How Do You Know Whether It’s Time to Leave Your Industry?

David Greenberg |

May 16, 2021 |

The American economy is dynamic. New industries appear seemingly overnight in response to technological breakthroughs or consumer trends. And whole industries may fade or even fail for many reasons: poor leadership, changing consumer preferences, new policy directions, even (as we’ve learned over the past year) disasters and pandemics that cause major economic downturns.

If you’re currently working in an industry that seems to be on its way out, or that has suffered major damage from the events of the past year, you may be wondering if it’s time to do something new. Leaving an industry, particularly one where you may have spent decades climbing the corporate ladder, is a highly personal decision. I know–I spent more than 20 years in the automotive industry before leaving for a second career in franchising. And I have a number of friends who’ve made similar decisions. Based on my own experience and that of the people I know, these are the questions I recommend asking if you’re thinking about flying the coop.

Do I still love my job?

This is an important question to ask yourself regularly, regardless of the health of your industry. Even if your sector is flourishing, you don’t want to spend the remaining years of your career talking yourself into going to work each day. It might be time to leave your industry if you no longer feel interested in your own work or in the larger sector where you work. Without curiosity and engagement, you’re unlikely to perform at your best–which can make you vulnerable to cutbacks. Excessive stress or disengagement at work also harms your physical and mental health. So ask yourself, “Do I wake up eager to go to work most days?” or “Do I still find excitement in tackling new challenges at work?” If the answer is no, it’s time to consider something else.

Have I topped out?

Topping out comes in two forms: topping out personally and topping out within an organization. Sometimes, the two align. The highest position available to you at work may be the highest you want to go in your career. If you’ve reached that point, congratulations! It’s time to dig in and enjoy the responsibilities and rewards of working your way to your ultimate job goal.

On the other hand, you may hit a ceiling at work when you feel like you’ve still got more climbing to do. The issue could be with your employer, in which case you may be able to keep growing by transferring to a different organization in the same industry. But every industry has its hierarchy, and if you’ve reached the top of yours but still want to do more, it may be time to strike out on your own.

Is my industry still innovating?

Especially in today’s tech-driven world, most industries have to keep innovating in order to stay healthy. They have to come up with new products, new ways of conducting operations, new ways of reaching customers. If you’re not sure whether your industry is keeping up, take time to do some research. Have your industry’s financials been trending downward for several years? Are customers leaving your industry for a different one that seems to be replacing what you do? What’s the buzz in the media: do people consistently refer to your industry as “old-fashioned,” “legacy,” or “traditional”? These can all be red flags that your industry is struggling to keep up with the changing times and may not be able to reinvent itself in time to survive.

Is consumer preference or government policy shifting away from my industry?

Public opinion or policy sometimes changes gradually over time, and sometimes changes very rapidly, usually in response to some kind of major event. But change it does. We’re currently in the middle of some major shifts in the public opinion and policy landscapes. For instance, both are trending toward supporting companies and industries that advance the causes of clean energy and environmental protection. So if you’re in a sector that produces or relies heavily on fossil fuels, or that has a reputation for polluting the environment, the next few years may be pretty rocky. Businesses that show a readiness to adapt to such opinion or policy changes may do well, but those that don’t may struggle to survive (see my previous point about innovation). If you work in one of the latter, now may be a good time to leave your industry.

Does this industry’s timeline match with mine?

It’s no secret that the COVID pandemic hit certain industries especially hard. For instance, tourism-related businesses–such as hotels, airlines, and cruise companies–experienced devastating reductions in revenue. Some of these hardest-hit sectors are still struggling to stay afloat. Scientists, government officials, business leaders, and the general public are all optimistic that recovery is coming soon. But depending on where you are in your career, it may not come soon enough.

Most people agree that the new normal won’t necessarily look like the old one. Some companies or industries have permanently slimmed down and don’t plan to return to pre-pandemic levels of operation. Even those that do, may intend to do so over several years. That may not work for you if you’re close to retirement. If you’re at a key stage of career progression, you may have been relying for advancement on opportunities that no longer exist. Or if you’re one of the millions of women who left her job because of childcare pressures, you may need a more flexible arrangement in order to return to the workforce.

Now that you’ve asked yourself these questions, you may have decided that leaving your current industry is right for you. That means you’ve got another decision to make: where are you going to go? Franchising can be an ideal option, for many reasons. If you’d like to learn why, I’ll be happy to do a free consultation with you to talk about options. Book a 15-minute virtual coffee on my calendar to start the process!

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About TimeLinx
TimeLinx delivers innovative project & service management software as a complete solution that perfects the sell-track-manage-support-bill cycle that services organizations must have to delight their customers; TimeLinx brings the cycle together in a single application that offers less frustration, better project management, complete reporting, and improved profitability – all specially designed for Infor and Sage.