We’ve all been there, hunched down in our desks furtively checking the clock (and Facebook) somehow hoping that time will somehow speed up. You hate your boss. You are bored of your work. Your co-workers are annoying. The hours are killing you.
You. Just. Hate. Your. Job.
So you think to yourself: “If I’m this miserable…I should quit.”
But then your mind races in a familiar pattern: “I can’t quit because the money/commute/benefits etc are good. I have to stay.”
So you remain stuck.
It’s not a fun place to be. And in these situations, sometimes it is helpful to have a little outside guidance and criteria on if and when you should quit your job.
When is the right time to quit your job?
So, let me be the first to say that there is no one-size fits all answer to this question, but here is what I know to be true:
If you are in danger of burning serious bridges with people because you are so frustrated at work…
If you feel like you are a completely different person than who you used to be and you really don’t like who you see in the mirror…
If you would rather do anything else than go to work (even a trip to the dentist seems like a fine idea!)….
When you find yourself putting everyone else’s needs ahead of your own, and you have been for a loooong time…
Then it’s probably time to move on. Sometimes a job or situation can become so toxic for you that the money, the benefits, and the commute can’t offset the fact that the job is killing you, and nothing is worth that. The best way to move on (of course!) is to have another job at the ready, to make your transition seamless.
Obviously this isn’t a Disney movie so that is not always an option.
Think carefully about what you will do with yourself if you do throw down a resignation letter and walk out the door. Will you be ok financially for a little while? Do you have access to savings or support of some sort? How long can you take off? How warm is your network right now? Do you have good connections that can help you get your next job?
What will get worse if you stay?
There are situations where your health or your family is so negatively impacted by your work that you need to move on for your long-term happiness, even if there is short-term financial pain.
Tip: Take a quick assessment of where you are and what’s getting worse in your life (pull out a piece of paper and think about where you were 2 years ago, 1 year ago, and today and do a comparison of what has changed for the better and the worse), and then decide if your job is literally draining you dry. If you can’t really remember, have an honest conversation with a friend, and ask them to remember for you. What do they think has changed for the better (and the worse) in the last year or two?
If it seems like you are sinking fast, then often the best thing that you can do for yourself is to walk out the door and get into a new situation. Sometimes that means taking time off, sometimes that means taking ANY job at all other than the one you have, because certain companies are so tough that you can’t start thinking clearly until you get out.
When you should stay
Staying in a bad job is both easier and harder than leaving. One way of deciding if you should stay is to ask yourself the following:
1. Were you ever excited about this job? If so, can you get re-energized somehow by doing something new or changing roles in some way?
2. Are you in such a bad financial place that you absolutely cannot go without your paycheck?
3. Is there something you can learn that will help your career out in the long-term that might justify staying in this job for awhile longer? (And the answer to this one must be very concrete as to what would keep you there).
4. Is this just an unusual bad patch?
If any one of these is true, then consider staying (with a plan) for a little while longer. One thing that makes most of us unhappy is when we stay in a job long past our due dates, but we never take action to get out or make progress.
When you have a plan for yourself, it gives you a boost. You have a reason to stay in a bad place because you know you are getting something good out of it (and you are working towards something even better).
So get clear on your plan, and give yourself some deadlines.
For example: If you have to stay because of your paycheck, then start looking for new jobs immediately. Give yourself a plan to warm up your network and apply to jobs. Try and talk to someone new, and research new companies every week, and keep track of your progress. This boost will take the pressure off of you at your current job…and give you that ray of hope you’ve been needing.
And, if you are staying because you have something left to learn that you want to take with you, then get really clear on your timeline for that. What is it? How long do you need to stay? How will that thing (project management, leadership training etc) help you?
Tip: Either way your mission right now is to open up your calendar and carve out some time to make your career better…however you define that.
Most importantly, remember that while the days are long, life is short! So don’t waste too much time doing something that brings you no joy. Instead, spend time on something that really matters to you, so that you can have more career happiness in your life. You are worth it!