Some days it’s so tempting, isn’t it? Those days when it feels like every single part of you is yearning for something else. Something different, something more. Maybe you’re unhappy in your career field, or maybe you’re just unhappy with your current job, salary, or even the commute. Whatever your reason, if you’re thinking about leaving your job – wow. That’s a huge decision. Luckily, there’s some valuable advice in the following paragraphs that will help you make that decision wisely.
But first: if you’re planning to leave your job for another job you’ve already acquired, then you’re not doing anything terribly drastic. People switch jobs all the time. According to a September 2018 report from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), the average employee only stays at the same job for 4.6 years. Also according to the BLS, people born between 1954-1967 held an average of 11.9 different jobs between ages 18-50. That average is expected to be even higher for certain workers born after 1967 (ahem, Millennials).
However, if you’re planning on leaving your job and you don’t already have another job –
whether you want to travel, to find yourself, to start your own business, or simply because you don’t like your boss – then grab a sheet of paper and write down the answers to the following two questions. If you can’t provide a logically-sound answer to the first question and a resounding YES to the second one, then you’re in no position to leave your job – yet. Ready? Here we go.
Why do you want to leave?
There could be million different answers to this question, but essentially, they all fall into two categories: you either want to work somewhere else, or you want to do something besides work.
If you’re thinking about leaving your current job because you want to work somewhere else, why? Is it because you’ve acquired new skills that can propel you to a higher level of management at a different company? Or is it because your current job is boring?
Running to a better opportunity is healthy; running from the problem, not so much. So – which are you doing?
If you currently work for a good company – one with excellent benefits, a great employee culture, and a business reputation you respect – but you dislike certain aspects about your job, then hold up. A great job is hard to find; a great employer is even rarer. You’ve got something to treasure, and you shouldn’t let certain situational factors chase you away from it. Perhaps there’s a personality conflict with a coworker or boss, or maybe you’re simply bored and need more responsibility or a better salary. Don’t just throw in the towel. Fight (metaphorically) for a better situation. After all, you’ve already invested a certain amount of time in this job. Why not see where a little more time can take you?
If you want more from the job you currently have – more money, more opportunity:
- Gather proof that supports your value to the company and take that proof to management.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want, whether it’s a raise or a transfer to another department. If you can’t do that at your current job, what makes you think you can do it at your next job? Collect your courage and do it. Life favors the bold.
- If they say no, then what do you have to lose? You were planning to leave anyway.
If management is the problem, then that does make your situation a little stickier – but not impossible. Working for a boss whose personality or management style rubs you the wrong way, day after day, would certainly take its toll on any human. But you might be able to resolve that situation with a little effort. Some tips:
- Always remember, you can only change yourself. You will NEVER change who your boss is or how they work, and you need to be willing to accept that if you want to succeed in your current position. Your best option is to look inward and find a few things you can change about yourself that will make the working relationship a little better (without sacrificing your values; never do that). Work on yourself. This is not the advice
you wanted to hear, is it? But face the facts: in your lifetime of jobs, you will have more than this one boss with whom you butt heads. If you don’t learn to deal with that now, then when?
- Stay professional. Keep your cool and continue to work hard and deliver value to the company. Someone else in the company – another manager, perhaps – may notice. And if they don’t, you’re going to need a stellar reference when you do eventually change jobs. Don’t burn your bridges; keep your integrity. You’re going to need it down the line.
- Identify someone your boss works well with. First, observe how they interact and work with one another. What do you notice? Next, have a chat with the person. Ask why they have such a great working relationship and look for tips you can incorporate into your own relationship with your boss. You may never become best friends, but you can improve the situation enough to be bearable – even enjoyable.
Before you hand in that resignation, examine your motives. If the reason you want to leave is because of some sort of difficulty or problem, then it’s situational and you can likely get control of it. Don’t let your emotions force you out of a job with a great company. Find a way to rise up and get a higher-level perspective of what’s bothering you in the workplace. Then work hard to change what you can (primarily, you – your behaviors and attitude). And if you do all of that but still decide you want to leave, at least you won’t be leaving on a sour note.
If you’re planning to leave because you’re running to a better opportunity – whether it’s work or something else – then this next section is especially for you.
Do you have a S.M.A.R.T. plan for what comes next? People react differently to change; it’s hard for some, easier for others. Either way, the reality is that life transitions take a toll on
everyone. Changing jobs, moving, getting married or divorced, having kids, retiring – these transitions take time to weather. One of the best ways to make sure you don’t flounder about, unproductive, broke, lost, confused, and even more miserable than you are now, is by having a S.M.A.R.T. plan. If you’re not familiar with the acronym S.M.A.R.T., it’s an approach most often used with goal setting. But it’s highly applicable to managing the transition, as well. A S.M.A.R.T. plan is one that is:
Specific. This is the what, why, and how of your plan. It must be simply written, but thoroughly detailed. An example: I am leaving my job in order to attend college full-time (the what) because I want to turn my interest in physics into a career in teaching (the why); I have already applied for financial aid and have been accepted to the college (the how).
Measurable. This is how you’ll know you’re making progress with your plan. Establish metrics – an amount, a date – that provide evidence of success. An example: I will enroll in college on August 3 of this year (date); the first semester costs $x, which is covered in full by my financial aid and the money in my savings (amount).
Achievable. Although some might disagree, this isn’t really about whether your plan is possible. It’s about how you’re going to make it possible. Everybody has dreams, and some dreams are huge. So here’s a question for you: how do you eat an elephant? The answer: one bite at a time! In other words, break your big, awesome dream into small steps that you can conquer within specific timeframes.
For example, I want to teach physics, and so I will:
1. Complete my bachelor’s degree;
2. Acquire teaching experience while in college;
3. Build a network of professionals in the physics community who can connect me to learning and job opportunities. Each of these steps is achievable and leads to the big dream. And for each step, you’ll set S.M.A.R.T. parameters to keep you focused and motivated. You’ve got one wild and precious life, so go out there and make your big dreams a reality…one bite at a time.
Relevant. Whatever you choose to do after you leave your job, make sure it aligns with your primary life goals and that it matters to the person you ultimately want to be. If you can’t quantify its value to the future, then it isn’t worth your time now. Say that before you go back to school for that physics degree, you want to quit your job and travel the world for a year. That sounds incredibly amazing; the adventure of a lifetime. But what will it mean to your future self? What value will it add to your ultimate life goals? It’s okay to quit your job to travel the world (if you can afford it), but don’t just travel for the sake of traveling; give it a more useful purpose, one that furthers your overall life dream. Visit foreign universities to sit in on physics classes, attend an international physics conference, and go see some of those amazing man-made and natural marvels that seem to defy the laws of physics.
Time-bound. You must have an end date, some sort of deadline that keeps you focused and motivated. If your goal is to ultimately teach physics, then you’re going to need education, training, and perhaps some sort of teaching credentials. Those things take time. How much? That’s what you detail in the time-bound section of your plan. Ask yourself: what can I do today, what can I do in six weeks, what can I do in six months?
For example, today I will research volunteer teaching opportunities; in six weeks, I will be employed in a volunteer teaching role; in six months, I will apply for a paid teaching
assistant position at the local college.
So here you are. You’ve answered those two primary questions. Is your answer to the first question logically sound – in other words, is it valid and true, and can it hold up to questioning and debate? And for the second question, did you answer yes? If so, you should be much more prepared to make a wise decision about leaving your job.
If you leave for the right reasons – better opportunities, a better you – and if you make sure you’re very well prepared for what comes next by having a S.M.A.R.T. plan to guide your transition, then you’ll feel confident and strong when you do make that final call.
Whatever you choose…good luck!
Something to consider while making your decision…The CareerFitter work personality test is a valuable tool for gaining insights into who you are at work and will shed light on how you work with others, why you react the way you do in specific situations and the occupational factors that might be inhibiting your happiness and success at your current job. So before you leave your job – for any reason – try CareerFitter. At $11.90, it’s a small price to pay for a future of greater job satisfaction.