Do you find yourself frequently muttering “I hate my job” every day when you wake up? Have you been saying that for more than a month straight? Are people starting to avoid you because you’re a downer to be around?
Then it’s probably time to shut your face and quit your job.
Yep. Time for another provocative post that’s a slap upside the head for some of you just like the 10 Reasons Your Team Hates You post got a ton of attention.
I know – the economy is terrible. I know – you need health insurance. I know – you have to pay your mortgage. I know – you have to feed your kids (you’ll get no sympathy from me on the last point – my son is 13 years old and his nickname is “Galactus” called such because Galactus is a Fantastic Four villain known as “The Devourer of Worlds”).
I know all those things make it hard to just up and quit. All I’m saying is if you’re that miserable you have some serious introspection to do. What I’d like to offer are a few thoughts on how to think through that process.
Your Employment is “At Will”
When folks read their employment contracts they tend to focus on the point that their employer can let them go at any time. What they never think about is they’re free to quit anytime as well.
For those of you lucky enough to have stock options or other long-term unvested incentives, I’m going to tell you to shut your cakeholes if you protest that you can’t leave because of everything you’re walking away from.
“But Mike! I have a gazillion dollars of options and I can’t quit or I’ll lose them!”
Shut up. Now. You’re making a choice – you’re CHOOSING to hate what you do in exchange for a financial reward you’ll get after you finish doing what you hate. Hmmm… sounds eerily similar to another very old profession.
The first step in evaluating whether you should stay or go is admitting to yourself you can actually go and then calculate what you’re walking away from. Then ask yourself the hard question of whether your happiness is worth that amount of money. If no, then consider leaving.
When is it Time to Leave?
A wise man once told me:
– If you wake up one day and dread going to work, you have a bad meeting coming up.
– If you wake up for a week and dread it every day of that week, you’re on a dog of a project.
– If you wake up for a month and dread it every day of that month, you need to polish your resume.
– If you wake up for two months and dread it for those 60 consecutive days, what the hell are you thinking?!
The point of the above exercise is you have to separate the different kinds of pain your job inflicts. You should be tough enough to fight through the daily ups and downs or stick out that tough project.
It’s only problematic when the dread is structural. When every fiber of your being rails against driving to the office for a prolonged period of time, it’s time to consider a big change. You have to get out of that role or you’ll lose yourself forever. The last question that remains is where do you go if it’s time to get out?
How Far is Far Enough?
Yes, if the above conditions are all met you should definitely evaluate finding a new job. The good news is, sometimes you don’t have to quit to find it.
First, look internally in your company. Unless it’s a tiny organization, there are usually other groups or functions in the company that would be delighted to have you there. Maybe you can change divisions. Or go overseas. Or move into a brand new function. Doing so keeps your long term incentives in place, keeps your benefits (healthcare), and most importantly moves you somewhere you’ll be happier.
The downside of looking internally is many organizations have strong cultures. Those cultures tend to permeate the organization at all levels and in every nook and cranny (mmmmm English Muffins… oops. Sorry). If the culture is what’s causing your pain, moving to another role internally likely won’t solve your problem.
Okay, now let’s look externally because of the culture clash. I know the economy is a dog right now but people are hiring. If you want out badly enough, you’ll find something that will suit you. Sure it might take time and effort but isn’t your sanity and well-being worth it?
If you can’t find something ideal, maybe try your hand at starting your own dream business. Or go back to school and change fields. Find that which makes you happy. Yes, there are risks involved but last I checked, this country was founded on risk taking and at worst, Burger King is hiring.
Another really smart guy once told me “if you don’t do it by the time you’re 40, you’re never going to do it” (whatever “it” is for you – starting a business, getting a degree, changing jobs to a new field you love, etc.). His logic was that by 40 you’ve typically invested enough in a corporate career that the long term incentives are a crushing weight to walk away from and you’re more focused on retiring than you are on growing your career by that point.
Yes, this post is a wakeup call. I’ve had a few conversations with folks in the past few weeks that have prompted this post. They’ve bemoaned their plight in the cubicle farm. They’ve complained about how unhappy they are. And yes, I’ve looked them dead in the eye and given them the same advice I just gave you. If you hate what you’re doing, go do something else.
So, who’s quitting tomorrow?
P.S. To all you managers who are flipping out right now and hoping your subordinates don’t read this post, I have to ask you – do you really want someone on your team who hates what they do or would you rather they quit with the hopes that the person who replaces them loves the work? That’s what I thought.