The average American spends over 100,000 hours of his or her life working. That’s nearly twelve years. Imagine spending twelve waking years of your life doing something that was neither enjoyable nor financially rewarding.
But while it seems illogical, countless people put in this time day in and day out. The reason is that they can't face the alternative: The uncertainty of what lies on the other side of their current professional situation is crippling. It prevents them from making that leap toward a better life even as it promotes complacency.
Yet leaving a job is nothing to be ashamed of. It's an option that should be explored as a viable solution to professional problems. Over the years I’ve learned the following identifiers that tell me it’s time to jump ship.
1. You face an unbalanced risk:reward ratio.
One of the biggest motivators for heading down the entrepreneurial track was a job I had before founding Zirtual: bartending. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy (most) parts of my job; I liked serving my customers and chatting about their days. And I genuinely enjoyed the fast-paced, sometimes seedy experience of working behind a bar. The issue was, I didn’t feel in control of my own destiny. (Oh, did I mention that bar fight I had to break up at 2 am during one shift, with nothing but a soda gun and a bucket of limes as ammo)?
Sure, I could make adequate money each night in tips, but I had no autonomy outside of that. I was constantly suggesting ways we could improve either the patrons' experience, or cut our costs, and my ideas fell on deaf ears.
So, the risk of leaving my bartending gig was two-pronged: Either face burnout from the somewhat hard life of a bartender or continue to endure the fact that I couldn’t greatly affect my situation, since I wasn’t allowed autonomy or control over my job.
Think about your own situation. What risks would be involved in leaving your job? Are they worth the potential rewards of your current career? If not, the time may have arrived to look for something else.
2. Apathy (yours) reigns supreme.
When you stop caring about missing deadlines or ignoring responsibilities, you may be approaching burnout. Dropping the ball at a job you care about should emotionally affect you and motivate you to do better. But when you have an epic screw-up, yet carry on like nothing happened and make no changes to prevent it from happening again, you will likely do more damage in the long run by hanging around.
For starters you may get fired for poor performance. Having a job while looking for a job makes you more desirable to recruiters, so your best bet is to get the jump on your search. Even if you’re not let go but continue to be dead weight around the office, you may burn bridges you’ll want to keep for the future.
Related: 10 Reasons You Have to Quit Your Job
3. Your personal life has disappeared.
No matter how busy your job is, you should always take time to enjoy your personal life. Some of the hardest workers I know have the most involved hobbies. But a draining job not only minimizes the amount of time you have to allocate to activities you enjoy, it also drains the amount of energy you have to put into them. For a job you love, you can often work a long day yet still have the energy to hit the gym, practice with your band or partake in any other hobby you enjoy.
4. Your friendships with colleagues are nonexistent.
A big piece of employee happiness is the ability to have at least one colleague whom you would call a friend, someone in whom you can confide and build a personal relationship with. I’ve found it’s important to develop these relationships because we are rarely perfectly happy at our jobs 100 percent of the time. When parts of the job are less than enjoyable, having friends keeps you motivated.
Having friends at work also allows you to share frustrations with people who can relate and offer real advice. In a dispute, they can sometimes serve as a third party who has enough information to give a valuable opinion grounded in facts.
Having no friends, however, is a sign of a culture mismatch. You may still be completely happy with the kind of work you’re doing, but the workplace is not the right environment for you to thrive.
5. The company’s mission no longer resonates.
Companies, like people, evolve. A company achieves its goals over time fueled by team departures, additions and epiphanies. That change may not resonate with your individual philosophy, which is completely acceptable. But if you find yourself scoffing at a new direction for the company, my advice is twofold:
- First, make sure you understand its overarching goal and strategy. Ask your manager or some of the key decision-makers for a quick meeting so you can understand the change in direction. There may have been pieces of the decision-making process they could not share in a public setting.
- Next, consider whether it is a plan you can fully commit to. Your role will be vital in executing the new vision. Performing work you consider half-ass will not only slow others down from executing the company’s mission but will reflect negatively on you.
You then have that final decision to make: Should you stay or go?