I know why you’re so sad.
Because you dread going to work every single day. You spend your lunch hour crying with your office door closed. You go home and drink alone or stress eat like nobody ever stress-ate before. Or just go right to bed and start the cycle all over again.
The bad news is that this is not an uncommon occurrence for American adults in the work place. A Gallup poll published in September of 2017 stated that 85% of adults worldwide hate their jobs.((Gallup: The World’s Broken Workplace)) From this poll, 30% of Americans are engaged at work, which is a better statistic; but this still means that 70% of Americans are not enjoying their 40-plus hours every week at their place of employment.
If you’re one of the 70%, then you have probably considered looking elsewhere to make a living and earn so you can pay your bills. But at what point do you start looking for new work? And at what point do you throw in the towel and just quit? Depending on the intensity of your situation, this could be a fine line or a wide gap.
In my 25 years working in higher education, I’ve held nine different jobs at nine different colleges and in seven different states. When I say that out loud to others, I sometimes get strange looks…or someone will just say, “Wow.” But my own career trajectory is not that off base of the average American. Balance Careers states that the average employee will change jobs ten to fifteen times with 12 being the standard number of job changes.((The Balance Careers: How Often Do People Change Jobs?)) Meaning I’m below the national average. So take that, Position Tenure Critics.
Still, it would seem odd to intentionally leave a position after 9 months, as I did once back in the early 2000’s. While I did not “quit” that job, I began my exit plan shortly after the fifth month of employment.
Was I unhappy? Not exactly. But I also did not feel supported by my supervisor, and the question of “fit” plagued me on a weekly basis. While my situation was not unbearable day in and day out, there was one major Camel-Back-Breaking-Straw, so to speak, that propelled me into the direction of weekly searches on Higher Ed Jobs.
But I’m very aware that some of you out there are in a situation like I described in the early paragraph of this article (and prompted your attraction to read more).
“Once in a Lifetime” by The Talking Heads lingers in my brain from time to time when I’m talking to coaching clients or students about various choices that landed them in the place they currently stand:
And you may find yourself
Behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
Why You’re Staying in This Unhappy Job
For those of you in the miserable job that makes you cry, drink, and stress eat on a daily basis….how would you answer that question? Do any of these ring a bell?
1. This was the first job you were offered after college or graduate school.
When I was in my final year of graduate school, my friend Lori and I were hell bent on having a job in place before commencement. And I had been dead set on moving to Chicago because that’s my hometown.
I had three great interviews in Chicago, all at private schools. One by one those jobs went away and were offered to other candidates. Now it’s April and graduation is less than a month away. My final interview was at a university in Washington.
When I was offered the job, I considered my choices – take the job or hold out for something else. The latter would have made me the only person in my Hall Manager Cohort without a job at commencement. And I just couldn’t have that.
I took the job and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I got married there, too. I met my best friend there. And left the job after two years. It was a matter of fit.
2. It was the best salary you were offered.
I’ve never had the luxury of choosing a job based on the salary, but plenty of my friends have. In fact, I even gave a friend at my current employer a hard time for choosing salary over quality of life issues.
I can’t tell you not to take a job if the salary is good. But if the salary is the only reason you’re taking that job, then I would try and find one more compelling reason why you should say “yes.”
Make sure that you have something to fall back on if the rest of the job turns out to be horrible.
3. Your friends work there.
Who doesn’t want to work with their friends, right? Especially if one or more of them is having an amazing experience and they are just so excited that you are going to be working there too.
Keep in mind that your friend’s reason for accepting a job may not align with yours. Having that friend at work may be the only blessing at this particular place of employment.
4. Your parents (significant other, mentor, etc.) told you to take it.
Ah…the outside influence. Not always so outside.
It’s tough to tell the people closest to you to bug off when it comes to taking a job. Easy for them to say “go for it,” right? They aren’t the ones who have to go there day in and day out.
Pressure from those closest to us can be really difficult, but in the end it’s your decision. If you find yourself in a job under these circumstances, then you don’t just have to figure out how to get out of the job; you have to figure out how to break the news to the pressure-giver.
5. You were afraid that there would not be any other offers.
You can relate this one back to my story in #1. When you are really desperate to find something because you need to get out of a nasty situation…or if you just get freaking tired of going on interviews, that first offer can be a god-send and let you breathe a sign of relief.
I’ve been down this road. I was not originally planning on leaving Position #7; but when my supervisor told me that this was as far as I could advance in that organization, I thought hard about whether staying was a good idea. I applied for jobs that did have room for advancement as well as higher salaries; and when one was offered to me, “FOMO” (fear of missing out) hit me in the face so hard I couldn’t sleep for two days.
Yup. I took that job. Yup. It was partially a big mistake. But that’s another story for another article.
There are probably another 50 or so answers to the “How Did I Get Here?” question…and you may have more than one that applies.
Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Unhappy with Your Job
With all that in mind, here are some thoughts related to quitting your day job if you are unhappy but the money is good:
1. What specifically is making you unhappy?
Is it the work itself? The commute to work? Your supervisor? Your colleagues? The salary? That there are no good vending machines or you can’t walk to Starbucks?
Nail down specifically what is making you unhappy. Then – consider whether you have any power over changing those things.
For example, if you don’t like the work itself but you do like your supervisor, then sit down with her and talk through it.. Maybe she just needs to hear you say you aren’t fulfilled in the work.
If your colleagues aren’t positive people or you just don’t get along with them, do you have the opportunity to switch teams or move to a different cubicle?
Don’t make the decision to quit if you can’t say why you would be quitting.
2. Is your current career field nourishing your passion and purpose?
I worked in certain facet of higher education and student affairs for more than 20 years; and I’d say for 15 of those years (in different increments), the position was fueling my purpose. And the times when I felt “wrong” in the job was usually when I would get itchy to leave.
The idealist in me always says that we work way too hard day in and day out to do something that we don’t enjoy. So why WOULD you stay in a position that doesn’t support your passion or purpose?
3. Are you prepared to make a lateral move?
I am thinking of a recent conversation I had with a counselor over the notion of “would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” And I think that Jen Sincero said that too. But it makes complete sense.
Would you rather be happy in a position that might be a lateral move? Or would you rather dig your heels in waiting for promotion or advancement to present itself?
Part of choosing happiness means putting that choice first, and so your ambition may need to take a quick break while you remove yourself from the toxic place currently causing your unhappiness.
4. Do you have a plan?
Unless you have a rich uncle hiding out somewhere who can support you, then you probably aren’t in a position to walk into your supervisor’s office and give notice immediately. You’ll need a plan.
Can you afford to take a month or so off and do some soul searching? Does leaving your job also mean leaving your field and trying something new? Will you need to update your resume and let your references know that you’re searching? There are many things to take into consideration once you start leaning towards quitting.
I have only quit a job once without a new job waiting for me elsewhere. At the time, I was honoring my husband’s desire for a location change (warmer weather). And he had been such a good sport about all the other job changes (at this stage I was on Position #4).
We moved from Illinois to Arizona with some semblance of a plan; but I did temporary apartment leasing for almost six months before landing on my feet with something that felt permanent. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have beefed up that plan just a little bit.
Only you can make the choice about quitting your job. You have to be able to make that decision and live with it regardless of where you stand. But weigh every factor first and talk to your close friends and your family while you are deciding.
The grass may be greener on the other side, especially if you have time to fertilize it first.
If you’ve decided to quit your unhappy job, you can’t miss this: