The short answer to this question is when you:
a) have enough
b) have had enough!
There are several different items that can fall into both the a) and the b) categories.
When You Have Enough
It may be the right time to leave your job when you have enough:
- job offers
- interest from other companies
- potential clients (if deciding to start your own business)
- financial support (from a spouse, an inheritance, etc.)
- fill in the blank ______________.
Have Had Enough
It may also be the right time to leave your job when you’ve had enough:
- of a toxic environment or poor company culture
- illness caused by the above
- of the little to no opportunities for advancement
- abuse from managers or co-workers
- of unfair/unequal pay
- harassment of any kind
- fill in the blank ______________.
For me, I’d had enough
You may find your situation leans more in one category than the other.
For me personally, when I was contemplating leaving my full-time job at a prestigious university to take my part-time business full-time, I was more in the “have had enough” situation.
While I had a little bit of savings and some financial support, I didn’t have a lot of clients yet.
But I had enough of a toxic culture and a micro-managing boss that was making me physically ill and offering me very little opportunity for advancement to want to leave. Plus, my creativity was being stifled.
I knew I couldn’t stomach another fall semester there. And I would’ve been of no use to my students if I’d stayed.
The thing that helped me make the decision to leave was a bit of a safety net being offered to me as a result of my networking efforts. My contact said,
“Lori, it’s never going to be the right time for you to leave your job to start your business full-time.”
He knew I probably wouldn’t leave without something there to support me, and offered to provide a way for me to build my contacts in a 3-month period so I could quickly increase the number of clients I needed to make the jump.
Good Timing vs. Bad Timing
I left my job on August 1, 2008…just a month and a half before the economy tanked and the US went into a recession.
Some would say my timing was bad.
But I know in my heart of hearts, if I’d not left my job when I did, I probably never would have.
Once the economy tanked I would’ve been too scared to leave. And I probably would’ve been stuck in a toxic environment for several more years, getting sicker and sicker.
So I’d say my timing was good.
I was already learning the things I needed to learn and hustling to do the things I needed to do to grow my business.
Other people I knew who were laid off during the recession and were forced to start their own business just to survive were a month and a half behind my learning curve.
And in November of 2008 when people were really starting to feel the full effects of the recession, my replacement in my job at the university quit…
…Only 4 months after she’d replaced me…
…At a time when no one in their right mind who still had a job would leave it.
What does that tell you about how bad things were there? Huh?
Factors to Consider Before Leaving Your Job
Of course if you find yourself asking the question,
“When, if at all, should I leave my job?”
…there are a lot of factors to consider, including financial, mental, and physical.
Only you know your financial situation and your health situation. You have to make the best decision with the information you have. Is your health going to deteriorate if you stay and therefore cost you more in medical bills?
Or is it possible your health will improve if you leave, therefore saving you some money to help tide you over until you find your next opportunity?
There’s also the factor of timing.
Is it clear this is a good time to leave? For instance, do you have another job offer on the table?
Is it clear it’s a bad time? For example, is your spouse currently out of his or her job on medical leave and you have those medical bills rolling in?
Is the only thing that’s clear is that you’ll never be able to predict the best time? (This scenario is usually more likely than the previous two.)
Sometimes it takes someone like a career coach who’s objective to help you see all the factors and the options available to you. Especially when you realize you’re being led too much by emotions such as fear and panic.
But you shouldn’t focus just on the factors that affect you. Consider how your current work situation is affecting others.
If you stay, will you make things better or worse for your co-workers, your customers/clients, the company’s bottom line?
I knew if I didn’t leave my job, my students would feel the effects of the toxicity in my work environment, and they didn’t deserve that. They didn’t need that negativity spilling over into their own college experience and their own job search.
If you stay, will your family have less time with you? Will they have to deal with your irritability, anxiety, and depression due to the stress from your job?
How to Create an Exit Strategy
If, after taking all the factors into consideration, you realize it’s the right time to leave, you have to create an exit strategy.
1. Clarify your goals
Start by clarifying your goals, both short-term and long-term. Step out of your comfort zone and brainstorm a list of steps you can begin taking now to achieve those goals.
For instance, your short-term goal may be to leave your current department or company for a similar job. Some steps would include visiting a career coach, updating your resume, and getting in touch with your network.
2, Have a plan B in place
Next, develop an alternate plan in the event your first plan doesn’t pan out.
For example, if you aren’t finding any job openings in your field with your experience, what are some other ways you can monetize your skills and expertise?
Could you consult? Could you start a side business? Or a full-time business of your own?
If so, start taking steps toward that goal such as determining your target market, their pain points, and how you help them solve their problem.
Determine where your potential customers spend their time so you can know when and where to market to them.
3. Find ways to cope
In the meantime, while you’re waiting for your exit strategy to take root, do what you can to make your current job as bearable as possible.
For ideas on how to do this, check out my post “How to Make Your Current Job More Bearable: 8 Ways to Cope Until You Can Get Out”.