Is It Time to Quit Your Job?

Career Blog

Over the past 20 years as a CHRO and executive coach, I’ve noticed that the most successful people actively manage their careers. This goes beyond showcasing high performance and then actively lobbying for promotions and high-visibility projects. 

True “A-players” routinely evaluate their career paths to ensure they are both traveling the right road and making “good time”. If either factor seems faulty, they course correct quickly and capitalize on the momentum, which often eludes their peers.

 When To Quit

Sometimes, the decision to quit is obvious. You’ve landed in a toxic department, your manager is a bully, or the company culture tolerates low integrity. Most often, however, the “push/pull” dynamic is more subtle. Nothing is chasing you out the door, but nothing is compelling you to stay.

If you find yourself in the gray zone, the proverbial crossroads of career transition, consider the three most popular prompts for exiting. Chances are, if you are experiencing one or more of them, it’s time to leave.

  1. You’re not Learning: Everyone likes to be the expert – the go-to guy or gal for a critical subject, but even a master can grow stale if they don’t continuously challenge and refresh their knowledge. The best teachers are students at heart. If you’ve reached a stage in your career where you’re no longer learning, there’s a danger of becoming a jaded, know-it-all. Either reboot your outlook or leave the game before your perspective sours your brand.
  2. You’re not Earning: Money isn’t everything, but it is an excellent objective measure of your value to an organization. All positions eventually top out on the pay scale, but if your contributions aren’t rewarded with healthy performance bonuses, you may grow to resent the lack of growth. Discuss candidly with your manager and HR representative to uncover where you fall on the pay curve. If you’ve reached the summit, it may be time to find another mountain to climb.
  3. You’re Walking the Wrong Road: Not every career is planned to perfection. Sometimes, we take a job because we need one, and we stick with it because we have bills, responsibilities, and people who depend on us. Over time, we progress and perhaps even achieve a measure of success, but that doesn’t mean we are succeeding in the right direction. Sometimes, when you’ve earned a little breathing room in your work/life, it’s wise to take stock of your situation and ask yourself: Is this how I want to spend my time? If the answer is no…heck, even if you pause…consider a career change.
The Importance of Opportunity Costs 

If you’re not Learning or Earning enough to fulfill your needs, it’s likely time to consider a new role. That’s the easy math. 

The bigger issue is opportunity cost –what else I could be doing with this time? It may take some brainstorming to arrive at an answer, but it’s often helpful to ask yourself, “What am I giving up by spending the lion’s share of my time in this profession?” The older you get, the more important that question becomes. If the “what’s missing” screams louder than the “what is” you might consider a move.  

Making the Call

Change takes courage. Some people fear transition and are tempted to wait and hope. They suffer in silence and watch helplessly as their engagement and results dwindle. Others relish change, but in doing so, they often bolt too soon and miss out on the opportunities a successful turnaround provides. 

It’s hard to make the right call, but there are two best practices to help with the decision. First, never let your emotions drive your actions. We’ve all indulged in the storm-out fantasy, but it rarely leaves us in a better place. Never quit when angry.

The second is to understand the why behind your decision. People leave jobs because they are running from or running to something. The latter is often a better approach. So before you go, ensure you’re headed for greener pastures, not green concrete. Sometimes, it’s easier to weed your own lawn. 

If You Decide to Leave, Don’t Hesitate

Once you’ve decided to go…go. Employees are sometimes scared of letting their manager down. Others stay too long simply because they don’t want to have an awkward conversation. 

Remember, a good manager will always have your best interest at heart, even when it pains him in the short term. If your manager is unwilling to support your decision and wish you well, then he/she was never on your side. 

The Bigger Question

Make sure you land in a place where you can thrive. Typically, people should pursue a job change when they love “what” they do but are frustrated with the how, why, when, or where. When the actual activity loses its luster, it might be time to change careers.

There are no wrong answers when it comes to career planning. That said, you want to pick the action that is most right for you at whatever stage you’re in. If you’re struggling with the decision, seek the advice of a trusted mentor or coach. 

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