Jump ship or stick it out?
October 19, 2009 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I hate my job, and as long as I'm still in the job it's hard for me to look for a new one. But should I stick it out or just take my chances? I know similar questions have been asked, but the details differ enough that I hope the hive mind will not mind my asking and be able to offer some perspective.

What I thought would be a dream job a few years ago has turned out to be a real headache. I've been unhappy with the job for some time, it's not something that's happened overnight.

My salary is decent, but my quality of life blows right now. The travel requirements are pretty ridiculous, and the workload is also extreme. Worst of all, I simply don't believe in the company any longer, and my job is one that requires motivating others and speaking publicly about the company. Frankly, it feels a lot like lying. Oddly, my relationship with my manager is good and the feedback I get is positive -- but the actual job is a disaster, and the company is going in the wrong direction.

Given the state of the economy, I'm very worried about finding a new job -- especially one that measures up in pay and benefits with this one. Not only does the economy suck, but this is the time of year when a lot of companies stop hiring until the following year anyway.

I'm also worried about the appearance of quitting. When I do leave, it will be noticed by people outside the company but in the industry I'd like to continue working in. The added attention might make it easier to find a new job, but I'm worried it might look like I'm giving up on a situation that to the outside world isn't all that bad.

Before I took this job, I had my own business and scraped by even in tough times. But it's been years, and my "black book" of clients is sorely out of date, and there's not as much business to be had these days.

On the plus side, I have enough stashed away to go at least six months without any new income, and longer if I'm frugal and don't have any unexpected expenses. But it's not unheard of for people to go even longer than that without a new gig, and I have no fallback if I don't find a job or enough freelance income. And I hate burning through my savings.

I have been looking, but quietly. I'm tempted on a regular basis to just throw in the towel and start looking for a new job openly. But if I do quit, there's no going back, and I'm very worried that this is an irrational reaction and I'd regret quitting as soon as I did it. What would you do?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If your industry is in a growth period right now, you'd probably be able to quit and find something new shortly. Is your industry in a growth period?
posted by ben242 at 10:58 AM on October 19, 2009

I'd keep saving and make a good estimate at how long it would take you to get another job in the average case. Then, I'd keep working until I had enough saved to last that long, then quit. Still risky, but at least you've contained the risk some.

I hate burning through savings, too, but then again, this is what savings are for - getting out of hellish situations in which you're working ridiculous hours for a bad cause.

In the meantime, keep on looking.
posted by ignignokt at 11:02 AM on October 19, 2009

I was in the same boat but lucked out and i got laid off just as I was about to quit. So I had a nice severance and my insurance is being paid for until the end of the year.

The bad news is depending on your industry and location it is pretty tough out there right now.

I'm burning through my severance and savings and am not sure when I'll get a paying gig. But friends tell me I'm so much better to be around since I'm not weighed down by that job I hated. I do feel better even though I'm uncertain about the future.

A few years ago I was in a job I hated and did quit and although getting another gig wasn't easy or quick, I don't regret the decision.

Only you can decide if you want to take the risk and find something new or stick it out and live with the job you hate. Good luck.
posted by birdherder at 11:04 AM on October 19, 2009

In the current economy I don't think the details matter. Unless you are independently wealthy or have a S.O. or parents that will support you, you keep you job until you find a new one. I know several very talented and capable people that took 9 months plus to find something this year after getting laid off.
posted by COD at 11:30 AM on October 19, 2009

1. don't quit without another job lined up (no matter how much money you've saved; it's a gambe and it looks bad on your résumé)
2. not sure what you mean about looking quietly and not so quietly; never inform your present employer you are looking
3. you said you've been at this job for a few years; that's enough time for you to leave gracefully
posted by bunny hugger at 11:33 AM on October 19, 2009

You're in a really tough situation and I feel for you. The upstream suggestions are all good, and they're correct in insisting that the decision you're facing is an intensely personal one.

There is an additional perspective to consider here, though, that might present some possibilities. Depending on your specific role in the company and the particular industry in which you work, your philosophical differences with your current company might prove to be an asset.

That is, it's possible that you could present yourself as so highly principled that the thought of continuing with your current gig is totally anathema to you, and that could make you far more attractive to other employers in your industry. If you have a noncompete agreement, though, that could be an enormously complicating factor.

At this point, given the relative lack of information provided about your job, industry, etc., it's impossible to gauge whether the philosophical differences angle is worth pursuing or not. If you want to me-mail me with further details, I could weigh in with more definitive advice for you.
posted by DrGail at 11:57 AM on October 19, 2009

The market is rough. I have friends with outstandingly stellar resumes, directors at huge corporations, that haven't been able to find gigs after they quit. Programmer friends who were responsible for some of the largest code bases in the ecommerce world...can't find jobs. It's an ugly, outsourced, low-balling market right now.

If you have the ability to run your own business, perhaps spend some energy refreshing your contacts and clients, and look towards that as a future. I'm not sure that being an employee has much hope right now.
posted by Peecabu at 12:00 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding Peecabu's comment about refreshing your blackbook. If you get to the point where you can't take it anymore, you'll have a much better feel as to whether you can fall back on that.

If there is any possibility of you getting a black mark in your industry by quitting...don't do it. While the work conditions might be extreme, there is ALWAYS a way to find time to look for another job. So start doing that quietly, even it it means a bit more stress in the short term.

Also, try to leverage your public facing role to build yourself up as a thought-leader within the industry. You might even get an offer from a company trying to poach you.
posted by Elminster24 at 12:48 PM on October 19, 2009

Start living more frugally now. Your goal is to be able to look in the mirror and be absolutely confident that you can outlast any foreseeable period of frictional unemployment. Six months is a good start, but as you mentioned, it's not bullet-proof. Lower your expenses, save more, and you can almost wholly eliminate that source of anxiety.

Do everything in your power to lower the barriers between your current situation and taking a new job. You don't have to move, but you want to make sure that you can. The last thing you want is to see an opportunity and not apply because the timeframe was too short to properly clean up your cube, back up your bookmarks, or prepare to hand-off a project.
posted by SemiSophos at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

The danger I see in your situation is that you will jump from the frying pan into the fire because you want to desperately get out of your job. The fire might be unemployment or an even worse job with a boss you detest. As a career coach I would advise you to make a plan. Identify what you enjoy about your job and what's missing about it. Build your network and reach out to recruiters. Use Linked in strategically. Post your resume and use the privacy settings to restrict anyone from your company from seeing your profille. Other commentors made some good suggestions about continuing to save and building your list of contacts. Above all, set yourself some achievable goals and network like hell and you'll lift yourself out of there in no time. If you need help setting goals, reach out for it. There are a lot of good coaches/advisors out there.
posted by bfoster at 10:29 AM on October 22, 2009

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