If you’ve toiled away at a job for a few weeks, months, or years and ignored or buried your instincts, you need to start asking yourself all the questions. There comes a time (or place) where you have to be honest about your work situation. Like any relationship, there needs to be a healthy, respectful amount of give and take. Sometimes, even if you're a great candidate for the role, a job opportunity is just not right for you—and that’s okay.
Take a cue from career coach Kyle Elliott and draft a “wish list,” one in which you clearly define your values, what you want in an employer and position, as well as what you want to avoid. Laminate that list to discourage changing your mind when different opportunities come around. Your wish list will hopefully prevent you from accepting—or staying at—the wrong job.
Whether you are deep into the interview stages or have a long history with an employer, recognize these seven signs to determine whether a job is right for you.
1. Values are not aligned
“I believe in values alignment with the type of company that you work for,” says Monica Kerik, a wellbeing coach. “If the potential employer does not fulfill at least some of your personal values: integrity, growth, diversity etc., eventually you'll feel your job is burning you out.”
Read more: 25 Tips for Dealing with Burnout
2. Not enough compensation
If getting a bump in salary or even a bonus is difficult, then greener financial pastures might be elsewhere. Benét Wilson, a veteran writer in the aviation field and mentor to younger journalists says, “If a company not only refuses to negotiate on salary, but also refuses requests such as extra PTO, professional development, or time off to attend conferences,” the job is not a good fit.
3. Microaggressions and other unhealthy behaviors
They come in all shapes and sizes and can have traumatic, lingering effects. Whatever their form, microaggressions can drain your professional work and energy, and affect your health. I’ve dealt with them and interviewed others who have, too. No matter how much you like a job or employer, those microaggressions can make for an unwelcoming work environment. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, so consider your mental and physical wellbeing.
4. Growth opportunities are minimal to none
According to Kerik, you need to know what you are looking for in a job to determine whether that position and/or the employer can help you in your career. She says, “Have clarity in what you want out of this job. Prioritize what is important to you. Have a clear understanding of your strengths and skills. If growing in your role or career is important and you see that there are few avenues to do so, you’ll need to look for other opportunities. Pay attention during the interview process to see if you are being asked questions unrelated to the role you applied to. Additionally, inquire about the trajectory of the company and how your role plays a part in it.
5. The company has bad reviews
Thanks to sites like InHerSight, you can get a little insight on your current or future workplace. If you can’t find that kind of intel, ask around. Wilson recommends reaching out to your “whisper network,” colleagues with whom you trust and can be transparent with professionally. If no one has anything good to say about the company, hard pass.
6. Lack of diversity
If one of your values is a diverse, inclusive working environment, think critically about whether your organization is meeting your needs. “If the company doesn't have a diversity/inclusion department,” that could be cause for concern, Wilson says. Moreover, if the staff or culture is not representative or reflective of what you would like to see, you could be a changemaker internally or decide to explore other companies.
You may see or experience enough signs and have plenty of evidence to leave and yet still decide to stick it out. That’s the path L’Oreal Thompson Payton took, albeit with mixed results. She was a communications director worried about workplace culture, diversity, and other issues. “I allowed time for change,” she says, in order to watch for any reasonable changes from her employer. The needle wasn’t moved far enough for her, and she ultimately chose to resign to pursue freelance opportunities.
What questions should you ask yourself if you feel your role is no longer a good fit for you? Kerik says to narrow in on why your current job/employer is not the best fit and to try these:
Do I feel aligned with the purpose of the company?
What personal values are being honored when I'm at work, within my team and with my projects?
Do I feel valued/appreciated/safe in my role?
What skills do I want to learn and improve on?
Do I feel my work is challenging enough to keep me interested?
Are there any opportunities within the company or team that I haven't explored yet?
For all this career advice, it’s important to note that sometimes accepting or staying in a job is purely a financial decision. Sometimes beggars can't be choosers, though if given the choice, trust your instincts.
As Kerik fittingly states, “I really believe in the accuracy of our instincts. Sometimes we can't rationalize why something is not right, but we can feel it. Deep in our heart, we know what's right for us. When making a big decision, I encourage my clients to create a space of deep focused reflection, where they allow that tuning in with what feels right.”
About our sources
Monica Kerik is a well-being and resilience strategist. Kerik is on a mission to provide different tools and strategies that will allow people to be, feel and act better on every level – with yourself, with others and with the world.
L’Oreal Thompson Payton is an award-winning journalist and freelance editor, with a background in communications and nonprofit management. She has written for Bustle, ZORA, SELF, and HelloGiggles. She manages the popular newsletter LT in the City.
Kyle Elliott is a career & life coach with a clientele that includes Silicon Valley executives and managers. He serves on the 2020 Forbes Coaches Council. He has been featured and has been featured on television, The Muse, and Fast Company.
Benét J. Wilson is the Senior Credit Cards Editor and a travel/aviation writer for The Points Guy and has worked for myriad aviation trade publications and managed communications for two airlines, an aircraft engine manufacturer and two aviation nonprofit organizations. Wilson serves on the boards of the Online News Association and Mercer University’s Center for Collaborative Journalism and is the immediate past VP-Digital for the National Association of Black Journalists. She is a strong advocate for media diversity, mentoring and career navigation. She graduated from American University in Washington, D.C., with a B.A. in broadcast journalism. She resides in Baltimore, Maryland.