“Should I quit my job?” It’s a question that’s passed through all of our minds at one time or another, whether we’ve considered quitting a new job that’s not living up to our expectations or quitting without notice because we’re so fed up and feel like we need a new job ASAP.
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 or a quitting letter (more formally known as a resignation letter).
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. Maybe you’re sick of your current job title but you’re not getting promoted — even though you’re putting in 110 percent.
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 15 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.
Maybe you’re a parent who simply needs more flexibility and time at home, or even part-time work. If you fantasize about being a stay-at-home mom who’s able to work remotely, and your job just won’t allow that kind of thing, quitting and researching stay-at-home mom jobs may be the right move for you (yes — there are jobs for stay-at-home moms, so if you like working but simply need to do it remotely, you should know that becoming a stay-at-home mom who works is a possibility, even if it means a transition to part-time work hours.
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.
8. Is there a passion you always wanted to follow, and is it feasible?
It's great to have a passion — and especially to follow it. But can your passion make a career? Make sure that your passion would make a feasible career with which you're comfortable before you dive in. Can you make an income? Can you support yourself? Will you burn yourself out and resent it if so?
9. Do you have a backup plan in case you don't get your dream job?
Just because you leave your current job doesn't mean that you'll end up in your dream job next. Are you mentally prepared to take a step that may not be the right one to find out? What will you do if you don't like the new job?
10. Are you prepared for a potential pay cut?
When you leave a job for a new one, you're not guaranteed to make more money. Is this something you are okay with?
11. Are you prepared to make a potentially lateral move?
Likewise, when you leave a job for a new one, you're not guaranteed to have a better title. You might need to make a lateral career move. Are you okay with that?
12. Is this a step toward your ultimate career goals?
Take a minute to think about your ultimate goal and then consider whether leaving this job will bring you closer to that or steer you off track.
13. What are the aspects of your current job you like that you don't want to give up elsewhere?
Make sure you know what you're looking for this time around — or at least know more of what you're looking for. Consider some aspects of your current job that you enjoy, such as benefits, and know what you're not willing to give up
14. What are the aspects of your current job you don't like that you won't stand for elsewhere?
Likewise, consider aspects of your current job that you don't like — aspects that you'd like to avoid in your next job if possible.
15. Does right now make the most sense?
Is right now the best time for you to leave? Are you up for a promotion of a title change soon? Yes? Would it make more sense to wait a few months until then? Have you spoken with your boss about your concerns?
If You Do Decide to Quit, What Should You Do?
Strategically look for a new job. Finding a new job is no easy feat, so if you’ve decided that getting a new job is the right move for you, start looking ASAP. Fairygodboss will give you the inside scoop on companies — specifically filling you in on how they treat women.
Write a resignation letter. If you need examples of resignation letters, do your research and craft something brief and to the point.
Finally, whether or not you decide to quit your job, remember that no decision is permanent. If you end up making a move that doesn’t feel right, you can always pivot and get yourself back on track. Chances are, though, so long as you do your research and analyze all options and opportunities, you’ll be making the choice that works best for your life!
About the Career Expert:
Fairygodboss is the largest online career community for women. Its editorial team is made up of career experts across industries and occupations with a love for sharing professional advice.