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When should I quit my job?

Everyone has a bad day at work now and then; you may furiously leave your office vowing to quit the next day. But how do you decide if you should give your job a second chance, or if it is really time to put down your papers? Most of us either 'choose' to leave when things become really terminal or keep switching jobs for higher pay. Neither is good for career growth.

Here are few factors to reckon before you make the big decision.

1. Learning saturation

There is a learning curve in every role. If you feel you have learnt everything you can in your current role and it no longer is contributing to your personal and professional growth, plus there is no possibility of a role expansion or a role change, it's time to look for opportunities outside the organization. Now the important aspect is to know the difference between getting the hang of work and learning saturation.

Key questions to ask are:

a) Have I done everything possible in this role - initiatives, process simplification, integration or automation?

b) Have I enhanced the role or position or task and made it more than it was? Is there now a diminishing return of my input?

2. Stunted growth

Have you observed a plant in a small pot? After a certain point, the pot can no longer provide the nutrition required by the plant or support its growth rate. The plant either breaks the pot in search of more or just stunts its own growth. If you have grown as much as possible in the organization and there is no scope for your growth horizontally or vertically, start looking for opportunities to grow outside the organization. Growth doesn’t always mean a promotion; it can also be opportunity to learn varying aspects of the field you are in to become qualified for your long term career goals. When you feel stagnated, take a look at your career aspiration, chart out a career path and assess whether the company can support what you need right now, if not then research about other organizations that might be a better fit for you.

3. Under-utilization of skills

There are times when we end up taking jobs on basis of the brand value of the company or because of a shiny JD or because we just need a job at that time, but later realise that there is a major role-expectation mismatch. If you’re in a job that you are overqualified for, don’t downgrade yourself. Start looking for roles that require your skill set and fully utilize your competencies, whether inside the organisation or outside. By continuing in a job that doesn’t measure up to your level of expertise, you are doing a disservice to yourself and the organization.

A common mistake is to take a back seat and believe that the management will magically know that you are overqualified and hand you the role that best suits your capabilities. Unless you actively seek out roles, showcase your competencies and talk to your manager/HR, others are unlikely to take notice. If this still doesn’t do the trick, start searching the market for the right roles. If you are unsure about what roles to look for with your capabilities, reach out to experts who can help you develop a career path and expand your understanding.

4. Caustic work environment

You should feel confident and comfortable enough at work to voice your opinion, share your thoughts and speak up for yourself. An oppressive environment will not only hinder your performance and productivity but also deteriorate your confidence and personality. It becomes a vicious cycle of caustic environment leading to lowered motivation & confidence, leading to poor performance, leading to further reprimand & caustic environment, leading to lower motivation and confidence and so on. If you are going through this, it’s time to actively look out for a change. If not, you will eventually be asked to leave anyway and would be left with little self-confidence and self-worth because by then, you would be conditioned to believe that you are not capable enough. Your career is based on your belief in yourself as much as it’s based on your capabilities. When you don’t feel capable, it's difficult to convince future recruiters and hiring managers of your capability and potential.

5. Parity with market value

A lot of us may not actually think about this but it’s an important one. Keep yourself updated about your value in the job market.

Questions to ask yourself -

a) Am I being paid as per market benchmarks?

If you are being paid much below the market average, you need to have an open discussion with your manager/HR about your performance vs. salary expectations, market average and possible increment or salary correction. However, if you find out that the company cannot afford a fair price for your competency and experience, it’s probably time to look out. However before taking this step, be aware that finding the correct market average may not always be easy; there are varying parameters to be considered, the same role or designation may not have the same kind of responsibilities and complexity of task. A good way to start would be to first figure out where you stand within the organization (called internal pay parity) and then seek out data on external pay parity. Be wary of inauthentic sources of market compensation data and don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for help.

b) Have I become obsolete?

Check your market value at least once in 2 years to know where you stand. It helps you understand your competition, and measure yourself against other candidates. Important questions to ask are:

  • Where do I stand as compared to other professionals in my area?

  • Are there other candidates for the role with a much better work portfolio?

  • Do I need to upgrade my competencies?

  • Is there a need for me to diversify my learning in another vertical or function to reach my career goals?

  • Would a degree, diploma or certification course make my candidature better for the desired role?

  • Am I still relevant in the job market or has my role become too niche to be able to grow further?

Each of these factors will be important in different degrees for us depending on our priorities, career goals, life plans, etc. Hence there is no single answer to when you should quit, but an assessment of the above factors will help you come a little closer to the answer. For more about making career decisions, reach out to me for a career path coaching session and I will be glad to help.


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