1. Am I happy? Gimbel reminds careerists: "It seems simple, but too many people are working in jobs they don't enjoy. They use the tough job market as an excuse to stay put, but the market is picking up and hiring is increasing." If you are unhappy, you are the only one with the power to make a positive change.
2. Am I ready for a long-term commitment? As with a romantic relationship, there should never be a commitment if you are not ready for it. "The goal with any job is to get really good at it, and in order to get really good at something, there needs to be a commitment of more time and more effort," Gimbel says. "If you're trying to figure out how to leave the office at 5 p.m., or the easiest way to get something done ... chances are you're not ready to commit."
3. Is there a future? This can be tough in a fast-changing economy, but do your due diligence and make sure you find out information that will help you decide if your current company has a long-term outlook. Gimbel suggests networking with others in the office to find out if people have been promoted from within the company, and how often it occurs. You can also take a look at the company's LinkedIn company page to sleuth data about where employees tend to move after working for the organization. Don't forget to keep an eye on the news to determine if your company's business plan seems sound. If it's a publicly traded company, you'll be able to access what analysts think about how it is performing.
4. Can you take things to the next level? "If the job feels like it could potentially be a perfect match, it's time to envision the near future and begin taking steps to get there," Gimbel says. Keep in mind: You are responsible for your own career; make a point to ramp up your efforts if you want to move ahead.
5. Is it time to get engaged? Being happy in the workplace means being engaged and motivated. "The difference between successful employees and mediocre ones is how involved they are in what they do. Great employees are constantly working, thinking of new ideas, reading new literature and determining how events and lessons in their everyday life can transfer to their career," Gimbel says. How can you make sure that you're one of these great employees?
6. Is breaking up in the future? You don't want to burn any bridges, and it's more likely to leave a bad impression with your colleagues and supervisor if you stay a long time at an unsuitable job, so make plans to exit if you really can't manage to enjoy your job. Gimbel explains: "Leaving a job professionally is integral to career success. Employees should talk to their supervisors and explain clearly and concisely the reason for leaving in a face-to-face conversation."
Be sure to give an appropriate amount of notice if you're planning to make a change; two weeks is customary and expected, even though it is not required in most cases. "Better yet," Gimbel notes, "Create a manual that details the tasks of the role for the next person that assumes the position. Former bosses are now potential work references, so it's helpful to leave on a good note."
Miriam Salpeter is a job search and social media consultant, career coach, author, speaker, resume writer, and owner of Keppie Careers. She is author of Social Networking for Career Success and 100 Conversations for Career Success. Miriam teaches job seekers and entrepreneurs how to incorporate social media tools along with traditional strategies to reach their goals.