Knowing When to Quit Your Job – Identifying the Point of No Return

There are plenty of signs that lead you to the conclusion that it’s time to high tail it out of there, here are some tips, from Alexander Kjerulf a Chief Happiness Officer, for finding the point that you need to quit: listen to your inner intuition, know that quitting will have its drawbacks but so can staying where you aren’t happy, the longer you stay the harder it is to leave, and most people find that their situation improves after quitting a bad job.  You can also ask yourself questions such as “Am I more likely to find what I want in my current job or somewhere else?”

When do you know, with absolute certainty, that it’s time to cut your losses and flee from a bad situation at work? The bad news is that you can never walk away with pure conviction and peace of mind that you’re 100% right. The goods news is that there are plenty of signs pointing you towards the options that you have, and ultimately to the decision that must be made.

Chief Happiness Officer Alexander Kjerulf has designed the following chart to illustrate what he terms as the “quitting point”:

This makes things perfectly clear, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, our lives don’t fit neatly on a two-dimensional graph. So Alexander offers the following 6 tips for finding your quitting point:

  • Give up the idea that you can know for sure whether or not it’s time to quit. It’s always going to be a leap.
  • Listen to your intuition. Your gut may know before your mind.
  • Remember what quitting can cost you – but also remember what staying in a bad job can cost you!
  • Remember that the longer you stay in a bad job, the harder it gets to leave.
  • Most people stay too long in bad jobs – mostly because they fear the uncertainty that comes with quitting.
  • Most people, once they’ve quit, find that their situation improves. Maybe not immediately, but certainly after a few months.

Tim Ferriss, in his book the 4-Hour Workweek, suggests the following:

  • Some jobs are simply beyond repair.
  • Get rid of pride. A job isn’t productive or worthwhile simply because you’ve spent a lot of time and effort on it.
  • Ask yourself: “are you more likely to to find what you want in your current job or somewhere else?”

But Penelope Trunk cautions that there are Five situations when you shouldn’t change careers

  1. You hate your boss. This is not a problem with your career. Change jobs instead of changing careers. Or, get better at managing your boss to get the treatment you want.
  2. You want more prestige. Get a therapist – you’re having a confidence crisis, not a career crisis. Prestige is a hollow goal when it comes to careers. The quest for interesting, fun, rewarding work is one thing, but the quest for fame is, in fact, bad for you emotionally.
  3. You want to meet new people. Try going to a bar, or Club Med. Is the problem that you are not able to make friends in your industry? It would have to be a pretty small industry for this to not be your own, social problem as opposed to an industry-wide problem. Be honest with yourself: Maybe what you really want is to get a life. Pick up a hobby.
  4. You want more meaning in life. A job does not give life meaning. And anyway, people have been searching for the meaning of life forever. It’s a highly disputed topic, and probably too charged an issue to lay on your career.
  5. You want more happiness. I have said many times that your job does not control your happiness, your mind does. Here’s good news, though: You can give your mind a happier disposition by meditating. I like that there is science behind this (thanks, Dylan). But I was a meditation convert as a volleyball player, before I knew the science.

So what’s the upshot of all of this?

What works for me is what works in many similar situations in my life. I ask my self one simple question:

What’s the worst that could happen?

When I define my fears, nothing is as bad as I originally thought. The decision then becomes very clear.
Yes, sometimes I have to get out a piece of paper and list the pros and the cons, but I do get to the bottom line.

The fact of the matter is that we never reach the point of no return. No matter how deep we feel we’ve gotten ourselves, no matter how much time we’ve invested, no matter how long and winding the tunnel looks to get to the other side, we always have a chance to make a fresh start.

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