When to Quit a Job

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Summary: Knowing when to quit a job can be challenging, but making the right decision is very rewarding.

Key Take Aways:

- Being disengaged at work means it could be time for a change.

- If a job is not in alignment with your sense of what matters in life, it probably needs to be re-examined.

- If you have stopped growing in your job or career, this situation needs to be addressed.

A Harvard Business Review study from this summer found some younger workers who do well in their fields only stayed in their jobs a little over two years, and were looking for other jobs while they were employed. The study subjects were top performers generally about thirty years of age. Money was not typically their main motivator for leaving. It was a lack of learning and growth or not being appreciated. Their reasons are some of the main ones many people leave their jobs, or begin to consider doing so.


How engaged a person is at work indicates how attentive they are to their tasks and projects. If they care deeply about getting their work done they experience a strong sense of fulfillment. In some cases, they may even feel a little  guilty for taking a paycheck because they derive a high level of satisfaction from what they do five days a week. People who work in healthcare sometimes report this kind of job contentment, because their sense of compassion is being constantly activated, and they enjoy helping others very much.

People who do work they don't care about, or don't believe has any particular value for society or the planet are not engaged. If you find yourself in this position, it is probably a good time to ask why and evaluate whether you can continue in that line or work, or for how long.

If it isn't possible to leave immediately for something else, there is also a way of engaging yourself in a dull job. It is practicing meditation while you work, which has personal benefits, and could make the work results better. Meditation as a practice can help people develop greater focus.


If you feel that your work matters to others, or even to the larger community then the satisfaction is usually greater. For example, some people who do community service such as outreach with senior citizens may not like the hours, the driving, sitting in traffic, or low pay, but they appreciate the fact they get to do something directly helpful to those in need and the chance to share in close relationships with their clients.

Those who worked with Mother Teresa's organization were volunteers who worked very long hours for no pay. They also took a vow of chastity. Clearly, a main motivation in this very challenging lifestyle was purpose. For some people the sense of happiness they receive from giving is far greater than if they were receiving enough money for a comfortable lifestyle, but did not enjoy the work.


If you aren't growing enough in your job, the sense of stagnation may prove to much to tolerate in the long-term. Life is short, and sadly it is too easy to waste it. There are times both professionally and personally when we need to move on, or we suffer.

Typically, we know deep down when something is wrong. Whether that can be fixed so you can stay in the job depends on the situation. Sometimes it is a matter of taking the risk to speak up and be heard in a new way. It could also be time to try to find a different position within the organization.

If it isn't possible to find a new position, it might be time to explore new activities outside the workplace for enrichment and challenge. That way, your current income can pay for these growth experiences. Additionally, it might be time to start that side business, but keep your current situation so your finances remain stable. Quitting a job rashly, without another position lined up is probably not a good idea, especially now when so many people have been out of work for a very long time and the job market is flooded.

Image Credit: Public Domain

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Jake Richardson

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