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Should You Quit? How to Know When It’s Time to Go

A few weeks ago, The Wall Street Journal reported that as the pandemic cloud lifts, the percentage of Americans leaving their employer for new opportunities is at the highest level in more than two decades.

Many high performers are taking a long look at post-pandemic life. The last year has prompted deep reflection; what’s important to me? What was I missing out on? Am I spending my time doing work that matters?

Here are three signs it may be time to reevaluate:

1. You haven’t learned much lately 
As you grow in your career, you should be continuously learning. For many organizations, work has shifted from ‘thriving’ to ‘surviving’ mode.  As you navigated through working remotely, supply chain issues, and operational pivots, it may have been all you could do to keep your head above water over the last 15 months.  While it may have been unavoidable in the short-term, it’s not a sustainable (or satisfying) way to work. Your brain is a muscle; without regular exercise, it will start to decline in function.

2. The organization behaved poorly during a time of crisis  
This does not mean that if your current company had to lay people off during the pandemic, you should look for another job. Many high achieving, well-intended organizations had to make heartbreaking decisions.

I am referring to the organizations who completely abandoned their purpose, values, and basic dignity at the mere whiff of danger. In times of crisis, we show who we really are. Some organizations, despite tough decisions, came together and rallied for their customers. Others, despite lofty website pages about being amazing, descended into finger pointing, blame throwing, and self-preservation.

3. There is no ‘next play’ 
If you’ve reached a cap in your current role, you may be asking yourself, so now what? Be it a skill cap, a salary cap, or even a hierarchy cap (like if you’re an executive leader), ambiguity about comes next can stall your momentum. Without a goal, it can become challenging to motivate yourself, keep growing, or even just stay engaged.

But before you run out the door too quickly, know that even if the next play is not obvious, many organizations are willing to reskill existing teammates and create bespoke opportunities. Be vocal about your desire for growth.

There’s an old saying: Leave the party when you’re still having fun. You’ll remember it more fondly, versus if you linger by the door, waiting until the lights come on and someone tells you to get out.

I’ve yet to personally master this, especially when it comes to parties. My fomo (fear of missing out) often keeps me from leaving social events while there’s still a shred of fun to be had. I have learned to make career shifts, before I’m the last one at the party. Waiting until you’re so miserable you can’t stay another minute will quickly derail an otherwise promising career.

That doesn’t mean you want to gamble your financial future for the (vague) promises of greener grass over the fence. Each organization, and each job, will go through times of trouble. If you’re experiencing a blip, you might want to stay.

But . . .

if you clicked on this article with a feeling in your gut, pay attention.

Your career trajectory is too precious to be an afterthought. We are deeply influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. Choosing where you spend the majority of your waking hours is one of the most consequential decisions you can make. And it’s also a decision you get to make every single day.