Do you really need to quit?

Careers & Planning Leadership & Strategy
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Seven key questions to ask yourself before putting in your papers.

 Let’s face it. It feels terrible losing good people. So, whenever one of our well-performing team members decides to leave us, I feel pained. I wonder if the organisation has somehow let the person down. Or whether the person has not fully appreciated the career proposition that we offer.

Recently, one of our millennial team members told me that he wants to quit. When I probed on why, I realised that this team member had not fully thought through the reasons and what he was giving up. My simple question to him was, “Tell me the three things that you think you will get from the new job that we will not be able to give you at Godrej”. He could not come up with anything concrete beyond saying that he felt that a change would be good.

If you are miserable at work or feel that your career is going nowhere, it may be a no-brainer to try something else. Or if you get a job that doubles your salary, it may be quite tempting to quit. Those however may be relatively easier decisions. Most of the other considerations fall in the grey zone and are harder decisions to make.

Research suggests that on average, you get 10 chances to quit in your working lifetime. That’s 10 chances to decide on whether to make that move or not. How do you know if it is the right one? Whether it will offer you the boost you are looking for? Or whether it will frustrate you in a few months?

My message this week is on how to think more deliberately about whether to quit or not.

Can changing jobs be beneficial? Certainly, there are upsides. Sometimes, you can move ahead faster than you may have by staying in one role in one company. In many cases, you could end up getting the salary hike you wanted. If you’re lucky, you may find a match with the learning opportunities and exposure that you want.

But that’s if you’re getting a rather fundamental assumption right. If you’re quitting based on a thought-through, longer-term plan. Not if you’re not taking an impulsive decision provoked by the lure of a quick win or just because you’re frustrated. How do you tell the difference?

If you’re toying with the idea of changing jobs, then here are some questions that you should be thinking hard about:

1. What exactly is frustrating you?

What specifically about your current situation makes you want to quit? Figuring this out is the first step towards finding a solution for yourself. Whether that solution is at the same company or another, comes later.

Lay out the facts. Are you frustrated by what you’re doing daily – the people you meet or your boss or routine activities or the work environment? Or are you concerned about the larger picture and where this job will take you to in the next five years or so? They have very different implications. (On a separate note, these are the same questions that you should be asking yourself if you’re happy at work.)

How long have you been feeling this way? Is this something recent, caused by a change that is temporary? Or have you been feeling like this for a much longer time?

And what is the scope of this impact? Is it weakening your morale? Lessening your excitement to give your best at work? Hampering future career opportunities? Impacting the way you feel outside of work?

You need to be very honest with yourself.

2. Are your assumptions right?

Let’s say you have introspected and identified what has been frustrating you. What next? Figure out if you’re right about it. Talk to people who will have an informed view and can either support or counter the way you’re feeling. It could be a colleague you trust or a mentor or even your boss. Ask questions. Try and understand how they see the situation and whether they think your concerns are valid. Be open to their feedback. The more perspective you can get, the better your decision will be.

3. Have you made an honest effort to work around the issues?

There isn’t any guarantee that the issues you’re facing at your current job won’t resurface in another job or place. Have you given an honest shot to addressing the issues? If your boss isn’t offering the guidance you want, can you find yourself a coach? If there aren’t structured learning opportunities, can you take the initiative to find them for yourself? Have you had an open conversation about your aspirations with the people who matter?

4. Where are you on your learning curve?

Many people will tell you that one of the biggest drawbacks of switching jobs often is that it breaks your learning cycles. Any new job or role or project requires a period of adjustment and learning. Only after that do you really start giving back and upping your own learning curve. If you break before this, you’re losing out. You need to figure out what these inflexion points are on your learning curve and be smart about leveraging them.

Also, think hard about what kind of learning excites you. Are you looking for more exposure? Greater responsibility? The chance to do new things? Managing a team? More specialised training? And how much of that does your current role offer you?

Be creative when you’re thinking about learning opportunities. For example, you may want more exposure to digital and your current job doesn’t offer it. Instead of looking out, see if you can find a digital project in another team to be part of for a while. It could offer you a flavour of the work or even the chance to find new growth opportunities within the company.

5. How much is ‘enough money’ for you?

There’s no denying that money could be an important consideration. The question is how much is enough. So, instead of skirting around the issue, talk numbers. Figure out the kind of lifestyle you want – where you want to live, send your kids to school, where you want to holiday, the kind of hobbies you want to pursue, how many years you want to work for and the like. Put a figure to it so that you know what you’re aiming for. It will also help you align your priorities and question your tradeoffs.

That said, you certainly shouldn’t make money your single deciding factor. You simply can’t make all your career moves solely based on where you get the highest pay package. It won’t add up in the longer run. There are other very important considerations like whether you feel challenged each day on the job, the kind of people you work with and how meaningful a change you can drive. More money doesn’t make up for that. Like Tony Hsieh, CEO, Zappos, says, “Chase the vision, not the money, the money will end up following you.”

6. Is this the right time?

Timing is everything here. And you have to be able to get this right. Contrary to popular belief, don’t quit when it is your last option. That’s too late. It probably means that you stayed too long in a job that you didn’t want and that you’re miserable. Quit when you feel like you have achieved what had set out to and when you are confident that the next move will help you perform better. Quit when you’re feeling strong and positive about this move, not when you’re doing it as a last resort. Remember that the way you’re feeling when you quit will have a rub off on your new start.

7. What are you leaving for?

As they say, the grass always appears greener on the other side. Be clear about what your new job will offer you that you can’t get in your current job. The last thing you want is to be caught in the same situation repeating itself. So, it goes back to knowing what you’re looking for in the first place; being able to separate everyday annoyances from larger career hampering situations. That’s why you need a plan; not necessarily something very detailed, but at least a direction of where you would like to be headed in the next five years or so and what it will take for you to get there. And you need to be clear about your priorities. That way, you can assess progress and be sure about how and why you are gearing up for a change.

While we need to think about how best to answer these questions at a personal level, as leaders we also need to get more comfortable with having open conversations with our team members who may be contemplating to quit. How good are you at reading the signs? Chances are that by the time someone hands you a resignation, they have their minds made up. Are you having the right conversations with people and at the right times? Are you able to foster that level of trust? Can you set aside you own biases to help someone think through what would be best for them?

Do share your perspectives and suggestions. I look forward to hearing from you.

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