When is the right time to quit your job?

A resignation can often trigger employers to try to match or better a rival offer

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There are many reasons why people decide to look for new career opportunities.

In the Middle East, which is a very fluid market, many more employees are passively open to looking for opportunities outside their current employer than in other parts of the world.

Why is this, and when is the right time to make the move?

About 15 to 20 years ago, when jobseekers came to Dubai to find a new role, many (including myself) did not expect to be still here today.

They would be more open to moving jobs every two to four years or even just getting a few years in a different environment before returning to their home countries.

Today, many have decided to make the UAE their long-term home, so there seems to be less reason to move jobs as often as before.

Any reputable organisation will want to retain their best talent. With longevity of employees comes stability and the ability for growth, for both the employee and the establishment.

In my experience, it is often the lack of growth that encourages an employee to look elsewhere and consider leaving.

Although salary is naturally aligned to growth in a job, it is also the responsibility that comes with a role that’s important.

For example, if a top salesperson is overachieving year on year, they will probably be achieving a higher bonus or commission annually.

But if they are looking to expand their territory, manage a team or have a higher job grade and not getting what they desire, this could be enough for them to look elsewhere, regardless of their pay cheque.

It has been well noted that the Generation Z is more open to switching roles to climb the career ladder than previous generations, but those who are at the later stages of their careers may also want to take on a different challenge while they still have the opportunity.

People tend to stay in companies for longer periods of time simply because they are happy and feel looked after.

When this is not the case, it is the most likely time for them to move elsewhere.

Often, a resignation can trigger the employer to make a desperate attempt to change an employee's mind by using a counter-offer.

Many times, I have seen candidates accept a counter-offer from their employer. However, most decide to move on within one year.

Any good recruitment trainer will point this fact out, and the reasons are almost always the same. These include:


The employee felt undervalued and had their head turned by another company. Their employer (sometimes grudgingly) matches or betters the offer.

The employee felt he/she should have had the pay increase in the first place and, therefore, feels let down.

False promises

Perhaps the responsibilities or career opportunities were not provided. The employer promises things will change, but they do not.

Poor management

This is very difficult when trying to convince a person to stay.

It’s often said that people leave bad leaders rather than bad companies. If the leadership doesn’t change, the environment won’t either.

Open communication from the employee about where they want to go in their role and career is important
John Armstrong, founder and managing director, JCA Associates


If the employee feels let down by the employer or vice versa, it is impossible to reverse.

I am not suggesting that you shouldn't accept a counter-offer. Instead, there is a much better way to approach your leadership team if you are unhappy in your role, long before you get to this point.

Open communication from the employee about where they want to go in their role and career is as important as how the organisation explains where it is going and what it expects.

There is little point pushing a loyal employee down a career path that they do not wish to go down.

In fact, some candidates may be happy to carry out the same day-to-day tasks for 10 years without any extra responsibilities.

Rather than telling your line manager you have a better job offer on the table, it would be a better conversation to explain where you want to go in your career and ask the following questions:

  • Is that possible in this environment?
  • What do I need to get there?
  • What other opportunities are there for me in the future?

For some, staying in any company longer than two to four years is too much, regardless of what internal opportunities are available. By switching environments, they will gain a broader view of experience and skills.

However, the caveat is that some employers may see this as a lack of commitment – and it may put them off from hiring the candidate.

John Armstrong is the founder and managing director of JCA Associates

Updated: March 15, 2024, 6:02 PM