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To Quit, or Not to Quit? What to Do When You Hate Your Job

Do you count the hours to quitting time? Do you dread your morning commute and the daily grind? Whether you want to find a new job or tough it out with your current employer, read on. The right advice can help you make a wise decision.

It’s another bleak Monday morning, another long commute, another grinding four hours to lunch, meetings, and four more hours to quitting time. If your hate your job, you have a choice. To quit or not to quit–that is the question. Whichever you choose, here are a few tips on how to make the decision, and what to do once you’ve made it.

As much as you dislike your job, you still may be on the fence about quitting–especially in a difficult economy. September 2008 marked the 9th straight month of employment contraction, with U.S. employers dropping 159,000 jobs. Chances are, if you have a job, you may want to hold onto it.

All the same, you shouldn’t be miserable at work. Experts advise you to take stock of your work complaints before jumping ship. Sherron Bienvenu, professor emerita at the Goizueta Business School at Emory University, suggests identifying exactly how the job fails to satisfy. “Rather than making a blanket statement,” she says, “be specific.” Liz Ryan, founder of WorldWIT, an online network of professional women, recommends categorizing job complaints by two categories–the problems you can change, and the problems you can’t. If you schedule conflicts with family responsibilities, for example you could present alternative arrangements to your boss. If your boss is the problem, you can always change departments. After all, you don’t have to change employers just because you change jobs. “If you can change the majority of your situation,” Ryan advises, “it could be worth it to stick around.”

Take this Job and Fill it Option Two: You quit
Of course, it sometimes happens that most of your job problems lay outside your sphere of influence. If that’s the case, it may be time to move on. When you decide to resign, remember there’s a right and wrong way to do it: you might have imagined giving a grand speech before storming out forever. Keep dreaming. Burning your bridge might make for exiting TV, but try it in real life and they may have security escort you from the building.

Instead, be a professional. Schedule a formal meeting with your supervisor (morning is generally the best time as it gives your manager time to process the news). Start by summing up your accomplishments with the company, and then tactfully explain why you believe it’s time to move on. You should also provide written notice–have a courteous letter drafted in advance. It should include a formal statement that you are leaving, an estimated date of departure, and a plan for returning company property (as well as any sensitive or confidential information).

The timetable is especially important. Although two weeks’ notice is traditionally considered a professional timetable for resignation, in today’s workplace–where employee workloads are often too substantial to transfer or redistribute in two weeks–you should be flexible. If you have any upcoming deadlines, especially for important projects, express a willingness to complete your tasks before leaving.

If You Quit: Finding New Work
The strongest argument for leaving on good terms is your new job. If you decide to quit, you should be facing a tough economy, and a good reference from your former employer can be a tremendous help.

In addition, you should keep your resume up to date. At your nightmare job, you might have been too focused on your problems to notice all the new skills you learned. Some of those skills may transfer to a new and better post.

Networking and continued education are also important. According to Jon E. Zion president of Eastern United States Operations for Robert Half International, help from organizations like alumni groups and professional networks can help. Zion also stresses the importance of continuing education, especially certifications. “You need every advantage as the economy slows and the competition for jobs increases.”

Remember, ultimately, that your job satisfaction depends on you–whether you work to improve your current job or move on to a new one, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. With the right combination of professionalism, strategy, and career skills, you can confidently answer that all-important question: to quit, or not to quit.

Forbes, “Do You Hate Your Job?”
New York Times, “The Economy Changes, So Change With It”
New York Times, “The Importance of Unburnt Bridges”
Reuters, “September Job Losses Steepest in 5-1/2 Years”

Publish date: November 17, 2008