Deciding to quit your job and pursue new opportunities is a major step in your career journey, one that requires careful thought and consideration.
While some motivations to leave your position are the result of temporary, navigable issues, systemic problems with the company or role itself can lead to long-term job dissatisfaction.
There are various red flags that signal it’s time to hand in your resignation letter and move on to a new job, whether that’s a negative work environment, a difficult boss or a general detachment from the role itself.
Are You Temporarily Unsatisfied, or Is There a Real Issue With Work?
First off, it’s important to clarify whether you’re truly unhappy with your work, or if it’s a temporary frustration. For example, maybe you’re dealing with an unmanageable workload because a colleague has recently left your company.
Temporary dissatisfaction can be resolved with slight tweaks in the system, such as a new team assignment, a modified reporting structure or the decision to turn off your email notifications over the weekend. However, “when signs demonstrate a more deeply rooted gap in the employment experience system, it is time for a change,” Hou told USC Online.
Who Should You Talk to if You’re Feeling Unhappy With Your Job?
Let’s say your feelings of unhappiness are lingering. Who should you turn to for guidance on addressing and resolving these issues? Well, it depends on the situation. Different people at various levels should be consulted for separate reasons.
“Your supervisor should be your first consideration, in order to obtain a contextual perspective that may help alleviate any dissatisfaction,” Hou advised. “[Meanwhile], speaking to human resources will provide you with guidance on wellness resources inclusive of counseling and mental health resources. Conversing with your mentor and/or trusted colleagues can offer perspectives that you may not have seen in terms of how to navigate through your dissatisfaction.”
Signs You Should Quit Your Job
There are multiple key factors that indicate whether you should start preparing to leave your job, according to Hou and Daniel.
Lack of growth opportunity. Most people hope to move up the career ladder at work so they can increase their compensation, develop more skill sets and improve their contributions to the company. If that growth has completely stalled, then it might be time to move on to a new organization where you can actually advance.
“Assess the current organizational structure of your organization and see whether you believe lateral and horizontal movements are possible with your ambitions. When growth is capped or limited based on your ambitions, you may want to look for a new opportunity,” Hou advised.
Ethical complications. If there are ethical or legal issues plaguing the company and affecting your role and personal conscience, it might be a signal to move on.
“When there are complications mixing politics with ethics and compliance, it may be time to look for a new opportunity that will value compliance and ethics,” Hou said.
And it might not only be the company that’s involved in unethical behavior. Perhaps you’re personally dealing with mistreatment at work, and your managers or the company’s HR department has failed to address your concerns.
“You should really consider leaving your current job if you’re facing harassment or discrimination and you’ve exhausted all of the resources available to help you at work. You may want to also talk to an attorney about the harassment or discrimination prior to quitting and as you move to find another job. This may assist you in assessing options you may not have considered,” Daniel advised.
Challenging leadership. Leaders are the lifeblood of an organization, and if you don’t like the direction they’re taking the company, it may be time to update your LinkedIn profile. Disagreeing on important initiatives or the organization’s mission will make your workday that much more dispiriting.
“Leadership, no matter what, has an integral robust influence on the employee lifecycle of the organization. Leadership that is unwilling to listen logically, support innovation and integrity, as well as orchestrate intersectional collaboration will ultimately succumb to competitors in their own industries,” Hou said.
Lack of passion. Regardless of your perspective when you started your job, if you’re no longer invested in your role, you may want to rethink your employment. When you’re not passionate about your career, you won’t be executing your best work, and Monday through Friday will feel more stifling.
“As diverse, intersectional individuals, changes are vital for us to progress through our lifetime. Therefore, what you’re passionate about in the past and present may not be what you’re passionate about in the future. Align your passion with what you want to imprint into this world and let the emergence of opportunities guide you to where you need to be. Part of going through life is to embrace opportunities and surprises,” Hou explained.
Mental health considerations. Sometimes, it’s not exactly clear-cut what’s causing your discontent, but you’re unhappy to the point where you can barely bring yourself to work. Whether it’s because your workload is too intense or your co-workers are becoming difficult to collaborate with, your mental health is taking a toll. If that’s the case, it’s time to move on, Daniel said.
“When you’re constantly stressed and burned out, when it’s having a detrimental effect on your health mentally, emotionally, and/or physically, and you just can’t keep going to work, it’s likely time to speak with your healthcare provider. It may be time to quit if it’s not an issue of a transient nature. When that stress and unhappiness is consistent and pervasive, you may feel like you have your answer,” Daniel explained.
What Should You Do When You Want to Leave Your Job?
Now that you’ve made the decision to quit, you need to get your affairs in order.
“First, you should update your resume. You should let people in your network know what kind of opportunity you’re looking for and have in mind and what it is that you want to do next,” Daniel said. “Then you can start networking, start the job hunt.”
Of course, you don’t necessarily need to immediately have another job lined up in order to quit your current position. Some people have the means to take time off and reassess their career paths. Even if that’s the case, it’s good to begin networking, so you have a head start when you begin searching for your next position. And remember — sometimes, the job hunt will take longer than you expect.
Once you’re ready to submit your resignation, contact your manager and the HR department to give your two weeks’ notice. Make sure to set up a meeting to discuss everything in person and give written notice as well. You’ll want to make sure you and the company are both in agreement on your end date.
It’s possible your company will ask you to do an exit interview. If that’s the case, both Daniel and Hou warn you should keep it professional and avoid burning bridges as you explain why you’ve chosen to quit. After all, you never know when you’ll cross paths with someone again in your field.
“Professionalism and factually based are always the core of what we should strive to in terms of exit interviews,” Hou said.