“Should I quit my job?”
It’s a question that’s passed through all of our minds at one time or another. But how can you really tell whether it’s time to quit a job? Unlike many other decisions in life, simply asking yourself whether you’re happy at your current job is probably a smidge too simplistic in assessing whether it’s time to put in your two week notice.
Most people feel unhappy at work at some point, and it’s perfectly normal to have emotional ups and downs when it comes to your job satisfaction. It could be that your company is going through restructuring, your department has been re-organized, you’ve lost a great boss, or business simply isn’t headed in the right direction. So how do you know whether these things mean you should start looking for a new job? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but before you resign from your job, here are seven things you can do to make sure that you’re not acting too impulsively:
1. Understand the reasons you’re unhappy.
Make sure you’re honest with yourself. What’s changed? Is it something outside of your control, or is it something more fundamental about yourself? If you can understand what’s really going on, you’ll make a better decision and possibly take a course of action that involves a slightly less dramatic outcome than if you quit your job.
For example, if you’re stuck in a role you never really loved in the first place, it’s unlikely that anything can improve the situation. On the other hand, if you love your job but think you deserve to be making more money, or simply want more flexible work hours and greater work-life balance, you may simply need to invest in some new skills or talk to your manager about the situation.
2. Ask yourself if the source of your unhappiness is temporary or permanent in nature.
Sometimes these things aren’t that clear cut, but a temporary situation may be worth riding out. For example, a downturn in the economy that affects your company’s business prospects may improve within a few quarters if you’re working in a cyclical industry. On the other hand, there are some trends that may only become worse and are structural (e.g. it’s unlikely a business selling fax machines is ever going to see a resurgence). It’s important to be honest with yourself about whether things are likely to really change, or whether you are simply reluctant to make an inevitable change.
3. Write down the pros and cons of staying in your job.
Sometimes putting pen to paper can help make sense of all the noise in your head. There can be great clarity in writing things down. Are you bored with the day-to-day of your job? Are you simply not passionate anymore about what you do? If you feel like everything you write down in the “negative” column has to do with changes in you – as opposed to the job itself – you may want to consider staying with your employer but simply asking for bigger or different responsibilities. On the other hand, if you’re dealing with unacceptable, unfair, or even illegal behavior from your manager, you may want to consider changing departments or finding a way to tell HR your situation or that you would like a different manager.
4. Consider browsing for other opportunities while you make a decision, and get your resume ready.
Just because you’re not certain that you are, in fact, leaving your current job, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t maximize your understanding of what’s out there by beginning a preliminary job search in case something should come up. Look for new jobs while you’re currently employed, because the jobs that are truly a great fit don’t necessarily come along every day. Being aware of the kinds of open positions and employers who are hiring will allow you to more quickly act upon your decision if you end up deciding to leave your employer. You can also go on interviews (either real or informational) while you make a decision.
5. Do your research.
If you move forward with quitting your job, suffice it to say, you’re going to need a plan. How long will the job hunting process take — days? Months? What are the other companies and positions you’re likely to end up in? What are those other employers and jobs going to be like? If you’re unhappy with the type of job you’re in, what are the chances that this other company will actually make you happier? You may need to make a deeper career change if there’s something about the type of position you have that makes you unhappy. If you’re considering going back to school, there are a lot of things to consider, ranging from the opportunity cost of your time to tuition to your future job opportunities.
6. Talk it over with your friends and family.
Your choices rarely only impact you. If you’re unhappy where you’re at and job hunting, it will most certainly affect your family. Whether you’re the breadwinner in your family or not, there are financial implications of quitting before taking a new position, and there are also potential changes in your work-life balance. Your new job could take you to a new city and into unknown travel and hours territory, so be sure that you’ve discussed what you’re considering with those who know you best and may be impacted by what you do. Getting their feedback as a sounding board is also important — no woman is an island.
7. Be aware that there are no guarantees in life.
If you’ve decided to take the next step and make a career change or look for a new job, be realistic about what is ahead. While you might feel that you’re making the best decision, and that maybe even your dream job is ahead, transitions can be stressful and may not always turn out the way you expect. Sometimes, even the best laid plan doesn’t work out, so you must be aware that change may come with some unexpected surprises (good or bad).
You spend most of your waking hours at work, so it’s normal and inevitable that there will be disappointments over time. There are no hard and fast rules about when to leave your job and when to stay, but taking these steps will help ensure that you’re making a well-calculated decision rather than a hasty one.
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