Before you take the leap, take a moment to ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I being challenged in my current role?
- Am I still learning?
- Do I feel respected and appreciated?
- Am I developing new skills that will enhance my value?
- Can I see a future career path?
- Do I get up each Monday excited going to work or not?
Looking at the reality of your current role and being objective about whether it’s something that you need to change vs if it’s a change in employer that is required is often the most important first step.
Only you know when it’s time to move on. But chances are you’ve at least thought about what the next move might be.
There are some clear warning signs that it might be time to move on.
1. Staying doesn’t make financial sense
It probably seems risky, but changing job can often mean an increase in income or other non-financial benefits. New employers may offer an incentive to move across, some new firms are now offering “70 cents in the dollar on billings” and cross-referral/ client introduction fees (often 10% of collected fees). Consider the other benefits you may currently be missing out on … better hours, working closer to home or flexibility like working from home one day a week.
You may find you even have time to take that holiday that never seems to come around.
2. You’re risking guilt by association
No matter how many hours you put in, if you’re not working for the right people, that is energy wasted. Some firms are known for excellence in one area and not others. Ask yourself: how positive is our firm’s reputation in my practice area? Who are we being compared to? Are we being held back or even missing out on work because of the way the firm is perceived? Perhaps moving on is a better bet for your reputation.
3. Politics is a tricky game
Managing demanding clients is one thing. Managing internal conflict is another level of stress altogether. Sometimes firm management just won’t be on your side. Perhaps they are excluding you from managing bigger clients because of some perceived conflict. Did you back the wrong person at the last partner’s meeting? Politicking is part and parcel of law firm life, but if it is taking up too much headspace, it may be time to outgrow the petty game playing.
4. Your firm is choked by bureaucracy
Too much paperwork and too many meetings might eat into your practice. You would be better off developing business and nurturing client relationships rather than attending endless irrelevant meetings that go nowhere. Over complicated workplaces can be very difficult to change. So ask yourself, do you have time to wait around while these knots are being untangled? Or do you have better things to be doing?
5. There’s been a change in direction
When you started your current role it may have been a perfect match. But things change. If your firm decides to take things in a new direction, your areas of focus may simply not fit anymore. Perhaps they have brought in an outsider above you or merged with a firm with an incompatible culture.
6. There’s a values mismatch
This is tough because values underpin every decision, big and small. Even if your situation looks fantastic on paper, a fundamental mismatch in values or personalities will wear you down over time.
Values don’t have to be spelled out in a strategic document. You’ll know what your firm’s priorities are, and whether you can keep working towards them.
7. You know something better could be out there
Even if you’re sure you can stick it out for another year or so, you might be missing out on golden opportunities by keeping your head in the sand. We all know the best roles are often those that go unadvertised – part of the “hidden” jobs market. Now might be time to get a proper assessment of what your opportunities are and let those enviable jobs to come to you (ie. get headhunted) by getting to know connected recruiters in the market.
Start thinking about your next move while you still have a good bargaining position and can move on your own terms and timelines. It is always easier to find a role while you are currently employed so try not to hand in your notice (or even alert your current employer) until you have something secured (preferably a written and signed Letter of Offer).