times. When you realize the woman in the mirror no longer reflects the positive ambition you once had, it’s a sign that either you or your environment has to change.

Christene Barberich, editor-in-chief of Refinery29, encourages us to swallow the fear and stop wasting time being someone we resent. “When it comes to career, I have always listened to my heart, and if something doesn’t feel right, I just can’t pursue it. It sounds corny, but I think it’s what yields the most personal satisfaction and fulfillment. And I just never want to be someone who says, ‘I wish I hadn’t always played it safe … I wish I had done that.’”

Your company culture is weighing you down. To work our best, we need to be surrounded by people who lift us up, motivate and teach us, and have our back because they know we have theirs (reciprocation is key!). I know this all sounds idealistic, but it’s something to be cognizant of and strive for as we build relationships with managers, colleagues and direct reports. If you’re doing your part but not getting the necessary response, it may be time to research company cultures that better suit you.

Alexia Vernon, an expert of heart-centered, high-impact leadership, says to consider these questions when you’re unhappy in your environment: “What kind of role will allow me to align my values and my strengths? What kind of work environment (i.e., culture, balance of structure/freedom, etc.) will most enable me to thrive? What are the tasks that I really want to be performing throughout my day? What kind of lifestyle do I want to live, and what kind of income do I need to sustain it? Because I believe that how you leave one opportunity is how you will show up to the next, the best thing you can do to accelerate future success and happiness while pursuing “next” is to focus on who you want to be moving forward and start living life as her in your current work digs.”

You find yourself daydreaming more than you do working. It’s one thing to need a new source of inspiration at work, but it’s another thing when boredom zaps all the inspiration out of you. We are all born with talents that need to be exercised, passions that need to be played, curiosities that need to be explored. If we’re neglecting these needs, we’re essentially depriving ourselves of things that make us happy, fulfilled people. If this is resonating with you, start journaling those daydreams and consider a career detour.

Kathryn Minshew, co-founder and CEO of The Daily Muse, remembers her first big career change. “Start by writing down your goals and the places you see yourself. Identify jobs you’d like to have, even if you’re not sure yet how you’d get there. If they feel too far away, identify ‘steppingstone’ jobs that could help you get there too. Look at the skills you might need, and see if you can sign up for a class or read articles online about that topic.”

Identifying with these signs doesn’t mean you should leave tomorrow. There are practical factors to consider, especially in this economy. Think about what career shifts will best serve your happier life and commit to taking those steps first. This can mean asking management for a promotion, spearheading a meaningful program in your company or starting a project on the side if your schedule can afford it.

But if all three signs are screaming your name, accept that we often have to left go of the old to reach new heights. That’s what I had to do in 2011 to start building this new company. Though the risk feels intolerable at times, there’s nothing like knowing I’m living my passion and purpose.

What has been your career daydream? Share it in the comments.

Media entrepreneur and motivational women’s lifestyle expert Claudia Chan has dedicated her career to entertaining and empowering women. She created, a website that shares wisdom from hundreds of today’s inspiring female visionaries, and S.H.E. Summit Conference, the transformational leadership and lifestyle event designed to ignite women to dream and do big with passion and purpose. Register early for S.H.E. Summit, June 14 and 15, and save.