Imagine this scene: you’re driving to the office, and you feel your stomach tighten up.
It’s not like butterflies, it’s more like anxious nerves starting to kick into high gear.
You park, hesitate for a moment in the car before walking up to the building, sigh, and wonder to yourself, “Do I really *have* to today?”
But if you’re anything like the thousands of people we’ve helped, there’s a part of your brain that probably also pipes up and says: “Appreciate what you have! This is a stable job with good benefits, is impressive to other people, and gives you vacation and sick leave. And leaving would have huge consequences on your family, your mortgage payments…what would you even do instead?”
Or, even more scary: “What if I change jobs and it’s worse?”
It makes it really painful to start to answer the question: Should I Quit My Job?
But it doesn’t have to be.
Here are four questions to help you weigh the Pros and Cons of quitting your job — versus some of the possible potential upside of staying.
NAIL DOWN YOUR “WHY” TO FIGURE OUT THE HOW
The first question to answer is the most important: why do I want to leave in the first place? What is driving my decision?
Don’t skate past this question; this is deeper than it seems on first blush.
To get to the bottom of it, write out every single reason, petty or gigantic, that’s motivating your desire to leave. Give yourself 10 minutes of uninterrupted time where your pen never leaves the paper to get them all out of your brain.
Then, take a look at what you’re feeling and thinking. Look for big trends, and look for the reasons that feel particularly emotionally charged.
When you have perspective and can evaluate your reasons outside of your brain, are you wanting to leave because you’re running away from something?
POTENTIALLY RUNNING AWAY = My coworker drives me crazy. I work insane hours. I got demoralizing feedback on a recent project. I didn’t get a big enough raise this last promotion cycle. My manager and I have communication issues.
Running away from setting boundaries or asking for what you truly want can mean that the next job you run into will have the same old baggage and negative behavior patterns, so you’re right to worry about whether it will be an upgrade. If you’re getting the sense you might be running away from a role and haven’t exhausted your options to make the situation better, check out our recent podcast with Melody Wilding on harnessing powerful emotions to set strong boundaries at work.
PROBABLY RUNNING TOWARD = I want to learn a new skill that I can’t find here. I’ve tried to get chances to do an internal pivot onto a new project, but have all been unsupported. This organization no longer aligns with my values. My manager isn’t championing me internally, so I’m less effective here. I’m ready to move to a new state, and can’t transfer with this organization.
However, if you can look at your list of reasons to leave and see that you’ve done everything in your power to make it work for you — and it won’t — it’s great to see why you need to leave outlined so explicitly. You now have a motivational manifesto as to why it’s time to quit and move on.
GET YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER TO MAKE IT HAPPEN – FAST.
The second question to consider if you know quitting is the right move for you is: do I have the “runway” to do it now?
“Runway” means: do you have the savings in the bank to allow for you to be okay if you don’t get another job right away?
Here’s how you calculate your current financial runway: log into each of your bank accounts, and add up all the cash you have available to you in your checking and savings accounts. Look at your investments and add the value of the ones that are easier to liquefy and get out if needed (meaning: count personal investment amounts as part of your “runway” cash pot, but not 401(k) investments).
Then, take a look at your monthly spending over the past ~3 months, and come up with your average monthly spend. Include things like health insurance that your current employer might be subsidizing.
To determine your rough financial runway, take your total cash amount, and divide it by your average monthly spend. That tells you how many months you could go without any income (and fairly light adjustments of your spending) before you’d be in trouble.
For some people, this financial runway calculation looks like this:
Average monthly spending: $3,200
Total “liquifiable” and/or cash assets: $40,000 in cash, $18,000 in liquifiable investments = $58,000
Rough financial runway estimate: $58,000/$3,200 = ~18 months (18.125 months)
For others, it might be closer to this:
Average monthly spending: $6,600
Total “liquifiable” and/or cash assets: $20,000 in cash, $5,000 in liquifiable investments = $25,000
Rough financial runway estimate: $25,000/$6,600 = ~3 months (Really it’s closer to 3.8 months, but I’d recommend you round down)
Because life is uncertain and it’s better to be safe than sorry, we strongly recommend your financial runway include a minimum of 6 months of cash, with 9+ months’ worth being closer to ideal.
If doing this calculation leaves you in a cold sweat, don’t leave yourself vulnerable. You’ll probably want a financial runway like this on hand regardless of whether you’re thinking of quitting or not, because losing a job unexpectedly or having a sudden illness hit would also require you to have funds on hand. Start increasing your savings now. I did this in the past by asking for a raise and lowering my expenses so I needed less cash to get by each month. For ideas on how to ask for a raise, check out this episode of the podcast.
The other consideration as you’re calculating financial runway to quit your job might also be: do I have any liabilities or future gains that might make this more challenging? Are there things that I owe a lot of money on, upcoming large medical procedures that I’d like to use my employer’s coverage to pay for, or bonuses, vacation that doesn’t cash out, or other compensation on the table that I’d lose if I left now? Did my employer pay for my most recent degree, and I’d owe them some reimbursement if I left now? Understanding the financial logistics of leaving can be incredibly illuminating on whether now is the right time to quit, or if there are ways you can better take care of yourself before saying goodbye.
CONSULT YOUR MOST IMPORTANT STAKEHOLDERS FOR CONSENSUS
The third question is in terms of impact of your decision: who else has a vested interest in the outcome of this decision, and are they onboard and committed to making the same decision?
For me, a clear and obvious impact of my employment decision is how it affects my wife Alyssa and our kids.
Alyssa and I are a team, and I rarely do anything major in my business without consulting her and getting her feedback first. Not only is she incredibly smart and insightful when it comes to strategic decisions, but she’s also supportive while pointing out potential flaws in my master plans. And because I’m typically the breadwinner for our family, any dramatic decisions that I make about my work and paycheck have an immediate impact on her and the kids. So in order to feel like I’m acting in integrity, I need to make sure that she and I are in agreement about what’s right for me and for our family.
When I left my HR job at Target, I didn’t do a good job of involving Alyssa in that decision, and ended up putting her through a ton of stress that made me feel like a jerk. I’ve learned from that experience that bringing her into both the decision and the contingency planning process early and often is the best thing to do for our partnership, relationship, and friendship to stay strong.
The final question is: what’s going to be required for me to make a substantial life change like this?
Let me explain. In order to get results that are different from what you’ve always gotten, you have to take action in ways that are different from what you’ve always done.
For me, that meant finding more time. When I was working a 9-to-5 job and also being a dad, that was no small feat. I realized that I needed to do the most important things first in my day, so I started getting up early.
Really early. Like, 4am early.
And I would do things like record podcast episodes that early. Because when you’re committed to finding a way, and you’re willing to be flexible on the “how,” you can create awesome opportunities for yourself. We have Career Change Bootcamp students who make their transition by having the discipline to do their coursework and their homework assignments during their lunch break at work each day.
With Mike, he needed a break in between jobs to have the time and space to make his transition. So evaluate what’s true for you, and set yourself up for success.
TO RECAP, HERE ARE THE 4 QUESTIONS TO KNOW IF YOU SHOULD QUIT:
1) Why do you want to leave in the first place? What is driving the decision? Is it 100% emotion thinking it will be better or something you are able to run to versus running away from?
2) Do you have the runway, the savings, or more liabilities than you can afford?
3) Who else has a vested interest and are they onboard and committed to making the same decision?
4) What do you need personally in terms of breakthroughs to make this substantial life change? It is substantial and I don’t want people to underestimate that.
Anything you would add having done it yourself?
Ready to quit, but not sure what to transition into? Get a crash course to help you get clear on what you’re great at and what kind of work could fit you best in our 8-day mini-course. Sign up here!
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