I recently quit my FinTech job because it didn’t appease my hunger to learn and squandered my potential — or so I thought, anyway. But it’s not that simple; we can create learning opportunities anywhere, even find meaning in disagreeable tasks. So what drove me to quit? And why should you?
I agonized in indecision for months, until I came up with five probing questions to mull over — the responses to which squashed my uncertainty. The same questions can help you determine if your job is worthwhile, particularly if you’ve repeatedly thought about quitting without reaching a definitive decision.
So take a few minutes to appraise your job; I’ll use my journey to illustrate how.
Tread carefully, for clarity lies ahead — and it might surprise you.
1. Are the needs you prioritize being met?
Priorities include money to fuel creative pursuits, opportunities to make lasting connections, social outreach, or something else.
I was on the cusp of my professional life, so learning and growth were my foremost objectives.
Were they being met? Unfortunately not. I found my everyday tasks monotonous and unchallenging (my previous role at the same company had been the stark opposite, so it was a double blow). Sometimes I wondered if staring at a blank wall would be more scintillating.
“Is life not a thousand times too short for us to bore ourselves?”
— Friedrich Nietzsche
But your priority might be earning wages, to feed your family or sponsor your passion project, which your job provides — in which case, a need you prioritize is being met. Woo-hoo!
2. Does your learning align with long-term goals?
Learning on-the-job can include hard skills such as Python or SQL, analytical or leadership abilities, industry-specific knowledge, life lessons, and much more.
We can learn something in nearly any setting. But it’s worth considering what we’re learning.
All learning is not equal; some is more valuable, particularly if it’s relevant to our goals. Gaining knowledge pertinent to our ambitions or learning readily transferable skills are worthier endeavors.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”
— Mahatma Gandhi
After some serious brooding, I concluded that all I was learning, 9 hours a day, was perseverance: staying awake while reviewing the dullest spreadsheets in the history of spreadsheets. I was amassing industry knowledge, but it was painfully specific — inapplicable to any other job or potential entrepreneurial adventure.
Maybe you plan to launch a business, and lack the marketing skills and connections required for the exponential growth you envision. But your public relations job is not only equipping you with wicked digital marketing skills but is also a great place to make influencer connections. That could be pretty neat.
3. Is the opportunity cost greater than the value?
How could you use your time instead? Perhaps your side hustle that’s taking off could benefit from some extra attention, or a new job you recently came across could fulfill more of your goals.
Do the things you’re missing out on constitute better use of your time? Could they fulfill your priorities, learning, and goals more effectively?
My job’s opportunity cost to me was tremendous; I had a lengthy list of constructive things to do instead. I wouldn’t receive as much compensation, (actually, none for the first couple of months), but my rate of learning had plateaued at best and was causing professional and intellectual decline at worst — a realization that made me want to run.
4. Is your job meaningful?
“Man: a being in search of meaning.”
Meaning can take many forms at a workplace: the ability to experience flow, sustained personal achievements, mentoring peers and subordinates, helping people or causes.
Maybe your job offers a unique platform to write about social, political issues you are passionate about, letting you derive meaning from connecting with like-minded readers and writers.
I didn’t find my job meaningful: I felt disconnected from my firm and its goals, which wasn’t always the case — the contrast further chipped my motivation. Gnawing frustration seeped into my whole life.
5. Is your dissatisfaction temporary?
Ask yourself: is this just a phase? For instance, are you going to be staffed on a new project that you might love?
Figure out if your job can significantly improve, and whether driving that improvement is in your control. Analyze career trajectories of colleagues who formerly held your role, speak with your manager and peers, and keep an eye out for internal job postings.
I considered other roles within my office, (they weren’t good fits for me), and deduced the positive changes I could expect in the following year — they were unlikely, uncertain, and largely out of my control. Another clue that it was time to move on.
Jobs change, either naturally with time or as a result of specific events. Initially, my job was delightful: I acquired knowledge nonstop, honed my analytical skills, and built meaningful friendships. Unfortunately, I had to move overseas, and my role was adapted to the needs of the new office. It turned out that we were no longer a good fit, my job, and I.
Promotions, new managers, firm-restructuring and other events can reshape jobs. You can stay ahead by periodically evaluating your everyday tasks and responsibilities.
You decide which questions weigh more than the others, based on your current needs. Learning? No, contentment? It’s up to to you. If your answers are largely positive, then you’re probably in the right place. Mine were not, so I handed in my notice.
I acknowledge it’s not easy. I struggled with my decision, mostly out of loyalty, until I realized I was doing a disservice to me and my company — after all, they could hire someone more passionate about those spreadsheets.
It’s made more challenging by COVID-19 wreaking uncertainty and unemployment, but you don’t have to quit without a plan — just get the ball rolling. This time away from the bustle of usual life is an opportunity to introspect and ponder next steps, a wake-up call to seek more passion and meaning. Assessing your job, which consumes most of your day, can be the first step.