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5 signs that it’s time to quit your job

Oct 04, 2010 Business Daily, Management

“Do you get into the office without a plan of action for the day? Are you not being rewarded for your efforts? Does your boss often pull you down and embarrass you in front of colleagues?
If any or all of these ring true, it might be time to shake things up.”

PRERNA SODHI, India Real Time, WSJ (16 July 2010)

There are many times when you need to think about moving on from your current job – for your sake as well as that of your company. Like it or not, employment in one place can become a drag at times – and if you’re not careful, could sap you of your vitality and drain your energy for real work.

But how do you know when it’s time to go? Prerna Sodhi wrote a regaling entry on the WSJ’s India Real Time blog recently telling us how to read the signs that it’s time to write that resignation letter. For us in Kenya, I have adapted the 5 top signs that it’s time to go.

1. Social networks take up half your day

Is it your work you look forward to, or your mindless daily online perambulations through Facebook, Twitter and the slightly more respectable LinkedIn? If that is what’s taking up your time, then it’s time to think about a change. Your work should really be more absorbing than that.

2. You work without thinking

How routine or monotonous is your work? If you are a mid-level executive or higher, and you can do most of your work without thinking a new thought, then you’re in trouble. Your motivation is likely to plummet soon, if it hasn’t already. Dead jobs create dead minds.

3. Your progression is horizontal rather than vertical

Have your last few changes of post all been horizontal – are you being moved around the organisation in the same grade, rather than taking on new responsibilities or a team leadership role? Your employers may be telling you that they are struggling to promote you and entrust you with leading others. Time for some soul-searching here – either prove your case or take a walk.

4. You hate the idea of change

When your CEO starts talking about the need for change and makes sweeping rearrangements across the company, what is your reaction? Do you relish the opportunity to do new things or try new ways, or do you lead the water-cooler brigade that stands around moaning and groaning? If change always worries you in your job, it is a sure sign that you are too comfortable and too set in your ways, and mistrustful about entrusting your future to others. This is bad for you – we work best when we take charge of change and embrace it. A place where you resist every new thing is not one you want to be in for long.

5. You don’t even want your boss’s job

And here’s the killer sign: most ambitious people picture themselves in their current boss’s job. “I could do that better” is the thought that drives much personal development. But if you’re in a place where you can’t even imagine doing your superior’s job, then your juices have been stilled. You have no impetus to improve yourself. It’s probably better to imagine something better somewhere else.

The bottom line is this: work should be engaging, rewarding and challenging. Too many of us stagnate in dead-end jobs where our spirit died long ago and we didn’t even notice. I loved this quotation used by Ms Sodhi, from India’s Dony Kuriakose: “Careers are not ponds, they are streams; they have got to be going somewhere from somewhere.”

So, ask yourself this Monday: Are you slowly sinking in a stagnant pond, or rowing along merrily in a bubbling stream? If work is dreary and dull with no end in sight, give yourself an exit strategy.

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  • Ratzinger

    Hi Sunny, i read your article in the BD today, as i do most your articles, and this one hit me real hard. I am in job which is typified by the 5 checklists you have given. And i have been giving it a lot of thought the whole day.

    What makes many Kenyans unable or unwilling to quit is that they will go hungry. Jobs are not easy to come by. Credit is not so easily available to establish a start-up (forget what banks keep saying that they are the caring financial partners and that they are us or that they wanna be with us). Its a difficult situation to get out of, yet not impossible altogether.
    I am in a job that i needed to quit yesterday and start what i have always been meaning to start, a consultancy and a small printing press, but with limited options and with a mortgage to pay off, a child in school and other expenses, it becomes a bit difficult to walk away…But there’s always a way to create an exit strategy as you rightly mention. And am on it!

  • duncan

    Hi Sunny,
    This is very true.I experienced the full spectrum of the signs listed and my boss once remarked that he wished i did my job wit more gusto like i did with my other activities.I knew it was time to get going.But has been rightly put, its not easy especially when theer is family and the mortgage to pay and that is why there are many zombies at work.What would be interesting to hear is how others have transitioned in this period, especially to their own enterprises.

  • Hi All:

    Of course things like mortgages and school fees keep many of us in dead jobs. But awareness that we are in a dead job is the first step. Remember, that paycheck may be coming at great cost to your cognitive development and personal vitality. If truly the contribution you make is minimal and fading, then an exit strategy becomes urgent.

  • Pleasant

    I guess it helps to get started right when one is young. If some of us had some career guidance, we would not be in the jobs we are in today. Its best to prioritise issues like career guidance when children are in their primary and secondary school stages, and not put undue emphasis on academics and finding employment. Remember the bad old song …. someni vijana … mwisho wa kusoma mutapata kazi nzuri sana. Mentorship helps too – us older folk can mentor them young ones so as not to repeat the vicious cycle of being stuck in a dead-end job they hate and can hardly get away from. In today’s world, you can be “almost” anything you want to be. Sunny, I remember some pretty good advice you gave to school leavers a while back … something along the lines of following their dreams. Although, to all, as per a good quote I read somewhere, “its never too late to be what you might have been”. Cheers!

  • Pleasant:

    You are right: misguidance starts early. In my leadership mentoring programme, I often come across people chronically unsuited to their present jobs. They always say they were forced into that profession by their parents, bossy uncles, headmasters, etc…

    And yes, it’s never too late…

  • Attitude is a mayor problem. Many employees forget that they are working for them self, not for the company, not for the boss. Your first priority should be that you go home at the end of the day with the feeling that you have done a good job. Doing a shoddy job because you have a terrible boss will not get you anywhere it will come back to you like a boomerang. This is a huge problem in the Kenyan workplace. Often employees display a very typical type of rudeness towards customers, bosses and others. Why managers accept this is also baffling but most important of all start with performing. That is the only way you can propel yourself to another job or responsibility

  • Gab

    I can print this and put it on my bed side..it so describes what i have been for the last one year with my employer…This titanic is sinking!!

  • Njeri

    Ican totally relate with all except number 1.