Well, you did it.
You spent weeks scrolling through online job boards, painstaking hours filling out online applications and too many awkward moments following up on the phone to try to get an interview. You wore your best shoes, gave all your best answers, and left with a handshake your grandfather would have been proud of. And then, days later, you got the call, and the offer for the job you were waiting for.
First of all, congratulations. In today’s economy, the act of obtaining employment is worthy of a celebration involving some moderately-priced champagne and a handful of confetti. Whether it was a promotion in your field, a side step into a new career or even a temporary gig to help pay the bills, you should be proud of yourself and all your hard work.
Now, fast-forward a few months. Maybe you didn’t realize how many late nights you’d be working — or that your coworkers were such jerks. Unfortunately, not every job is what we expect when we accept it. And because of the crippled state of the job market, there’s a huge tendency to cling to the bill-paying beast that is The Job We Don’t Belong In. You’ve had that job. You know the feeling. But how do you know if you’re dealing with the occasional stress-based angst that accompanies working life, or the symptoms of a much bigger disgruntlement? Read on to see when and why you should call it quits.
10. Your Co-Workers Suck
We’re going to assume that you are typically pretty good at finding the best in everyone (or at least, you were when you started). Maybe the occasional day has crept into your week that ends with you driving home, clenching the steering wheel, verbally annihilating That Jerk From The Day Shift behind his back (but only to your mom). Okay. We aren’t going to like all of our co-workers all of the time. Occasional frustration is one thing. But general tolerance (and even genuine affection) can turn into borderline-violent disgust in mere weeks after you realize how unhappy you are in any given place. If you’re starting to hate everyone you work with (even people you’re pretty sure you actually like), these feelings are probably the result of a greater unhappiness. Working amidst a sea of people you can’t bring yourself to stand is going to bring you nothing but misery.
9. Your Sick Time’s Gone
Unless you suffered from a major health or personal event, you probably have some hours you can use in the event of an emergency; it’s pretty hard to use all of your sick time otherwise. Unless you’ve been playing hooky more than you did in high school — in which case, you’re making yourself look bad. If you can’t remember which ailment it was that you supposedly had last week, get out while you can still maintain a little of your credibility (and hopefully a decent reference).
8. Your Wall is Whiny
If you’re talking more on social media about your crappy career than your newly engaged friend is posting about wedding plans, step away from the computer. First of all, it’s a stupid move to post negative things about work on any online outlet. (Second, nobody wants to read it.) If things have gotten so bad that you just can’t help yourself, or simply can’t think of 250 characters worthy of anything else, you need to start thinking about a change. We’ve all had that friend we’ve been tempted to block because we can’t suffer through the daily barrage of how in love she is, how much he loves the gym or how many v-necks they have. Negativity’s not any better. So look at your own wall. If more than two posts in a thirty-day period are lamenting about the pathetic existence your work causes you to suffer through, then not only are you unhappy, but your friends are, too — with your negativity flooding their feed. Dislike.
7. Vacations Don’t Help
An even bigger warning sign is if vacations hurt more than they help. Have you ever taken time off solely to not go to work? You know — you didn’t do anything special, like see an old friend or travel someplace new. And yet, the night before you were supposed to go back, you sat on the couch feeling like crying, screaming, or some other sort of over-emotional reaction. Dreading the end of a vacation isn’t incredibly uncommon, but sometimes the dread doesn’t go away — it hovers over you, at your desk, for days or even weeks. Stop torturing yourself.
6. You Hate Your Boss
Lots of people don’t love their boss. Some don’t even like him or her, and some are indifferent. Hate, on the other hand, takes a lot of energy out of you both emotionally and physically. Your boss doesn’t have to make decisions that you are in love with 100% of the time and doesn’t even have to have one admirable quality. They should be someone you can share a room with while maintaining a somewhat peaceful disposition.
5. Your Non-Work Life is Suffering
Maybe you and your partner are fighting more than normal. Maybe your weekly phone calls to your family are shorter and less enthusiastic. Maybe you wake up one Saturday morning and you realize you’ve been hungover a lot more recently. It isn’t always easy to make the connection that an issue in your home life may be the result of a work one. Pay attention to the way you feel at both.
4. You Aren’t Growing
Even if you’re one of the lucky people doing exactly what they want to do, you should be learning new things about your field or new ways of handling past processes and information. You won’t be happy working at a level greatly beneath your intelligence. Similarly, your employer should care about your development, and support you (financially or some other way) in the pursuance of your goals. If there’s no way for you to grow in a professional, creative, or intellectual way, you should look for a place where there is.
3. You’re on Autopilot
Can you remember the last time you felt challenged, or proud of something you accomplished? You gain access to so many more occupational options when you feel great about what you’re doing — so when was the last time you felt passionate about something at work? It could be the interactions you have with customers or clients or co-workers, or the inevitable ripple effect of the big project you’re working on. Different things make different people proud. When we feel like we aren’t doing anything important, we cease feeling inspired. When that happens, we cease being inspiring.
2. You Have Dreams, but No Time
Even people who work in their dream field need time for other things — taking care of family, painting pictures, baking pies, whatever. If you leave your house at 6AM to make the hour-long commute to work, and leave at 5PM to get home twelve hours later, what do you have time for once you’ve made yourself dinner? Quit staring longingly at that corner where all the projects you want to get to are accumulating. Free yourself to give them some time. Jessica Hische said, “The work you do while you procrastinate is probably the work you should be doing for the rest of your life.” You never know what could happen.
1. You Aren’t Appreciated
Again, we all have our days where we might be sensitive to feelings of non-importance, but you should feel valued and appreciated by at least a decent amount of your peers and supervisors. You should be thanked, and you should feel important — you are worth that. If you are ignored, belittled, or disrespected, calmly put on your jacket and walk out the door.
It may seem impractical to throw caution to the wind and look for other employment — there is, after all, the issue of money. It’s arguably just as impractical to give so much time and energy to anything that doesn’t bring you some sort of enjoyment. Figure out how much money you need to survive, and then figure out how you can devote more time to your passions so that they, too, may benefit you.