Have you met people who seem to always be in the right place at the right time in their careers? They start with early successes, build a strong reputation, and then gracefully leap from one great opportunity to the next.

Have you ever wondered how do they do that?

The key to being in the right place at the right time in your career, is to leave the wrong place at the right time.

Successful people have learned that it’s easier to swim downstream than upstream. All jobs have challenges, all jobs have rough patches. But when forces out of your control are conspiring against you being able to do your best work … it’s time to go. As business guru W. Edwards Deming said , “A bad system will beat a good person every time.”

People who have built successful careers know how to find work environments that encourage high performance, and have the courage to leave work environments that make doing your best work impossible.

When you find yourself fighting the current, and working hard only to make minimal progress, it may be time for a change:

  • When internal politics consume more management attention than your customers and your mission … it’s time to leave.
  • When external economic forces are working against your organization, and you don’t believe your leadership has a smart plan to address it … it’s time to leave.
  • When you no longer “fit in” and your personal values are not aligned with the leadership of your organization … it’s time to leave.
  • Sometimes the entire culture of the organization works against you. When you need fast decisions to do your work, but all you get are slow decisions (or no decisions) … it’s time to go.

We are all influenced by the people around us. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping said, “In a bad system even a good man will do evil things, in a good system even a bad man will do good.”

If you want real career success, find the work environment that inspires your best work.