How to Tell if You Want a Raise or a New Job

Money can’t always buy happiness at the office.

Written by Jenny Mitchell
Published on May. 14, 2024
How to Tell if You Want a Raise or a New Job
Image: Shutterstock / Built In
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It starts with that nagging feeling in your stomach. Something isn’t quite right. Maybe you’re bored or feel stuck at work. Maybe there’s some turbulence in your personal life. Whatever’s going on, your once-fun job is really not fun anymore.

4 Questions to Help You Figure Out What You Want in Your Job

  1. Is all well in your personal life?
  2. Do you take responsibility for your feelings at work?
  3. Are you okay with your daily tasks and responsibilities?
  4. How do you feel about your paycheck?

Before you start looking for the next job, ask yourself these four questions. Emotions are signs that something is not right, and chances are these same emotions will follow you to your next job, should you decide to jump into the job market and seek your next position.

Related ReadingAre You Really in Charge of Your Career?

How’s Your Personal Life?

Has anything changed in your personal life lately to trigger this sense of malaise? Take a look at your friendship and family networks. Beware of blaming your job for your unhappy feeling. Are other factors at play besides your work environment? Take stock of your personal life before you decide to change jobs

One question you can ask yourself is if you’ve ever felt this way before. As humans, we typically act in ways that are familiar to us because it’s easier and because it’s a way to keep ourselves safe from danger. 

As you consider changing jobs, ask yourself what you really want for this next phase of your life. That is not an easy question to answer. It requires reflection, quiet time and perhaps a good conversation with a friend or colleague who can provide a space for you to talk through your ideas and fears. 


How Do You Handle Your Feelings at Work?

Do you feel supported at work? If not, then your tendency is to withdraw, leading to less job satisfaction. Rather than waiting for your boss to step up and engage with you during your annual performance review, take responsibility for your feelings. 

Reach out to your manager and ask for a one-on-one meeting. Prepare for the meeting by sitting down and describing to him or her how you are feeling at work. Try not to issue a stream of complaints; instead, talk about how the situation feels to you as a member of the team. Own your experiences and your feelings and make it clear in the meeting that you are there to work with your manager to address them. 

In my experience working with emerging leaders, many people don’t take the quiet time required to reflect on what’s bothering them. By taking responsibility for your energy and listing your concerns, you’re already one step ahead in the process of working towards finding solutions to your malaise. 


How Do You Feel About Your Role at Work?

Sometimes you love the organization and the work, but you’re incredibly bored with your role or you don’t have a lot of room to grow. 

There are two types of people: People that want to know exactly what they are going to do all day and people who want to have variety in their workday. I often jokingly refer to these two types of people as control Muppets and chaos Muppets. Control Muppets thrive on knowing, on developing expertise and depth of skills. Chaos Muppets want variety, stimulation and fun. 

As you reflect on your role at work, take stock of how much it has or hasn’t changed in the past two years. Are you bored stiff with what you’re doing? Or is there still opportunity for new skills development and new portfolios? Everyone is wired differently, so notice what comes up for you when you ask yourself: Am I bored at work

To be sure, not everyone wants to move up the corporate ladder and that’s totally okay. And there are times in your life when moving up the corporate ladder feels impossible, given the other demands in your life. My suggestion is to take the time to reflect and notice how you are feeling before putting your name in for a promotion

More Career AdviceHow to Handle a Promotion Without a Raise

How Do You Feel About Your Paycheck?

Feeling undervalued and underpaid is like black mold in your house. It just keeps growing. Before you go blasting into your manager’s office, do some detective work and find out what the going rate is for positions like yours across the sector. Do market rates validate the feeling that you’re not paid enough? What would you like to be paid, based on your years of experience? Is the money more attached to wanting more money, more appreciation for your work, or both? 

Before you decide to change jobs, look at your current structure and see if there is a way to stay put and earn more money. Examples might include a raise in benefits, an interim position somewhere else at the organization that pays more or taking on more direct reports.

We would all like more money. And we all deserve to be compensated for our contributions to the workplace. If you are feeling like you’re ready to earn more, start by exploring what that would look like in your current job, then expand outwards to up the corporate ladder at your current company, and finally turn your attention to outside your current workplace. 

In my experience, it’s a bad idea to start a job search because you’re unhappy where you are without trying to address the challenges that you are experiencing. I call that the angry job hunt experience. The energy you bring to your interviews is palpable. When you’re feeling underpaid and undervalued where you are working, it’s hard to get out of that headspace to step into an interview with confidence. 

Taking responsibility for your career and your next steps is an empowering experience. Have the courage to ask the questions will help you clarify what’s most important as you make the next set of decisions in your professional life. And remember: the only person who needs to feel good about your next decision is you.