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Is now the right time to leave your job?

I've been getting asked this a lot lately.


With what feels like layoffs happening everyday, many are fearful of the economy and their job security. This is causing those that have not yet been impacted by layoffs to start thinking,


"Should I be worried about my job?"

or:

"Should I think about leaving my job?"


The answer to those questions like everything in life - is it depends.


I will break down this blog into 2 pieces. The first being the current state of the US Job Market, and the second being the factors you should personally consider when making a job move.


The Current State of the US Job Market:


In the past year there has been roughly 130,000 layoffs within the technology sector. In January alone we have seen ~30,000.


While this is troubling to see at face value, as we take a deeper look into the broader economy, the data tells a much different story.


It is paramount to consider that the technology sector only makes up roughly 7-8% of the total workforce. (12 Million out of 163 Million US workers) The 30,000 layoffs we have seen in January of this year accounts for .25% of the total tech industry. It's a drop in the bucket.


The most recent job data from the Department of Labor showed an increase of non-farm payrolls employment in the US. (+223,000 in the month of December) and a decrease of the unemployment rate to 3.5%.

This shows us that the labor market is still incredibly tight. Which is a good thing for US workers and job seekers.


You may read this data and be surprised as to how the unemployment rate can be so low, given the news and sentiment around the economy. The rising interest rate moves from the Federal Reserve over the past year have hammered the stock market, spiked mortgage rates and frozen the housing market. Why would the job market hold up so well?


The answer lies in the supply of workers.


In 2019, 63.9% of Americans were working.

In 2023, 62.3% of Americans are currently working.


This equates to a gap of ~4 Million US Workers that are missing from the workforce.

(Data from Y Charts)

What we are experiencing is what Fed Chair Jerome Powell has called a "structural labor shortage". We are still increasing the number of new jobs being created, however we have less people than before to fill them.


There is a lot of speculation on where all these workers actually went.


Some point the Baby Boomer generation exiting the workforce to early retirements from covid layoffs and strong stock market performance into 2021 . Many also point out that unfortunately, much of the gap of workers from 2019 can be pointed to casualties from the Covid-19 pandemic.


Given that the unemployment rate remains at record lows, it will take significant amounts of layoffs for the job market picture to change. This will still lead to opportunity for workers to change jobs in a competitive market.


Which brings us to the second half of this post - how to evaluate your own personal decision of seeking a new job.



3 personal factors to consider about leaving your job:


  1. How is your current job performance?

  2. Are you enjoying your current job?

  3. What industry / job are you leaving to go do? Is that growing?


How is your current job performance?


We are currently right in the middle of performance review season, where workers sit down with their management to discuss how things went last year, and what development goals are on the horizon in '23.


When meeting with your manager, you should be able to get an understanding of where you currently stand from a performance stand point. Usually, workers will fall into 1 of 3 buckets.

  • High Performer (exceeded expectations of role, are developing others, leading team)

  • Meeting Expectations (doing the job that is asked of them, met expectations of role)

  • Below Expectations (not hitting expectations, role has not clicked yet, might not be a fit)

Keep in mind that these buckets really only should apply to someone who has been in a role at the minimum for 6 months. Even 6 months is a bit early to determine whether or not someone is meeting expectations yet.


But for the purposes of this blog I am going to speak in general terms. I understand there are different situations for every person, but once you evaluate where you currently stand with your employer, you can then decide the urgency and need for a new role.


If you are currently a high performer, no you should not worried about your job. Unless your company is in severe economic trouble, your firm will do everything they can to keep you. It is extremely difficult to find high performers in any job.


When it comes to high performers, you also should know that they are always in demand in any market. So for this reason, if you are unhappy with your job, not seeing the future growth you desire, or are concerned on the condition on your current employer, it would be completely fair to see what is out on the market.


If you are currently meeting the expectations of your role, you will likely fall in a very similar boat to the high performer. Be aware of how your current employer is doing economically, and adjust your search accordingly.


If you find yourself currently struggling in your role, and are below the expectations laid out for your job, you should consider all options. Are there resources in place to help you grow? Can you turn your performance around? Are you being supported by your manager? If you do not feel comfortable with what the current state of your job is, than I would most advise to seek outside opportunities while you are still employed. (Read my blog, "Please Don't Quit Your Job" for more info on this topic)



Are you enjoying your current job?


The harsh reality is that ~65% of US workers are currently looking for a new job opportunity. This is due to the fact that most people do not enjoy their work. If you are one of the lucky few that do enjoy your job, stick with it - it's a luxury not many experience.


If you are currently unhappy in your job, the short answer is you should leave. We only get one shot at this crazy thing we call life, and you owe it to yourself to be happy. After all, the average person spends about 90,000 hours of their life working. Might as well make them count.


The level of which you dislike your job should dictate the level of which you focus your search.


If you are dreading your job each and every day, and getting anxious about just the thought of turning your computer on, it's time to get out. Now.


If you recognize that this job is not right for you long term but you don't hate it, try to identify what things you like and don't like about it. You likely have the luxury of time to figure out what is next for you. Take time to begin to network with those in industries or careers that interest you.


What industry or job are you looking to go to?


When you are considering your next job move, the industry and company's growth trajectory should be a large consideration.


Has the industry been expanding in the last several years? Are they positioned for future growth?

How has this company been operating lately under the pressure of recent layoffs?

Why is the role this company is hiring for open in the first place? Is it due to job creation or replacement?


If the company you are considering to go to has dealt with layoffs recently, that does not necessarily mean that you should not entertain the idea of going there. The layoffs may have been in a completely different department, or only focused on underperformers, or maybe there was a structural change to the business that required them to strategize where they deploy their people.


This is all context you need to do your homework on, and ask to prospective recruiters and line managers.


In summary, although the headlines of late have been focused on layoffs, the current landscape of the US job market is still strong. As long as payrolls continue to grow and unemployment remains low, the job market will stay competitive. Consider your own personal circumstances when thinking about a job move, and stay informed on the industry and economy broadly when making your decisions.


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