Choosing to leave a job is never easy, but sometimes are necessary. Learn how I knew it was time to go and move on from my most recent job.
Since June, I have worked at a nonprofit doing workforce development training. When I was hired, I mentioned that I had a background in accreditation and assessment, but this wasn’t the bulk of my job. At the time, it was a useful skill to mention, since they were preparing for their accreditation visit later in the year. And I really wanted to dust off those skills I had.
Fast forward five months and I am exhausted.
The workforce development training part of the job is thrilling! Helping people develop skills to find jobs. Hearing the successes of people who used the skills in interviews. Supporting people to re-discover their voices. All of it has been amazing to witness.
The hardest parts, however, are the endless administrative tasks that have found themselves on my desk. Acting as a de facto manager, staff regularly stop by my office to ask about a process. Mind you, I am not receiving a manager salary, but that hasn’t stopped the new check-ins with me.
A couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that I was performing as a manager – now in the absence of a manager who recently left our department – and that is not the dream I had for this work.
So I decided to quit.
It was very bold to say “I don’t think I can work here any longer” after only five months!
How I Realized It was Time to Move On
About three weeks before submitting my resignation, I asked the executive director to consider adding supervision to my job. Supervision has been a skill I have wanted to develop professionally for years, and I felt after my summer months, I had earned some credit to ask for what I wanted.
I learned a valuable lesson from this request.
I learned that not all organizations are prepared to meet your professional development goals. This skill was the right one to develop, but in the wrong place and time.
The answer I was given did not actually address my wants, but instead just added more work to my plate. Work I didn’t want to do, but was good at doing, but nothing was taken from my plate to do it all. Honestly, I felt both dismissed and disrespected. That the work I was doing, well above my pay grade, was both expected and enough.
It was important to pay attention to any lessons I could take away from my interactions with senior management.
But Wait, There’s More
Around the time of this request, I was asked to develop a new high school career exploration program. Without a template, and an exiting manager, it was stressful beyond measure. But I told myself that the skills I was learning were going to help me.
Except this wasn’t the skill I wanted to develop. Or an audience I wanted to work with.
I have two graduate degrees in education, so teaching people is in my blood. However, this work was foreign to me and did not leave me feeling as fulfilled as other work I had done.
So the day I went to the high school to start the program, it occurred to me that I was in the wrong place. Like an actor, performing in a play, I was on the wrong stage with the wrong lines learned.
My passion, that normally got me through tough times, was nowhere to be found. And I knew I needed to leave.
A Different Goodbye
I have spent the better part of the last six months talking to people about the job search process. About how to filter out the jobs they interview for because they just want a job and focus instead on the jobs that feed your passion. In that moment atthe high school, where I realized I was in the wrong place, I knew I had to leave in order to find my passion.
It was hard to decide to leave a job where I was good at the work I was doing. But Heather MacArthur, in Top Tips For Deciding Whether It’s Really Time To Quit Your Job, says we should consider several factors including:
“Identify what would make you want to stay. This could be something as simple as an increase in pay. However, there are usually bigger factors at play when you’re considering what would make you want to stay vs. simply willing to stay. Imagine how you want to feel every day you come to work. Allow yourself to fantasize about your ideal role and job responsibilities. Think of how you’d ideally like to relate to the people on your team and in the company.”
I was already starting to feel the burnout from the accreditation work I had done, and the additional manager role I had been made to assume in the division where I worked, so I was primed for a triggering event. It occurred to me that I was only willing to do this work, rather than wanting to stay.
What Makes this Goodbye Different
I had quit other jobs before. In fact, several jobs! But almost all of them were planned goodbyes, with months notice and a job starting quite soon after. This was a first for me – leaving a job but without a job planned.
And that is how I knew it was the right choice: nothing about this choice made me anxious or nervous. No twinge of regret. Just relief for listening to my heart and my gut.
Even after my long-term search over the last three years, chronicled in the blog, I still felt the need to assert my own wants and needs into my job. This job proved to me that my skills were not only valuable, but also in demand.
Questions to Ask Yourself
Elle Hunt, in Ready to quit your job? Here are the 17 questions to ask yourself first, challenges us to consider different reasons to leave a job. Looking over her list of questions, here are the ones that stood out to me:
- Should I even consider staying?
- How long have I been feeling this way?
- What do I actually want to do?
- What could I gain by quitting?
- Is now the right time?
For instance, in asking myself, what do I actually want to do, I had to think about my original request to supervise staff. Because when I turned in my resignation letter, I was offered a manager role to supervise some of the staff. I asked to think about it overnight.
We can also add Marie Kondo-type questions to our list to ask ourselves!
In my pause. it became clear that had I wanted to do do this skill, I would have jumped at the offer. By pausing and convincing myself to stay onboard, I was not as certain as I thought about what I wanted to learn about supervision. Or rather, I wasn’t sure workforce development was where I wanted to learn this skill.
And that was enough to say it was time to go.
Back to Beginning but One Step Ahead
Since 2018, I have tried to be thoughtful about my job search process. I believed then, and still believe, I have extraordinary skills that transcend the work needed me me. The job search to land this job was tough, but what I learned has served me incredibly well. So I’m not going back to square one. I’m near the start, but maybe a step or two ahead.
This time around, I know that I need to be more clear about what extra work I will take on. I will be careful to create boundaries around skills that I give to the organization and those I need to be paid to do. And I will clarify my professional development goals that I will develop rather than let my job manage.
When I left previous jobs, it was almost always at a tipping point where something had to end. This time around, I avoided those negative feelings and am instead leaving satisfied and grateful.
I am confident that I will leave this job better than I found it. And in many ways, I am leaving this job better than I entered it.