Changing Jobs Professional Development

5 Clues That It’s Time to Quit


Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of the Harvard Business Review has compiled 5 tell-tale warning signs that may indicate it's time for you to start job hunting.

You're Not Learning

Your mind—and your career—thrive when you are constantly encountering new information, developing new skills, or following your natural curiosity into continuous learning. If your job offers you no pathway to move forward and continue growing, why are you there? The invigorating stress of a job search might even spill over into your current job—try it and see.

You Are Underperforming

I wish I had researched this article in the spring of 2010; I was underutilized at my job, had a micromanaging boss, and coasted through each day with no motivation, excitement, or incentive to work any harder. If this is you, GET OUT! Find a job where you are engaged, or stressed, or challenged—anything but zoned out. If you need motivation, try to imagine the resume blurb for your current underwhelming job. "Sat at desk and tried not to nod off in front of boss. Filed company paperwork. Thought fondly of death." Yeah, it's time to move on.

You Feel Undervalued

Appreciation can come in many forms, but if you don't feel like your supervisors or colleagues understand your value, you may be experiencing burnout and counterproductive self-sabotage that lowers the productivity of more than just yourself. Maybe you can speak up for what you need—or maybe there's another organization out there that can appreciate you for what you bring to the table.

You're Just In It For the Money

With the obvious caveat that lots of us do lots of things because we have bills that need paying, if literally the only reason you show up each day is the promise of an eventual paycheck, you are in the wrong job. Many studies have shown that compensation can make up for the lack of intrinsic rewards like enjoyment, curiosity, or personal fulfillment, but it won't be rewarding and you certainly won't be motivated to do your best work.

You Hate Your Boss

This is the biggest red flag because everything else—responsibilities, supervisees, assessment, even compensation—can be altered or adjusted. But in order to complain about your boss you have to invoke HR or go over their head (or, just wait for them to implode, if they are incompetent).

Chamorro-Premuzic's research found that 75% of working adults cite their immediate supervisors as the most stressful part of their job. This may mean your company has failed to identify and cultivate good leadership, or it might just be a personality mismatch. Either way, you may need to move on to break free.

What do you think—do any of these apply, and if so, make sure to sign up and get matched with the latest job opportunity!

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  • Excellent summary and it’s advice we should hear; I use a specific clue. When I get out of the car and contemplate the day, do I feel resigned, angry, challenged or glad? If resigned, it’s past time to go. If it’s angry, I need to do some serious thinking about why. If I feel challenged, that’s good; if I’m glad to be there, that’s great. If my first reaction on pulling into the parking lot is disgust, and I catch myself muttering “I hate this *^%$*( place,” then it’s get out time.

    Sadly, in the American workforce, the *&^%$(( reaction is entirely too common. I advise folks to not work for or with sociopaths. There are a lot of them around in business, largely because the cut-throat mentality in so many companies seems to breed them. Sadly, there are also a lot of idiots in positions of authority. This is due to the Peter Principle, of course. So, finding opportunities to be your own idiot is rewarding. Be responsible for your own fate, and it’s really easy to hold the idiot in charge responsible.

    • That’s such a good breaking-point tip! I think it’s really hard for people early on in their careers or who’ve come through a scary period of unemployment to realize that at the end of the day, there is such a thing as a bad job, even if it pays the bills!

    • I agree. I believe that the cut-throat mentality in companies needs to go. It doesn’t need to be survival of the fittest. There doesn’t need to be politics, or back stabbing, or anything of that sort. I’m sure companies would prosper a lot more if everyone helped each other, and employees were happy. One way to set a company on that track is to hire the right people.

  • My first thought was its time to leave when you catch yourself job hunting on the company dime and you don’t care.

    • Ha — that would be the sixth step, I suppose–you’re so sick of all these other aspects that you’re officially on the market and don’t care who knows it!

    • Yes I agree with you. Once you start doing that then you know in your head you aren’t happy. And taking a risk.

  • I know all of this is exactly how I feel before my feet hit the floor! It’s easy to say I quit until you have no real skills or money for school. I know the willingness has to be there, but I cannot afford to miss one payment and I’m homeless. This, I find is more stressful. When I try for other jobs, I get the rejection emails, but I still do not give up. I’m very, very tired and ready to try something new, but that worry of homelessness is too close.

    • Definitely agree with you there. I think no job is ever secure. The important thing to remember is keep building your own skill set and make yourself valuable and relevant. You can always sign up for job alerts on this site and wait for the right match.

  • Yep, I can put a check mark next to each item. Including the “sixth” one that Metalshaper refers to. My goal is to move out of the current state I reside in & get to Colorado where the scenery is way better than in Southeastern Wisconsin. I keep my fingers crossed that the day & perfect fit position will be mine.

  • What’s even more exhausting & frustrating is putting a check mark next to all these items, but stuck in this dreadful job because of an unsuccessful 2 year job search. I’ve been trying to move back to my home state and cant find a job because of the lack of jobs there. Every morning, I think I’d rather go thru an unmedicated childbirth than go to this job. At least in childbirth, the ending is quick with a blessing at the end.

    • Hi,

      Where is your home state located? The JobNetwork actually has job postings across the country so there’s a good chance that we have jobs located in your home state’s surrounding area. You can go here and give it a quick search to find out. Hopefully it helps you out!

  • I felt for many,many,many years as an R.N. when I turned into the first hospital I worked at from the get-go like I just wanted to turn around and go home! For the entire 30+ years I worked first as a brand new nurse then called a G.N.(graduate nurse) then as an overnight L.P.N. then finally as an R.N. complete & utter dislike for the job no matter what field of nursing I was in! I should’ve got out long ago but because of the way I was raised in the “60’s &’70’s you went to school & trained in the job most likely to keep you employed for the next 100 or so years of your life til it was time to retire. We were never allowed the chance to change careers or even thought of it because of the unending sources of jobs nursing was supposed to provide. I ended a very mediocre career after 30 years as a drug & alcohol addict at age 53. It was not the ending to my career I had foreseen for myself. Now I work at a local Office for the Aging at extreme minimum wage thru the auspices of a federal gov’t program called Experience Works for the last 2 yrs. They take older people such as myself & “retrain them” in offices & what not while they look for a better job. They pay people like me $8.75/hr & let you only work 18 hrs/week. That is our federal gov’t for you! I like it at OFA altho I am somewhat disappointed in the business world. Currently I am waiting to be put on contract for another department in OFA thru a local hospital grant. I am not totally disatisfied with the job or the new one coming up-it is close to where I live and the hours when the contract comes in & the pay is substantially better than what I make now. My point to this long comment is: I sincerely wish I had gotten out of nursing when I realized I did NOT want to be there. Maybe if I switched careers earlier I would’ve at least been a happier person & a better example for my 16 yr old daughter now! I live on the compliments I do get from my bosses now because frankly,I never, ever got any praise from any hospital administration,home care agency or doctor’s office I worked in, no matter how much I bent over backwards to cover undermanned shifts or went above & beyond to help my patients or co-workers. I always helped those under me instead of sitting in front of a computer as the younger nurses who do get the accolades do now. To me I am NOT a nurse any longer-to me it’s not “once a nurse always a nurse” as others in my generation feel. My nursing career such as it was, is in my PAST not ever again in my future!(I did give up my nursing license & when asked by the powers that be who license nurses if I wanted to get it back,I declined!) I did go to Paralegal School at Marist College when I was 54 yrs old & graduated with high honors but there are no paralegal jobs to be found in my small town & I cannot afford at this time to move. So I sit here typing this thinking I really,really wish I would’ve quit nursing so much earlier than I did! I kept doing it just because it paid the bills! Thank you for “listening”!

    • Hi Linda, thank you for sharing your story and your insights on when it’s the right time to quit. People are often scared of quitting their jobs because of the bills they have to pay and the families they have to support. And I don’t blame them because they are responsible and put others (family members) before their own happiness. It’s not easy and I respect that. However I have to say that sometimes we have to be selfish and live for our own happiness. We don’t get a second life after all.

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