Knowing when you’ve hit the ceiling at an IT job is a skill just as important as the ones you use to get your work done each day. Every career path has the potential to encounter a cul-de-sac. Recognizing the situation for what it is will help you avoid spending months and possibly years in a position with no opportunities to advance either in responsibilities or compensation. This is important because the long-term effects of spending several years in a job that isn’t likely to compensate you well enough can have a dramatic effect on your ability to save for retirement and may jeopardize your future opportunities.
1. No Advancement
If your immediate supervisor hasn’t offered either a promotion in title or a raise in a year, that’s usually a sign you might need to start bringing the subject up on your own. If you encounter resistance to the idea or you are put off to a later time, chances are your boss doesn’t want to discuss advancing your career. That’s a fairly certain indication you may be stuck facing the status quo for quite some time. It may not be time to pull the eject handle. But it might be a good time to at least start asking around about other opportunities.
2. Vague Reviews and Direction
It’s fairly easy to tell if your IT job manager is engaged in your projects and is genuinely interested in your performance and accomplishments. If you start to notice your manager isn’t quite as engaged as he or she used to be, again it might be time to bring the subject up at an appropriate time. The best advice is to ask for the feedback you aren’t getting. Confronting the problem directly gives you an opportunity to address the subject in context and see how your manager reacts. If they still don’t seem interested, that is generally a sign it might be time to move on.
3. New Skills
Your employer should be actively advancing your knowledge and training. This can be done one of two ways. Either your projects should be challenging you by requiring you to obtain new knowledge to complete them or the company should be offering you a chance to participate in formalized training, certification and ongoing education programs. The reason this is a central tenet of an engaged employer is because it is to your mutual benefit if you are gaining new knowledge on every project and it is certainly good for your employer if you are both willing and able to complete new formalized training classes. An employer unwilling to reward you for this level of effort is an employer unlikely to reward you for much of anything.
4. Getting Lonely
If you find your office is getting emptier and you also find you are being asked to do work either outside the scope of your original job or at a burdensome level in terms of time or volume, then you may find it’s a good idea to follow those who are abandoning ship. This eventuality combined with any of the other factors in this article should be a red alert klaxon going off, because it means your employer expects you to put in the extra hours and do the extra work and likely also expects you to be happy with your original pay rate. You don’t want to sell your skill for free. No matter how nice it seems at the time, eventually it catches up.
5. The Incredible Disappearing Manager
If there are major management changes at your company more than twice in a single year, it could indicate there are either problems with the senior leadership or a schism has developed in upper management over the direction of the company. This is something also likely to be found among directors if your company is a corporation. This by itself is a reason to leave even if none of the other conditions in this article are true for you at the time. Management churn almost always leads to layoffs or employee restructuring, and that’s likely to lead to pay cuts, benefit cuts and layoffs.
If you start getting contacted out of the blue by recruiters, listen to them. Chances are they have information about your employer you do not. That information might lead them to believe there are either layoffs imminent, that other employees are leaving and contacting them in advance or that there might be problems with your company or its management. This doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump ship the first time a recruiter contacts you, but it does mean someone with their ear to the ground knows you might be in the market soon. Get all the information you can and make sure all your ducks are in a row as fast as possible.
Changing jobs can be stressful, and nobody really wants to face the possibility they can’t go any further in their current position. Offsetting those risks are the possibilities you might find a much better job, higher pay and more challenging work. Depending on your circumstances this can definitely be worth considering.