I had been with this company, one I sincerely love, for three and a half years. My role had changed three times in that timespan, and to be honest, I had really liked that.
Each time my role and responsibilities changed, I got to take on new projects, work with different clients, and own new bodies of work. Each time, I got to work with more senior leaders and enjoy a higher level of responsibility. I was on a first-name basis with our CFO and COO; I was invited by vice presidents and senior vice presidents to support their work because they said I added value; and I was learning and growing.
So, why did I choose to leave? For me, it was the culmination of a few factors that led to me beginning to job hunt:
As I looked back at the work I’d done over the last three to four months – and the work that was ahead of me in the next three to four months – I realized I was not doing anything new.
Sure, I had become really good at the responsibilities associated with this role – I had completely revamped the internal newsletter I was in charge of and set record metrics with it, I had run a really successful marketing and communications campaign that was helping drive real-life outcomes, I was getting increasing praise and recognition from my clients and manager, for the second time I was being tapped to support the COO’s presentation, blah blah blah – but being really good at the normal things asked of me wasn’t challenging enough. I wanted to grow and expand my skillset.
When you’re in a rut at work, I always advise that you talk to your boss about it, in a professional and nuanced manner; so, I talked to my boss about ways to expand and grow the work I did. But among the responsibilities that exist on our team, there wasn’t really anything new or different for me to take on. I was using the learnings of my successful marketing campaign to replicate the campaign for a different topic, for example; but again, doing the same work for a different subject matter didn’t constitute a challenge or a new skillset. It was just a way for me to refine the skill.
Bottom line: I was at the point that I realized the work I was doing in the last few months and in the next few would not be worthy of my resume.
And as a result of point #1… I was bored.
I woke up in the morning not really wanting to go to work. I didn’t have enough to fill a full eight-hour day. I asked for other projects and things to take on, but it didn’t make sense with my “busy season” on the horizon, when my boss and I knew things were about to get busier. Meanwhile, my boss herself was preparing to go on maternity leave, and I anticipated picking up some of her work when that happened.
But… nothing really changed. Fall came and I was slightly busier, sure; but I’d planned so well for the campaigns and communications that everything was well spaced out or turnkey, so I didn’t have as much to do as I’d anticipated. My boss left on maternity leave a couple weeks after the big event my team puts on, so there wasn’t much to do to fill her shoes.
As a result of the lack of work to do, I knew I wasn’t working to the top of my degree. And as someone whose No. 1 and 2 strengths according to Strengths Finder are “learner” and “achiever,” you can imagine how well that sat with me. I started creating new work for myself, such as writing more internal stories and pushing out more news externally, but it was not truly professionally satisfying.
Bottom line: Busy work isn’t challenging. It’s winning, sure; my clients appreciated what I was doing to get their work recognized. But none of this changed the fact that I was bored and not being utilized in a way that matched my skills and potential.
A growth opportunity never materialized.
About a year ago, both and I and my supervisor agreed I was ready for a promotion, but the opening simply wasn’t available. In this department, the only way someone gets promoted to a manager is if another one leaves. And there were other people in line for promotions before me – people who had been in the department longer and were equally deserving of a promotion, I should add – and probably right when I was next in line, the company became very strict on budget and all open positions were eliminated. If no managers left the company, and if the department was not filling open positions that we needed, I surmised, was the company really going to promote me a higher salary and title anytime soon? Likely not.
Bottom line: At some point, it becomes demoralizing to realize you’re pushing yourself hard, you’re being recognized by your superiors and your clients as an excellent partner and contributor, you’ve been told you are ready to grow and it “will happen” – and yet you’re not given any timeline or guarantee of said growth.
If a promotion had been possible – would that even have made me happy?
I realized that, if I were to get promoted, the work that I would likely be asked to take on wouldn’t challenge me for long. Or be interesting.
This was a good thing to realize; it put me in the headspace of being really intentional about my next move, because I didn’t necessarily want to jump to a new company and do the same thing with a higher title. I wanted to either stay in my line of work but specialize in one aspect of communications, or move into operations or strategy.
To be honest, I would have loved a promotion a year before I left or even six months before – when I was totally in the zone with this work and ready for recognition and new challenges.
But I did become a little dejected about this department and this company when that never happened and I’d been told by multiple people that I deserved growth and it was coming.
Bottom line: I got to the point where even if my boss called me tomorrow and said I was getting a promotion, it wouldn’t feel exciting or fulfilling. The time had simply passed for when I wanted to grow with this team.
This is how I knew it was time to look beyond my department and company for growth opportunities.
Here are some questions to ask yourself to determine whether you’ve outgrown your job:
- Are you excited about the work you’re currently doing?
- Is the work you’ve done in the last three months anything you’re going to add to
your resume as a highlight or key accomplishment? Or are you doing more of what
you’ve always done?
- Are you expanding your skillset?
- Have conversations been had about giving you more or different responsibilities
that will allow you to expand your skillset?
- How would your role change if you were promoted – would you take on new or
different responsibilities, such as managing someone, working more with leaders,
owning new projects or bodies of work, becoming liaison to a different business
unit, etc.? Or, would a promotion be more of the same?