According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average adult American will change jobs 11 times during their lifetime employment. That's a lot of change.
Sometimes such change occurs when individuals are involuntarily shown the door due to downsizing or lay-offs. That's beyond their control. Safe to say, it's usually better to leave a job on your own terms.
However, that level of self determination requires the ability to read the workplace tea leaves, as well as having an exit strategy that includes a viable career option or pursuit of an entrepreneurial dream.
For some, the trickiest part is knowing when to pull the rip cord and leave. Here are three clues that may serve as harbingers of a future career change.
1. Your advice is ignored.
I worked for a company that had a major product issue that was loosely associated with an eye infection among a few dozen customers within a specific region of the world. A week after the first reports came in, my recommendation to senior management was to temporarily pull that newly-launched product off the shelves entirely until we had clarity as to whether or not the product was a direct cause of the infections.
Due to the high level of uncertainty, it was the only certain action we could have taken. The situation seemed to be a redux of the classic Tylenol recall in the early 1980s. It seemed to be a no brainer.
My recommendation was unanimously shot down by senior executives who believed that it was a non-issue because the complaints and infections were isolated to a specific region. Their thinking was that if it was a product problem, infections would be popping up around the world. They blamed the isolated infections on consumers misusing the product.
That's when I started looking for my next employer, because my counsel was ignored when it was most needed.
As it turned out, the product issue spiraled out of control for that company. Retailers removed all its related products from their shelves. The organization never fully recovered.
2. You're asked to compromise ethics.
Another instance occurred when I worked for a different company that was announcing a series of job cuts following its acquisition by a larger company. The reduction in force (RIF) was to be publicly presented in a media release as an "...average 10 percent reduction across the organization."
However, the cuts were actually a 17 percent RIF of rank-and-file employees and a three percent cut for the executive ranks. The newly entrenched top brass somehow rationalized that calculating the average between those two groups was the right thing to do. They refused to accurately portray it as a 20 percent cut.
As one of the spokespersons answering media inquiries, I couldn't in good conscience convey that misrepresentation of the facts and refused to comment on local media inquiries. I left that situation as quickly as I could.
Related: Are Business Ethics at a Low Ebb?
3. Promises are not kept.
Lastly, if the organization you work for fails to keep its promises, you should seriously consider other employment options.
As a cost-saving measure, I was given the entire workload of overseeing dozens of company trade shows in addition to my communications responsibilities. I was told that if I successfully carried that extra workload for a year, I would be promoted in salary and title. A year later, after a great performance review, I was told that neither the title nor salary boost would occur. That solidified my intent to leave.
In each instance, I landed a much better opportunity.
Everyone's situation is different, so it's useful to have some baseline guidance as to when you should start looking, but what's critical to keep in mind is that it's always preferable to leave for a better job situation than endure a bad job situation.