How to know when it’s time for a job change

If you’re one of the many marketers or creatives watching the (truly wild) job market from the security of solid employment, you may be thinking two things:

  1. What a 180 from two years ago. How quickly things can change…
  2. Should I be looking for a new opportunity? After all, how long will all of this last?

As a result of all the upheaval we’ve endured, there are more open jobs than candidates to fill them, which has led to rising salaries, astronomical counteroffers, and other signs of a shift in the balance of power, like candidates ghosting their prospective employers (oh, the irony!).

So, it’s only natural that more marketers and creatives would look around and feel open to a change. But we’re not out of the woods, and still living in volatile times.

With so much still up in the air, should you stay or should you go?

Here’s how to know if it’s time for a new opportunity.

1. You can’t remember why you stayed – or your excuse has hit its expiration date.

If you’ve been with the same employer the whole time, think back to a simpler, more green time in your life, when you were less seasoned, and more naive:

January 2020. 

If you’re honest, were you really happy then? Was this your dream job? Or were you already counting down the days, at least subconsciously?

If you’re in the latter camp, it makes sense that you’d stay. Maybe you watched the economy collapse around you, and it just seemed safer to bury your misgivings.

You may have watched as your friends and colleagues lost their jobs, seemingly all at once, and felt lucky – grateful to your employer, even! – to still have one.

A useful way of looking at your career path is to see every role you take as serving some kind of purpose. Even jobs that end in less-ideal conditions can still give you useful information that informs future decisions. 

It’s perfectly acceptable if the job you took or kept during the pandemic only served as a safe harbor – but isn’t where you’re meant to be, long-term. If you performed your duties in good faith, you did right by your employer, helping to see them through one of the most difficult periods our country has known. That’s work you can proudly stand by.

But if you know, deep down, that you’re meant for something else, you owe it to yourself to explore what that may be. 

2. Your employer isn’t willing to budge on remote work.

One of the pandemic’s biggest ripple effects – the sudden pivot to working from home for many office professionals – has left deep imprints on the way we think about work and where it should take place. Two years in, return-to-the-office plans have been redrawn, postponed or abandoned countless times. 

The more that remote work continues to be the norm, the greater the culture shock will be for companies that choose to return to in-person offices. Many employers understand and embrace this, even if reluctantly so.

But not every employer can allow remote work, or wants to. If you’re working for a company with a distinctly butt-in-chair philosophy, but the option to work from home is something you now require, there is no shortage of companies or agencies that will gladly offer that.

Whether you need to work from home (or from wherever!) for personal safety or family health reasons, or simply because you can focus better or enjoy more balance that way, that’s your call.

Today, you don’t need to sacrifice your career dreams for a flexible environment.

If you’ve made a good-faith effort to ask for a remote or hybrid work environment and haven’t gotten anywhere, it’s probably time to part ways.

3. You’re ready to shine on a larger stage (minus the plane ticket or Uhaul).

Thanks to remote work, those big-city dreams are now a lot more attainable – and much less expensive to chase.

For marketers who’ve dreamt of working on particular national or global brands but were never interested in relocating to a bigger market like New York or Los Angeles, a door that was closed before has swung wide open.

Many of those companies and agencies have pivoted permanently to remote work, or made the strategic decision to cast a wider net by offering fully remote positions. With geography no longer a limitation, it’s time to chase your wildest career dreams.

Of course, that also means you’re competing for those jobs against impressive, experienced candidates from those larger markets. Even in this job market, don’t expect to saunter effortlessly into your dream job; you’ll still have to put your very best foot forward to stand a chance.

4. You’ve hit a ceiling on how far you can go, or how much you can learn.

Regardless of how splashy or simple your career ambitions are, many of us are seeking some level of intellectual stimulation or fulfillment from the work we do, day in and day out. So when we stop learning or being challenged, it can feel like an inner flame is slowly being extinguished. Before we know it, we’re feeling burned out.

Sometimes this happens when we’re consistently overburdened with work and feel unsupported or unappreciated by our managers or teams.

Reliable high performers may seem capable and steady, but starved of oxygen are no less susceptible to burnout than anyone else.

Burnout can also happen when we don’t feel challenged enough in the work we do, or can’t envision ourselves moving up within our current company. Whether there’s no obvious role to ascend to, or it’s just not a role that lights you up, it can feel like a dead end.

If you’ve asked your manager for help redistributing an imbalanced workload, or for more challenges and opportunities to learn, you’ve taken an important first step. But if, after a realistic period of time with follow-up conversations, you don’t see evidence that anything is changing, you may need to take matters into your own hands. 

Maybe you’d thrive more under a boss more interested in active mentorship, or perhaps the problem is widespread and cultural in nature; either way, there’s no reason to settle for a role that isn’t setting you up to succeed.

5. You suspect you’re underpaid, and ready to remedy that.

Much has been said (including by us) of the skyrocketing salaries created by this uniquely tight job market. Entry-level candidates are being compensated in ways that, a few years ago, would make sense only for highly credentialed, talented specialists with several years under their belts. This applies across all marketing, advertising and creative disciplines, and at every level of experience.

If the market swings in the opposite direction soon, a steep pay cut could be a difficult pill to swallow for marketers and creatives who end up not enjoying their new, high-paying jobs. (And those higher salaries come with higher expectations, even for more junior talent who are still learning and getting their footing.) 

But some in this position may have been chronically and grossly underpaid to begin with, especially those in historically marginalized and underpaid groups.

In those cases, a jump in salary can serve a noble purpose in correcting that imbalance – and resetting expectations in those communities in the long term.

For whatever reason, we probably all at one time or another suspect that we are earning less than we could. Salary is rarely enough reason on its own to change jobs. But if you’ve nodded along to any of the previous points in this article, and you’re ready to get paid for what your contributions are really worth, it’s probably time to speak to a recruiter.

A Freeman+Leonard recruiter can position you for long-term success.

Even if you’re not actively looking for a new role, keep the lines of communication open. We know the market well, and we know marketing and advertising; many of us worked in that world before joining this independent, woman-owned talent agency.

We understand what you do, where you want to go, and what your talent is worth. And there’s never any charge to work with us. Let us be your career advisor – in today’s market, and the next.

Still not sure whether a  job change is right for you at this stage? 

Let’s talk it out. Reach out to the Freeman+Leonard recruiting team on LinkedIn:

Rachel Runnels

Ashley Allen 

And in the meantime, take a peek at a few of our current openings: