No matter who you are or where you’re from, most of us have worked a job that wasn’t nearly as gratifying or fulfilling as we had hoped. Maybe you’re experiencing that right now. If you can identify, you also know that quitting a depressing job isn’t quite as easy as it seems in books or movies. In real life, we have to account for all kinds of factors: rent, dependents, student loans, etc. make leaving a soul-sucking job difficult, if not impossible.
I’ve been there. I worked at a non-profit whose mission I supported with my whole being, but the culture was toxic and in the end, I made a decision to quit. Thankfully, I had another position lined up, but I wasn’t particularly connected to the work, either. This presented an odd dilemma: should I have stayed at a distressing but fulfilling job, or was it better to do something I didn’t enjoy in a professional and respectful workplace? The situation is complicated, no doubt, but the experience taught me a lot about spontaneity and timing. If you’re struggling with a similar dilemma, read on for some of my thoughts on making career changes without regret.
1. Ask yourself what you’re willing to lose.
This is perhaps the most important consideration when deciding to leave your current job. What are you willing to lose? Are you willing to accept a lower starting salary and possible demotion? How about a longer commute time? This is not the time to be impulsive; consider every possibility and factor that into your decision.
2. Be honest with yourself.
Unhappiness tends to distort our understanding of what we’re willing to endure and accept. When I was desperate to leave my job, I told friends and family that I would take the first job offer I received—even if it was waiting tables. In retrospect, I know with certainty that I would have been terribly unhappy in a service job and probably even more miserable than I already was.
3. Use the opportunity to learn from the experience.
I know, the last thing you want to do is take a step back and maturely assess your job. But hear me out: by taking a moment to understand what’s wrong within your workplace—whether that’s management, culture, or the work itself—your eventual job search will be informed and much more successful. You can learn about what you want and don’t want in a job, what you’re willing to concede and accept.
4. Sleep on it.
Always, always, always sleep on any career-related decision. As I’ve already mentioned, an impulsive decision is not likely to bring the complete job satisfaction you want and deserve. Spontaneity can be fun and character-building, but you don’t have to be a hero. Give yourself time to consider the ramifications of your decision or you might regret it later.
5. Don’t quit just because someone else did.
I’ve seen this happen so. many. times. in my line of work, and I really don’t advise it. Your decision should be based on your needs alone and not informed by a bold colleague who just decided to “go for it.” As much as you might envy your friend’s moxie, don’t let it dictate how you act.
6. Try to stop complaining.
This might be a difficult one to do if your office culture fosters this negative dialogue, but it’s important. When you’re surrounded by defeating language, it’s inevitable that you’ll begin to perpetuate this thinking. Even if your office is a really toxic place, try to keep those thoughts to yourself, put your head down, and focus on your work. You’ll be surprised by how much your mood will improve when you tune out the negative.
Have you ever been tempted to leave a soul-sucking job? How did you approach the decision-making process?
Also by Molly: 4 Reasons Why Your Office BFF May Be Holding You Back
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