Identical worker icons stand in a neat row, with one on the end running away happily after quitting
iStock/leremy

Logic Tree

Logical thinking is the most valuable asset any business professional can have. That's why logic trees are such a valuable tool—they can help you identify a problem, break it down, and build it back up to a solution.

If you’re thinking about a job change in the coming months, you’re not alone. COVID-19 upset the balance of work and life for all of us. But as eager as we are to get back to “normal,” we don’t necessarily want to go back to the way everything was before.

For some, giving up remote work has become a deal breaker for long-held positions. Others feel that what began as a steppingstone has become a rut, and they’re ready to get back to pursuing their career passion. (Nothing like a pandemic to revive the life’s-too-short mantra!) Still others are finding that minor pre-covid annoyances, from tense team dynamics to humdrum tasks, have become big reasons to resign.

In March 2021, Microsoft released “The Next Great Disruption Is Hybrid Work—Are We Ready?” The report listed seven trends causing a massive shift in the future of work:

  1. Flexible work
  2. Out-of-touch leaders
  3. An exhausted workforce
  4. Flagging motivation in Gen Z
  5. Low innovation due to lack of networking
  6. A need for authenticity
  7. Talent is everywhere

If you’re feeling any of these pain points, it might be comforting to know that one in four workers is right there with you. But does that mean you should take the plunge and send in your notice? Is now the right time to quit your job?

Timing is everything. So take a deep breath and ask yourself these five questions before you do something you might regret—whether it’s quitting or staying.

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Ikigai: A Book about Finding Your Purpose

Mentioning Japan tends to conjure images of quality products and services, sushi, sumo, anime, and otaku, among other things. Something most people don’t realize is that there is a common thread running through all of these: ikigai.
An open book with two pages folded in the shape of the heart.

How long have you been unhappy?

The worst time to make a drastic decision is in the heat of the moment. Maybe you just walked out of a meeting where you learned you won’t be getting that raise you’ve been hoping for. Maybe your project proposal got shot down. Or maybe HR just called you in because a coworker complained about your behavior.

None of these are easy things to hear. But before you do anything drastic, take a moment to let the waters around you settle. Contextualize the situation. The more emotional you are, the harder it will be to make a rational decision. Take a few days to reflect as objectively as possible. Try applying some critical thinking, perhaps a logic tree, to organize your thoughts.

Logic Tree

Logical thinking is the most valuable asset any business professional can have. That's why logic trees are such a valuable tool—they can help you identify a problem, break it down, and build it back up to a solution.

Then think about the incident that triggered your flight response again. Ask yourself these questions. If the answer to either is no, it might be time to quit your job:

  • The outcome stung, but did it make sense? Maybe you’re not getting that raise because money is tight at the company, or because someone else deserved it more. Reflect on the big picture from the company’s perspective. Think about the organization’s mission and vision. If you’re still sure you were (and will continue to be) passed over for unfair reasons, it might be time to resign.
  • Was this incident unusual? Think about the last time you got shot down—and the time before that. Think about the timeline and explanation. If you’re constantly hearing no for the same reason, that could be a sign that you need to realign your priorities. But if that reason conflicts with your career passion or vision for what you want to do at this company, it’s possible that this just isn’t the right company for you.

What do you want to do with your life?

If you’re thinking about quitting your job because you’re unhappy, don’t let yourself wallow. Put that negative emotion to work. Think about what does make you happy and form and action plan. It doesn’t have to be a job title that comes to mind—in fact, a broader answer could serve you better.

If you’re an aspiring chef working as a bank teller, it’s easy to assume that bank telling will never make you happy. But if you quit your well-paying bank teller job to go flip burgers, you might not find fulfillment, either.

So think bigger.Ask yourself this question:

  • How will [INSERT DREAM JOB HERE] bring me a sense of purpose? The Japanese concept of ikigai is often translated as “a reason to get up in the morning” or even “a reason to live.” Don’t stop there. Keep going, and visualize your kokorozashi—the way you’ll unify your passion and skills for positive impact on your community, even society as a whole. If now is the right time to quit your job, your kokorozashi will give you a sense of direction for the future.
Icon of a businessman standing in a maze, showing how knowing if it's the right time to quit your job is partially about knowing the right path forward
Maybe it IS the right time to quit your job . . . but what comes next? | iStock/leremy

Have you exhausted the opportunities your company can offer?

One good indicator of whether it’s the right time to quit your job can actually be found in the past. Think back why you joined your current company. Was it just because you needed a job? Or were there opportunities here to boost your career to the next level? If you rush to quit now, you could be leaving those opportunities untapped. Here are a few ways to tell:

  • Am I still honing my transferrable skills? Every position you hold has the potential to train up your skills, hard or soft: time management, organization, accounting, etc. Make a list of what you’ve learned so far, and think about what skills you’re still lacking. Every time you leave one position, you should do it knowing what you’re moving toward and what you’re leaving behind.
  • Is my manager championing my growth? Communication is perhaps the most important skill in your career toolkit—so put it to use. If you’re feeling unfulfilled, communicate that to your manager. He or she might be shocked to hear you’re even thinking about leaving. Give your company the opportunity to keep you on and train you up. If they don’t take that opportunity, it’s a good sign that you’ve outgrown this particular nest and it’s a good time to quit.

Is your company adapting to the times?

COVID-19 changed everything, and it continues to change everything. But there are other disruptors impacting business, too—technology, for example, and rising social pressure for diversity, equity, and inclusion. If the atmosphere of your workplace feels chaotic because the company is constantly adapting to disruption, that could actually be a sign of flexibility and innovation. But if your leaders are just treading water hoping for the return of the old normal, that’s a red flag.

Here are some questions to determine whether your company is committed to growth—and by extension, your growth:

  • Does the company value employee feedback? Smart organizations know that their people are their greatest resource. In troubled times, they’ll reach out for feedback. If your company has held surveys or special assemblies to create an open dialogue, that’s good, especially if they follow up afterward. If their efforts feel like pandering or tokenism, maybe it’s time to look for a more authentic employer.
  • Are safety measures, restrictions, and policies communicated clearly? In times of uncertainty, there’s nothing worse than mixed messages. How did your organization handle official communication in 2020? Consider how easy it was for you to find information when you needed it, from required office days to mask mandates. The way an organization behaves in the worst of times is often the clearest showing of character.
  • Do I know who to contact if I have a problem? Without a support network, work policies may as well be hammered to a telephone pole outside. When the office internet is down, or you’re feeling unwell, or you’re struggling with a team member, do you know who to go to? If it’s hard to ask the people in your organization for help, it could be a sign that the organization isn’t a good fit and it’s the right time to quit your job.

When is the right time to quit your job—for you?

For some people, the “right” time to quit comes around cyclically, perhaps every few years. For others, a career pivot can be a huge change after decades at a single company. But the reasons to resign are often similar, as should be the criteria for making the decision.

When you’re unhappy, every day feels like the right time to quit your job. But without next steps to bring greater meaning to your life, that satisfaction will be short-lived. Among all of the things to consider, the purpose of your career should be foremost in your mind. Try forming and refining a kokorozashi to help you plan next steps. By bringing meaning to your career, your life, and to those around you, quitting your job isn’t just running away from something bad. It’s moving toward something great. With purpose.

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