Ask An Adult: What Are The Warning Signs That I Should Quit My Job?

All jobs have their ups and downs but how can you tell if you really should look for (job) pastures new?


by Nina Cromeyer Dieke |
Published on

Work hard and you will reap rewards, they said. Lean in and climb up the ladder. Liking and enjoying your job is important, they said. Or did they? I wish they had. Then I wouldn’t feel ungrateful and loser-like for wanting to quit my job after three months.

I studied hard and smashed interviews and attained the ultimate goal: a job. I can now pay bills and taxes, have a pension and drink a lot. Success! Adult life rocks. I could do this till I die. There is, however, that tiny, nagging, really inconvenient fact: I hate my job. It sucks my soul and gives me acne. There were other signs too, many of which I ignored for a long time.

It’s natural to ignore warnings about apprehension towards something you’ve been told to treasure and strive for, like a job, especially in this economic climate. But although money and career are important, so is being happy. So I spoke to a careers expert (as well as mining my own experience) to see if there are any warning signs that mean you're not just suffering from a bout of work blues, you need to start job-hunting.

You want to stay in bed all day

We all like a lie-in, but if the feeling of dread and the lack of energy are constant, they might be indicative of a real aversion to what the day holds in store. This could be due to intense job-related stress or plain boredom with your work. According to Rick Hughes, lead advisor for workplace issues at the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, stress and boredom are key signs to pay attention to: ‘Boredom is apathy, leading to presenteeism, which is costing UK businesses almost twice as much as absence. And if you find that the job overworks you and it’s impacting on you physically and psychologically, then that might be another sign to look at something else,’ he says. So if you often prefer to switch off your brain rather than use it, it’s probably time for a change.

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You're always broke, but still wouldn't mind a pay cut

Money can’t buy happiness, right? My rich friends have problems, too. But in an age – and a city – of rising prices and where purchasing power is the ultimate weapon, thinking that you could do with a smaller paycheck is a serious sign that your current source of income is not fulfilling you in any other way. I have friends who have quit lucrative jobs to find careers that reward them in other ways, and have never looked back. Someone great once said that it’s better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb, than halfway up to somewhere you don’t want to be. Think about how much your lifestyle and spending habits contribute to your happiness, and if you think you’d be happy with a little less money and little more motivation, go for it. (Don’t come crying to me though when you can’t make rent. I’m a freelance writer, ffs).

You keep considering crazy alternative careers

Thinking outside the box is great, and who’s to say you can’t drastically change your life. However, if you find yourself daydreaming about bouldering for a living one day, and becoming a professional knitter the next, you might wish to consider whether you’re actually just seeking an escape. I have often pondered what life in a game reserve would be like, convincing myself that freedom and happiness lie in clearing animal dung and showering with mosquito repellent. Our career expert Rick says this might just mean you need a better work-life balance: ‘Some people can get so preoccupied with what goes on during the 9-5 that they have no space for themselves. If you can start to structure a life plan with the sort of things that motivate and inspire you, sometimes you’ll find this helps, so that the be-all and end-all is not work.’ Amen to that.

Part of you wishes you had a mild accident so you can take time off

If you have seriously thought this, and considered maybe sticking your leg out in front of a cyclist or self-inducing carpal tunnel syndrome, you really need some kind of help. Like now. Rick recommends It's Good To Talk for listings to local counsellors who can help identify what’s wrong. Every once in a while, monitor your behaviour by looking at things that are happening to you, or that you’re doing, that aren’t normal to you. Basically, check yourself before you break yourself.

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The idea of revising and taking exams and learning suddenly seems very noble

Knowledge is power! Who cares if I already have a master’s degree? I can have two! And a PhD is only a few years long… That’s all very well and good, and learning something new will always yield benefits. However, this likely comes with a decrease in income, so you need to consider whether the course will pay itself off in a better salary when you return to the workforce. Do you actually need the skills to be taught to you over a few intensive months or years? Perhaps it’s something you could learn during evening courses (a drag, but worth it!), like those offered at Birkbeck. Hughes adds that if the subjects you’re interested in are related to your job, you should ask if your company would sponsor you. And of course, taking a class about something completely new to you can be really enriching and might just be the mental stimulation you need.

You have perfected several quitting speeches

I do declare my time within these four walls to be over, and I shall breathe the sweet air of freedom once again. This whole company’s out of order! I’ll be back – Not!!! Today I celebrate Independence Day! Live long and f*ck off. Etc.

If the thought of delivering a dramatic resignation to your manager makes you starry-eyed, it might mean the time to do it is fast approaching. A word of caution from Hughes, nonetheless: 'Don’t act too quickly, or on a whim. It’s certainly often easier to find a new job when you’re in a job.' Think about your reasons and options, speak to your manager in a respectful and thankful way (without film quotes), and boldly go.

‘Life is an evolving journey. Not only will you have different jobs, but you may have different careers,’ says Rick. I say cherish what you have, but don’t be afraid to let it go. If you respond to signs and change jobs, and find you’re still unhappy, or the nagging starts to eventually creep in again, remember that action and change trump inertia and complacency. There might not be just one job that makes you happy, and you’re wise to respond to changing desires and challenges. We’re all meant to be growing and wising up, right? I hear that comes with a need to better ourselves, so go for it.

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Follow Nina on Twitter: @nination

Illustrated by Anna Sudit

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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