Cutting-Edge Leadership

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When Is It Time to Quit Your Job?

Here are two basic rules for moving your career forward.

Too many people stay in dead-end jobs, jobs they hate, or positions that offer no possibility of advancement simply because they believe there are no alternatives, or because of a need for security. When should you seriously consider leaving your job?

No possibility of promotion. A manager in a family-owned business told me that he had "topped out" because only family members would be promoted to levels beyond his current one. Because he was barely 40 years old, I suggested that he look at other opportunities. "I really need that promotion (and a pay increase), but I'm comfortable working here," was his reply.

Toxic workplace environment. A young woman endured horrible sexual harassment at a job for years (including physical contact and intense verbal abuse) because the position offered good pay and benefits, believing there were no viable options. Finally, when it became unbearable, she left and found a much better job, higher pay, and a safe and healthy work environment. No one should endure a toxic workplace where bullying or harassment occurs.

When your current job limits your personal growth and development. If you feel stagnant in your current job because the work is too easy or too low-level, but you have greater ambitions, it's time to start looking for a position that will allow you to grow and develop. Most companies encourage their employees to learn new skills, and some will help support college or graduate education because they realize the value of more highly-skilled workers. Look for a company that supports employee growth and continual learning.

When you have become TOO comfortable - and complacent. Do a reality check. Are you staying in a job simply because it seems easier to just stay put rather than try something new? Do you feel like you are in a rut, but it seem too daunting to put yourself out on the job market? These are signs that it's time to move on.

Here are two basic rules for moving forward in your career.

Generate Opportunities. Early in my career a colleague told me to always "generate opportunities" - always be on the lookout for new and better positions, both inside and outside of your organization. Too many people resist inquiring about or applying for a position because they fear that it will not turn out better than their current position. As my colleague told me, "generate the opportunity, consider it, you can always tell them ‘no thanks.'"

No Risk, No Gain. Yes, in this high-unemployment economy there are risks with putting yourself out on the job market, but employment is like dating - if you settle for the first one that comes along, you are likely to eventually be disappointed. The most successful careers typically involve people who change jobs several times, but always advancing to better positions. If you believe in your talents, your abilities, and your work ethic, there are plenty of really great companies out there who want you.

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www.twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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