There will come a time when you and your current position should not be together anymore, when it is time to part ways, when you must break up with your job. Like any valuable relationship (especially one that is the sole reason you are able to buy food), it’s best to be extremely thoughtful about this decision. Weigh all of your options, stick to your commitment until you’ve tried everything in your power to make it work for you — see your job to its logical end, and then exit honorably. You do not want to quit until you’ve gotten everything you need out of your job; you don’t want to become one of those pathological quitting people who blames the job for her own inadequacies and unrelated unhappiness. Don’t quit until the time is right.
But how will you know the time is right? There may be many reasons you should quit your job, but maybe not right away, no matter how chaotic the company is or how unsatisfying the work. Sometimes you need to live with an unpleasant situation as an exercise in personal growth, for the good of your professional reputation or because you need to pay rent.
Usually, when you’re thinking about quitting your job, it is not because you are feeling so rad and awesome about what you do 40-plus hours a week. Usually, when you want to quit your job, it’s because you’re experiencing some daily discomfort beyond an acceptable level of daily discomfort. Sometimes, this is because your company, job or boss is hideous, horrible or abusive, and you need to leave. Sometimes this is because it’s a fine job, but you’ve outgrown it and you’re bored.
Here are some unequivocal signs it's time to leave your job and move on to the next adventure.
You are morally opposed to the company’s direction. You are made to do things that contradict your code of ethics, like pushing a product you know hurts people, lying about a boss’s salacious extracurriculars, giving perfectly competent employees poor performance ratings because you have been forced to implement a draconian HR ranking system. At this point, it’s certainly in your best interest to get out.
You slump into work every day, not just Mondays, not just the day after vacation, wishing you didn’t have to be there. You spend a lot of time at work internet-escaping, searching for new fantasy places to live, travel to, get married, Airbnb. Just today, you took a quiz on your engagement ring personality and found out which Jane Austen figure you are, plus you clicked through an entire 105-slide arc of the Rihanna-Drake relationship only to find the story unsatisfying, inconclusive: Drizzy loves RiRi, but does RiRi love him back? You will never know.
You’ve reached the highest bar in this position, the last ring on the swinging rings course. You are an eager perfectionist and a serious completionist; you’ve done all the tasks and tackled all the big projects, and you’ve been promoted or you tried to be promoted and someone cock-blocked this promotion and you don’t know what to do because you love your boss and you love this company but your heart knows. You’ve reached your ceiling. Time to go somewhere that challenges you again.
You dread emails from your manager because you always feel like you’re in trouble. You constantly feel like you’re about to get fired, but you don’t know how to make it right. Each time you receive critical feedback, you only feel less capable. Assuming these aren’t things you’ve felt in every job you’ve had, reflecting a pattern of your own insecurities, this is a surefire sign that you should look for a new job where you don’t feel like you’re walking on eggshells.
Here is a trigger moment for you — when you’ve stopped learning or you are no longer challenged in your job, when you’re plodding into the office every day and wishing you did not have to go. If you hate every project you are working on or your performance is mediocre and you’re uninspired and coasting, down on the company and toxic, it’s time to start looking for the next opportunity.
Complacency is the death of a fulfilling career. I don’t care about your benefits (I mean I do care — I want you to be healthy, but you can find new benefits). I don’t care about your vacation days. Phoning it in dulls your senses and your creativity. It’s demoralizing to the people around you. It blocks you from achieving your full potential. Work that inspires, challenges and resonates with you comes with more responsibility and ultimately more money and more satisfaction down the road.
Adapted from Weird in a World That’s Not: A Career Guide for Misfits, F*ckups, and Failures by Jennifer Romolini
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