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Is it Time for a Job Change?

With the start of a new year, you may be among the millions of people thinking of making an important change in your life. If one of the changes you are considering is your career, here is some advice to help you decide whether to make the move.

Most job changers leave because they no longer enjoy their work. If your job is a source of dissatisfaction, the signs are probably clear.

A feeling of dread may start creeping over you every Sunday evening as the work week approaches. While you once bounced out of bed on Monday mornings eager to get to the office, you may now find yourself hitting the snooze bar as many times as possible.

The thought of calling in sick may cross your mind. In fact, going to work may actually make you sick. (More heart attacks occur on Monday mornings than at any other time of the week.)

If your job is no longer something you enjoy, you are not alone. A Wall Street Journal-ABC News poll found that half of all workers polled would choose a new line of work if they had the chance. So why don't more people quit their jobs?

According to John W. Thibaut and Harold H. Kelley, authors of The Social Psychology of Groups, some people will stay in an unsatisfactory situation because they do not see themselves as having alternatives.

In an economic downturn, such as we are experiencing now, employees are less likely to consider leaving. According to the World at Work survey conducted recently by Adecco Employment Services, 53% of employees say it's harder to find a job now compared to five years ago. However, the same survey found that 58% of employers say they actually have more highly sought jobs to offer today.

Even so, many employees are held back by "golden handcuffs," meaning they are so well compensated - through salary, company stocks, pensions, or other benefits - they believe they cannot afford to quit their job. Faced with a mortgage, other financial commitments, and people who depend on them, an employee shackled with golden handcuffs may fear leaving their job will lead to financial loss.

Of course, if you are close to retirement, it may be better to stick it out so you can collect your pension. However, for many people a new job often goes hand in hand with a higher salary, which could make up for lost benefits. And even if a new job means taking a step back financially, it may be worth it.

Given the choice, your loved ones would probably prefer to have more time with you, and see you less stressed, even if it meant scaling back your lifestyle.

But before you march into your boss's office and announce "I quit," there may be other options. If you enjoyed your job at one time, but have become dissatisfied with it lately, you may be able to boost your job satisfaction without leaving your current employer.

For example, one reason people decide to change jobs is because they have become bored with their work. Yet boredom can be a natural consequence of mastering your job. When you first started your job, you probably found your work challenging and interesting as you were learning how to do it. As you learned more, your challenge was to become an expert. Once you became an expert, the challenge was gone.

Instead of moving, why not see if you can take on new challenges in your current workplace. Most employers realize it is costly to replace good employees, and will do what they can to keep them. Talking with your boss about why you are dissatisfied may lead to a solution. You may be able to move to a new position in your organization, or take on new tasks in your present position.

If the problem isn't a lack of challenge, but exactly the opposite (too much stress and too little family time) you may want to consider a completely different type of career change - moving down. For example, if you loved the frontline job you had before becoming a manager, you may be able to reduce your stress and resume working regular hours by returning to a frontline position.

If the problem is not the work itself, but the people you work with, start by looking at whether this is a common pattern. If you have had serious problems with your boss or co-workers in almost every job you've had, chances are you will eventually experience the same problems no matter where you move.

Office politics or personality differences exist in virtually all organizations. It may be easier to learn more effective ways of dealing with these issues, rather than trying to find a workplace where they don't exist. Furthermore, most employers prefer candidates with a stable job history, so changing jobs too often can affect your future career prospects.

If compensation is the main issue, consider asking for a raise or additional benefits. It's a good idea to research salaries for similar positions in your industry, so you have some concrete data to show your boss. Even more important is quantifying the value you bring to your employer (for example, showing how much revenue you have brought in or how much you have saved the company).

If you are not able to find a solution with your current employer, then it may be time for a change. Assuming you work an average of 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year, for 50 years, you will spend 100,000 hours at work. You deserve to spend most of that time doing something rewarding and meaningful.

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