April 17, 2024
min read

When Is It Time To Change Jobs? 7 Signs to Look Out For

Luis Minvielle

People change jobs because they're unhappy, want more money, or would like greater opportunities. However, the decision to switch roles isn't always straightforward. Job hopping is now happening more often than ever. Industry reports show that 60% of millennials are open to a new job opportunity, which is 15% higher than workers from older generations. But what if it doesn't work out? What if the new job is tougher or comes with more responsibilities than expected? 

Layoffs in the tech industry are showing which jobs are future-proof and which ones aren't. It also indicates that companies care more about making money than looking out for their employees. This has got many people wondering if they should stay put to keep a sense of security, or rather change careers to something more sure-footed. Before you make the leap, here's a list of things to keep in mind to know when it's the right time to change jobs. 

What are the market trends for people looking to change jobs?

The job market has undergone significant changes in the last few years, especially in tech. If you want a new job in technology, you should be prepared for a quite unfamiliar job market.

The Great Resignation, sparked by COVID-19, saw a record number of 47 million American workers voluntarily leaving their jobs in 2021 alone. This event completely shook up the job market. Additionally, according to an OECD study, there's a talent shortage of over 1.3 million software engineers worldwide, which means the demand for skilled developers will continue to be high in the coming years. Since the pandemic's end, companies have been calling employees back to the office, despite 95% of professionals wanting remote work options, and this is currently causing upheaval in the market.   

The end of the pandemic brought tech layoffs, affecting more than 660,000 tech workers in the past three years. The surprise is that the median experience level of those laid off is 11.5 years, which suggests they aren't all junior workers easily replaceable or automatable, but longer-serving employees. Interestingly, HR roles are most affected, constituting 28% of layoffs, maybe because of automation. In this scenario, senior software engineers are facing significant pay cuts and even struggling for months before securing a job. 

However, it's not all bad news. Non-tech engineers in Fortune 500 companies and traditional sectors like healthcare or government face fewer layoffs. They may not make big tech money, but they will definitely experience a higher level of job security. In the tech sector, there are still areas of opportunity. Cybersecurity experts remain sought due to ongoing cyber threats, and professionals in machine learning and AI have better prospects of holding onto their jobs for a while.

Despite opportunities, job security is at an all-time low and, therefore, workers are more hesitant to leave their current jobs. The Great Resignation of the past few years seems to be evolving into the Big Stay Movement, as recent reports are showing. 

Find Tech Jobs in Europe → 

Factor in the cost of living if you’re job-hopping

While the lure of a higher-paying job remains strong, it’s not the only factor to consider when job-hopping. You should also consider the cost of living in your target country. A good-paying position in a city like Zurich—one of the world’s most expensive cities—might be less attractive after you factor in the higher living expenses compared to a smaller town in Austria. Digital nomads understood this early on and took the best advantage of it, trying to join companies with Silicon Valley salaries yet living elsewhere cheaper. But don’t think that all jobs are open to that lifestyle. Some companies are pushing for more office days, including those—like Zoom!—that made remote work possible in the first place. If you plan to change jobs, examine this employee–employer divide as a distinctive aspect of the job market.

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Job hopping or long-term loyalty—Which is better?

When it comes to job hopping versus long-term loyalty, the answer isn't a simple yes or no. It really depends on the role and industry you're in. Job hopping is recommended—and typical—for some professions, like recruiters, salespeople, and engineers. Salespeople can job-hop because they bring a portfolio of clients to a new company, and that’s why plenty of managers are willing to take on a salesperson who has one LinkedIn logo for each year they’ve worked. But take the role of a writer, for instance. Location and job-hopping don’t impact their salaries.

In the tech sector, software engineers who switch jobs can see their pay increase by an average of 10–20% compared to those staying put. Some engineers even claim they procured 50% increases by just hopping. Even if that’s anecdotal evidence, the potential of changing jobs—in certain sectors, that is—to get a better salary is well attested. A 2022 Pew report found that 60% of workers who job-hopped between 2021 and 2022 saw significant wage growth, while less than half of the job-stayers reported the same during that time. Recent data confirms the observed pattern, with job hoppers experiencing higher than average wage growth compared to those employees who stay loyal—the average wage growth in technical services is around 3.9% for 2024 (lower than inflation). 

Compensation isn’t everything, and it certainly isn't the only reason why people change jobs. Yet, it’s hardly shocking to claim that employees are not loyal to companies. The Great Resignation exposed the unpleasant aspects of corporate culture, including low wages and fake work.” Along with high inflation rates, people are struggling to make ends meet as wages stagnate or fall behind. The consequence is that company loyalty has been knocked to an all-time low, with employees more likely to jump ship for better opportunities elsewhere, hoping to make it through the storm.    

Source: Gallup

Even so, recent trends suggest a shift in this mindset. The tech industry layoffs starting in 2022 and continuing until today, with more than 660,000 workers losing their jobs, have become a wake-up call. Job security for tech workers is more uncertain than ever. This is making software engineers think twice about their priorities, with many of them choosing stability over chasing a higher salary. So until the storm passes and stability is re-established, staying loyal appears to be the best strategy.


When to change jobs: Comparing job experience vs salary 

Your career journey is built around two main pillars: salary and hands-on experience. These two factors influence your decisions as you move forward, so it's important to find the right balance between them. If you are thinking about changing jobs, you're basically deciding what matters most to you. Is it a job that challenges you and helps you grow but pays poorly, or one that pays good money but doesn't push you to gain valuable experience?

Climbing the ladder depends on timing and the company. Maybe if you want a promotion and can’t get one, it could be because there’s someone in that target role already. So, in that case, you must leave and find another pathway. But in smaller companies, there might not be anyone in the position you are interested in, so the promotion is easier.

If you are a software engineer, there are different factors to weigh in as your career takes off. Payscale data suggests there’s a peak after 4–5 years at a single company as a software engineer, and then a potential slowdown in salary growth follows. This might be related to the concept of value apex.

Think of your career growth as a high peak. Initially, you’re learning rapidly, your skills are in high demand, and your value to the company rises. This is the uphill climb to the value apex. However, once you've reached the peak, you’ve shared your knowledge, got the hang of the field, fully utilised your assets, and… growth stalls out. This is both in salaries and in the feeling that you’re learning something new.

Source: The Daily WTF 

This stagnation is likely to make people feel stuck. You might start to question if your skills are becoming outdated or if your current role no longer reflects your expertise. Around this time, you might start comparing your salary to what the public portals say a software engineer should earn, and you could be surprised to check those figures. Before checking those portals, you should consider how the compensation market behaves when benchmarking your salary.

Some industry experts suggest the software engineers' compensation market is becoming trimodal—divided into three distinct groups that “spike,” as an expert puts it, at different rates with very little overlap.

Source: PragmaticEngineer

This “trimodal” model explains why a very similar position can (and does) pay very differently, and, therefore, why there is no longer an “average salary” for software engineers in Europe, but only an “average” salary for each of the three different groups. This means that depending on the company they work for, a recent graduate and a senior software engineer may make up to three times the yearly salary. Naturally, Big Tech offers more compensation, with the tradeoff being more competition and higher expectations.

Source: PragmaticEngineer

So, if you think job hopping could be a good idea, as you realise the only way up now is to jump, take some time to evaluate which category your workplace belongs to. This will give you a better view of whether your current salary aligns with your experience and where you might have to step your feet into next to get what you are looking for. Or maybe, you already belong to the “invisible range,” and you should expect a salary decrease, but win at everything else. The expert agrees that the first two groups have the best work-life balance.

Browse Senior Tech Jobs in Europe → 

7 signs it is time to change jobs

Don't let external pressures or money be the only deciding factor when considering a job change. Instead, take note of these signs and see how they relate to your current situation. These are some signs you should change jobs.

1. You dread each week

Some software engineers have very cushy jobs. Lots of them really like their work and get satisfaction from it. But not everybody is so lucky; we get it. If you are showing up dreading meetings and code reviews, then that's a problem––perhaps a sign that you should change jobs. 

Now, feeling unproductive or unhappy one day doesn't mean you're not a good fit for your job or that your job is not a good fit for you. Sometimes, external factors like not having the right tools or not knowing what’s expected of you can affect the way you feel about your job. If that's the case, sorting out these problems could be a first step before considering a job change. But if you address such blockers and still find yourself struggling to make it to the end of each day, then you might probably need a change of scenery to start feeling productive again. 

In a different situation, when you have an in-depth understanding of the industry and all your co-workers look up to you for advice, it can seem tempting to stay. But be careful–– it could lead your career path straight into dissatisfaction. According to a Harvard Business Review study, people who hold unfulfilling jobs for too long tend to be less motivated. Eventually, your mind and body will speak for you and negatively impact your performance. When the time comes, you and your boss will agree that changing jobs is the best option.

2. Your company has misaligned values 

No, we’re not talking about the “vision and mission.” We are talking about things that happen in real life.

If a company wants to rake in as much money as possible, why demand an inflexible schedule if you can work the same in a more flexible way? Shouldn’t the focus be on work?

Cultures in some countries vary, but this kind of rigidity is an example of a traditional approach to jobs that curiously misses out on the whole point of working: To make money. If you lead a more versatile lifestyle, stiff schedules may control the pace of your days and negatively influence your productivity. Of course, this depends on your job. If your tasks as a developer are not directly tied to your earnings, let’s say, the number of lines of code you put in won’t affect your salary, then it is reasonable that you will be given less freedom than if you have clear deliverables and timelines. But there are limits to rigidity.  

If you’re in this kind of regulated–even constraining–workplace, you should understand it won’t get better. It’s just ingrained in it. And given that most tech companies are so past this attitude, you should consider looking for a new job somewhere where people are more tolerant.

3. You’re not learning anymore

Are you trapped in a dull state of mind, using the same old skills day in and day out? If you are working for a company that uses outdated technology or that doesn’t work with products you are interested in, it will very probably take away your motivation. Maybe you'd rather be designing than coding or testing instead of debugging. Once you are no longer motivated, you’ll certainly be no longer learning. This will leave you feeling stagnant and uninspired, and might be a clear signal that it’s time to change.

Feeling stuck on stagnant projects not only damages your inspiration but also interferes with your career progress. According to research, employees who spend time at work learning are 47% less likely to be stressed, 39% more likely to feel productive and successful and 21% more likely to feel confident and happy. You can figure out the numbers, given you are not learning at all. Also, when you stop learning, you stop gaining new skills, and this is troubling because 80% of CEOs cite the need for new skills as their biggest business challenge in the coming years. To keep your career marketable, you need to keep learning.

4. You are wasting your skills

You've probably come across the story of Meta hiring people to sit around and do nothing. Britney Levy, an employee who was laid off after working at the company for seven months, reported that no matter how incredibly well qualified she and her colleagues were, “Meta was intentionally stalling their careers.” She even agreed with other comments on social media saying that Meta was paying people to do “fake work.”

The biggest problem here is not that you are wasting––or literally giving away—your time because your talents are being overlooked. The concern is the effect this will have on your career path, given that you are sitting in a position that leads you nowhere. How do you fill your resume after a year of loitering in the corridors of your company? This is not only about not maxing out your full potential, but also about not losing your edge, considering how competitive and fast-paced the job market is. So yes, if you sense you are trapped in a similar scenario, don't be afraid to jump, no matter how risky it might seem. 

5. You’ve detected a dead-end

If you always want more, whether it’s a promotion, a pay raise, or expanding your knowledge, but your ambitions are consistently overlooked, it may be a sign of stagnation. It could be that you’ve reached the promotion wall at your current job: there’s nowhere else to go rather than continue doing what you are doing. At that point, you very probably have become an expert in your field—especially if you’re in a senior position—and you want to keep progressing, but you realise the company lacks opportunities for learning and development. 

Even if you invest in your own upskilling efforts, you might feel frustrated and stuck if the company doesn't help you grow. Many hiring managers advise staying with a company for a reasonable stint, but what happens when the career path you are on clearly drags you towards a dead-end? This doesn't have to be all negative. Most of it is actually not. Your boss will surely understand and maybe even encourage you to jump. It's just coming to terms with reality and working around it. That's all.

6. The workplace is objectively toxic

They say people quit bosses, not jobs.

It's important to know that it is totally normal (and usually inevitable) to find yourself in a work environment where getting along with certain individuals is challenging. But if this feeling of discomfort is always there, it’s probably the company’s binding code, and as such, it will never go away. There’s no shame in recognising when a job damages your well-being or mental health, and not even a pay cheque will compensate for it (83% of millennials agree with this).

There are plenty of ways to get a grasp of your next workplace’s culture, even before you start working there. One of those ways is with company reviews, but make sure you source them from a trustworthy outlet.

7. Your work-life balance is causing you trouble at home

Your job could be excellent, and the company’s vision and mission just commendable, but it can still be too demanding. What you need to balance in this case is pay and future opportunities. You could be willing to give up a healthy work-life balance for a high salary and to secure your career success. Many people choose this path when they feel that giving themselves fully to their work at the cost of less time with their dog or cat is worth it. They trust the reward for the effort will arrive sooner or later. No need to mention if you enjoy your job. In that case, choosing this path is indeed a simple and almost organic decision, because you have a vested interest in the project, and you're doing something you care about.

But if you have children waiting for you at home or if the extra money doesn't make much difference, or is giving you diminishing returns, following this instinct would not be the right way to go. In any case, it would be wise to consider moving out and finding a job with a better work-life balance.

When is the best time to change jobs?

Considering salary increases and the value apex, it would be wise to change jobs every two to three years to catch the momentum of that increase without job hopping excessively, let's say, every few months. Also, for software engineers who’re not in cybersecurity or ML, staying put for three years is a safe period to weather the layoff storm.

If you seek online testimonials, the debate on how often to job hop has plenty of perspectives. Many software engineers argue that times have changed, so job hopping every two to three years is widely “accepted.” They claim recruiters understand that to grow or get better opportunities, one has to change companies frequently. There’s even a viral post about a developer who jumped between three companies—including Amazon and Microsoft—in three years and got a 20% pay increase. Meanwhile, a payroll company that surveyed 24 million workers noted that the highest salary jump comes after employees stay at least two years, but not more than five years. The longer you stay, the less your salary will grow at your next job. So, yes, there are reasons to agree with this camp.

At the same time, there are many software engineers and recruiters who argue that a tenure of less than three years at multiple jobs is an “orange flag.” They would be hesitant to hire someone who has a two-year track record for more than a few jobs, since this might be a sign of a lack of stability or commitment. Also, a candidate with a history of hopping every two years will get the CFO reeling, as turnover is expensive. This argument holds that changing jobs every three to four years is smarter, making your resume look nicer.

Three years is a widespread figure that doesn’t consider inflation, layoffs, or the market's lower offers. Yet, it's a good middle ground between staying too long in one job and risking stagnation and job hopping so frequently that you attract recruiters' attention or damage your reputation.

If this seems off, it’s because it depends on each case. Job hopping every three years is a general rule of thumb that is helpful to keep in mind. But what if the layoffs hit harder than before, and you’ve just reached your third anniversary? It’d be advisable to stay put. And what if you dread your frontend coding gig, and you’re just six months in? We’ve answered that for you before.

There’s also an overt focus on salary growth, and you might appreciate different things, like flexibility or job security, that don’t involve a salary. Would you give up your work-from-home Fridays for a 7% salary increase as a new employee? We thought so.

Find a new job and decide with the best information

Three years or not, if you think it’s time to move on, you can start here. At WeAreDevelopers, we're always looking to match the best talent in Europe with the leading companies. Sign up and explore our job board so you can set out on your new career journey. Good luck!

When Is It Time To Change Jobs? 7 Signs to Look Out For

April 17, 2024
min read

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