The Toronto Star – Knowing when to leave your job

SPECIAL TO THE STAR / The Toronto Star – October 19 2002

When you started your job a few years ago, you felt excited and enthusiastic about your prospects with the company. Being hired was cause for celebration. But lately the challenge and excitement is gone and most days you find yourself dreading going to the office. Should you look for a new job?

Before deciding to jump ship, do a little soul searching, recommends Nina Spencer, a Toronto-based motivational speaker and business workshop facilitator. First, ask yourself, “Do I really want to quit?” Try to identify the key issue underlying your dissatisfaction, advises Spencer. Is it a transitory issue that may be eventually resolved (such as just having a bad week) or is it a bigger issue that is harder to fix (such as your values differing significantly from those of the company)?

Second, try to get re-connected with your original reasons for wanting your job in the first place. Think back to the excitement you originally felt when you started working for your current employer and see if you can re-ignite those feelings.

Ask yourself what would need to change in your current job in order for you to consider staying. Would new responsibilities, additional training, a transfer, or a promotion re-kindle your interest in your job? If so, consider having a discussion with your manager or your company’s human resources department about your desire to expand your horizons. Many companies prefer to re-train or promote an experienced employee than orient and train a new hire with no experience.

Perhaps a sabbatical from your job or a temporary secondment to another position would allow you to return to your current job with renewed interest and a fresh perspective. And don’t overlook the value of a lateral transfer in re-creating some excitement in your work life. Although you may get the same salary, the opportunity to learn new skills and work with new people may be all you need to get out of the job doldrums.

In some cases, the handwriting is on the wall, and you just know it’s time to move on, says Spencer. It may be time to consider making a fresh start if:
*Your job is so stressful that it’s taking a toll on your health and your personal relationships.

*Your employer is in serious financial trouble and likely to make layoffs that will affect your position.

*You are feeling so cynical and mistrustful towards the management in your company that you can’t imagine feeling differently in the future.
*You are stagnating in the job, and just going through the motions of completing your work, but not learning anything new and not having any fun.
*You have gone as far as you can go in your current job and there aren’t any other opportunities open to you in your current company for moving into a new and different position.

Some employees leave the company psychologically but stay in their jobs, feeling bitter and disillusioned, long past the point when they should have moved on. It’s always better to leave under your own terms before you start feeling desperate to get out, says Spencer. That way, you’re moving in a positive direction-toward a new opportunity-rather than in a negative direction-away from a job you’ve come to despise.

If you decide to begin exploring other job opportunities, keep these suggestions in mind:

  • Be clear about your reasons for leaving so you can explain them to your current employer but also so you can articulate these reasons clearly in job interviews. (And rest assured that you will be asked in interviews why you want to leave your current employer.)
  • Frame your reasons for leaving in positive terms. Regardless of how negative your feelings have become towards your job or employer, it’s important to view this transition with a positive attitude. Otherwise your feelings may overshadow your final days on the job and also affect how you discuss your reasons for leaving in job interviews. Prospective employers tend to be cautious about hiring workers who don’t seem to have anything good to say about a former job or company.
  • Be discreet. Until you have a job offer in hand, it’s probably wise to keep your dissatisfaction and your plans to yourself. Unless you plan to explore opportunities in the company, resist the urge to share your intentions with your manager or co-workers. Revealing your plans too soon may result in your being replaced before you’ve found a new position. It may also make things uncomfortable if it takes you longer than expected to find a new position.

When you feel dissatisfied in your job, Spencer says, there are only four courses of action available to you: love it, leave it, change it, or change the way you think about it. You may have to live for a short time with a job you dislike until you can make plans for your next move. But staying and hating your job shouldn’t be an option over the long-term, says Spencer. When you consider how much of your time and energy you will invest in your career throughout your lifetime, it’s worth the effort to find work that’s not a bore, but a joy.

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