“Should I quit my job?”

It’s something every sane person will ask themselves at least a dozen times at various points in their career.

The question is very complex and difficult to answer because it has so many moving parts: How terrible is your job? What’s the job market in your area like? What are your financial needs? How employable are you? Do you have a job lined up? Are you working on a side business you want to grow?

Depending on the circumstances you’re in, quitting your job may be the best you can do for yourself and your career. At other times, staying at your current company a little while longer may also be the absolute best approach for you now and in the future.

6 reasons to quit your job

The job is destroying your mental and physical health

To put it in money terms, some jobs damage your health more than they pay out in wages and compensation.

It could be that the company skirts safety regulations, which leads to unhealthy working conditions.

Other times, the work environment can be exceedingly toxic, with bully coworkers and bosses that are determined to make your life as miserable as possible. You’re in no danger of hurting a part of your body, but the daily stress you experience will break you from the inside out.

If you wake up in the morning and wish you had to go to the hospital rather that coming in to work, then this is a sure sign you need to quit.

This decision becomes even easier if you have some form of support network you can rely for a while such as parents, a spouse, savings or other similar advantages.

The company is amazing, but offers no financial or professional room for advancement

Some companies are amazing places to work at from a personal perspective: the colleagues are great, bosses are nice, there’s a good amount of respect thrown about and you feel like a genuine member of the team. There’s a feeling that you belong.

Unfortunately, some of these companies come with the major downside that they don’t offer room for career advancement. Most of the seniority positions are taken, and no new ones are created.

While the work culture is great, the management can be quite stingy when it comes to money, so no raises.

So you essentially have to make a choice: do you risk moving to another company for better pay and advancement, at the risk of a potentially poor work culture or do you stay where you are and hope that some of the senior positions will be opened up?

If you’re thinking to stay, consider this:

  • What are the chances of a senior member quitting a company they enjoying working for as much as you do?
  • If the senior member does quit, are you absolutely sure you will get moved up the rankings?
  • Do you have the time to wait?

Unfortunately, quitting a great company you enjoy working at can be very painful, but it’s the best thing to do for yourself and your career in the long run.

You want a few months off work to reset

Some workplaces can leave you mentally drained to the point where quitting a job this week, and starting a new one the week after isn’t really possible.

It’s a similar process to moving from one serious romantic relationship to another one within the space of a week. Some people can do it, but it’s not for everybody.

Ultimately, if your finances are ok, and you’re confident of how employable you are, then it’s safe to consider quitting even without a job lined up.

However, you will have to take into account multiple aspects:

  • It may take you much more time than you expect to get hired. Plan accordingly.
  • You may have to take a bridge job to pay the bills if it takes you longer to get the job you want.
  • Some employers may not like unemployed people.
  • It’s hard to negotiate good pay when you’re unemployed because you don’t have the required leverage.

Taking a sabbatical year to travel and experiment

If life came with an instruction manual, nowhere would it say you need to work without break 40 years (or more) right up until retirement. Ultimately, most people work so they can afford a certain lifestyle.

For some, this certain lifestyle can mean “work 6 months, travel 6 months”.

If you’re from the developed world, even a so-so amount of money like 4000 to 5000 USD can help you travel for months on end in less developed parts of the world such as India, North Africa, Central Asia, Indonesia etc.

Sure, you might not experience the best levels of comfort, but if you can tolerate that, you can see and experience quite a lot of the world.

Of course, you might be interested in something else other than traveling. For instance, you might have joined an amateur acting group that pays barely anything but is extremely fun to be with.

As long as you have the resources, would it be a bad idea to quit working for a few months and live that opportunity to it’s full? No, it wouldn’t be.

As an example of this, consider reading this man’s story, who takes a 1 year sabbatical every 7 years, and considers these sabbaticals as “retirement years used in advance”.

You discovered your chosen career path isn’t a good fit

Some people can get hung up on a particular career choice (think law or IT programming), and then go through all the educational circuit to get a degree in that field.

Then they discover with anguish that they don’t enjoy the work. It doesn’t matter how many jobs they go through or what projects they work on. They simply don’t like the career, industry or field and can never grow into it.

In these sort of situations, perhaps the best choice is to plan an exit strategy and find a career path that is more enjoyable.

But things aren’t so simple. It’s entirely possible you can be good at your job, even if you dislike it. Over time, this has brought in promotions, salary increases and a certain status you wouldn’t like to lose.

Switching careers (especially when moving to unrelated fields) can take you almost to square one, in terms of salary and seniority. This can be manageable if you’re young, but harder the older you are.

To add a cherry on top, you become even more trapped if you have a family and rely on the increased income from your current job.

Ultimately however, we only live one life and a large part of it is spent working. It might as well be something you can find enjoyment in.

You have a profitable side project that can become a business

Perhaps you’re one of the lucky people whose hobby has ended up making money. Quit a bit in fact, maybe enough to even live on if you’re frugal.

Not only that, but you can actually see the hobby scaling up and potentially becoming a fully fledged business.

If this were the case, should you quit your job?

Perhaps the first thing to consider is your health, both physical and mental. Working what is essentially two jobs is extremely hard to do for long periods of time. It will almost certainlylead to severe burnout that will make you hate both the job and your profitable side-project.

Next, consider the opportunity cost. Will working on the side business full time for a few months make it a bigger money earner than your job? Will staying at your job actually cost you more money in the long run by starving your business of the man-hours needed to grow?

The third point to consider is whether to invest all of the money you get from the day job, into the side business. You’re prepared to lose out on the day job money stream anyway, so wouldn’t it be more profitable to instead hang to your job and invest all the money you earn into the business?

Overall however, you’re in a great place to consider your options!

6 reasons to NOT quit your job

A recession is underway or the local economy is going badly

Switching jobs or career paths is difficult to pull off in good times. In bad times it becomes downright scary.

If the current company you work for seems to be secure and relatively sheltered by an economic downturn, then consider hunkering down and waiting for the economic storm to pass.

If you have a competing offer, think long and hard about it. Is the company that wants to hire you well positioned to navigate through a recession? If the answer is no and you join them anyway, then you run the risk of the company going under or laying people off soon (including you) right after you’ve joined.

Avoid looking like a job hopper

By know it’s pretty well established that the best way to get wage increases is to switch jobs. By job hopping, you’re trading a lower skill and lower paying job, for a more demanding one with better pay.

While this method of obtaining a wage increase is tried and tested, done too often and you run the risk of looking like a mercenary and thus unemployable.

So how often should you stay at a job? The numbers can vary wildly depending on the field, and how often you’ve switched jobs before. If you were at your previous job for 3-4 years and the current one for just 1 year, then it’s safe to say no one will consider you a job hopper.

However, if you’ve held on to your past 2-3 jobs for less than 2 years each, then this might become an issue.

There’s also another aspect you have to consider: if you job hop too often, employers might think you are difficult to work with and are essentially “pushed out” of a job rather than outright fired.

If you feel you run the risk of being labeled a job hopper, consider putting in more time in your current job. If you still want to switch, then be absolutely sure you can at least sink in a good amount of time in your next job.

Complete a high visibility project or learn new skills

Some jobs aren’t enjoyable and pay poorly, but they work great as “stepping stones” to get into higher skilled and better paying work places.

Overall, these jobs suck. However, they offer you the chance to learn certain valuable skills and work on high visibility projects that that will make you stand out among other applicants.

Even if you intensely dislike the job, strongly consider pushing through until the project is complete and you can brag with it (self-promote in corporate speak) and / or you have mastered learning some highly sought-after skills.

Quitting because of impostor syndrome

Impostor syndrome is a persistent, nagging state of mind where you feel like your whole “competence” is nothing more than an elaborate lie you’ve tricked your bosses and colleagues into believing.

Over longer periods of time, impostor syndrome can simply wear you down with anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. Even minor job issues and problems can make you feel as if you’ve been exposed and will soon be given the boot. As a result, you might feel the need to quit your job or switch to another one before you get to be shamed or humiliated by a painful reveal of your incompetency.

Ultimately however, this is a mistake. If you do quit because of impostor syndrome, you’re basically doing the job of your manager, who should know which employee is pulling their weight, and which isn’t.

Next up, if your manager keeps you hired, this means he/she thinks you are doing an ok job. Basically, every day you’re still working at the company is a vote of confidence in your abilities and work ethic.

Finally, even if your impostor syndrome turns out to be well-founded, you should still let your company be the one who fires you. In doing so, you at least get unemployment benefits, or even a severance package to get you through the tough days ahead.

Let this be a good motto: “Never quit, let them fire you.”

You want to start a business

Quitting a job (especially a well-paying one) in order to start a business, is a very risky proposition.

The biggest problem is that you haven’t actually tested whether your business idea can work or not. Sinking time and money (especially loaned money) on a business idea that isn’t viable is a recipe for a financial nightmare that can anchor you down for years, decades even.

The best way to go around this is to test out the business idea while you’re still employed. You might not have the time, but the job can provide some money to sink into an experiment.

For example’s sake, imagine the following situation: you’re exceptionally good at making custom designed carpets and would like to make a business out of it. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of time for you to make one so you’re thinking to quit in order to focus on this potential business opportunity.

Instead of quitting, first try to find some potential customers and obtain solid orders, and then look for someone with carpet making skills comparable to yours and pay them to produce the carpets.

If you can build a repeatable process, this means you’ve found a viable business opportunity. It doesn’t matter if your clients gave you $500 per carpet, but you paid the other person $700 to make them for you. The $200 difference is simply the cost of the experiment to prove whether or not there is a market for custom designed carpets, and whether you can actually sell them.

Then there’s also another point to take into consideration: what if your business idea actually needs more capital, rather than time, in order to get off the ground?

If this is the case then you’re better served working your day job until the business becomes self-sufficient from a capital perspective. Only quit the job when the business needs man-hours, rather than capital, to grow.

A contract holds you to the job

Niche or highly skilled employees are likely to have job contracts with some very particular exit clauses that make quitting the job very costly.

One good example of this are vested shares. Some companies choose to financially motivate employees by offering stock compensation on top of their salary, on the condition that they work at the company for X number of years.

Depending on the circumstances, these vested shares can value quite a bit of money. In other words, quitting the job can lead to a sizeable loss.

This is just one example of contracts that bind an employee to a company. Others can include non-compete clauses, training cost reimbursement etc.

Before quitting consider consulting a lawyer regarding your contract and analyzing it from all possible angles.

If breaking the consequences of the contract breakup is not easily bearable at this time, then holding off for a later moment might be a wise decision.

However, you should also consider the opportunity cost: in some cases, it might be more profitable to take a new job, and consider whatever sanction was stipulated in your contract as a “cost of business”.