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You’re happy in your job. It’s fun and rewarding. The pay is nice. Co-workers are lovely, and many are good friends. You never want to leave.
But sometimes, the ground shifts. And if you are not aware of what’s going on, you may watch your lovely workplace deteriorate into drudgery and even nastiness, or find yourself unemployed. It’s better to look for a new job when you still have one. And as wrenching as the prospect of leaving is, knowing when to consider it is important.
Here are eight warning signs that you might want to look for a new position elsewhere:
1. Your company is acquired. When Microsoft announced it was buying LinkedIn, you had to wonder: What roles might end up redundant? Change of ownership means employment changes. This doesn’t mean I think everyone in LinkedIn (or Microsoft) should fear losing their livelihoods. Still, you don’t want to be caught unawares in a restructuring that alters or even eliminates your position.
2. New management comes in. An acquisition usually means a new boss (although Microsoft says it will keep LinkedIn’s current chief executive). But management shuffles happen more often at companies where there’s no ownership change. Very often, switches at the top mean the old ways are upended. If you’re close to the outgoing senior management, you may be targeted because the new guard wants their loyalists.
If you think you’re too junior to worry about management changes, keep in mind that changes trickle down. Senior management may bring in a new marketing head, who may cast out the marketing manager, your beloved boss. Then the new marketing manager brings her team over, and that makes you expendable. Keep track of comings and goings at your company, not just at the senior-most levels.
3. The company relocates part of its operations. First the company opens an office in a cheaper location just for its non-essential functions. Then it realizes how much money it saves from this and adds to what departments are non-essential. Pretty soon everyone but the client-facing roles must move. But you may not want a relocation halfway across the country. So pay attention to whether your company is migrating to other areas.
4. The company announces a new initiative. Sure, a new foray can be great news: The company is expanding, innovating, and trying something new. But soberly evaluate how this affects your area. Does the new endeavor indicate a change in strategy? If so, and if it’s away from what you are working on (e.g., the company prioritizes an activity that’s not yours), the result could be shrinking resources and a shrinking team.
5. Your company’s financials turn negative. Just as you want to stay updated on company announcements–that’s how you can hear about the new initiatives–you also want to keep abreast of company financials. Don’t just gloss over the quarterly earnings or the annual report. Track the health of your company’s bottom line. Is the company profitable? Is it growing? Is your area (department, location, product line) doing well?
6. Industry financials sour. Even should your company be doing well, it’s not good news if the overall industry is flagging. Don’t assume your employer will continue to buck the larger trend. Keep up with general business news so you know which industries are growing and which are struggling. If you’re active in a professional association, ask your colleagues how their employers companies are doing and what trends they’re seeing on the horizon.
7. Top performers leave. Most top performers know their market value and are very proactive about maximizing career opportunities. If the colleagues you admire are exiting, it’s because they see better prospects elsewhere. Their moves don’t necessarily correlate 1:1 with what’s best for you, but maybe they know something important that you don’t. Find out.
8. Your role changes. Absent a promotion, when management alters what you do, be wary. For example, if your boss gives your time away to another group, that could signal your manager is on the outs–or that the new group takes priority over yours, or your function is moving elsewhere. True, if you’re asked to take on additional responsibilities, this could be a vote of confidence. Or it could be the company is trying to do more with less because it (or the whole industry) is under financial siege.
When changes happen to your role, company or industry, it does not always mean you should automatically start a job search, especially if you’re happy where you are. But you should start paying closer attention. This way, you’re ahead in the job-hunting game well before all your other colleagues panic and flood the market.