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How Will I Know When It's Time to Leave a Job?


Samina Azad, ACS Career Consultant
Samina Azad, ACS Career Consultant

Here are a few signs that it is time to start thinking about changing your job:

  1. You are no longer learning anything new. You've been talking to your boss over the last couple of years about your career path and training that you would like to take. You also asked for stretch assignments to help expand your skills - like managing a project. You don't see any plan of training or stretch assignments on the horizon.
  2. There are clear signs of lay-offs down the road. For example, keep an eye open anytime the company goes through a merger & acquisition (M&A). Sometimes, the parent company decides to consolidate labs and plants and with that, comes lay-offs. External circumstances - like COVID-19 can slow down businesses and many companies have no other options but to reduce headcount.
  3. The role you are in is no longer matching your strengths and interests. Business strategy has changed recently and the company's focus now is providing service to customers vs. bringing new products to market. As a result, your R&D chemist role has morphed into an analytical chemist, or production engineer role.

The good news is, there are tons of opportunities for chemists everywhere, both in traditional R&D/Lab roles and non-traditional roles. Consider a different function within the same organization, if possible. Once you know the products and processes, it'll be easy for you to transfer over to something different like sales/marketing, regulatory or project management. Such a transition often comes with a bigger title and more responsibilities making it a win-win situation.


Allen Clauss, President, CTI Consulting, LLC
Allen Clauss, President, CTI Consulting, LLC

For most of us who are employed in chemistry or related science fields, an ideal job is interesting, challenging, rewarding, and provides opportunity to make important accomplishments that add value to the organization we work for. Not surprisingly, those job descriptors have a very high correlation with job satisfaction. However, our jobs often involve varying degrees of stress, frustration, conflict, time pressure, and work overload that can greatly detract from job satisfaction. I believe that the key to knowing when it is time to leave a job is understanding the short term and long term balance between these positive and negative attributes for your current position. 

During my career, when I have considered whether it was time to leave a job, I have asked myself a few questions to determine if it was really time to leave:

  • In my current position, where am I on my professional and personal learning curve? Regardless of any negative factors, am I still growing in knowledge and gaining valuable experience? 
  • What are the immediate detractors that are prompting me to leave the job?  Are they short term or long term? 
  • All jobs give us “good” days and “bad” days. Does leaving this job seem to be just as good of an idea at the end of a “good” day as it does at the end of a “bad” day?

Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant
Lori Spangler, ACS Career Consultant

I’d re-phrase the question to ask, “How will I know when it is time to start looking for my next role?” Ideally, you have been thinking about what you might like to do next, gathering information and building skills to move you toward your next step.

You will know it is time to start actively pursuing a new role when your current job no longer excites you, or when you feel there are no further opportunities to grow or learn.


This article has been edited for length and clarity. The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the view of their employer or the American Chemical Society.

ACS Career Consultants are experts and leaders working in the field of chemistry who have volunteered to support other ACS members’ career development through one-on-one career counselling. They can stimulate your thinking, ask important career planning questions to help clarify goals, provide encouragement, teach strategies for making meaningful career decisions, and aid you in your job search. Connect with an ACS Career Consultant today!

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