Twenty Something Advice: Is it time for a job change?


A friend emailed me recently asking for my advice about her current job situation. Instead of writing her back privately I decided this would be a great post for our twenty something advice series. I am posting her question, with some details changed, along with my advice and I would love input from you as well.

Her question: is should I stay or should I start looking for other jobs where I will have guaranteed advancement and more challenging creative projects?

Here’s some background:

messy desk
flickr: Ray_from_LA

I work as a “Graphic Artist” at a XYZ company, I’ve been there for about a year and half. There is only one other designer in the department and she just got promoted to Design Services Supervisor, they didn’t give her a Manager title so that they wouldn’t have to pay her as much. Her recent promotion made me realize that this job might not be as nice as I thought initially. Her promotion didn’t put her above me so I still technically report to the Sr. Director of Marketing Communications (she’s a total micro manager … worst-people-skills-I-have-ever-seen kind of boss). BUT the boss doesn’t want to deal with me, or anyone else, so she asks the other design girl to review some of my work, but then the other girl has to get approval from the boss. It’s a circus.

The boss doesn’t hate me, but she’d also rather we never spoke. She doesn’t even say hi to me and either cancels my one-on-one meeting with her or just doesn’t show up. She’s the only director who doesn’t hold staff meetings, so our entire team is always in the dark. It’s amazing that we get everything done on time with absolutely no direction.

Other bad parts:

I feel like I have lost all of the innovative design skills I learned from art school because I do the same thing over and over again. It’s always the same style because 99% of our work is conservative, only occasionally do I get to design something a little bit different for special events.

The good:

· I get to create custom illustrations, 4 a year (wish it was more). The other design girl and I have created two issues of a magazine … because they wanted to leverage my illustration skills. And the girl and I have complete creative control on the look and feel. We design the whole thing, pick all the photos, create all the ads, and work with the vendor to get it published.

· I have my own office, the location of our headquarters is breathtaking (on the lake), I have stocks and the company is still private which means I’ll (hopefully) make a good amount of $ if/when we go public, the benefits are great, the pay is decent, most of our company is around my age and fun to work with.

So here’s my question:

Should I stay or should I start looking for other jobs where I will have guaranteed advancement and more challenging creative projects? Have you had experience working in a corporate environment? My boyfriend works at a very good advertising agency and a job there sounds like heaven compared to where I am. But I know no company is perfect, and there will be difficult people everywhere. So I am torn.

* *

My Thoughts:

Here is my advice in a nutshell … trust your instincts. I am a firm believer in doing what feels right for you. I can sit and weigh your options for you and say that it sounds like you have more bad than good but if you are learning something, enjoying yourself or don’t feel like you are quite ready to make a change then I say stay, at least for now. We are beyond the days of growing old with a company, but that also doesn’t mean you need to change jobs just for the sake of changing.

I am a list maker so I like to make lists to help me make decisions. For me I’d put creativity pretty high up on the “ideal job list”. If you made a list of everything you’d want in your perfect job and compared it to your current job, where would you end up? Is your current job leading you down the right path or steering you in the opposite direction?

If you feel like you are ready to make a change I would start by checking out your options. I would definitely make sure that you are making a move up and not lateral. An upward move can manifest in many different ways including financially, a move on the career path, adding more creativity, flexibility, etc. Again, what’s important to you is what matters most. Though a great view is a nice perk it’s not a selling point for me to stay at a job that I don’t like.

I do know that not every job is perfect and some people completely hate their job. So I am not saying that you are going to get that ideal job on your list but it’s important to know if you are settling for something that’s not aligned to your ultimate goals at all.

In order to keep from driving yourself crazy making this decision I recommend that people make a decision and set a time limit for when that decision will be reevaluated. For example, let’s say you think eventually you would like to find a new job but for now you will stay at XYZ Company. My suggestion would be that you decide a date to reevaluate this decision – December 1st for example. That would mean until then you don’t even allow yourself to question back and forth should I stay or should I go. Your decision is not permanent, you are just deciding for now this is the decision I am making. Constantly second guessing yourself and your decisions creates unnecessary stress and angst.

I’d love to know what you guys think. And to the person who wrote me this you are welcome to comment anonymously if you like.

9 thoughts on “Twenty Something Advice: Is it time for a job change?

  1. I was in a similar rut some time back. I was working as a fashion designer in a big design house, and even though there was space for my creativity, the design breifs were so tightly bound and constricting, I always felt I had to keep my imagination on a tight leash – which was frustrating. Then, after a little consideration, I quit. And that was the best decision I have ever made for myself.

    It is important to be happy and satisfied with the job you do, because if you are not, the pent up frustration is going to affect other aspects of your life as well. And besides, you owe it to yourself. Why settle down for something?

    Because the most important things you live to regret are the risks you didn’t take.

  2. As someone who has made a variety of decisions in the last year (including switching jobs) I think it would be good to have one conversation with one person as you list and ponder the specifics – to offer a slightly not-your perspective. Someone you trust, probably not someone who already holds a strong position on the matter or would be directly affected by it (ie. if your boyfriend were financially dependent on you, or if someone’s job would be affected by your decision to stay or leave). It helps to think of things you might have not realized, especially if they’ve seen you in your current position, or knew you back when you were idealistic about what you wanted to ‘do/be when you grew up’. *The more people/conversations you have, the more it is likely to drive you crazy.

    And definitely on the “gut” thing.

  3. When my family moved a few years ago, my mother had to take the first decent job she could find. She had applied for a few jobs like the one she’d left behind, but they weren’t working out for her. She ended up in a business where she was busy, enjoyed the people she worked with, liked her boss, received a good paycheck and great benefits, but didn’t enjoy the actual work she was doing. Still, my parents had bought a house, a new car (better gas mileage for my dad’s long drive to work every day) were still helping me through college, and had my brother and his future to think of as well, so she needed the job. She stayed there nearly three years, just keeping her eyes open for other opportunities, but never really planning on leaving. She didn’t quit that job until she had been hired elsewhere, and just made sure her new employer understood that she would need to give sufficient notice to her current employer and finish up any important duties before beginning the new job. It ended up working out perfectly, and she’s really happy doing what she enjoys doing now.

    So, from watching that happen pretty much first hand, my advice is this: Keep your job. Actively look for others, or don’t, but definitely keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities that may be interesting. If you find something that you honestly feel will be a better fit for you, go for it. But if you’re not sure if the change would be right, chances are it might not be. If the creative part is the biggest issue and you have some extra time, maybe consider free-lance work, or maybe consider opening a small online business, where you have endless possibilities.

  4. I worked for a company that I felt changed a lot and I no longer agreed with the philosophy and ethics of the company.
    But I also had a relationship with my coworkers and my patients. When I decided to leave, it was very hard, but I interviewed for other positions and when I found the right one, I gave plenty of notice to my employer, coworkers and patients. It was the right decision for me.
    Keep your eyes and ears open for other positions and wait for the right one.

  5. As I also mentioned to this person in response, I think it is important to keep your options open and continue to actively look for other/better employment in the meantime. This way you don’t loose your security for the time being.

    I also like Elysa’s idea of having a date to re-evaluate. It is important, if you are very unhappy, to do what your heart is telling you. For me, I also bathe these matters in prayer and council from those around me I trust.

  6. I agree that it’s important to trust your instinct. And the nice thing about having a job you’re not sure about staying in is that you can check out your other options without costing yourself anything. Your friend can stay in the job, and meanwhile apply for some other stuff, go on some interviews, and see if there’s something out there that appeals more. That way your friend still has job security and an income and is also being exposed to things that might help them get a better idea of what they want out of a job, whether it’s the current one or a new one.

  7. I was in almost the exact position 6 years ago (god I sound old :( ). I was chasing the all-mighty IPO and planning on retiring by 30. I stuck around way too long and I got more and more frustrated before I left. It took me one more move to finally get where I was suppose to be, and I’m never looking back. Trust your gut because sometimes your mind will try and rationalize everything else.

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