We can blame pop culture for the persistent image of employees who quit their job with a rage-filled desk-flip and an IDGAF attitude. While that might make for great on-screen drama, it’s far from most employees’ reality.
Deciding whether to quit a job or not involves plenty of self-reflection and strategizing. After all, not every unhappy work situation requires an exit interview as a remedy. There are usually opportunities to explore new ventures within the organization you’re already with, says Kelly Poulson, a career coach based in Philadelphia:
“Unless you’re in a situation and it’s horrific and you need to be done [that day] … I would say, why not take the time to explore? I find that a lot of people, they’re running from something, instead of running tosomething.”
If you’re debating whether it’s time to call it quits or to make work, well, work for you, make sure you have the answers to these questions. We promise they’ll help.
What is at the root of my unhappiness?
If the thought of quitting your job has seeped into your thought process lately, chances are, you’re unhappy with something. Figuring out the source of that happiness will give you not just much-need clarity, but a guide on how to proceed next.
Is it something within the organization? Do you have a new boss who gives you more anxiety than ever before? Did you take on a new client and the project is not what you thought it would be? Or, is it time for some internal retrospection?
Sometimes there’s a shift in our personal lives that affects our mindset and mood at work, says Leigha May, a life coach based in Los Angeles. Consider whether you’re being overworked to the point that you no longer have time for the hobbies you used to, May says. Was there a family situation or a breakup that’s got you feeling down and impacting the lens through which you view your work? All of these can color our perception of the workplace, May says.
When was the last time I was happy at work? What changed?
Sometimes unhappiness with work creeps in like a cloud and before you know it, your days are more overcast than sunny. To see through the haze, May says she tells her clients to ask themselves when was the last time that they were happy at work and what changed? Start off your day with a routine and positive mindset before you go to work, she says.
Then, take careful note of what happens next. “Notice the interactions that elevate that energy and keep you inspired,” May says. “And then notice, where are the zappers at?” Does your energy drop from a chat with a coworker, a panic-inducing email? When you identify what’s actually wrong, you can then decide how to respond.
Have a gut-check moment. Where do you see yourself down the line?
Perhaps it’s not exactly dread that’s making you feel like it’s time for a change. The need for something different, though, remains. If you have don’t have super valid reasons for leaving your job, then it’s time for a simple gut-check to see where you are internally, Poulson says. One way to do that, she says, is to close your eyes and envision where you see yourself in the next six months or a year. Is it with the organization you’re currently with or somewhere else?
Sometimes quitting a job doesn’t mean you hate your boss or where you work, she says. In fact, you could love your coworkers, the environment and the company. But if the work you’re doing on a day to day basis isn’t fulfilling, then that might signal a need for a change elsewhere, Poulson says.
“You can love the people, you can have all the flexibility in the world, all of your needs met in terms of what you value,” she adds, “But if the role that you’re doing makes you miserable and they have no other roles for you, it could mean that it’s time to move on as well.”
Is there an opportunity here to make it work and have I spoken up?
Once you’ve identified what’s made you so unhappy at work that you are considering quitting, it’s a good practice to first see what changes could positively impact your situation. Is there an opportunity to you to switch trajectories or roles within the same company?
In such situations, Jennifer Clevidence, an executive coach and career mentor based in San Francisco, say it’s a good idea to write down what it is you’re looking to do and why. In that reflection, she says, try to also see how what you want to do would be a benefit for the organization you’re with.
“So what does it require on behalf of the organization, or on behalf of your supervisor? What is it going to require of you, as the individual?” Clevidence says. Consider things like the timeframe for the switch, the expected trajectory, what support is needed and what it would take for you to succeed there.
What is my risk-tolerance and financial security?
There’s ongoing debate among professionals as to whether or not it’s a good idea to quit a job without having something else lined up. But, it’s always a good idea to assess your own financial standing, as Clevidence says, “your risk-tolerance.”
“I think that’s a very real thing,” Clevidence says of having needing financial cushion when quitting a job. “When you’re making big change, to ensure that you have a ground underneath you and you can stand on for a while.”
Do I know what I want to do next?
If you’re absolutely certain it’s time for you to make moves and find a new job, make sure you’re starting off your search with positive and clear intentions. Carving out time to really think about what you want in your next job, your next boss and what kind of relationship you want with your new coworkers takes time, May says.
Whether it’s carving an hour every Sunday, or taking time during your lunch break, you have to get really intentional about your search in small steps so it doesn’t become overwhelming, May added.
“I think it’s important to go into the next role with intention, and not just, you know, to the next thing that looks like it might be better than the toxic place you are now,” she says. Regardless of what you decide, if you’re unhappy at work, it’s never a good idea to ignore the situation or how you feel.
“At the end of the day, when you’re not happy, or you’re feeling stuck in your role, you’re actually not performing as well as you could,” Clevidence says.
“And so, at some point, that will become noticeable. And so, it’s more important to have that conversation with your boss, versus, later on having some kind of a performance conversation.”