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 that we are a recession-traumatized industry. Thus, 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 steady income, health insurance, a 401(k), and access to a pot of coffee that you perhaps didn't brew yourself (jerk). Your job might be awesome, and if so, I'm happy for you.
But some of the people reading this article do not think their jobs are awesome. And most of you have probably, at some point, been at a job that was most assuredly lame. You're familiar with that creeping sense of realization that something has gone wrong -- and it eventually culminates in spending much of your work days battling an internal dialogue that keeps chanting, "I have got to get out of here. Seriously, dude. Just get up and walk out."
There are plenty of reasons that 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. Rather, in this article, I'm talking about ways in which companies hold back or otherwise abuse their employees. And if your boss or company -- whether a brand, agency, or service provider -- is putting you in these positions, it's time to consider heading for the door.
Your digital skill set is becoming stagnant or outdated
Even if you're hoping to stay in your current role until you retire or die, your company must be keeping pace with the digital marketing climate. And as such, your own skill set should be evolving and growing constantly. It's the only way to stay relevant -- and thus, employed -- in this industry.
If your company is not giving 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 is it because the company itself is not keeping up? Either way, it's a warning sign. You could be in trouble. And if you ignore this problem for too long, you're going to eventually find yourself out on the street with outdated skills -- either when your company folds or when your company lets you go. And at that point, it's really hard to get back up to speed and convince a new employer that you can be an asset.
If your company is holding back your evolution as a digital marketer, you need to consider getting out of there -- soon. That said, if it's your own laziness that's keeping you from exploring new skills, that's all on you. So be honest with yourself on this one.
You're not doing what you were hired to do
We all have new job responsibilities added to our plates all the time. It's the nature of the digital marketing biz, and that's OK. It's how we learn and grow. Eventually you might learn enough and grow enough that you find yourself in a completely different role at the company. That's fine. That's what we call advancement. Congrats! What I'm talking about is when a company hires you under the expectation that you will do one thing, but then hands you an entirely different job as soon as you get settled at your desk.
If you thought you were being brought on board to develop and build a brand's social strategy, and instead you're sitting at your desk proofreading and automating tweets that 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 on you without informing you. You thought you were going to be able to stretch your creativity, show off your stuff, and build your portfolio, but instead, you're trapped in the mundane, with no indication that the situation is going to improve.
If your company pulled a bait-and-switch on you, that's not cool. Your career should be on an upward trajectory, and if you discover that you just unwittingly took a step back in a role (even if the paycheck is the same or bigger than your last gig), you shouldn't stick around. You could ultimately be setting yourself back for years to come.
Of course, this works the other way, too. Did you enter a role with particular duties in mind, only to suddenly find yourself running an entire department with limited support and working insane hours? If you're enjoying the job and your paycheck acknowledges the crazy workload, that 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 around for a promotion that might never come. Don't discount the stress factor. Burnout is a bitch.
The company is not healthy -- or it's not telling
If your company is going under, you're obviously going to 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. (And, you know the thing about a shark. He's got lifeless eyes. Black eyes -- like a doll's eyes.)
Your job might not involve looking at the company's financials. If it doesn't, you're probably glad it doesn't. 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 that you're working for. So 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 suddenly benefits are being eliminated without explanation, or no one wants to discuss the bottom line, it's time to get worried.
Your boss is lying to you
This often ties into the previous point about being able to discuss the health of your company with your superiors. Yes, there are often certain pieces of information that your boss might not be able to disclose to you. But if you realize that you're being lied to when you ask certain questions, you need to consider getting the hell 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. The manager is often in a tough position because keeping both superiors and reports happy is tricky. But if you suspect that your manager is either trying to get you to stay at a job that you shouldn't stay at, or trying to get you to work harder for less money for fear of losing your job, consider looking for another gig. Those are sleazy moves.
There's 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 that your current company shouldn't be laying 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 -- or, worse, actively conspire against that person -- in order for you to get a promotion. Your company should provide other opportunities for advancement. If it doesn't, it's a good sign that the company expects to churn through employees at your particular level and, thus, doesn't have much of a vested interest in your happiness or career development.
If you are at the top of a corporate structure or own your own agency or company, this might not seem to apply. But even in your case, you should feel like your organization is helping you to grow in value as a marketing professional. You should still have opportunities to achieve greater levels of income and prestige. Otherwise, you're going to get bored, and your company will eventually lose relevance.
"Vintage metal sign" image via Shutterstock.