About a month ago, I did the unthinkable. I went into my perfectly stable job and quit. It was a moment I had fantasized about because let’s face it, I had not been happy at my job for years. And yet, the moment of truth was rather non-dramatic. I took in my typed resignation letter (yes, on an actual piece of paper) and handed it to my supervisor. No thrusting of it across the desk while I muttered explicatives. No look of defiance as I turned and stormed out. I was just done… And my boss knew it.
There were many things to not like about my job – a long commute, unfulfilling work, no control over what projects were allowed to move forward. Yes, I was ready to throw in the towel and no one was going to stop me. But even I still have the ability to step back with a bit of self-awareness and reflect on the good things. And as my days at the office drew to a close, a sort of nostalgia started to set in. I saw the positive aspects of my job that had seemed impossible to find for so long. Perhaps you really do need a change, but read on for possible ways you could turn a crappy work situation into one that works for you.
I quit my job but what I realized afterward is what it had…
While I ended up leaving in part due to a lack of flexibility in my schedule, I did have flexibility at times that I know others would envy. I was able to work from home late in each pregnancy, and often did half-days at home to take care of doctor’s appointments. I was late to work on occasion due to the heavy DC traffic and usually wasn’t reprimanded for my tardiness.
If you have the ability to negotiate for more flexible work options, this might be a way to make a less-than-ideal situation more palatable. And don’t forget, the grass is always greener. If you are leaving for more flexibility elsewhere, ensure up front that your new employer is going to allow the schedule you want – don’t just hope things will be better.
Feeling of accomplishment
In my last role, I didn’t feel very accomplished most of the time. But I did enjoy helping others (I was in an internal customer service role) and got a great sense of satisfaction when I could assist someone else. I felt valued by other employees in my organization, something it can be hard to find from the toddlers in my life. I mean, let’s face it, my kids probably aren’t going to praise me that much for making them Cheerios in an expedient manner.
If your work isn’t satisfying, talk to your supervisor or management to see if you can take on additional projects to reignite your motivation. Even if something seems outside of your area of expertise, if you are truly interested, ask to be involved. You may discover a skill set or passion project you had no idea would bring your professional satisfaction. Just be sure you have the bandwidth to take on this new project. You are unlikely to have other work taken off your plate when you volunteer for something new.
I gained a level of human interaction at the office that I wouldn’t if I, say, worked at home. I enjoyed the ability to go out to lunch or get coffee with a colleague, even if it didn’t happen all that often in reality. I thrive on interacting with and getting to know others, and my job gave me the chance to get to know a variety of people.
It has been said that people who have a best friend at work have a higher rate of work satisfaction and are more likely to be actively ‘engaged’ at work. If you have friends at work, reach out to them more often. Try to get together on occasion for a coffee. Having someone to bounce work issues off of can be useful, especially if they understand the culture and dynamics of the workplace. And if you don’t have friends at work, make some! You could even create an employee resource group based on common interests. At my office, there was a monthly lunch group for nursing moms, organized by ladies who used our office’s mother’s (lactation) room.
Lack of micromanagement
I seldom felt that someone was looking over my shoulder at the office. I had some level of autonomy when it came to my daily schedule. If I wasn’t on a strict deadline, I could go grab a coffee down the street. I would choose whether to do phone call meetings or go to someone’s office in person. And I usually got to choose when I would make my annual trip to our field office – no one said I was going on a specific week.
Think about what level of control you have in your day-to-day work. If you are thinking of jumping ship to go elsewhere, check out sites like GlassDoor to get an idea of company culture at other places you may be interested in. You could even reach out to others who already work there and do an ‘informational interview’ to find out what it’s really like there. It can be hard to get a feel for a workplace’s culture before actually starting a new job, but if you do your research, you can get some idea. You certainly don’t want to go into a much worse situation than you are already in.
The commute (no really)
One of my main complaints at my job was the commute, which could top three hours or more per day round-trip. But let me tell you, I got the chance to listen to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts during that time. As a mom of little ones, the time to myself, even if sitting in traffic, was somewhat of a luxury.
Try to think about potential drawbacks in a more positive light. A slight shift in your perspective can mean the difference between gritting your teeth each morning as you trudge off to work, and having something to happily look forward to each day. When I had a newborn, even having the ability drink a hot cup of coffee at a leisurely pace had its appeal, even if done under a fluorescent light in my drab cubicle.
Oh, yeah, the paycheck (and related benefits)
This was a tough one for me. I was paid well at my former employer and it was hard to leave that behind. I had to consider the quality of life over straight salary when making my decision.
It’s never a cut and dry type of decision. Many factors come into play when switching jobs and considering the financial aspects. Does your employer have a gym that allows you to get a daily workout during your lunch? The mental and physical boost that gives you (not to mention the savings of not paying a gym membership) may factor into whether you stay or not. Talk to your family/spouse about what you all can manage. Factors other than money will certainly come into play. There may be ways to make an existing situation a lot more manageable – and possibly even enjoyable when compared to going elsewhere or deciding to quit cold-turkey.
Related: Company Benefits Working Moms Need
I know that, in many ways, I was very lucky to have a stable and well-paying job for so long. As far out as a year ago, though, I spoke to trusted colleagues about the fact that I might just need to shift my perspective and try to like my job again. Maybe I was setting my expectations too high and imagining a dream job that didn’t exist. Any professional opportunity comes with some compromises or drawbacks. And I did keep this in mind.
Ultimately, staying wasn’t the right decision for me. But sometimes, you can think outside the box and find ways to re-engage and like your job. This could be a shift in perspective, or through new roles. Be sure to speak up if you need new challenges or flexible work options. And don’t forget the things (and people) that keep you coming back each day. There are ways to like your job again. And as satisfying as quitting might be in the moment, it is a decision that cannot be easily undone. Knowing that you considered all your options will ensure you are much more at peace with the decision should you decide to say goodbye to your current employer.
About the Author
Leah blogs about corporate/working mom issues over at Suburban Imperfection. She recently left her government job after eight years of service and many hours of agonizing and analyzing whether to quit. Leah has a background in human resources, law and editing, and also served in the U.S. Air Force. Her proudest role, however, is being a mom to her two boys, who are ten months and three years old. Leah lives in Annapolis, MD with her sons and her husband, Matt.