No matter how many optimistic “Everything is going to be OK!” forecasts you read about digital marketing spends being on the rise, there’s no denying we are a recession-traumatized industry.
You likely read this headline and instantly thought, “Quit my job? Are you mad? I’m lucky to have a job these days!”
I’m not suggesting that the happily employed shouldn’t be thankful. It’s good to have a steady income, 401(k), health insurance, and access to a pot of coffee you didn’t brew yourself. Your job might be awesome, and if so, I’m happy for you.
But some people reading this article do not think their jobs are awesome. And most of you have probably, at some point, had a job that was lame.
You might be familiar with that creeping sense of realization that something has gone wrong, and it eventually culminates in spending much of your workday battling an internal dialogue that keeps chanting, “I have got to get out of here. Seriously. I have to just get up and walk out.”
There are plenty of reasons people don’t like or are not a good fit for their jobs, and many of those reasons are the fault of the employee—not the employer. People take jobs they don’t want, aren’t qualified for, or don’t feel passionate about. It happens. We need paychecks.
But that’s not what this article about. I’m talking about the ways companies hold back or otherwise abuse their employees. If your boss or company puts you in any of these positions, it’s time to consider heading for the door.
1. Your digital skill set is becoming stagnant or outdated.
Even if you hope to stay in your current role until you retire or die, your company must keep pace with the digital marketing climate. And as such, your skill set should constantly evolve and grow. It’s the only way to stay relevant—and employed.
If your company doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn new things, ask yourself why. Is it because the company has no plans to allow you to advance in the organization, or because the company isn’t keeping up? Either way, it’s a warning sign. You could be in trouble.
If you ignore this problem for too long, you’ll eventually find yourself on the street with outdated skills, either when your company folds or lets you go. At that point, it’s really hard to get back up to speed and persuade a new employer you can be an asset.
If your company is holding you back as a digital marketer, you need to consider getting out of there soon. That said, if it’s your laziness that’s keeping you from exploring new skills, that’s all on you. Be honest with yourself on this one.
2. You’re not doing what you were hired to do.
We all get new job responsibilities added to our plates. It’s the nature of the digital marketing business, and that’s OK; it’s how we learn and grow. Eventually you might learn and grow enough that you find yourself in a different role at the company. That’s fine. That’s what we call advancement. Congratulations!
What I’m talking about is when a company hires you under the expectation you will do one thing, but hands you an entirely different job as soon as you get settled at your desk.
If you thought the company was bringing you in to develop and build its social strategy and instead you have to proofread and automate tweets you didn’t even have a hand in writing, something went wrong. Your company did not set the proper expectations or, worse, it changed things without informing you. You thought you would be able to stretch your creativity and build your portfolio, but instead you’re trapped in the mundane with no indication the situation will improve.
It’s not cool if your company pulled a bait-and-switch on you. Your career should be on an upward trajectory, and if you discover you unwittingly took a step back—even if the paycheck is the same or bigger than your last gig—you shouldn’t stick around. You could ultimately set yourself back for years to come.
This works the other way, too. Did you enter a role with particular duties in mind, only to find yourself running an entire department with limited support and working insane hours? If you enjoy the job and your paycheck acknowledges the crazy workload, it might be OK with you. But if your company hired you as a manager at a manager’s salary and then slapped you with director-level stress, it might not be worth waiting for a promotion that might never come. Don’t discount the stress factor.
3. The company is not healthy.
If your company is going under, you obviously need to get out. It’s rarely wise—or noble—to go down with the ship these days. But that said, sometimes it’s hard to know the ship you’re on is sinking until you’re bobbing in a life preserver while the sharks circle.
Your job might not involve looking at the company’s financials, but make no mistake: Whether you’re a copywriting intern or the CFO, you need to have a handle on the health of the organization you work for. If your company is not up front with at least some general financial information (specific is nice, too), keep your eyes and ears open.
Ask intelligent questions about the company’s health and competition and see how your superiors respond. If your benefits are suddenly eliminated without explanation or no one wants to discuss the bottom line, it’s time to worry.
4. Your boss is lying to you.
This often ties into the previous point about being able to discuss your company’s health with your superiors. Yes, there is often certain information your boss might not be able to share with you, but if you realize he or she is lying when you ask certain questions, you need to consider getting out of there.
Some managers will tell you everything is fine when it’s not. Others will tell you everything is going down the crapper when it’s not. Managers are often in a tough position because it’s tricky to keep both superiors and reports happy. If you suspect your manager is trying to get you to stay at a job when you shouldn’t, or get you to work harder for less money for fear of losing your job, consider looking for another gig. Those are sleazy moves.
5. You have nowhere to go-unless you start backstabbing.
Digital marketers bounce around a lot, and it’s possible that every promotion you’ve ever gotten has been due to a company reorganization. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that doesn’t mean your current company shouldn’t lay out a career path for you. The healthiest and happiest companies want you to stay. They want you to want to stay. And they do that by showing you a path for future advancement.
You shouldn’t have to hope that the person above you leaves or gets fired so you can get a promotion. (Or, worse, have to actively conspire against that person.) Your company should provide other opportunities for advancement. If it doesn’t, it’s a good sign the company expects to churn through employees at your level, and thus doesn’t have a vested interest in your happiness or career development.
If you are at the top of a corporate structure or own an agency or company, this might not seem to apply to you. But even in your case you should feel like your organization is helping you to grow as a marketing professional. You should still have opportunities to achieve greater levels of income and prestige. Otherwise you’ll get bored, and your company will eventually lose relevance.