3 ways to know when it is time for a job search

By Scot Herrick | Job Search

May 23

You know those memos that come out from management announcing the next, coolest thing in organizational wonder? 

Or how somebody is leaving to "pursue other business interests" (fired) or "provided wonderful accomplishments" (left on their own)?

You either read those emails and thought nothing of it or read those emails and had your anxiety levels go up. Maybe a lot. And the thought crossed your mind that maybe you should start looking for another job.

Well, should you?

It's a big deal to look for another job. It takes a lot of time. It requires you to update your resume. Polish off your business network. Think about where you'd like to work. All stressful stuff and who needs it when all your normal drama is going on?

Look when your company is bought out

I've had my company bought out twice in my career. I left both times. The first time wasn't because of the purchase per se, but because of my new manager and the culture the company brought. 

The second time was strictly because of the purchase. There is a period in larger purchases where companies can't make material benefits changes (like one year) and I used that time to evaluate what was going to happen. 

That analysis was one thing -- health care benefits were going to drastically change for the worse -- but what tipped me over the edge was me watching all of these very good people I respected leave the company. 

The really good people leave first -- because they can since they have the job skills and accomplishments hiring managers want in their employees.

So I left. Even if your company is the one buying the other company, you need to look. Looking doesn't hurt. Getting laid off because you didn't look does.

Look when your department is reorganized

I have this unproven number saying: 3% unemployment rate and 75% corporate churn.

What it means is that even though the unemployment rate is low (as I write this), corporate churn continues on at its normal fast pace. Especially in medium to large companies, there is some grandiose reorganization announced all the time.

And reorganizations are the beginning of danger (and opportunity). 

The danger is the reorganization can leave you playing musical chairs and you're the one left standing. Unless you can almost immediately see how you can uniquely contribute to the newly organized department, the writing on the wall is significant.

The opportunity, of course, is the reorganization pulled you out of a bad situation -- you get to make a new start.

But more often, it is danger and worth looking.

Your manager is not in your corner

Your manager is your most important customer. Your manager is also the biggest advocate -- and threat -- to your career.

Managers have all sorts of power of your career that oftentimes are detrimental. I have a previous coworker who wasn't liked by a manager and when she left and a new manager came on, he was still ostracized for his work because the previous manager told the new manager he wasn't good at his job. 

And the previous manager was a contractor filling in the position while the search was going on. And the new manager wasn't smart enough to throw all that out the window and evaluate that person for herself.

It shows you the power of the manager's opinion of your work. 

And if you are not on the right side of the manager, you should look for a new position.

Do you know how easy it is to submarine someone's career with a manager?

I was on a business trip and eating a meal at the bar in the hotel (I lead a boring life of business travel). There was a conference going on there and two guys were at the bar talking about this dude, and not in a good way. And probably not in a malicious way, but I couldn't tell.

Then the manager of the dude they're talking about walks by these two and they call him over and have a serious discussion about the person who reports to this manager. And the case was made.

If the manager believed it (and it looked like he did), I just watched a person's job at this company get destroyed in about two minutes.

All outside the rarified corporate hierarchy. All done with the best of intentions. And the person they were talking about never knew from where the hurricane originated.

So, yeah. If your manager is no longer in your corner, you need to look for a new job while you can still show accomplishments to another potential hiring manager.

There is a season

A lot of my career has been about playing career defense. I like to preserve my income for what my family wants to do. I know what its like to not have that income twice now in my career.

I'm not saying you should automatically leave when one of these things happen. But I do think you should start a job search.

After all, you might get an offer much better than where you are working now and avoid the pain of a layoff.