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10 Signs It's Time to Quit Your Job

How to know when it's time to go.

Key points

  • People who don't do what they love will never tap into their true potential.
  • Being morally misaligned with one's employer makes for an uncomfortable workplace and is one reason to leave a job.
  • When work starts affecting one's health, it's best to take time off and start a new job search.

In my last post, "Should I Quit My Job? First, Leave No Stone Unturned," I talked about why you should look before you leap from your current job versus looking blindly for greener pastures. Leaving your job should be strategic and properly timed. Then, before making your final decision, consider 10 reasons that you may want to quit your job. Don't jump if a couple of these issues occur for a short period, but if they continue for months, it may be time to walk. And first, per my earlier post, consider this summary:

  • Examine practical risks associated with leaving.
  • Create a "Solutions" document, to examine what can be done to improve your situation.
  • Make your "Skills Inventory" list and see what additional skills you can offer in your current position.
  • Revert negative thinking and examine what's right with your current job, instead of focusing on "wrongs."

If you've tried these approaches and the situation hasn't turned around in a reasonable amount of time, then it may be time to look elsewhere. Here are 10 reasons to consider quitting your job:

1. Your Skills Are Being Underutilized. Management doesn't acknowledge that you have more to offer than what you've been contributing for a significant amount of time. Perhaps you've been passed over for promotion—or your repeated attempts to take on more challenging assignments have failed.

Just be cautious—you should still perform to the best of your ability so that you will have those all-important references for the future.

2. You're Not Following Your Passion. If you're not doing what you love, you will never tap your true potential. It will just continue to be "a job," and eventually each day will seem more of a grind. If you've tried re-inventing yourself at the company with a lateral move—or changing your job description to no avail—then it's time to go back to the roots of what you love. First, however, brush up on your skills to ensure that they are current and marketable.

3. The Boss Keeps Behaving Badly. If you've tried everything under the sun to "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant" boss or co-worker; talked to your boss; your boss's boss; human resources; and your work life is simply unbearable, then it's time to visit your favorite job board. Just make sure you're not going from the frying pan into the fire. Through job interviews and other sources, become a sleuth: Try to determine how your prospective new boss and employer operates, the culture and management style.

4. The Company Is Tanking. The firm has managed to stay afloat during several downsizings, management changes, and reorganizations. But if the company consolidates any more, it could collapse. Recently you heard another department is closing or about another mass exodus. There's no need to go down with this ship. Put on your life preserver and get in the water.

5. You're Not Being Fairly Compensated. Downsizing has moved your team into double time, but certainly nowhere near double compensation. You've been made to feel lucky to receive a paycheck. The company might even be performing well, but that is not reflected in your salary or other rewards. You can't even get an evaluation or your evaluation is not consistent with your true work performance. Perhaps clients have given you excellent feedback, but that is not reflected in your compensation. It may be time to think green (as in more money) or make like a tree and...

6. Your Values and the Company's Are a Mismatch. You feel that there are ethical or moral differences in how the company and you believe the firm should operate; cultural differences; work ethic clashes, and so on. Perhaps its latest product is bad for the environment for example, and you are an avid environmentalist. Whatever the issue, you're morally misaligned with your employer, and it's an uncomfortable workplace setting.

7. You Aren't Being Heard. You can't seem to: get time with the "powers that be"; get approvals; or get acknowledgment for great work; and over time, projects are no longer coming your way. There may be a changing of the guard at the top; you're being edged out of projects; or the entire position seems at risk for political or other reasons. Essentially, you are being ignored out of a job.

8. The Job Is Making You Sick. Instead of jumping out of bed first thing raring to go to work, you feel immobile. You think of 10 reasons why you should call in sick because you are sick. Stress, fear, or lack of enthusiasm can drain your energy and hurt your performance, creating a lose-lose proposition. When work starts affecting your health...physical, mental, or both, consider taking time off. While you conduct your job search, immediately find healthy ways to reduce stress levels.

9. You're Surrounded by Egregious Behavior. If you're the victim of bullying, sexual harassment, or other egregious behavior, you should certainly keep an eye out for other positions, regardless of what corrective measures you're taking. Always consult an employment attorney on such issues. But remember that you should never feel uncomfortable in a job, and that may occur in the long run even if you "win the current battle." Health does come first.

10. You Feel You Have More to Contribute Elsewhere. You are in a personal growth mode while your position is stagnant. You've been thinking in directions that seem miles apart from the work you're currently doing. You spend your time imagining what your life would be like "if only." When you know you have more to offer the world, don't second-guess yourself—get ready for change.

If you're facing one or more of these red flags, make sure you're prepared. Know how to leave gracefully and without burning your bridges. You don't want to be exposed to unflattering tweets or poor references in this world of instant communication.

Keep the Job Search Professional

There's a right and wrong way to exit. Here are some tips:

1. Generate a checklist of "to do's." For example: update resume; create a list of solid references; schedule interviews; update LinkedIn and Facebook profiles; etc.

2. Look at all avenues. Use job sites such as Monster, Craigslist, and online industry job listings. Use high-level, industry-specific temporary and consulting firms. And consider becoming a Tempreneur.

3. Conduct your search on your own time. Don't start your new job search at work, unless it's at lunch offsite and on your personal laptop. Files on office computers are company files and can be searched by your employer, so be cautious. Best to create all correspondence, such as resumes and interview follow-up e-mails, on your home computer.

4. Don't suddenly alter work habits. Don't suddenly become invisible, or start arriving late or leaving early (unless your health is being affected). Remain a good team player and volunteer to help. Stay friendly with those to whom you report, as well as peers.

5. Stay enthusiastic, as hard as it may be, until you walk out the door—remaining on good terms, of course.

Remember, you've worked hard to create a good reputation at your company. Maintain your professionalism when you leave and beyond. If you've left no stone unturned before you decide to leave your current job, then make sure your transition to the new one is as seamless as possible—for both you and the company.

Now it's time to follow your dreams!

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