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While many people may have clung to their jobs out of fear during the recession, career coaches say employees are now becoming more confident to look elsewhere and move on.
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updated 4/12/2011 7:46:34 AM ET 2011-04-12T11:46:34

Unhappy at your job but not sure if it’s the right time to leave? You’re not alone.

A recent survey commissioned by talent management firm Plateau and conducted by Harris Interactive finds that 31 percent of employees are not satisfied at their current jobs. In fact, a whopping 74 percent of workers — satisfied or not — would consider leaving if approached with another offer.

“During the recession, the fear of not knowing what would happen next made people cling to the jobs they had,” says business coach Libby Gill, author of You Unstuck. “Now, there are signs that we’re slowly coming out of it, and people are starting to look up and think, is it time for me to move on?”

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According to the Plateau survey, the top five reasons employees consider leaving are salary (57 percent), needing a change (31 percent), career and advancement opportunities (29 percent), change of profession (22 percent) and concerns for the employer’s future (18 percent).

However, recruiters and career coaches say it can be difficult to determine whether you can get what you need from the company you’re at or whether it’s time to stage a breakout. They dissect the subtle signs and bright red flags that your current job is just not working for you.

You're no longer valued
Frustrated that your hard work goes unnoticed? It could be a bigger problem than you realize. Patricia Lenkov, executive recruiter at New York-based Agility Executive Search, believes that if you’re not getting the recognition you deserve, financially or otherwise, it’s time to reevaluate.

Being passed over for a promotion can signal that you’re not a company priority. Lenkov says if your manager has given clear feedback and offered to help by hiring a coach or assigning stretch projects, then you know you’re valued. However, if no explanation is provided, others are being promoted or you’ve been passed over multiple times, pull out the resume. Furthermore, Lenkov says the clearest red flag is when a subordinate is promoted over you. “I don’t see anyone staying after that,” she says.

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Being denied a merit raise may also be telling, depending on the circumstances. If the company is not profiting or has only recently shown profits, they may not be able. However, if it’s had sustained success and you’re still not reaping the rewards, consider your options, says Lenkov.

Eileen Habelow, SVP of organizational development at global staffing firm Randstad, advises that employees decide what they can be flexible on, ask for what they need and define a timeline. If they can’t work it out within those limits, then it’s important to stick to it and move on.

Your time may be up
Habelow warns workers to watch out for signs that their company or division is contracting. A culture shift or change in priorities can be a warning sign. If it used to focus on research and development and now is pushing only cost-cutting measures, there’s a problem. Similarly, a big change in management, particularly a team brought in to “turn around” operations, may foreshadow layoffs.

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You may also realize your job is in trouble, says Habelow, because you suddenly have too much downtime. If you find you don’t have enough work to do, the company could be communicating that you won’t be needed much longer. Moreover, if your operating budget or your staff has been reassigned — or eliminated — it’s a good sign that your division is not a priority.

“Change is inevitable, but when organizational changes occur without including you, it’s time to move on,” says Nancy DeCrescenzo, director of career services at Eastern Connecticut State University. Other indications that the business is unstable are layoff rumors, delays in hiring, negative news reports or cuts in benefits.

It's just not working
Business coach Gill suggests that employees also be aware of internal signs that they’re ready to move on. The most dangerous symptom is when the job is making you physically ill. In the aftermath of downsizing, says Gill, workers have taken on double and triple their former workloads, which will catch up with them.

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“I call it stress creep,” she says. “It’s these little incremental changes. You don’t have time for your workout or you start grabbing food on the go. Suddenly you’re not taking care of yourself.”

Developing chronic back problems, headaches, stomach pains or sleep issues may all signal a problem job. Equally telling are weekends spent dreading going into work, feeling completely drained at the end of each day or a sharp drop in productivity because you feel bored or unmotivated. If you are not learning new skills or being challenged, your dispassion will negatively affect your work — and you may soon be forced to leave.

“People aren’t built to be miserable,” says Habelow. “Once you make the decision to leave, know what steps you’re going to take and take them.”

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