Your grandfather may have retired with a gold watch, but it's unlikely today's graduates will become lifers with any one employer. Recurring business cycles, outsourcing and changing technology require modern IT professionals to be ready, willing and able to launch a job search on a moment's notice.

"New graduates must learn to be proactive," says Patricia Dorch, president of Six Figure Career Coach in San Diego, Calif. "The time to update your resume is right after you pass your probationary period."

Since the question isn't "if" you should change jobs but "when," here are signs that can help you recognize when it's time to move on.

Red Flags Require Immediate Action

  1. Financial troubles: Staff reductions are common during economic downturns, and layoffs may not affect you or portend severe financial problems for your employer. But if your company is consistently losing money, seeking a buyer, divesting major business units, considering IT outsourcing, or indefinitely suspended technology investments.
  2. Limited growth opportunities: If you're stagnating, your career has plateaued and you foresee no changes on the horizon.
  3. Passed over: If your contributions aren't being recognized, and your peers with similar skills and experience are passing you by or being given special assignments.
  4. New boss hiring old cronies: A new boss doesn't always necessitate a job change, but if she's terminating current employees and hiring former loyalists, chances are you're on borrowed time. Also, if it's public knowledge your new boss was brought in to clean up the IT department, then it's probably time to go. It's difficult to salvage your professional reputation and keep your career on track  once you've been associated with an underperforming business unit.
  5. Bad vibes from management: While it's not always fair, being liked by company management is critical for success. So if your boss or company executives give you the cold shoulder, and there¿s no leadership change in the offing, it's time to look for a new job.

Yellow Flags are Warnings 

If you have little control over a yellow flag situation, and things haven't been resolved within six months, it's probably time to move on, says Hallie Crawford, a certified career coach specializing in young professionals and recent college grads.

"It's human nature to either be impulsive or over-analytical in response to workplace challenges," observes Crawford. "In the case of young professionals, 60 percent of the time they probably need to stay to get more experience and learn how to work through problems. Forty percent of the time, they need to leave."

  1. Poor performance reviews: Anyone can make a mistake or occasionally miss some goals, but don't ignore serious performance issues or a situation that is de-motivating you from giving your best performance. "If you've received bad evaluations and negative feedback from your boss and co-workers, you either need to work on your performance or leave," says Crawford.
  2. Organizational changes: Whether it's a new boss, a company-wide reorganization or a lateral transfer, give yourself time to adapt to the situation so you can evaluate how it will impact your career. Also, don't get caught up in the post-change frenzy of co-workers. Make a stay-or-go decision based solely on an unemotional evaluation of what's best for you.
  3. Poor cultural fit: Poor fit with the organization's culture is one of the primary reasons employees change jobs. Unfortunately politics, red tape and frustration abound in all organizations, and new grads must learn how to adapt and survive in tough business environments. Give yourself time to acclimate to the culture, before deciding to jump ship.
  4. Recruited away: While it's flattering to be pursued, remain grounded. You don't want to view a new opportunity through rose colored glasses, only to have regrets later. Do your homework and ask tough questions before deciding to accept another offer. "Learn to appreciate what you have," says Crawford. "Because the grass isn't always greener at another company, it's just more grass."