When you graduate from college and are unceremoniously thrust into “The Real World” moments after falling asleep during a commencement speech delivered in mediocre fashion by documentarian Ken Burns, you unwillingly come upon a realization that will, more or less, define the rest of your life. This realization will hit you like a ton of bricks in the sternum. It’s horrifying.
It is the realization that nothing matters more than these three things: what you want, what you need, and, most importantly, striking a sustainable balance between what you want and what you need.
You’re able to drown out this realization temporarily, sure—I mean, the last thing you’re thinking about is your future when your mom is taking a shot of Fireball at your favorite college bar.
But it comes back to you at night. You can’t outrun it. And you can’t stay steadily drunk for weeks at a time anymore, because college is over, Bucko. You’re screwed now!
So you set out trying to find the balance. Doing this is, for most everybody, a trial and error process.
You take jobs you don’t want because you need health insurance and enough funds to at least partially live on. You take jobs you want because sometimes doing what you want glazes over your vision with a reddish, optimistic hue, making your needs seem like distant worries, on the same level as managing your 401K account or somehow dealing with that time you were subpoenaed to take the booth in a Maryland District Courtroom and simply did not show up.
Some may accept that they can’t rightly strike a fifty-fifty balance between want and need, and will go forth with their lives pursuing one more than the other. Those who err on the “need” sign of things will maybe settle into one professional vein—and perhaps even one specific job—for years, until they have settled too deeply into their lives that are dedicated to pursuing and securing what they and their families need.
But I am not in that position. And it’s likely that if you are still reading, then you aren’t, either. Furthermore, if you are still reading this, then I will make the modest assumption that you are reading it while on the clock at a job that you more or less despise, and have been thinking rather seriously about abandoning, come what may.
(If you’re still reading this and you are already unemployed, stop reading it and go try to find work! You can’t just keep writing blog posts about pastries and free Wi-Fi and expect that you will just eventually be promoted to the position of our Nation’s Poet Laureate. You’ve gotta embrace The Hustle, and reading about quitting your job when you are already jobless is going to do you no good. No good at all.)
The following are a few reasons you can potentially use to justify leaving your job, to begin a diligent search more for what you want, instead of only what you need.
You’ve peaked in your current position: After a while, you may become so adept at your job that you realize there’s really no room for improvement, innovation, or excitement—that you can complete your tasks on autopilot, more or less. This may seem decent for a while, because who doesn’t love getting paid to exert minimal effort? But eventually, you’ll realize that your skills aren’t growing, they’re stagnating. And if there’s a slim-to-nil chance that you can move up within your company or organization, there’s even less a reason to stay instead of continuing to challenge yourself elsewhere.
You’re extremely stressed, and/or experiencing health problems you feel are at least partially related to your job: Unless you are making millions of dollars a year to play a sport, your physical health shouldn’t suffer because of your job, and nor should—more importantly—your mental or psychological health. (Often, physical health problems are related to mental tribulations you’re experiencing.) If you’re feeling depressed, overly anxious, or stressed out because of your job, it’s not worth it and you shouldn’t stay unless you absolutely need to. Even if you need to, the realization that your job is negatively affecting your health should be a catalyst for you to start looking for other opportunities, so you can segue into your next career step without any unemployment time (which can also exacerbate stress and anxiety).
You’re uncertain about your future with the company: If for some reason you think your days are involuntarily numbered at your current job, you need to get out of there as soon as you possibly can. Leaving voluntarily for other pursuits is a better story for employees than to tell them you were laid off or let go—because despite the circumstances, most will think that you were not a crucial component of your previous organization, which makes you inherently less appealing.
Your co-workers and/or boss are terrible people: In my brief professional career, I have had three jobs (so I know a thing or two about quitting!). I’ve been lucky in all of them to get along with most of the folks I work with. If this would not have been the case, however, these jobs would have been unbearable, and I probably would have left each of them sooner than I did. You shouldn’t have to dread going into work on a daily basis just because the people you spend most of your waking hours are complete douchebags. Especially if one or more of them are your higher-ups, the people who actively tell you what to do so you on a day-to-day basis so that you can collect your salary. There’s really not that much honor in working for somebody who behaves like Anna Wintour or Donald Trump.
You’re overworked and underpaid: Salaried jobs can be pretty whack. I’ve had jobs where I would get paid the exact same amount whether I worked for eight hours or 18 in a given day. Staying at work late is not fun to begin with. It becomes even excruciatingly less so when you realize that you’re still working after dark and not getting paid a dime for having done so. The older you get, the more you realize that your time is valuable, and that you would like to be paid for it. If you wanted to volunteer, you would be giving abandone puppies baths, not making a PowerPoint presentation about second-quarter fiscal goals.
The love of your life has gotten a job in another city: Cherchez la femme, my man. (That means “look for the woman.”) Follow that sweet tail to wherever you have to if you’re of the belief that she is the one you would like to try and spend the rest of your life with. Or someday you’re going to be looking at photos of her married to another man, wondering what could have been, what should have been. You’ll try to assuage your melancholic feelings by reflecting on your professional successes. It won’t work.
You just straight-up do not like your job: Adults tend to scoff when you make a decision based on whether you like or do not like doing something. I’m not sure why this is. If you like what you’re doing, then you’re more likely to be a happy person. And being happy is what life’s all about. Just do you, mayne.