April 14, 2021

Quitting is an Option © Cici Mattiuzzi

A piece of you dies every day you spend in a job that you hate... To quit or not to quit, that is the question. People often ask me if I think they should quit their jobs. This is a huge question, especially in uncertain times.

We are just coming out of a brutal, pandemic driven recession that has been filled with uncertainty. Thanks to vaccinations, the news is good. In spite of all the fallout from the Covid19 crisis people have been getting great jobs and making pivotal, life changing moves. Over the past year almost every person I worked with got a better job than they had before. Others chose to return to school to make a significant pivot to a new field.

Quitting is a really difficult step to take, even when the labor market news is positive. The idea of letting go of what you have and taking a leap can be paralyzing. So many things ride on the decision to quit – your identity, your livelihood, your career, your future, your family relationships...

Many people mistakenly believe that quitting equals failure. Even when they know it is time to leave – fear, anxiety or a sense of impending loss makes it hard to take the step.

This is an especially difficult decision for recent grads – new to the workforce. Everything is exacerbated by starting a job in isolation during the pandemic. Compared to college, first jobs can be boring. Working can be a letdown after the intensity of college. College is a time when knowledge and information flood your system. You learn new things at a breakneck pace, stretching your brain to its limit; meeting new people and having social interactions on a scale that will probably not be replicated again in life.

No matter your career level, dissatisfaction is the kiss of death. Every day is a challenge when you go to a job that makes you crazy. You still have to perform, and if your boss is a dolt, you cannot just let him know that’s what you think. Under no circumstances do you want to be fired.

Each situation is different and individual, but the common factor is that most people have many more options than they think. It requires hard analysis and serious action – spending time working on researching and discovering better options... and working your tail off to get to a better place.

The thing about letting go of a bad situation is that it opens your brain to other possibilities… The pandemic has actually created huge opportunities. We are now in a period where we are seeing expansive growth and massive change the likes of which has never been seen before. In the field of medicine alone, the possibilities are exploding – bioinformatics, pharmaceuticals, immunotherapies …

Everything we did to navigate the pandemic has created jobs. Covid19 forced the entire world to become creative and to think differently about everything – how we live, how we shop, how we visit doctors, how we keep in touch, how and where we work, how we play, travel, and even how we breathe … everything!

Quality of life is surfacing as a huge job creation driver – like clean air and the idea of sitting a bit further away from the noisy crowd at the next table! (Think acoustics engineers, designers, architects, space planners, contractors, construction management software). And families with more time together, instead of commuting 2 to 3 hours per day, 5 days per week are hungry for recreation and entertainment.

The country and the world are ripe for rapid, crisis driven change and you definitely want to be part of it! Begin with what you bring to the table – your knowledge, interests, skills, goals, values – a puzzle that can be put together with the same pieces but from a new future facing perspective.

Timing is important when you consider a move like this. The timing is good right now. In my observation, crises create opportunities for innovation – troubleshooting problems and coming up with solutions. Elegant solutions to problems involve the work of many people. As some jobs disappear, many are being created.

The dust is now lifting and there are expanding opportunities for problem solving in so many areas – workspace redesign, automation, infrastructure (HUGE), renewable energy, universal wifi, CRM, RNA pharmacology, e-commerce, online retail, connectivity software, domestic supply chain formation, environmental consulting, transportation risk management, affordable housing – the list goes on and on…

The latest US Department of Labor figures show a stunning 911,000 jobs added to the US economy in March 2021 alone. Sectors hit particularly hard by the pandemic and coronavirus restrictions (i.e., travel, leisure, hospitality, arts, entertainment and recreation) were big winners, adding 280,000 jobs. Education and construction both added significant numbers of jobs, 126,000 and 110,000 respectively. With a current national unemployment rate of 6%, things are definitely going in the right direction at a significant pace.

If you are wondering whether or not to quit you are probably at the end of your rope. If things have gotten so bad that unemployment seems to be a better option – find someone to help you see all sides of the issue.

Here are some of the questions I ask people deciding on quitting or not:

  1. How unhappy are you? Is your job affecting your life and/or your health?
  2. Do you think you might get fired?
  3. If you quit right now - how long can you last given available resources? Have you done a budget with your current costs? What can you cut?
  4. Can you ask your parents for short term help? (It doesn’t matter how old you are, no one cares more about you than your parents.)
  5. Do you understand how to make sure you will qualify for Unemployment Insurance?
  6. Do you have a plan?

Getting a new job is what people most want to accomplish. Think of it like this: you are not stuck and helpless. You have options. You are only trapped by your fears. When you get rid of the fears, you can start to think creatively and discover the possibilities. You get to choose: is this a trap or is it a challenge.

I coached a VP of finance out of his position with a major bank. When he came to me he looked close to a heart attack. He had taken the job less than a year before and inherited a portfolio of problem commercial real estate mortgages. He endured a screamer boss because he could not see a way out. The situation was killing him. Then he took the leap. He was highly motivated. I explained what steps he needed to take after leaving to preserve his ability to collect unemployment insurance to finance his search. Within six weeks of leaving his old job he was in a new job where his salary was significantly higher, and where he was highly valued.

People almost always have better alternatives to a bad situation like a screamer boss. It just takes a little planning and a lot of work but the payoff is priceless – quitting is its own revenge....

You got this!

Cici Mattiuzzi is the Author of The Serious Job Seeker and the Founding Director (emeritus) of the CSUS College of Engineering and Computer Science – Career Services Office.