Career Advice

Should I Change Jobs? 8 Signs to Tell for Sure

emotionally stressed employee

Should I change jobs or not? That’s the question every professional asks at a certain stage of their career. Indeed, there are times when staying in a job for too long is bad for you. On the other hand, job-hopping doesn’t look great on a resume either. 

So how do you find the center ground between these two options? Learn from this guide! 

How Often Should I Change Jobs? A Data-Backed Answer

You should change a job when you feel that you have “outgrown” your current position in terms of provided professional development opportunities and compensation. Typically, that happens in 2-5 years, depending on the role and experience. More than half of people in the US change jobs every one to five years. 

But the above are ballpark rates as data differs based on location, demographic, and career niche: 

  • Per Deloitte 2020 survey, only 31% of Millennial workers plan to change jobs in the next two years. Over 35% are also interested in staying long-term with the current employer.

In most cases, the prime motivator for changing a job is salary. 

Unfortunately, data indicates that clinging to the same job for over 5 years can hurt your compensation. Frequent job changes end up earning nearly 2X more than job stayers. 

For job changers in 2018 in the UK, the median hourly earnings growth was 7.3% compared with 3.0% for job stayers. They also have a higher variation in pay growth aka more likely to get a significant bump when negotiating a salary

hourly earnings growth for job changers

Source: ONS 

When to Change a Job: 6 Telling Signs 

Getting a new job or changing careers can help you earn more. But then again, you’ll also need to dive deep into job hunting, which can be frustrating.

So when should I consider changing jobs over negotiating a salary increase or an internal promotion with the current employer? 

While the above is a personal decision, there are some strong universal signs, indicative of the need for a new job. 

1. You Are Stressed and Nearing a Burnout 

If you wake up in the middle of the night feeling stressed and worried about your job, the project you are working on, or other aspects of your professional life, this can be a sign a change is needed. 

exhausted assistant at office

Stress is a natural part of life and can work as a motivator. But if it goes too far and you find yourself constantly stressed, unable to relax or to take a mental break from your job, then this is too much stress and isn’t healthy for you.

Ongoing stress results in burnout and disengagement. Last year, over 75% of workers said they experienced burnout, and 40% of them attributed higher stress levels to the pandemic. If you too feel that your work is getting too mentally taxing (with no relief in the short-term perspective), first consider taking some time off.  The fatigue may be temporary.

However, if your stress levels still stay high after the break due to some underlying workplace issues — lack of workplace wellness initiatives, communication issues, high-pressure work environment, etc — consider switching jobs. 

2. Your Workplace is Plagued with  Management Problems

A wide Gallup study found that nearly 50% of workers don’t leave the company, they leave the manager. 

Poor management indeed remains a pressing problem in some industries. From grumpy or rude managers to those who micro-manage you at every stage, there is a whole spectrum of bad management that can indicate to you that it is time to move on.

But what if I otherwise love my job? In that case, approach the HR department first and explain your issue with the particular management. Perhaps, they could find a team/department transfer opportunity for you or help the “problematic” person to acknowledge and address their behaviors. 

3. You Are Underpaid or Underemployed

Low compensation is another solid reason to look for a new job

As a rule of thumb, you are underpaid when:

  • Online salary tools suggest that most people earn more than you do in similar roles/locations. 
  • A colleague in a similar role/seniority level is outearning you. 
  • You didn’t have a salary review or promotion in the past 2-4 years. 
  • When accepting this job offer, you didn’t negotiate a higher salary and settled for a number, similar to what you’ve earned before. 

If your work contract doesn’t allow you to take more hours or ask for more responsibilities to get higher pay, these may be signs of underemployment.

4. There’s No Career Advancement Path

Most of us will want to advance our careers, whether into a higher position or a different, more specialist area of the company. But if this isn’t the case and there is no career advancement path, a new job may be your only option for progress. 

no career advancement path

Take a look at your career objectives (or write them down from scratch!). Can your current role help you get to a point where you want to be in five years? Or have you lost your focus and stalled at a lower level? If that’s the latter, it’s time to refresh your resume and start job hunting. 

Of course, if you are happy, there’s nothing to say you can’t stay put! Some people put happiness above career advancement and there’s nothing wrong with that either.

5. You Can’t Be Yourself At Work

When we are at work, we are often the most professional version of ourselves. But if you feel you have to become someone entirely different and not be yourself at work then this is a sign of a problem.

The issue is particularly acute for people of color. Over a half of non-white employees feel pressured to not show any signs of weaknesses at the workplace because they are afraid of being judged (versus 39% of white workers thinking the same). Also, 44% are afraid to ask for emotional support when they need it. 

The above are strong indicators of a problematic work environment. You should be able to be yourself with your work colleague in most ways without feeling uncomfortable, out of place, or even facing hostility.

6. You Can’t Take Time Off

It isn’t just a good idea to take a vacation or personal time off, it is important for your physical and mental health. But if you feel you can’t take time off or get too stressed when you do, this is a sign of a problem.

busy office life

If you dread the weekend because you didn’t get everything done and can’t relax or you don’t take time off when you are due it, this is a sign that the job is taking too much out of you and a change may be needed.

7. You Dread Monday (Or The Start Of The Week)

We all joke about the Monday blues or the worst day of the week. But if it becomes more than a joke and is a regular part of your life, this isn’t a good situation. If you dread Monday and spend all Sunday in gloom because it is coming, you may want to consider changing your job.

8. You Have Become Too Good at Your Job 

Yes, if things feel too easy for you and you are doing most of the thing on auto-pilot, you’ve probably outgrown your current role.  When you are getting too convenient and unchallenged, you can easily grow stagnant, bored, and disengaged. The above is never a good thing! 

How to Change Careers

If you are affected by these signs, then it may be time to make a change. It doesn’t need to be a major declaration of intent – simply get your resume out, polish it up with a free resume template, pack it with your latest accomplishments and start pitching for new jobs. Then you can personalize it for the role you desire, start making those connections, and get away from a job that isn’t working for you anymore.
If you are seeking a more major change — that is plan to switch career fields or industries — read our detailed guide to changing careers next!


  • Elena Prokopets

    Elena runs content operations at Freesumes since 2017. She works closely with copywriters, designers, and invited career experts to ensure that all content meets our highest editorial standards. Up to date, she wrote over 200 career-related pieces around resume writing, career advice... more

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