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Here’s how to tell if your job is at risk

September 22, 2015, 2:12 PM UTC
Courtesy of Weber Shandwick

The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs? is written by Chris Perry, chief digital officer at Weber Shandwick.

I might not be the best person to ask about the switch — I’ve been with the same company for the past 15 years. The responsibilities have grown and titles have changed, but it’s been a consistent mission throughout.

Now, truth be told, I’ve asked this question too many times to count: “Is now the time?”

The constant questioning is rarely because of the typical reasons people jump, be it issues with the boss, a buck more to make elsewhere, or luster of a nice company name to slot onto the CV. The root of the question for me is more fundamental: “Am I in the game, and by way of extension, is it where the action is going vs. where it’s been?”

I didn’t land at this view lightly. I’ve known the pain of ending up on the wrong side of the curve. But like any painful experience, I learned fundamental lessons that have served me extraordinarily well over time.

My first job out of school was working for my Dad at the family business — a graphic arts studio that created the materials required to produce print and broadcast media. The place at its height was a high-energy, creative firehouse with some of the best designers, typesetters, illustrators and storyboard artists in the business.

These were masters of a 20th-century craft, doing their thing at a time when the advertising business was at its creative height. This studio — working for the big Madison Avenue agencies behind the curtain — is what delivered the high-end creative content and layouts by hand.

Then overnight, desktop publishing arrived.

See also: What a failed negotiation could mean for your career

Much of this craft work was immediately taken over by technology. The business that put me and my siblings through college was done in a matter of months, as were high hopes of growing up and sustaining a great entrepreneurial business.

You never forget something like this. The burn never fully goes away. But here’s the flip side: Being on the right side can yield more opportunity over the long haul than you might imagine. Thankfully, I learned this lesson early on, and have had opportunities in business I never dreamed of having starting on the ground floor of my Dad’s studio.

So the fundamental question to ask here, “Is it time?” might be better framed as, “Does your job fall on the right side of the curve?”

Some ways to more specifically diagnose your situation include:

1. Is my job aligned for where the world is today, and where it’s going?
If I had the slightest inkling that the function and service I deliver is on its way out, I’d be rethinking more than just my job.

Breakneck diffusion of technology, new global dynamics and new power structures are leading to completely new configurations on how business gets done. Beyond protecting your backside, the growth side of the spectrum is the place to be: Things are interesting, always changing and often incredibly challenging there, but there is always potential to grow — personally and professionally.

If you sense that demand for your role is waning, don’t waste a lot of time thinking about whether to leave. Make it your business to learn new ways of evolving your position, and if that’s not enough, seek a new one that’s better aligned with demand and future opportunity.

See also: Why a low paycheck isn’t enough to leave a job

2. Is my boss ready to take on the new normals head on and the complexities that come with it?
An unfortunate truth is that many leaders and managers in power positions spend an inordinate amount of time protecting the status quo. In most sectors, this stance is really a fool’s errand. Leaders must deal with determining new paths forward and the expectations that come with them.

Don’t necessarily tune in for absolute clarity in what the new playbook might contain. Ask yourself, “Do my company’s leaders have management headsets tuned in to competitive, technological and psychographic realities playing out in the marketplace?” “Do we have a mission and strategic priorities to take advantage of new opportunities?” And, perhaps more important, “Do they enlist employees at all levels of the organization to co-create the path forward?”

3. Is my company or divisional business model on the right side of the curve?
Lots of people make a good living for organizations that produce goods and services that are the contemporary equivalents of horse and buggies or carrier pigeons. Some take a protectionist stance, milking the model until there is simply no more left, while others move ahead with blinders on, hoping the effects of change lag out over time.

If the overall positioning, structure, processes and talent models of your employer are so intertwined solely with 20th-century mindset, structure and customer needs, you might be in a no-way-out situation. Don’t waste time trying to sustain a dead-end model.

I feel lucky to have had roles and leaders at my company, Weber Shandwick, that have led to a consistent “yes” to each question going on 15-plus years. But asking them regularly when it gets tough in the daily grind has enabled me to stay keenly in tune of the big picture.

As a leader today, the key question now is if I am keeping our agency, clients and myself on the right side of the curve.


Real all responses to the Leadership Insider question: How do you know it’s the right time to switch jobs?

This is how long you should wait before quitting a job by Edward Fleischman, chairman and CEO of The Execu|Search Group.

3 signs it’s time to switch jobs by Karen Appleton, SVP of industry at Box.