How can I quit?
January 11, 2009 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Where to go from here? I feel crazy to consider quitting my job in this market environment, but I'm going crazy sticking with it. Please help!

I've been working at firm for about 6 months. Since my first week of work, I have been miserable but have persevered to give things a chance to get better.

But, they just haven't. Despite my efforts to stay positive, relax, and take things one day at a time.

The specific position I was promised in my offer letter never materialized due to "the economic slowdown" and "changes in the firm." I've tried to adjust and work on projects in other areas, but the passion is missing and my work product suffers. Frankly, it's embarrassing and has been snowballing. I did a summer internship with the firm which I enjoyed greatly, but find my work and responsibilities now to be different from what they were then (much less was expected of me in the summer, particularly in the areas where I was weak). Now, with new responsibilities, I feel a great deal of stress weighing down on me daily. I feel ill-prepared to meet new challenges and others in the firm are polite and try to help me, but are often not able to give me the direction I need.

My diet has taken a real turn for the worse and exercise, which I once enjoyed and sought out daily, has been pushed out due to late nights and exhaustion. I'm also battling depression and anxiety that keep me up even later at night, leading to sleep deprivation. I've become angry and violent - mostly towards myself. I find it extremely difficult to stay on task, often waste time, and constantly dread receiving a new assignment for fear that I will fail *again*. I feel like a huge failure.

It seems I am not well suited for my position. I graduated with a degree in finance from a prestigious undergraduate institution and got good grades, but my real passions lie in writing and language. I spent a year abroad and loved it, but had a hard time finding a job abroad without experience (and have a longtime SO here who's happy and not looking to relocate). I also did internships in tech and journalism that gave me great satisfaction. I'd love to go back to school, further develop those areas, and retool my career/life. However, I'm afraid I spent too much time studying in undergrad and not enough time developing relationships with professors, so letters of recommendation might be hard to come by. And with only 6 months of experience under my belt (though I've had 3-4 summer summer internships at large firms), I'm not sure where I could land a new position, particularly with my degree (finance/computer/language minor). The possibility of exchanging a $60K salary + bonus and health benefits for uncertainty frightens me, but I'm also scared of the ill effects of this job on me mentally and physically.

Thanks if you've read this far. Please help me figure out where to go from here. I'm lost.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
It seems I am not well suited for my position

Make the best of your situation and use it as a learning experience -- and decide if you should market yourself elsewhere. Don't quit while you have a good job; but having a job is the best time to look for a new job.

The possibility of exchanging a $60K salary

Your putting 10% of that away into savings and building a 3 month security fund right? Having 15k in savings sure makes decisions like this less stressful :).
posted by SirStan at 5:34 PM on January 11, 2009

If you have 8-12 months of living expenses socked away, which may be the likely time period in which to find a new job (or so says Suze Orman), quit. If you don't have this kind of savings but don't mind incurring some major debt while you look for a new job, quit. If you think the stress (and its related ailments) from this second option is more manageable than what you're dealing with now, quit.
posted by meerkatty at 5:37 PM on January 11, 2009

Is it possible for you to take some time off? In December I was feeling much the same way you are, but a two-week break did wonders for my sanity, because I had been ready to quit.

My job situation has remained the same, but the problems and roadblocks have turned into challenges that must be dealt with...successfully.

I've also learned to be patient. I'm not happy with my job title, or my responsibilities, but I know that things will change, in large part to my hard work and my positive attitude.

You mentioned that you have been staying out late. Getting eight hours of sleep every night will do wonders for your mental health, as will exercising and eating right.

It seems like you are new out of school. Get a hobby and learn to live so that you have something else outside of work to measure your personal success.

Finally, learn how to excel and be perfect at the tasks you are given at work, because it will help you in the long run.

You will eventually get your job overseas, and you will eventually do more work connected with language and writing.

However, at some point after that you will want to do something else once again (management?) and you will need all the skills you can get.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:06 PM on January 11, 2009

I made the mistake of leaving a well paying job that was making me seriously miserable, thinking if I jumped ship I'd immediately get another because I'd never had a problem getting hired before. Now I look back and feel like I was arrogant and stupid. In this economy, I'd recommend lining up something else first or taking a vacation to clear your head. I wish I had. In retrospect, I wish I'd taken a deep breath and found another solution. I had no idea that my life was going to take the turns it has since then so due to my lack of psychic abilities I honestly can't be too hard on myself, but I definitely learned a big lesson.
posted by miss lynnster at 6:18 PM on January 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you have no savings and if your health insurance is covered through work, then yes, quitting your job right now isn't the most practical move. It sounds like you're unhappy with your life, though, and are pinning it on your job. You say you're afraid you don't have the right things for getting into a program or getting a new position, but it doesn't sound like you've actually stepped up and put yourself in a position to be rejected of anything. So actually look into alternatives; look into the programs you might be interested in pursuing at school and actually apply for them; look into what other jobs are available right now that you might be interested in and actually apply for them. When you have feedback on that, you'll be more equipped to make a better decision about what to do with your current job. You might be surprised; I was in a similar position to you and was convinced nothing of interest to me would be available given my degree and the current market, but when I actually started looking I found quite a few interesting job positions. (Note: I did end up quitting my job before finding a new one, but I was making half as much as you, had quite a bit tucked into savings and had full financial support and housing. If I had been making what you make I would not have quit my job without finding another job first. If I wanted to go to school for a specific program, I'd try to take classes in the evening or on weekends. If this wasn't possible, I would make damn sure that I had found my life's calling before quitting a well-paying job with benefits to go to school full time).

Also, keep in mind that you just started this job. Most positions are extremely stressful for the first half year at least as you get more comfortable with how things are done. You may never love your current job, but it should get easier for you with time. And while you aren't at work, make sure you are spending your free time doing the things and being with the people who make your life worthwhile. And if you're feeling overwhelmed, a little time off could help.
posted by Polychrome at 6:23 PM on January 11, 2009

Since you are basically at the point of leaving, you have nothing to lose by trying to rework work. Things didn't pan out the way you wanted, so start changing your role yourself and taking on work that you enjoy and finding ways to put work you don't enjoy onto others. If your company balks, you were leaving anyway, right? If they find that they get some great work out of you when you are doing things that are more in line with your passion, they might compromise in other areas to keep you interested. Being at the point of leaving a job is quite liberating and you should take the opportunity to make your own path and see if it works.
posted by qwip at 6:24 PM on January 11, 2009

Contact a friend, and get them to haul you to some form of exercise. It WILL help. Really. Really really. Especially if you're exausted, anxious, angry etc.

Start saving at least 10% of income.

Start searching for a job. Tell your friends you're interested in something else. See if you can sit down with a friend to update your resume, because it looks like you're falling in the Hole, and once in it, it's hard to get out.

Set your quit-date, say 3-9 months in the future. That's the day you leave, if not before (ie got another job).
With that date, you have an exit route. An escape plan. It will help relieve a lot of the stress, knowing that this is only short term.

Oh, and just realised - I got some of this from Planning Your Escape: What to do when your job is doing you in by Neil Fiore
Seems to work.
posted by Elysum at 6:40 PM on January 11, 2009 [3 favorites]

follow-up from the OP
As is customary in my profession/at my level, I work 12-14 hour days, commute 2 hrs a day, and work weekends, so part of the problem is just being stuck at work and so busy with work that I can't properly exercise, get stuff together for new job search, etc.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 PM on January 11, 2009

Unfortunately for the OP, there are many professions that have ridiculous requirements of their new members - in some senses designed to weed out those who are not 'cut out' for the stress and in others because it's what the longer established people had to go through.

If you're unhappy now, you'll still be unhappy working 12-14 hours a week 5-8 years from now if that lifestyle doesn't suit you. Try and use it to your advantage while you are still there-

Is there a corporate gym/workout group during lunch hour? Most of my corporate friends have joined up with inhouse groups that train for inter-company fun runs and such.

Can you get study time to take maybe one course at night, or online?

Do they provide catering of any kind if you work late? Are there healthier options there? Otherwise, can you make lunches on the weekend and freeze them? Really quick easy stuff like burritos (healthified, of course)?

Seconding the idea to take any leave, if you have it, just for a break and to retool, spend time looking for a new job.

Hang in there for now, make the best of what you can, and once you have some savings go.
posted by wingless_angel at 8:02 PM on January 11, 2009

Sorry, but with all due respect those are bullshit excuses. If you DECIDE to commit to something, you will make it work. I was working 70 hours a week at Mattel and decided I had to take care of myself or I was going to fall apart. So despite not being a morning person I *forced* myself to wake up at 6am to go to the gym or I went at 11pm after I got home (my gym closed at midnight), and within two months I was in ROCKING shape. YES it did totally suck at first. Beyond words! I just didn't want to do it, that was really the stumbling block more than anything else. In the beginning it was torture, but after a short while it wasn't as hard because I got into a groove (And yeah, it's hard for me to imagine that now, but it's also hard for me to imagine working 70 hours a week to begin with). Cardio, weight training, yoga, and healthy diet made a HUGE difference in my morale at the time and really is all that got me through that job for 3 1/2 years. Prior to that my coworkers and I were all on the martinis-after-work diet and which was NOT a good thing. Martinis didn't make me feel better and more energized to face the next day. Diet and exercise did. Once you develop a momentum with positive behavior, it becomes far easier.

Job searches can be done sneakily during lunch or coffee breaks with a laptop. You may work in an office that doesn't allow lunches, but tell them you have to take one two or three times a week. Create a white lie and tell them it's doctor's orders because you've been feeling run down (I'm not a doctor, but I play one on the internet. Blame Dr. Lynnster). Trust me, nobody wants you getting sick and missing days when you work in that kind of a high-pressure job. Then go to a place with internet access and eat a snack while you rewrite your resume and job search. Just commit regular time to it, and focus. Even if it's only a half hour a week.

You can make excuses all you want, but the only person you're hurting is yourself. And I know that of which I speak, my internet friend. Oh yes, yes, I do.
posted by miss lynnster at 8:13 PM on January 11, 2009 [7 favorites]

Will they fire you if you don't work weekends?
You're burning out at this rate. If you burn out, they will fire you.

If you take steps to limit your working hours, they might get pissed off, but what is the worst they can do? Fire you?
Frankly, it'd still look better than burnout-firing.

Studies have been done for the last 100 years, showing that on average, increasing from 8 to 10 hours a day work other than on a very short term, shows no increase in productivity. Going over that, and you start to *decrease* in productivity.

You are already experiencing that in your own life. Worse, that loss of productivity transfers over into the few hours of leisure you do have - tiredness, anxiety, and depression.

Can you telecommute? Can you reduce your hours?
Remember, you're seriously considering quitting without a safety net. Your average employer will make concessions in order to not go through the hassle of having to employ someone new.

I'm not super-experienced in this, but I did the loss-of-productivity/depression thing to myself. I got caught in a negative feedback loop of staying later and later to get my work done, and got less, and less done, while the rest of my life started cracking at the seams. Finally, I talked to my employer, and arranged for less hours. I have my Wednesdays off! :D
And yup... I'm getting more work done. What an egiot I was!

And yes to the above comments about job-hunting - it's much easier to find a job, when you have a job.
posted by Elysum at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know how old you are but let me just add this... when I was younger I really thought I had to do whatever my employers told me to do. I thought I had to be a good soldier if I wanted a career, and I sacrificed a lot of myself. I realized later on that actually it was up to me to set up my own boundaries. More often than not, my employers were just seeing how much they could get away with, and I was giving it to them without question. I later realized that half the time they didn't really *expect* me to say yes as often as I did, they didn't expect me to be working 70 hour weeks when everyone else had already gone home, but were they going to talk me out of it if I agreed? Hell no!

Always stand up for your own health and sanity as a priority, or prepare to burn out and fall down. Hard.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:05 PM on January 11, 2009 [4 favorites]

A few things to think about while you're trying to make your decision:

1. What's your financial situation and what kind of financial responsibilities do you have? Do you have any savings? Do you live with your SO and can he/she help you out if things get really dire? Mortgage payment? Children? School loans? If you don't, most other monthly expenses can (usually) be dialed down/up depending on necessity/desire. Weigh what you really need financially vs. your happiness. The ability to live on less may open up a number of other lower-paying but potentially more satisfying job options.

2. What's your tolerance for risk? Although personally I still have a ways to go in feeling comfortable in this arena, I find myself increasingly thinking that in times of chaos or uncertainty, I'd rather focus my efforts on seeing new opportunities that reveal themselves in times like these, rather than taking the more conventional "safer" approach. Yeah, it's scary, and you need to figure out how resourceful you are and what you're willing to do in service of your own happiness. Right now I'm in a place where I'd rather face my fear of the unknown than sell my happiness for a sense of security. (And in these uncertain times, few of us can state with absolute certainty that our jobs are safe. No one, and I repeat NO ONE is immune from job layoffs.)

3. You're ahead of many in that you know what you're passionate about. You love writing and language - have you thought about becoming an English teacher or learning how to teach English to speakers of other languages? There are many programs (at least in CA) where you can begin a paid teaching position and work on your teaching credential at the same time. The pay isn't great and you don't get your first choice of school, but the option exists - and - you'll end up with a valuable commodity (your credential) in a year and a half or two years, depending on the program. Once you have your credential and a couple of years under your belt, you could start going to teaching job fairs to find a job teaching abroad.

You could also register with your local school district to become a substitute teacher. Again, you're not going to get rich but it could offer you both a new perspective/experience, some income, and a certain amount of free time in order to explore other paths.

I say all of the above because they are the exact things I've been thinking about/telling myself over the past few months while in a very similar situation. My decision? I'm quitting my well-paying job tomorrow and have a 6-week freelance gig lined up after that. When that's over? I don't know what I'll be doing until June, when I start exactly the type of teaching credential program I mention above. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't incredibly anxious about what the next few months will bring (or not!) but to me, right now, the risk seems worth it. (mefi mail me in a couple of months, and I'll let you know how it's going!)

Good luck to you whatever you decide to do.
posted by hapax_legomenon at 9:49 PM on January 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

I don't know if you really aren't suited to finance. I think that comparing an internship to a job isn't really going to give you a fair idea of the demands of a professional job.

I'm going to put this bug in your ear... maybe it isn't the field. Maybe it's the corporate culture you're working in. Maybe it's your boss. You're numerate, you're analytical, and given your stated pay for an entry level job, I'm guessing you graduated from a pretty good school with an econ/math degree. In other words, you're suited to what you studied. Something must have made you think you wanted a job in finance, even after the internships you've had.

Sine finance departments can be competitive, intense atmospheres and I really can understand why you'd be nervous about bucking the prevailing culture and leaving closer to a normal hour. Slap on a long commute, the desire to try and avoid rush hour traffic, and the feeling you're behind on things and yeah, I can see why you're putting in crazy hours. OK, sure, quarter end or a heavy budget deadline will see you putting in some long hours. Four/five 12-14 hr days a month is pretty normal in finance, even in a fairly laid back department. On a consistent basis, though? Are you the CFO/FD? No? Waiting for teleconference meetings with someone on the other side of the world? Then why are you there at 10PM? Seriously. If you're putting in that sort of time at work, you're putting out garbage. Brains need rest to work correctly.

Listen to Old Finance Lady Grrlscout... before you quit your job and go back to school, get your hours down, work at this job for another six months, save every penny you can, and see how you feel at the end of the six months. Look at what hours are your most productive and focus on getting the most juice from them. Me? It's the mornings that are my most productive times - before anyone else shows up and starts pinging me with email or phone calls. Look at what works for you. Maybe come in early, work a normal day, leave at a normal hour... and spend the hour or so in a gym that you'd normally spend at your desk, feeling overwhelmed and miserable?

If after six months of saving and living a more normal life, you want to leave and go back to school, or take up another profession, you'll be in a better place to make your move.

1) you'll be less stressed, which means you'll interview better and make solid decisions
2) you'll be performing better, which means you'll get a better reference if you go, and will feel better about it when you do
3) you'll have a chance to put your rested brain towards thinking about what you really want to do for a living
4) you'll have saved money
5) you'll have learned an important life skill, which is how to make a living and a life at the same time
posted by Grrlscout at 4:22 AM on January 12, 2009

I'm literally sitting at my desk this morning contemplating the same decision. In fact, I've typed up a resignation letter that's dated today. I genuinely hate my job. But I go back and forth about whether right now is the time to quit: should I finish the projects I'm working on, which will likely last a couple more months? Will I use my time off wisely? How difficult will it be to get another job?

But the thought that keeps resonating in my head is that living in fear is worse than all the things I'm afraid of. I believe that, but it's still tough for me to pull the trigger, so to speak. Maybe that will mean something to you.

Good luck!
posted by mpls2 at 6:13 AM on January 12, 2009

One thing I have done in the past is cut down working days.

I graduated during the IT recession at the start of the century. First few years were tough work wise. Ended up working in low paid call centre jobs.

At one point i was really down. Had to get up at 5:30am in the cold and dark to catch the bus to go to a job I hated. Every day. For a year.

Then when my contract came up for renewal I asked for a 4-day week (and had to take a 20% salary cut).

One of the best decisions I have ever made. It really changed the whole balance of the week. Rather than my life being consumed with work with brief respite at the weekend I suddenly had a nice balance between work and other stuff. It was almost half and half work and free time. It made work part of the week but not everything. It really, really was great.

I was less tired, simply because I got extra sleep, I took up some evening classes.

After six months, the economy had picked up now, I got my first proper graduate job (which I loved) and went back to five day weeks.

I probably would have got the next job anyway however I definitely had more energy to put in to the job search. I had to give a presentation at the interview and I did it on one of the subjects I studied for evening class. So it definitely helped.
posted by aTrumpetandaDream at 6:17 AM on January 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

Mod note: This is a followup from anonymous.
Thanks all - the answer posted by Grrlscout was the most helpful, but you all helped me a lot in my decision-making process.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:48 PM on August 8, 2009

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