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If you want to grow your career, you need to switch jobs. This doesn’t have to happen externally; you can switch jobs inside a company many times, growing along the way. But if you stay in one position too long, you might become stagnant, lose the ability to develop new skills, or perhaps even be perceived as not motivated by your boss.
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So, how do you know when it’s time to switch?
I hear that question all the time at Google, where I lead our Own Your Career program. It’s an effort designed to help Googlers increase their impact and influence in their current roles and/or land their next role. When leading talks, someone always asks about when they should transition into a new role — which tells me that even if folks know they should switch jobs, it’s not immediately clear when to do it.
There are four things you need to evaluate when considering a job change: Fun, Learning, Impact, and Personal life. Conveniently, that makes a relevant little acronym: F-L-I-P! So, let’s unpack it.
1. Are you having fun?
If you’re skipping to work every day, excited about your peer friendships, and a bundle of energy in team meetings as you rattle off innovative ideas, then you’re probably having fun. However, if you reflect on your week and realize you haven’t felt excited in a long time, then it’s likely that your work has been suffering for a long time as well.
Not every minute of your workday needs to be fun — that’s just impractical. But if you’re not happy to be there, you won’t be motivated to succeed. Consider your last team meeting, when a peer of yours proposed an idea to increase sales engagement by 10%. Did you want to join the working group right away and sink your teeth in, or did you silently roll your eyes and think, “We tried that and failed six quarters ago?” If the silent eye-roll is happening, you’re done with fun.
2. Are you learning?
When you start a new job, there are tons of new things to learn — new systems, new ideas, and new people. But eventually those things dwindle, and you may not learn as much on a regular basis. This is a problem: If you’re not learning, it’s time to move on.
How do you know when you’ve hit that point? Maybe your job bores you and you don’t see interesting new projects to work on. Perhaps you once asked questions daily, but now there’s little left to ask. Your response to this is important. While some people have a fixed mindset, where they avoid challenges and prefer things to remain the same, successful people must develop a growth mindset — one in which they’re constantly learning, viewing challenges as opportunities, and leaning into things they don’t know.
If you’re not growing professionally, you’re probably not getting closer to your career goals.
3. Is your Impact optimal?
The longer you are in your role, the more impact you may have through deep client relationships or subject-matter expertise. However, just because you own a space, that doesn’t mean you’re making an impact. In fact, it may be the opposite: the longer you are in a role, the less impact you might have.
When this is the case, your problem may be motivation.
For example, a Google employee I’ve mentored for years used to come to our sessions bubbling with business ideas. He was new in his role and eager to prove himself. In a recent session, however, he seemed bored and indifferent to how he can influence his department’s future. He also shared that his performance reviews have stagnated. We discussed if there was a link between his motivation, impact, and career growth, and he realized the answer was yes! When motivation wanes, impact can wane. That’s not good for the business, and it’s not good for your career.
4. What’s happening in your personal life?
High-achieving people often prioritize their work over their personal lives. They think that their personal lives can and should simply accommodate whatever their career needs. I recently posted a poll on LinkedIn about this, and, as unscientific as it was, the results were telling: I asked people to rank the factors that go into their decisions to switch roles, and “personal life” ranked last! Learning was 46%, Fun 22%, Impact 20%, and Personal Life 12%.
But you don’t have to think that way. In fact, your career will thrive more over the long term if you do prioritize your personal life.
Overall life happiness should be a prerequisite for any job. It saddens me when people tell me they’ve lost sleep over internal politics or that their friendships have suffered because of gruelling hours and work stress. Perhaps some people assume that because it’s “work,” it’s acceptable for it to cause some unhappiness or be inherently difficult. But it doesn’t have to be that way. If you are unhappy, there are likely better roles out there for you.
There’s nothing worse than starting a new role and realizing you wasted the prior two years simply by staying two years too long. You can avoid being overdue for a job change by challenging your Fun, Learning, Impact, and Personal life. That will ensure that you FLIP at the right time.