You’re frustrated. Work has become less and less enjoyable, it looks like you may never again see a pay raise, and everyone around you is just miserable. But you also feel locked in, unable to leave your job lest you enter the Great Ranks of the Unemployed.
But let’s think through this – you don’t have to remain in this sea of misery forever.
What you have is a choice. There’s two likely paths: Things get better, or things get worse. Even if your environment doesn’t change, it’ll feel like you’re going downhill just because you have to live with the problems for longer and longer.
Following are some factors to consider to decide when to leave and when to stay.
When should you just leave your job and start looking for new employment?
- When you have something better to move to. It’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open for new opportunities, whether with your current employer or elsewhere. When you can glimpse the brighter future in another job, well, gather your courage and take the leap.
- When you’re in violation of your basic values. If your boss demands that you perform illegal activities or be fired, you’ll leave – right? That’s because it’s a violation of your core principles. Well, you don’t want to be wasting your life in misery only because of the paycheck, especially if there’s any alternatives. Save up as much money as you can, then leave so you can spend your time finding a job that’s acceptable.
- When you need to change paths. At certain times, it may become clear that you have no future in your job, it’s heading you toward a brick wall. Figure out what other paths would be better, then dedicate yourself to making the switch.
- When your family is worried about your health because of work. Whether it’s the number of hours, the type of work, or the company you’re with, your family is seeing the effect that it’s having on you. They love you and want to see you live a great life. Don’t be afraid to have that discussion with your spouse about what it would take to switch jobs, or be out of work for six months.
Don’t get the idea that I’m a big fan of bailing out from your job just because things are inconvenient or uncomfortable – I’m not. Work is hard: that’s why it’s called work. So here’s when you should stick around and create a brighter future in your current job:
- When you have some influence which will help you create a better future. Your boss, your co-workers, other places in the company – all of these may help you to make a transition for the better. A lot of problems can be removed – or made less annoying – if you’re connected with people who can help.
- When you can take positive steps that will open up possibilities. Maybe the current job isn’t great, but is a stepping stone toward the direction you’d like to take. Perhaps it just gives you the ability to take night classes so you can move into a new career. In this case, patience and perseverance are useful, to help you reach the larger goal.
- When it’s well aligned with your core values and goals. Sometimes it’s not the work that’s enjoyable itself, but the fact that you’re making a contribution to the world that’s deeply important to you. This kind of powerful alignment is somewhat rare, so when you’re able to achieve it, be grateful for what you’ve got. Focus on the deeper impact, and it will help you be patient with the smaller day-to-day annoyances.
- When you’ve proven that it’s the best alternative. No, it’s not just that you’re AFRAID that it’s your best choice. Or that you THINK there’s no alternatives. Do your homework. Get out there and research, become your own CSI (Career Strategy Investigator). I find that doing this investigation almost always yields to a better path, although it’s often a surprising direction. Be open to the possibilities.
I realize that I haven’t given you a step-by-step guide to making this decision – I don’t believe one exists. Instead, use these different viewpoints to weigh the pros and cons. Make your decision, then take the leap. Or stay.
by Carl Dierschow