Where I mix career information and career decision making in a test tube and see what happens

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Time to Quit?

Maybe your New Year’s resolution should be to quit your job.

During this past recession, those of us who were lucky enough to still have a job tended to hang onto them. Now that the nation is officially in a recovery, albeit a slow one, a sign of the upward trend is that workers are starting quit their jobs. The resignations are not coming in huge numbers, but the Labor Department reports that 1.9 million workers quit in October. This continues a trend that has been visible for much of 2011, as the number of resignations climbs slowly upward from its low point in late 2009 and early 2010.

In my career, I have quit only one job, but I have lost several for various reasons. In retrospect, I can see several occasions when it probably would have served me better to quit. Here are some signs that it’s time for you to start looking for a new job:

Your work has minimal impact on the business
. Specifically, you may notice that your ideas get no traction in meetings or when expressed in memos. (It doesn’t matter that your ideas may be good ones if nobody heeds them.) Although you may be busy, you cannot identify any specific achievements that made or saved money for the company or otherwise helped its reputation. I once had a job in product development at a company where this function was peripheral to the company’s mission and didn’t fit into the corporate culture. It was only a matter of time before a budget crunch would come and make them realize that I was expendable.

You have almost nothing in common with your coworkers.
Their lunchtime talk leaves you cold. Their life goals and values are very different from yours. Maybe you feel uncomfortable about their moral standards (either too shady or too prudish).

The core mission of the business doesn’t match your goals and values. This often accompanies the previous item, because organizations tend to attract and retain workers who fit in.

You resent the low level of pay (or benefits) you’re getting and see no likelihood of improvement if you stay.

You resent the low level of autonomy you have and see no likelihood of improvement if you stay. This may result from having either a control freak for a boss or a rulebook that hogties you.

The hours at work or on the road are eroding your family life. Some people thrive on work or business travel and either don’t have a family or don’t need a lot of contact with it. But others find their job draining away one of their main satisfactions in life.

Your heart is not in what you’re doing. You find it difficult to concentrate on your work. You wing it much of the time. You no longer try to improve your work.

You realize that the industry or the employer’s business is doomed. Market forces or technology may be sending your industry into obsolescence. Superior competition may be stealing market share from your enterprise. Inept leadership may be making bad decisions that will send the business into decline.

In some of these situations, you are not under immediate threat of a layoff, but because it’s usually easier to get a job when you have a job, it’s advisable to plan your escape before you’re laid off. In situations where the problem is your rising level of dissatisfaction, it’s better to look for a new job before you gain a reputation as a malcontent or a slacker.

If your resume is out of date, fix it up. Make efforts to build your network or refresh your contacts with people already in your network. (The holidays provide you with the perfect reason and medium for doing that.) Start working on your elevator speech, focusing on your desire for new challenges rather than the negative aspects of your situation.

When you get a job offer, it may possibly provide enough leverage to convince your current employer to remedy what you don’t like about your job. But if the problem is something inherent in the nature of your current job--for example, it doesn’t fit into the corporate culture and mission, or heavy travel is inescapable--then it really is time to move on.

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