Quitting — My Strategy for Career Growth
Over my nine years of experience in the manufacturing industry, I’ve jumped from one company to another to satisfy my need for career growth. It’s a counter-intuitive strategy (to most people I know). It shows Human Resources (HR) how flaky my loyalty is to a company — I’m not a good investment because sooner or later I’ll quit. I don’t suggest you do the same. But quitting became my exit strategy to get out of boredom and stress while satisfying my need for learning.
Most people I’ve talked to disagree with my way of thinking. I understand why. Stability and job security is a need (we all have bills to pay). Job promotion and good company benefits are a must (because it saves us money). Quitting is not an option for success because loyalty to a company will be rewarded SOMEDAY. That’s what I used to believe until that day when I found myself calling in sick for work, not because I was sick but because I couldn’t handle the boredom anymore.
That excitement to go to work fades over time. Routine will start to develop. What used to be hard isn’t so hard anymore. My learning curve plateaus. Then the feeling of boredom starts to trickle in.
We’ve all had those days. Mine became an everyday. The longer I stay with a company, the more boring my day goes. It eventually came to a point where the feeling of boredom is worse than the job security or any other benefits I can get from staying. That’s how I know when it’s time to quit and find another opportunity.
I’m not in favor of staying in one company in my entire career. I even remember my Fluid Mechanics teacher in college saying that we should move around until we find that one company that suits exactly what we need. I didn’t understand then but I understand now. And so I jumped from one company to another.
Nobody knows how the market/industry will perform in the future. In the manufacturing industry, the market goes up and down — massive hire here, massive lay-off there. People who are highly paid, well experienced, and loyal to the company are often the ones that get laid off. Why? Companies need to save money so if you’re not in the budget for the next quarter, you will get laid off. I was laid off once and I will get laid off again regardless of how good my skills are. If the company has no money to pay me then I can’t expect them to keep me — right? This triggered the idea that I should always prepare myself for the worst — layoffs due to companies getting bought out and downsizing or market crash.
Jumping from one company to another somehow buffed up my resume. I was able to acquire experience on different engineering tools/software used in the industry. The more tools/software I know, the better I can sell myself on a job interview. That helped me significantly reduce my unemployment days.
I learned how to “convert” other employees (regardless of their position in the company) to my “unofficial mentors”. They are the people willing to share their expertise and knowledge to help me improve as an employee. The conversion process starts when I…
- Admit my lack of knowledge
- Ask for their advice
- Sincerely thank them for the advice
- Apply the lessons I learned
- Thank them again for the advice they’ve given.
It’s common sense I know. But it took me awhile to realize that. Often I try to act more like I knew everything, that I don’t need help and so I was pretty hesitant to ask. But that strategy didn’t work for me at all. These people appreciate how I see them as “mentors/advisers” which gives them a little bit of an ego-boost. Some of them don’t get enough credit from their superiors, but then there was I — giving them the acknowledgement they deserve. Over time that mentor/mentee relationship grows which could (again) benefit me when I decide to find another job opportunity. How? They are there to provide good reference which increases my chance of getting hired.
Companies of different sizes and styles of management have taught me how to play the “blame game”. When shit hits the fan, employees who are at fault but don’t want to admit to their mistakes will find ways to blame other employees. I’m sure we’ve all been a victim at some point in our career but we couldn’t do much about it especially when we are going against someone who has higher authority/seniority than us. But one way I found to protect myself from blame is to push people to send me e-mails (because “nothing is communicated unless it was e-mailed”) on instructions that affects a project or a process. E-mails document the exchange of information between employees which can be used as proof to cover your ass.
So let’s say I messed up, one of the best ways I learned to reduce the “damage” of my mistakes is to UNDERSTAND THE REASONS why I did what I did. Why? So I can confidently give my superiors a reasonable answer instead of saying “I don’t know”. Of course, upper management wants to know the reasons behind the error — that’s an essential part of the Quality System in a company.
When I started my career, I almost always didn’t understand why I’m doing what I’m doing — I’m not saying I don’t know what to do but it bugs me when I do something I don’t fully understand (regardless if it was considered “good” or “bad”). And so when something goes wrong, the only answer I could come up with was “I don’t know” or some BS answer I can come up with on the spot.
I also became better at dealing with work bullies. How? Simply by not taking things too personally. These people are capable of striking the wrong chord that makes me want to engage in a fist fight. But I know that’s not going to end well — besides I’m too short to challenge people, I could get knocked out easily if I did. But anyway, resorting to violence means bad work history, bad work history means reducing my chance to find new job opportunities. So I had to keep reminding myself of the reasons why these people are bully to other employees — to stop me from having “negative feelings”:
1. They need to “exercise” their authority. Bullying is a form of validating their power over others.
2. They do not get enough appreciation from their superiors. Bullying others will make them look smarter.
3. They probably just had a bad day or maybe slept on the wrong side of bed or maybe they’re stressed out from a personal problem and they need to vent it out on someone.
I wouldn’t learn any of these things if I stayed in one company for my entire career. If I didn’t move, I’m probably still that guy stuck in the cubicle who never got to learn other things other than what he was assigned to do.
AGAIN I don’t suggest you quit your job today BUT if you can’t handle the everyday stress or boredom then maybe it’s time to move to better job opportunities. What worked for me may not work for you. We all work in different industries; different cities; different economies.
But time is an unrenewable resource — if not now, then when?