A few years ago, I wrote about the growing counter-offer culture that has been spreading throughout the Architecture and Interior Design industry. The instant key employees hand in their resignation notice, they are served a seemingly flattering counter-offer that compels them to stay. In a few cases, these employees actually had no real intention of leaving, but were simply leveraging an anticipated counter-offer in order to get more money, responsibilities, or both. In either case, however, giving in to that counter-offer is often a big mistake- for both the employees and the firm.

This topic brings to mind another issue that has persisted even though the job market for architects and designers has been hotter than ever. Over the years, I have come across many talented candidates who chose to stay in less than perfect jobs. They all have their reasons for pushing away the signs that are telling them it’s time to move on. Some fear that they won’t find a better job, some believe the promotions, recognition, and equity shares they deserve are just around the corner. They convince themselves it’s not so bad. They get comfortable, and then that comfort turns to complacency.

The problem is when they finally reach a breaking point with their current employer, and they decide to move on, they have been out of the job market for so long that they don’t know where to even start. Older candidates in particular often find that the job search is an arduous, uphill journey.

You don’t want to put yourself in that position.

Not only will staying at a job you don’t like affect your performance, happiness, and career advancement, there is a lot of research pointing to the fact that you are also exposing yourself to a number of physical and emotional health problems, including exhaustion, stress, burnout, and depression.

But while some candidates are clear about when it’s time to leave a job, for others, as I mentioned above, it may not be so obvious. So, if you have been debating with yourself whether or not to leave your current employer, here are five of the most telling signs to watch out for that suggest it’s time to search for greener pastures:

  1. You don’t like being there. Simply put, you are no longer passionate about your work, you get depressed every Sunday when you think of the week ahead, and you dread getting out of bed each morning. Your work performance is suffering; you feel stressed and anxious, and it is taking a toll on your health and personal relationships. If these things are happening, then you need to ask yourself, “Why?” The minute your job starts negatively affecting your mental or physical well-being, then it’s time to leave.
  2. You don’t like who you are working with. There is a lot of research supporting the idea that employees who have good relationships with co-workers and supervisors have greater job satisfaction and well being, are more productive, and are less likely to leave. The opposite, however, is also true. For years you may have had a great working relationship with your peers and leaders, but then you start to sense a fundamental shift in the firm’s culture and the style of leadership. If your professional relationships within the firm are becoming unpleasant and strained and you begin to feel like you don’t fit in, then it may be signal for you to move on.
  3. You don’t like the direction the company is going in. Related to the point above, it could be that your firm is starting to change its focus and culture in a way that you do not personally agree with. If you no longer see yourself fitting in with the business culture- whether it’s due to changes in the work ethic, core mission and values, or even a shift in the kinds of clients and projects they are targeting- then you need to re-evaluate your reasons for staying.
  4. There is no room for advancement. A stagnant work environment that offers little room for you to move to higher positions or few if any options take on more responsibility, can fundamentally affect your level of motivation and passion to do your work and ultimately your job satisfaction. So, if you begin to feel like you have exhausted all learning opportunities, and the path for career advancement and development is either closed or too slow, then you should seriously reconsider your stay at the firm.
  5. You don’t feel like you are making an impact. Perhaps you feel that your work and input is not being properly appreciated- whether this shows up in terms of salary, verbal recognition, or the opportunities for advancement and development that are coming (or not coming) your way. Maybe you are bothered by your inability to affect the direction of the business. You are left out of decision-making meetings, and you are overlooked for high-impact assignments. If you are looking for more influence and involvement than your current employer can offer, then it’s time to start the job search.

In short, if your job isn’t giving what you need to feel happy (not just pay the bills), yet it isgiving you a whole bunch of things that you don’t need, like stress and resentment, then it’s up to you to change the situation and look for better opportunities. Don’t wait till you are forced to do it.