3 Good Reasons to Quit a Job You Love

9:03:00 AM

In an interview at Stanford GSB Oprah made the case that being aligned with her intentions— understanding what she really wants out of every situation and project, has been critical to her success. Yet, in today’s faced-paced, news-intensive, meme-heavy world, knowing yourselfwhat you want to do and who you want to becomeis a hard and elusive task. 

It’s hard because our expectation—that if we sit still long enough, we’ll suddenly know exactly what we ought to be or do in life—is false. There are very few epiphanies. Consistent self reflection will not suddenly lead us to the insight that we're meant to become fish farmers or magazine editors. So it becomes easy to just go with the flow. In fact, psychologists and behavioral economists have found that we all have a tendency to stick with the status quo, especially when facing complex decisions. We find jobs that initially excited us no longer bring joy in the same way, but we stick with them. They pay the bills for our closet-like apartments, give us a chance to vacation every now and then, and sometimes give us important benefits, like access to good healthcare.

Despite this, we're still restless, doodling through page after page in pointless meetings, dreading hideous commutes, resenting the moments spent doing things we no longer care about. Then we start contemplating quitting. Perhaps we should go back to school, perhaps we should set up a website and post ootds, perhaps we should move to Arizona and reconfigure our lives. 

Quitting the moment you feel discontent, fed up or bored with your job is a terrible idea. 

image © Todd Quackenbush

When discontent creeps in, our intuition is signaling a need for growth, it's not a time to make an abrupt change, but to become more aware and reflect. I once kept a log of moments in my job when I felt vividly excited (putting together a proposal for a potential project) less so (leaving an important meeting to run an errand for a boss) and downright depressed. Often the parts of a job you like give you a sense of how you want to grow. 

Once you know what you like and don't like, start asking questions. Is there a way to channel the frustration you feel into something constructive whether at work or on the side? For example, joining a MOOC in a subject you're interested in.

Next, reach out. Talk to people. If you know the skills you’d like to improve, reach out to people who are masters of that skill, that profession, that hobby. I once cold emailed a dozen professionals in a field I was interested in, and that season of sending out specific, well-researched emails, led to more than twenty different conversions across the globe with people doing work I was interested in, giving me a sense of how practical it was, what parts of it I would enjoy, which challenges it would bring, and if it would be financially viable.

image © Daria Nepriakhina
At this stage, you should understand exactly why you're discontented, and identified ways to channel that discontent into skills, projects, and side gigs you enjoy. You've also conducted 'qualitative research' to understand your options and if quitting to transition more fully into a new field is one of them. 

If it is, you're ready. You've networked in the field, you have a clear sense of what comes next.  Quitting is not a final dramatic step but instead one of many small steps you've taken to make sure you're doing exactly what you want and that what you’re doing is a viable next step. 

I’m a firm believer in making big changes the way a large ship would: in small, incremental steps. Some people like to run straight off a cliff, others prefer to make sure they have the right gear to make the leap as seamlessly as possible. 

There’s no right way to jump, as long as you land where you want to be. 

image © Thomas Ensley
So here are 3 good reasons to quit a job you love:
  1. You've learned from your discontent.
  2. You've worked slowly towards your next venture.
  3. You understand that ultimately what you're looking for is not a mythical job that will bring you happiness and excitement all the time, but one that will bring growth in the areas you truly care about.
And then you can find a date on your calendar, circle it and write the famed words: "put in notice" next to it.

Happy jumping


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