How to Know When to Quit Your Job
This question helped me quit my job. Twice.
I’ve changed careers twice already and I’m not even 30 yet. I see that as a badge of honor. Evidence that I’m trying to do what’s right by me and not settling for what comes to me.
The first time I quit my job was brutal and I was guilt-ridden for so long.
Working as a doctor
I was a doctor working in the NHS.
I worked for two years before I decided that the constant anxiety, disillusionment, and being unhappy was too much for me to live with.
It was difficult to come to terms with my decision because I had worked so hard to become a doctor. It had taken me years, literally more than half of my lifetime. Every decision had been predicated on how it would affect my chances of being accepted into medical school. My GCSEs, A-levels, all the ‘extracurricular’ activities that I did for the sole purpose that it would look good on my application.
I did all of it so that I could get into medical school because once I was in, I knew it would be plain sailing afterwards. To be fair, it wasn’t plain sailing but at the very least, I felt like I’d made it.
I worked for two years before I decided that the constant anxiety, disillusionment, and being unhappy was too much for me to continue with.
Towards the end of my 5-year degree was when I started to get the niggling feeling that perhaps I’d made the wrong choice. Maybe medicine wasn’t what I thought it was. But I continued on regardless. At the very least I should experience it first as a doctor before I drew conclusions.
I graduated and started working soon after. And those years were really hard, the hardest of my life so far. Not only was the learning curve steep, but I was also working within a system that seemed to be at breaking point. Not enough staff, not enough beds for patients, unsupportive senior colleagues, and it all added up to the point where I was beginning to burnout.
Working in the Emergency Department over winter was hell on earth. But it was like this almost every day.
I knew that I needed to leave but the guilt of throwing away a respected career that I had worked so long for felt like a waste.
Coming to my decision
One day, whilst I was doing the rounds with the consultant in the morning, I asked her whether she’d do it all again. Would she choose medicine again? She said she wouldn’t. And that was the feeling I got from all my other senior colleagues.
When I looked at them, and I saw the stress and the tiredness, I realized I didn’t want to be them. However miserable I was, I was a junior, at the bottom of the ladder. Things should get better as I become more senior and had more experience under my belt but that didn’t look to be the case.
I listened to their rants in the staff room, their complaints on the ward-round, and their frustrations at the inefficiencies.
I asked myself straight: is this what I want? Do I want their position? Do I want to be a consultant? Would that make me happy? Because after all, that was why I was here. I wouldn’t be a junior doctor forever.
I had to ask myself whether my feelings were as a result of my current circumstance or if it was likely to change or worsen as I progressed.
The answer was no, I didn’t want to be them. No, I didn’t want to be in their place. And no, it wouldn’t make me happy.
So if I didn’t want to be them, if I wasn’t excited to become a consultant, then what was I doing this for? And that was enough to give me the final push.
I left medicine.
I didn’t so much as hang up my stethoscope, instead I put it in a plastic bag and placed it in the far corner of my wardrobe.
I took it out two more times before finally laying it to rest for what I think is the last time.
That question was enough to give me the realization that I was on the wrong path. And it helped me again when I moved onto a different career path.
A different role
Here the circumstances were completely different. I was in an office. I had time for breaks, I was not constantly wondering whether I missed a detail that might be fatal to a patient.
But this time, I felt uninspired and stuck.
And after a while, I asked myself the same question. Looking at my senior colleagues, was I excited by what they were doing? No. Did I want to be in their position? Not particularly, no.
I realized again, even with good intentions, I had gone in another wrong direction. And it was a real shame because I had been super pleased with myself to land the role. I’d proved that I was more than a medic and that I was employable and capable.
Also, I’d chosen this company over another. Had I made the right choice saying no to that other company? It’s hard to say, but I did what I thought was right at the time.
The difference was that this time I was more sure of myself and more confident in leaving. I didn’t spend several years ‘just seeing’. I trusted my gut, gave myself enough time to come to my conclusion, and planned my exit. When I was ready, I gave in my resignation letter.
There was nothing wrong with the company and the people were lovely, lots of benefits that I had never had before, but it wasn’t the right fit for me so I made the decision based on that.
Because I’d done it before I realized I could do it again. I was learning from each experience.
More than that, I was learning more about myself, about what I wanted from a job. I was also making decisions based on faith rather than fear. Because fear will keep you in a place long after you know it isn’t right for you. It’ll stop you from growing and taking risks.
So yes, I did take big risks by quitting those two jobs but the upside of that is that I’m preparing myself for even bigger rewards. I’m willing to do what I have to do, to achieve the things that I want.
If you’re in a position where you don’t know whether to stay in your current place or quit, think about why you want to quit. Are they things that cannot be addressed? Look at someone several years down the line from where you are, can you imagine doing what they’re doing? Would their job and responsibilities make you happy?
If it doesn’t, that’s a pretty good sign that it’s not the right place for you and this is where you have to think strategically about your next move.