Quitting a job can be one of the biggest decisions of your life. I have worked with many, many people who have told me they are not happy in their current jobs, but the fear of what’s out there, or not out there, keeps them from looking elsewhere. On the other end of the spectrum are people who never really get the opportunity to add longevity or overcoming really tough obstacles onto their resumes because they change jobs regularly. In our culture we receive extremely mixed messages about handling uncomfortable situations. On one hand, our society has very little tolerance for delayed gratification; we are told that our feelings are the most important factor to consider in all decisions and that we must look out for ourselves at all costs. On the other hand is conventional wisdom telling us that good things come to those who wait, the grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the fence and that if we put in our time and effort with an organization, we will be rewarded.
Confused yet? You’re not alone. When someone comes to me with career coaching or resume-writing requests they are usually dealing with a lot of fear, so we have to work through that to really determine whether moving on is the best thing or not. Almost everyone I have ever worked with has told themselves the story that they are lucky to have their current job (because they’ve been there forever so have flexibility, or because it pays them so well, or because the commute is so great, or because there aren’t any jobs out there) and have convinced themselves that any other alternative would be worse than their current, if they even have alternatives. I always leave the possibility open that that is actually true, but so far have not run into a real life situation where it was. When you break it down, there is really only one reason for job dissatisfaction and that’s that your expectations and your reality are not in alignment. Period. Once you accept this, there are some logically following possibilities:
The first possibility is that you need to adjust your expectations. If you are really gut-honest with yourself and willing to look at not only this situation, but your career history, you will see a pattern. The pattern is either that you have consistently made good choices…or bad ones. That you are generally in healthy and productive relationships (work and professional)…or not. There’s a lot of truth to the old joke ‘no matter where I go, there I am’ so if the driving force behind work dissatisfaction is looking you in the mirror, you can save yourself a lot of time and probably economic upheaval by dealing with that first. If after a thorough examination of your parts and motives, your conscience is clear that you are not sabotaging yourself or the job then you can evaluate the situation and determine if you are willing to stay if the situation never changes and if not, if it is in fact, changeable.
Some things that might be intolerable but changeable include telecommute options, pay, assigned accounts or possible work space location. If you’re going to leave if you can’t get those things changed then it’s a good idea to do your best “Adulting” and ask for what you want in a reasonable way. Do your research, and present your case logically and in a way that demonstrates why accommodating your request is good for the company as well as for you. Don’t start off with threats, just make your request to see where you stand. You may not get everything you’re asking for, but enough to make the situation acceptable to you. On the other hand, you may find out that nothing will change in which case you will have the benefit of that knowledge and the understanding that you will be starting a job search.
Other causes of job dissatisfaction are not easily remedied. For example:
Your company’s values are not in alignment with your own. I’m not talking about the pretty words they print on their business cards and posters, but how they actually function. If you company is unethical, dishonest, immoral or blatantly disregards the human beings working for them and you are not okay with that, then it’s not a good fit.
Your boss is a sociopath, narcissist, bully or tyrant. This actually could fall into the category of things that could change depending on how far up the food chain the boss is but if they are the owner or C level executive it’s unlikely. In that case, you have to decide how much abuse your paycheck is really worth or if you’d rather just walk away.
You are not passionate about your work. Sometimes financial insecurity leads us to accept jobs in which we are competent but not passionate. This inevitably leads to burnout with very few exceptions. While passion without competence is usually a hobby, a job where you are passionate and competent becomes a very fulfilling calling. If you are not able to utilize your gifts and talents to the best of your ability, eventually you will feel like the stress is not worth the paycheck. The good news is you have sharpened your skills and can make a very successful transition to a career that is more authentically you.
We are living in an exciting time where now more than ever employees have the opportunity to assess their values, passion and calling and choose how they want to work and contribute. Conventional employment is making way for much more fluid relationships and at the end of the day each person must take responsibility for their situation and their professional happiness.