Work it out

If the prospect of a shiny 12 months ahead is making you focus on your job situation, get some career control as Lee Xin Hui examines how to suss out if you should stay… or go.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

If the prospect of a shiny 12 months ahead is making you focus on your job situation, get some career control as Lee Xin Hui examines how to suss out if you should stay… or go.


The New Year – it’s full of hope, packed with the unknown, oozing endless opportunities. It’s also the time when we inevitably look back upon the past year and reassess where it’s taken us. Are we happy? Are we where we want to be? Are we heading towards our goals? According to statistics, “39 per cent* of professionals spend an average of three to four years in a role, so they can learn and prove themselves”, says Toby Fowlston, managing director at Robert Walters Southeast Asia. “However, many tend to review their career growth during the start of the year, especially in the first quarter, as most professionals wait to receive their annual bonus payout.”

So, when should you stick with your job, and when should you run? While the prospect of a career move can feel exciting, motivating and refreshing, an impulsive or emotion-led decision to quit can spell disaster. Here, we help you to decide whether it’s time to knuckle down, or start clearing your desk.

When it’s okay to quit and move on

1 Your company shows signs of instability.

There’s an increasing number of cost-cutting measures like salary freezes, retrenchment and relocating a business function to another country – indications that your company is not doing well. You’re also worried that you may soon be out of a job because there are talks of a potential merger with another company, rendering your department redundant.

2 Your job feels stagnant.

If you feel that you’re not learning enough or taking on enough work responsibilities, speak to your boss about the possibility of handling more complex tasks. If you’ve done that, and still feel there’s no change, start looking for other options. But be aware that it takes three to five years to build a proven track record. “If you haven’t accumulated experience and built credibility, your manager will not be able to justify a pay increment or promotion,” warns Lim Chai Leng, director of accounting, banking and financial services at Randstad Singapore.

3 You can’t stand your boss.

While we’re not expecting you to be BFFs with your superior, you do need to have a good working relationship. “They should be able to provide direction and feedback, be an inspiring leader and someone who motivates you,” shares Chai Leng. If you’re not learning from them, it’s an indication to move on before you become complacent or bitter.

4 You were “tricked” into the job.

You were under the impression that you would be leading a team and improving on your experience, but your actual job scope differs vastly from what was communicated previously. “Speak to your boss and HR about it before jumping to conclusions,” says Chai Leng. Clarify if there’s been a recent change in portfolio resulting in a diff erent job scope, and whether it’s temporary. If it’s going to be a long-term arrangement, it might be best to quit before you get sucked into a position that will not make you happy.


When it makes sense to rethink a move

1 It’s all about the money.

Accepting a new job could mean an attractive pay rise, but you may be neglecting other factors like your career goals, which are equally important. If money’s the only reason you’re thinking of switching things up, consider speaking to your boss about a possible salary adjustment before accepting a new job, because “using a potential off er to negotiate with your superior can affect your credibility,” says Chai Leng. Ask for his or her feedback on your performance, give examples of how you’ve proven yourself, and say that you look forward to some form of monetary recognition. If you’ve been going for interviews or working with recruiters and know for a fact that you’re being paid below market rate, make reference to an updated salary benchmark to support your suggestion for an adjustment.

2 Your problems are trivial or temporary.

There’s no such thing as a perfect job, so there are bound to be ups and downs. Whether it’s a complicated project or an annoying colleague, consider if the issue can be resolved, and if you can turn the challenge into a learning opportunity. Make sure your dissatisfaction is not just an emotional or reactive one. Says Chai Leng: “Short-term moves can reflect badly on you because they make you appear to be a job hopper.”

3 You work with great people.

We get that you’re not at work to socialise, but workplace friendships can make you a lot happier and more productive. This is especially true if you’re a millennial, according to the Relationships @Work 2014 survey by Linkedin. In truth, a diverse working environment can also broaden your horizons.

4 You’re making good progress.

Ask where you’d like to be in one year’s time in your current organisation. Are you on the verge of that big promotion? If so, don’t let short-term gripes tempt you into making a quick getaway. “Starting afresh means you’ll need time to prove yourself, get noticed, and wait for a promotion,” says Chai Leng.

Get your colleagues on your side

Employees who receive praise regularly are more productive, engaged and likely to stay in their jobs, according to Gallup research. “When you compliment an employee, keep it professional, repeatable, tangible and specific to a behaviour,so it’s easier for them to understand and repeat exactly what they did well,” advises Jaya Dass, country manager at Randstad Singapore. “However, research has shown that recognition is forgotten in as little as seven days.”

58%* of professionals didn’t tell employers of their unhappiness before starting a job search.

85%* of employers can identify employees on the verge of resignation.

35%* of professionals accepted a counter-off er from their current companies because of increased pay.

*Source: Acquiring Insights from the Exit Process to Build A Better Workplace, Robert Walters’ Focus Asia white paper, which surveyed more than 1,200 people across Asia.