Of course, we all think about quitting our jobs from time to time, but sometimes it is more than a passing feeling. As a career coach, usually my clients come to me when they have reached the conclusion it is time to move on. Here are 7 signs it might be time for you to quit your job:
#1 – You are buying stuff all the time to convince yourself you are happy
This is an easy trap to fall into, and is commonly referred to as “the hedonic treadmill” in psychology research. Basically, it goes like this: you buy something and you become happier. Then you get used to it and aren’t as happy anymore. So, you go and buy something else to become happier, and the cycle repeats.
If you find that you are constantly buying stuff, whether handbags, watches, cars, boats or otherwise as “rewards” for working so hard at your career, you might be trying to justify doing something you don’t like to yourself (or perhaps to your neighbors). In the end, buying things will never make you happier over the long term, nor justify you doing something you don’t enjoy. If you’re buying stuff to justify your job, it may be time to quit your job.
#2 – You get a surge of adrenaline/fear when your iPhone buzzes
This is something I suffered from for a while in my executive career. At a subconscious level, I feared that each email could be some sort of crisis that I needed to solve right away. It rarely was, but the stress hormones kept coming every time my phone buzzed while I was home and not working. It was almost as if my body was telling me that by not working I was slacking off. This is not a fun environment to work in over the long term. (See my blog on How to say “No”). If the only time you feel relief from stress is when you are working, you may want to consider other options and/or quit your job.
#3 – You don’t want a promotion
Harvard’s Daniel Gilbert did some interesting research on predicting whether something would make you happy. What he found was that we are lousy at predicting whether something in the future will make us happy, and that we would be far better off just asking someone who has the item/achievement that we are driving towards and asking if they are happy.
If you do this and talk to the people who have achieved what you are looking to achieve (e.g. a promotion to COO) and they aren’t happy, this should send up a red flag. Frequently, you can have a conversation with these individuals about the topic (e.g. ask, “how does it feel now that you have this role?”). If the people you know who have been promoted to the role above you are miserable, it may be time to quit your job.
By the way, if you realize you don’t want a promotion but want to stay put in your current role to focus on other aspects of your life that have meaning (family, charities, hobbies, etc.), that is perfectly fine. The key point is to not pursue promotion for the wrong reasons. If you want career growth but don’t want promotion, it may be time to quit your job.
#4 – Your spouse/kids/family/friends want you to quit your job
This is a tough one, but it is not unheard of for a concerned spouse to suggest that maybe you should consider doing something else that makes you happier. Kids do this in a more subtle way, frequently by imitating your bad behavior back to you (e.g. “I’m too busy to play with you daddy, I’m working”). In either event, when your family is concerned about you, it might be time to look at other options. Of course, the natural thing is to be concerned about the financial implications to the family, but this doesn’t mean you can’t look for new opportunities. Very frequently you will find your family is willing to have less monetarily to have a kinder, happier and more available you. If you say to yourself that your family is the most important thing in your life, but they want you to do something else, it may be time to quit your job.
#5 – You can afford to make less money
Living below your means is a critical life skill and one that makes finding your dream career much more likely. Unfortunately, most people (even some with 7 figure incomes) will spend all their income on buying stuff to make them happy (see #1 above). On the other hand, some people live below their means no matter what they are making.
I know one individual who was able to accept a position paying 1/3 less than his prior role that made him much happier without a change in his lifestyle simply because he lived below his means. Get your spending in check if it isn’t, and give yourself a broader set of career opportunities to look at by being able to get by with less. Financial responsibility is essential before you quit your job.
#6 – You see others you respect leaving
Read the organizational tea leaves. When you see people you respect leaving your firm for other opportunities, find out why they are leaving. Yes, they may have gotten a “great” opportunity elsewhere, but there is usually more to it than that. Whether their reason for departure includes the firm’s culture, advancement opportunities, or upcoming changes you are not aware of, find out why talent is moving. You may want to move too.
The flip side of this is when you see people you respect being fired without good reason. Organizations that don’t value their talent are almost never healthy environments, and you never know when you might be next.
In either case, when you see talented people you respect leaving an organization, it is a good signal you need to consider other opportunities and/or quit your job.
#7 – You don’t feel like you have meaning in your role
Admittedly, it is very easy to stay in roles for very long periods of time even if you don’t feel a sense of meaning. While working for a widget manufacturer may not exactly fuel your passions, there is certainly a sense of meaning to be had from gaining skills, developing others, providing for yourself and your family, and from a job well done. Meaning can be found in almost any role, but if you can’t find it despite your best attempts, it may be time to move on and quit your job.
What happens if you read the above and nearly all 7 items seem to fit your career?
Even if all of the above signs suggest it is time to quit your job, always have a strategy in place before you actually quit your job.
Creating a strategy for your next career move is where a career coach can help. Often career coaching clients need help identifying what it is they really, really want to do and then from there need guidance as they move into the tactics of making their new career vision a reality. Crafting a story to share with recruiters/prospective employers, creating a social media and LinkedIn strategy, all of these things are part of the career coaching process of getting you from where you are today to where you want to be.
If you think a career coach can help you, schedule a complimentary “Career Accelerator” coaching session in San Diego or via phone/skype by clicking here.