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IT careers: Should you leave?

Paul Glen | June 8, 2017
Ask yourself a couple of key questions before quitting the job you have.

EXIT sign

When the job market gets hot, as it is now, it’s easy to look around and decide that it’s time to move on to someplace new. The days are long past when companies treated employees as a community to whom they owed reasonable constancy and when employees felt a sense of loyalty in return. So the traditional emotional barriers to exiting a job or organization are quite low. And the financial constraints are relatively small as well. We are lucky enough to work in an industry where pay is relatively good and most practitioners are not living paycheck to paycheck, so quitting is not as big a risk as it might be in other professions.

But this doesn’t mean that just because you can easily go somewhere else, you should. Too often people who are frustrated with their current tasks, peers or supervisor quit on impulse, whether they have anything new lined up or not. Millennials have the reputation of being unusually prone to quitting when things don’t go their way. (Whether that reputation is deserved or not I’ll leave to academic researchers.)

Obviously, strong negative emotions about what you are working on or whom you’re working with can be very hard to ignore. We spend a lot of our waking hours engaged with work, and it’s quite easy to fixate on the perceived unfairness, injustice, unpleasantness, etc. that we encounter at work every day. I’m not going to tell you that you should ignore these feelings, because they are difficult to endure for long.

But I am going to suggest that discomfort should not be your only consideration when deciding whether or not to leave a job. Often, there are good reasons to stick with what you are doing, for completely selfish reasons. And I’ve found that when someone passes through the urge to leave and stays because it is in his or her own self-interest, the anxiety that led to the crisis diminishes significantly. In other words, the things that bothered you before become less important when the decision to stay is your own.

When you find yourself eager to leave, try asking yourself a couple of key questions.


Am I repeating and reinforcing unhelpful behaviors?

If you are thinking about quitting your job, it’s important for you to examine whether this departure would be a unique occurrence or part of a pattern of behavior in your career and your life in general. Do you frequently respond to adversity by trying to escape rather than persevere? Have you quit other jobs when things haven’t gone your way? Ask a friend or mentor about their perceptions. Try to be honest with yourself about this, and do not be judgmental. Avoidance is a perfectly normal human response to difficulty.


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