Before You Quit: A Checklist

Published: Jan 12, 2012

 Job Search       Salary & Benefits       Workplace Issues       

Your New Year’s resolution may be to do better work or feel less stressed at the office. But what if the only way to do that is to find another job?

In a month rife with new beginnings, it may make sense to reevaluate your career and whether it’s time for a change. Many of us, with our eye on a promotion or our 401ks, are surprisingly unwilling to move on, even if we’re miserable. The reason is likely that change is scary, especially when we’re hearing all the time that a job—any job—is something to be grateful for. It can seem crazy or irresponsible to gamble it away on a chance to move in a new direction.

But who’s gambling? The safest option of all is to reflect on your job, in regards to your long term career goals, personal happiness, and standard of living. You may discover that taking the “safe route” and holding on to a dead-end job is the riskiest option of all.

Here are ten factors to weigh when considering quitting your job:

1. Earning potential

Many people consider money a huge aspect of job searching, but rarely look beyond the start rate. At your current job, how much you can expect to make in the future? Depending on your goals and lifestyle, money may justify staying in a job you hate--but take a realistic look at how much you can actually expect to earn in two to five years time. It may help draw a clearer picture of whether it’s worth the investment.

2. Growth potential                                                               

Beyond changes in salary, can you expect your role at work to expand? If part of your dissatisfaction stems from a lack of challenges, it might help to ask around about how others in your role or department have moved or evolved their jobs over the years. Finding out that your path at the company is a likely a dead end (or possibly presents a wealth of choices) can make all the difference in how you see your job.

3. Your personal values

What’s most important to you, career wise? Having your talents put to use? Feeling challenged and engaged? Supporting your family, or retiring early? Clarify for yourself what your true motivators for working are, and whether you can see achieving any of these objectives in your current situation. It’s those goals that will determine your happiness down the road.

4. Your personal growth

Jobs, like relationships, often start off exciting then drop off into a bit of a lull. If the two of you are compatible, a rut can be overcome, and you can feel engaged again—but it’s up to you to determine whether the company’s objectives and your own line up well enough to keep you growing in the same, mutually satisfying direction.

5. Your family’s needs

If it’s not just you in the picture, you’ll need to consider what your family’s budget requires. You may need to stay in a certain earning bracket that only a select few companies or job titles can furnish. Or maybe it’s time that’s essential—is your current job flexible enough for you to make it to softball games, or camp out on the couch with a sick child? Is a great schedule worth sticking in a less than stellar work environment?

6. Your other options in the field

If you’re in the role you want but not the company, make sure you check out your other job options before handing in your resignation letter. Depending on prospects in your field, it may be in your best interests to stay put, and instead sacrifice some superficial comforts to stay on a satisfying overall path.

7. Relationships

For many people, bosses and coworkers are a huge factor in happiness at work. Are poor intra-office relationships the source of your misery? Or are great people a reason to stay at sub-par company? Bonus: if you are lucky enough to have an understanding boss or network of friends at work, consider leveraging those connections to find a better or more suitable role at the company—or to refer you elsewhere.

8. Running to a new situation, or away from an old one

Negative feelings doesn’t always correspond to the reality of the situation. Think about your specific frustrations—I hate my boss! My work is boring!--and where they might be coming from. What may at first appear to be unbearably critical colleagues could actually be deep-seated insecurities that you can manage--without quitting. On the other hand, feeling under the gun or bored all the time could signify underlying doubts about how suited your really are to your job, or that your talents could be better channeled. Be sure you really understand that problems you’re experiencing before you rush for a solution. The best remedy may be right under your nose.

9. What’s kept you this long?

It’s never an accident that you are where you are—something drew you to the situation. So what was it? A flashy title? Salary bump? Friends who were already working there? You may be feeling less than satisfied now, but when you first started, there was a list of positives you were excited about. So did those disappear, or matter less in the face of negatives? Did you outgrow what was originally so exciting, or realize it’s not what you wanted after all? Taking a moment to reflect on your changing wants or needs may help you make a more informed decision in choosing your next job, or convince you to stick around and fight a little harder for your original dreams.

10. What you need to be happy at work?

Some people are lucky enough to fall into jobs they love, but most of us need a little self awareness to get there. Tune out what everyone else is telling you to strive for, and check in with your gut. Only you know what you really want, and the best way to go get.

--Cathy Vandewater,