Quitting your job is the new black. Everyone wants to. The Internet makes it look so easy. But don’t. Calm down. Think for a minute.
You probably have a good reason to dislike your job.
But that doesn’t mean you should up and quit. Maybe you loved it at some point, but bad bosses and worse decisions have left you overworked and undervalued. You’re pissed off. So am I.
The most common complaint at work today is lack of appreciation and autonomy. Some stats put job satisfaction around 51 percent. Which means about half of us either want to find another job, go into business for ourselves, or (gasp) found a startup.
Bloggers and Instagamers talk about the sacrifices behind self-employment. Their feeds make everything glow. After all, how else are we going to get you people to click on our stories?
They hardly ever show the truth.
Pseudo entrepreneurs make us think it’s all about selfies with coffee and avocados. And you can do that. You can definitely keep a bowl of avocados at your desk. Try that before quitting.
When they do, they coat it in filters and lens flares. Snapshots of coffee at an unfinished desk in a spacious studio apartment. Open floor plan. With just the right filter. A bowl of avocados in the background.
You see them and think, “I can definitely do that.”
And you can. You can definitely keep a bowl of avocados at your desk. You can buy a photogenic mug, and post selfies from your cubicle.
Try this approach before quitting your job. There’s obviously something to it —crafting a version of your life that makes others stupid with envy. Otherwise, people wouldn’t keep posting these photos.
Plenty of people out there will sell you a self-published book about how to make easy money. Lately, my radio has bombarded me with commercials by different gurus who want me to attend their seminars. They’ll show me how to flip houses, or start my own company.
Or set up passive income streams.
As a professor, I’m about as close to self-employed as you can get while keeping a steady paycheck. Still, I have bosses. Ones I don’t like. We’re sinking deeper into debt every year.
Half the time, I feel undervalued.
Basic facilities don’t function — like bathrooms and gates and elevators. Sometimes doors won’t open. Other times, I wonder if I’ll actually find a place to park. Our president jokes about making faculty rake leaves, so they can save money on landscaping.
Every single job on earth comes with long hours, uncertainty, and emotional labor. A five-hour shift at Starbucks can feel like an eternity if you don’t even like coffee that much.
Despite everything, I still enjoy a degree of freedom in how I plan my day. The money isn’t fantastic, but good enough.
Universities are transforming, and I see a possible end to my career in traditional education — something I’ve blogged about a lot. Something I’m planning and preparing for. Yeah, it’s hard to stay positive and motivated. But that doesn’t mean I can just quit.
The end of your career might loom over you. But there’s hardly ever a reason to pull a Jerry Maguire. Cinematic moves are never practical.
Millions of other people feel the same way. We’re compelled to find a career we love, even as job satisfaction stagnates. Especially now, we’ve caught some kind of fever. Everyone thinks they have to absolutely love their work. Sure, they’ll admit small problems, like long hours. Uncertainty. Emotional labor. Instead of bosses, they serve clients. Often just as bad.
Every single job on earth comes with long hours, uncertainty, and emotional labor. All of that depends on your personality.
A five-hour shift at Starbucks can feel like an eternity if you don’t even like coffee. Your perspective matters as much as the job.
It’s not enough to simply summon up the courage to quit. It’s also not enough to make a plan. You actually need to investigate your career alternatives and reflect on what kind of life you want. You’d be surprised what you find out about professions you think you might love.
We’re programmed to spend a certain amount of time each day doing stuff we don’t want to. We can’t escape it. And yet the minute we don’t have to do something anymore, our brains start to think of it as fun.
Right now, I’m taking an online course in layout and design. It looked cool, like something I could use if I ever decided to actually begin a new career. I’ve also dipped my toe back into freelancing. So far, it’s going okay. Not great. That’s an important lesson.
Three months ago, I was definitely ready to quit. I pictured myself returning to my solo career as a freelance writer and all-around editing consultant. I’m glad I haven’t. I’d forgotten how much freelancing can suck.
Basically, there’s no such thing as a perfect job.
Or even a good one.
I love blogging. But I don’t even want that to become a job. When you turn something into a job, you’re adding a lot of extra pressure. You’re making it responsible for rent and utilities.
That doesn’t always kill your passion. But it can. So be careful. Sometimes, your job does more than pay the bills. It distracts you from the normal irritations of life that would otherwise drive you nuts.
It gets you out of the house.
It gives you that thing you have to do, the thing that tricks your brain into thinking that everything else is fun or rewarding.
It’s almost as if we’re programmed to spend a certain amount of time each day doing stuff we don’t want to. Like hunting. Farming. Raising livestock. Chopping firewood. Stuff our ancestors did.
Think about how many of these activities have turned into hobbies. We have sport hunting now. Trophy hunting. Recreational fishing. Some people chop firewood for exercise. How bizarre.
These hobbies would lose a lot of their fun if suddenly you depended on the bass you caught for your main source of food.
Funny how that works. The minute you don’t have to do something anymore, your brain starts to think of it as fun.
Once you have to do something, the fun fades a little. And we wonder why so many people need therapy.
There’s really only a few good reasons to quit a job:
You have a better offer.
You’ve built a side hustle into a job that replaces your income. (Even then, isn’t it nice to have two incomes?)
Your workplace has become so toxic, you literally just go there and spend all day hiding in your office.
You’ve become so apathetic, it’s only a matter of time until you’re fired.
Most likely, you’ve found a job getting paid for something you’re good at. An overlap tends to exist between what we’re good at, and what we enjoy. Makes sense. We like being good at stuff.
Count yourself lucky if you’ve found a job you’re good at, and you don’t hate it. This means you’ll probably find a certain amount of satisfaction. You’ll climb up the ranks at least a little and enjoy a steady income. That gives you time and space for other things you want to do.
Balance. Or as some call it, harmony.
You can also find a job you love and which you’re good at. Or you can work a job you like and run a side hustle you love.
Plenty of us don’t even know whether we like our jobs or not. Your boss or work culture may trick you into thinking you hate a perfectly good job. That’s why you have to think carefully.
Simply quitting will never make you happy.
You might slide into a better career. Circumstances might force you to find another line of work, something you enjoy almost as much. Either way, you have to do your research. You might even decide that you’re not quite ready to leave yet. Or ever. There’s a dozen ways to improve your life and minimize the plight of your job, other than quitting.