Just like relationships, all jobs have their ups and downs. But how do we know when it’s time to call it quits? After all, we don’t want to leap from the frying pan into the skillet, as they say. Yet we also don’t want to look back on our career only to realize we spent the whole enchilada in a dead-end job. So how do you make sure you make the right decision? Here are a few tips on how to quit your job. Or not.
Know your purpose. It’s easy to get burned out when you expect your job to fulfill your every need. Or you expect the company or your boss to identify the most enriching career path for you. Instead, get clear on what you’re up to in life and how you want work to support that vs. the other way around. When you know what your purpose is, you know what challenges are worth pushing through and which opportunities are actually best left for someone else.
Check for burnout. It’s sometimes hard to tell where our frustration or lack of engagement is coming from. We assume that it’s our job’s fault that we are exhausted and lack enthusiasm for our role. However, the real culprit may be burnout. Lots of factors can lead to burnout, sometimes in combination: lack of variety, neglected self-care, or workloads that yield little satisfaction. If this sounds like you, consider what you can do to restore your energy. Options include taking a much-needed vacation, meditating to help with stress management, or committing to a fitness regimen.
Identify what would make you want to stay. This could be something as simple as an increase in pay. However, there are usually bigger factors at play when you’re considering what would make you want to stay vs. simply willing to stay. Imagine how you want to feel every day you come to work. Allow yourself to fantasize about your ideal role and job responsibilities. Think of how you’d ideally like to relate to the people on your team and in the company.
Create more of what you want where you’re at. Many people wait for their manager to tap them on the shoulder and invite them to a career chat. When it doesn’t happen, they assume the company doesn’t care. But we are all the owners of our own careers. We chose to do business with the company that hired us. So why not initiate a conversation about the kinds of experiences, responsibilities, and opportunities that would make you want to stay. This isn’t about delivering ultimatums — especially if this is the first time you’ve ever brought the topic up — it’s about collaborating on where your experience and desires can align with what your company needs.
Explore your options. Company loyalty is in a funny place. It used to be that you were “betraying” your company if you explored other job options. But that was back when companies almost guaranteed steady employment and retirement packages to people who continuously performed. Today, with frequent reorganizations and flimsy job security, few consider it disloyal to explore options that can set you up for success. In fact, applying for jobs and going on interviews can create a great deal of clarity. Sometimes the interview experience reminds us why we chose our company in the first place. Other times, it opens us up to see what we could really accomplish if given the space to do so. And, of course, we may just find that dream job that is genuinely a better fit for our goals and personal style. Consider sharing with your current manager any insights and options that you discover. Again, not as an ultimatum but as a launchpad for creating a more fulfilling situation. However, be ready to take action in pursuit of your career goals, whether that ends up being at your current company or at a new one.
Don’t quit because you don’t get along with someone. Leaving a company because you can’t stand certain people is one of the worst reasons to leave a job. The probability of running into people who trip you up in the same ways at your next workplace is pretty high. After all, it’s not the person, but the way they behave that is triggering you. Take the opportunity to learn how to work through your triggers. Look at your current situation as a great training ground for enhancing your interpersonal skills. Once you have that skill nailed, then, by all means, think about whether it’s time to move on to a culture that better suits you.
Exit with grace. If you do determine that quitting is the right thing to do, do so with grace. It’s common practice to give two weeks’ notice. People often ask me, Do I have to give two weeks’ notice? I say, no, you could give more. Such a strange concept, but there’s a lot of good that comes out of leaving your company on a positive note. You don’t have anything to lose by asking your new employer to flex on your start date. Once they know you’re concerned about not leaving your current employer in the lurch, they will usually appreciate how seriously you take your commitments. Also, remember that in these times of frequent job and career movement, the people you burn today could easily show up in your life tomorrow, maybe even as your manager.
It’s important to have the courage to make the moves that are right for you. But if your impulse to leap is driven mainly by temporary situations like burnout or a conflict with a coworker, it’s probably best to focus on learning what you can from the situation and then, with a clear head, consider your next move. In the end, you want your job choices to support what you want vs. simply protecting you from what you don’t want.