Am I an jerk to consider quitting?
January 2, 2010 2:05 PM   Subscribe

I'm lucky enough to have a job. Am I an jerk to consider quitting?

I graduated from college last year, and was lucky enough to find a job in social justice as I had long hoped. I've struggled with being happy at this job for the half-year that I've been employed, for a few reasons: I had never done this type of work before, and am being trained through a system of constant constructive criticism, with little to no actual praise (which affects my confidence); my direct supervisor and I have difficulty communicating; I work very long hours and haven't been able to develop any meaningful balance between myself and my work, which wears me down. I believe intellectually in the work that I’m doing, but haven’t been able to summon the driving passion I have in other jobs.

On the one hand, I know I’m incredibly lucky to have a job I can believe in, especially considering the economy. On the other hand, I’ve been trying to find my footing at this job for half a year, with marginal success. Additionally, I just graduated from school, and my urge to travel, “find myself” (you know what I mean), and leave my hometown are making it hard for me to focus and commit to this work, which merits focus and commitment.

Other factors of note:
1) I’m a temporary employee, and my contract runs out in the next few months, at which point they may or may not offer me a full position.
2) I’ve been saving from all my paychecks, and have a few thousand dollars set aside to tide me over in an emergency.
3) I’ve dealt for years with seasonal depression, and the job intensity started building up as the weather got harder to deal with.
4) I’ve been working part-to-full-time ever since I was able to work, and I’ve always been responsible and hard-working. I’ve also always wanted to live abroad, and have never been able to do so because I’ve been supporting myself.

In this economy, in a job where I could potentially be happy, is it a bad idea for me to consider quitting?, if you have questions or advice. Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (22 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Find a way to combine what you want to do with paid employment. My sister and brother-in-law are teaching English in China this year. Right now, they're traveling around during their 2.5 month winter break. Quitting your job before you figure out what you're going to do next for paid employment would be a bad idea.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 2:11 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

No, you are not a jerk for thinking about quitting a job that makes you miserable.

Should you quit? Considering that your contract ends in the next few months, I would say ride it out because a number of people are probably counting on you being there until then. If they offer you the full position, feel free to not take it. This should allow you to leave with a clear conscience. Then they can offer it to someone else who could use a job.
posted by puritycontrol at 2:14 PM on January 2, 2010

In this economy, in a job where I could potentially be happy, is it a bad idea for me to consider quitting?

Yes, probably. Rather than quit, look for another job. Even if you have a few thousand set aside, if you're your only financial support, it's not going to be as much of a safety net as you'd think (several months' rent and grocery money can be the same as the financial fallout from one medical emergency).

Look for a way out, but don't just up and quit with no new job lined up.
posted by Meg_Murry at 2:15 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

How would you be a "jerk" for quitting? Presuming you give adequate notice to your employers and colleagues, and that your post-quitting plans don't rely on other people to support you financially, I don't see how your decision could inconvenience anyone but yourself.

In fact, you'll be opening up a job for someone who really wants it, which is the opposite of "jerk".
posted by Sidhedevil at 2:18 PM on January 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Work until your contract ends. Until then, figure out what you want to do. Continue with the job, should you get the offer? Live abroad? Move out of town and seek a job elsewhere? Either way, until your contract ends get your ducks in a row so that when your contract ends you know exactly what you want and you're on your way to doing it.

Anyways, that's what I'd do. But to answer your question: No, you aren't a jerk.
posted by lucy.jakobs at 2:22 PM on January 2, 2010

> "I’ve been trying to find my footing at this job for half a year, with marginal success."

Only speaking from my own personal experience... it usually takes me about a full year to "find my footing" at any of the jobs I've worked at. Perhaps I'm a slow learner, but it usually takes that long before I (mentally) feel like I'm comfortable and "tuned in" to the rhythms and shortcuts that make me feel truly productive.
posted by jmnugent at 2:29 PM on January 2, 2010

I do not think you are a jerk to consider quitting, but I think that would probably be a mistake, especially if you don't have a stable income that you can live on when you transition. A few thousand may sound like a lot, but really isn't. It will go far quicker than you think and while you could fall into another job immediately, you could also be out of work for an extended period of time. I can guarantee you that long-term unemployment will be a lot harder on your self-confidence and depression than rolling with this job for a little while.

The other thing you may want to consider is that the first year out of college is difficult for many people. First jobs in your chosen field often feel like walking uphill, as you pay your dues and can't always see the progress you are making, but you are making progress, and sticking out your contract, whether they make you permanent or not, will be good for your resume, boost your knowledge of the field, and help you make an informed decision about changing your path.

Since you describe the criticism as constructive, this is something you will need to become used to no matter where you work. It's not everyone's style of training, but it's a lot of people's, and as you become more experienced, you won't run into it as often, but when you do, or when you run into actually abusive, unfair supervisors, you will be glad you have developed a thicker skin because leaving that workplace often isn't an immediate option.

As for work-life balance, while I think this is extremely important, it's something most of us struggle with, even once we've been in the professional world for years. As you get older, generally speaking, you will accumulate more responsibilities and limitations on your time, not less. Taking the opportunity to figure out how to juggle only a few aspects of daily life than a dozen will pay off extensively in the long run.

So, try to ride it out. Try to find ways to reward yourself for your hard work. Try to develop long-term plans that excite you, but will not stress you out beyond belief in the short-term. Try to see the value in what you have learned through that constructive criticism and see it not as a diminishing of who you are, but as an expansion of what you are capable of doing. Best of luck to you!
posted by katemcd at 2:29 PM on January 2, 2010

You aren't a jerk for quitting, but you might regret quitting. I personally never quit a job unless I have another job lined up. A few thousand won't last forever, so rather than just quitting, you can ride out your contract while looking for another job. The suggestion of teaching English abroad is a great one. I have tons of friends who have taught in Japan, South Korea, or both, and they've all had a great time. The best part is when they have breaks, they can vacation in other parts of Asia.
posted by ishotjr at 2:38 PM on January 2, 2010

Don't quit until you have something else lined up. Which means you should start lining something else up immediately. You aren't a jerk and have no reason to feel guilty about it, but you know that you could find a better work environment. and you seem to be wanting a new experience. Have you thought about Peace Corps or AmeriCorps? Perhaps teaching English somewhere? There are several ways to find paid work abroad, and the first couple of years after college are a great time to do something like this. Plan on finishing out your contract and then moving on to something new, so you need to start making arrangements now.
Oh, and if things get miserable in the meantime, use some of that emergency money to take a fun trip somewhere sunny and warm- a week can do wonders for your psyche!
posted by emd3737 at 2:39 PM on January 2, 2010

In "this economy" or not, don't quit unless you have another solid job lined up or a large sum of money to live from. Don't feel bad unless you had emotional ties to your employer before your employment there.

Feel free to laminate this post and keep it in your wallet.
posted by santaliqueur at 3:08 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

During the next few months until your contract ends, look for another job. Apply for anything that sounds both appealing and remotely suitable.

By doing this you'll be meeting the expectation that you work out your contract, making sure you won't be unemployed long-term, and gaining experience.

Please don't be too discouraged. The first job out of college is inherently tough, and it is a good idea to move on after a year or so.
posted by tel3path at 3:14 PM on January 2, 2010

I would die a happy man if I never heard "in this economy" again.

In any economy, you have the right to do what will make you most happy. Of course you have to eat, but if you can do that with your savings, quit. You are not a jerk for doing what you want with your life.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:20 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

ps to everyone: He is a temporary employee. "Contract" is a figure of speech in this case. It's at-will, except even more at-will than a regular employee. Since there's no severance pay or thorny "separation" process, they can, will and do fire temporary employees with for no reason, on the spur of the moment, and with complete impunity.

Do what you want to do, but never ever ever feel that you have even the slightest obligation to any employer, unless they are trusted friends or blood relatives.
posted by drjimmy11 at 4:24 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Right now, you're being reactive. Posting to was a good idea.

Wait to see if you get renewed. If not, you probably get unemployment compensation, which will help support you as you make a new plan. If it does, then you can take that as praise.

There have been lots of threads about dealing with bosses. Make notes of what your boss tells you. Start emailing reports back to your boss with your progress on tasks. This will help your boss know what you're doing and let you know if it's not what's wanted.

Develop a relationship w/ your boss. Ask about boss' weekend, how did that board meeting go, is that a new sweater. It's mildly suck-up-y, but it's also social lubricant that makes like smoother.

You've been dealing with depression. Short days can make it worse. Get outside as often as possible, get more exercise, and eat well.

Not all jobs work out. Not all careers work out. It's okay to leave a job, it'll just work out better if you have a plan.
posted by theora55 at 6:23 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Be wary of places that play the "In this economy" card. I have heard of several cases where that is the excuse companies are using to ramp up expectations, and squeeze more from employees, without compensating them for the extra work they are demanding. Employees become too fearful to stand up for their rights or to move on if they are unhappy, afraid they will be fired or unable to find a job if they leave.
posted by GJSchaller at 6:25 PM on January 2, 2010

I'm in the same boat as you - in a job that's frustrating, but it ends in a few months.

I'd stick it out. It does end in a few months, and then you can apply for UI to tide you over until your next position. In the meantime, see if you can take a few days off or so to take a little vacation, to recharge the batteries for the next few months.
posted by spinifex23 at 6:43 PM on January 2, 2010

I just (like, on Thursday) quit my job. It felt great. I needed to get out of the situation I was in, and I did. However, it mostly felt great because I have another job lined up which starts next week. I think otherwise quitting my job would have been terrifying and awful.

Don't quit if you don't have anything lined up as a backup plan at the very least. That's advice you can take to any sort of economy and it'll always serve you well.
posted by crinklebat at 11:56 PM on January 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

I think just by asking this question, I get the feeling are a pretty responsible person with a good work ethic. No, it's not irresponsible to just quit and look for something else and/or go traveling. It might be irresponsible if you had kids or something and no back up plan, but doesn't sound like you have a lot of ties and you want to test the waters right now. Most of my friends have spent their 20s job hopping and I think it's the only way to know what you want to be when you grow up. In my experience social justice jobs can be very very hard, and they often take advantage of young peoples energy and enthusiaism. That's not to say you're not doing good work, but I've had some rough experiences working in social justice/social work related spheres. Basically, if you can stick it out, great, but if not, don't beat yourself up about it. I'm super frugal, so a few thousand bucks really could last me a long time, but other people are different.
posted by Rocket26 at 6:33 AM on January 3, 2010

Also, I disagree that you should always have a plan when you make changes, unless you have a lot of dependents or bills you simply can't pay otherwise. Having dreams and goals is enough, some times you have to know you can just walk away and not know what you're doing with your life. It's an amazing and terrifying experience, but worth living out some times.
posted by Rocket26 at 6:37 AM on January 3, 2010

You are not a jerk for thinking about quitting nor will you be one if you do quit.

Don't let the economy be the driving factor in deciding to stay in a job. However, a few things you've said make me think this might be worth trying at for a little longer, with some changes.

1. Get full spectrum lightbulbs for your desklamp at work (don't have a desklamp? get one), and for the room you spend most time in at home. This helps *a lot*.

2. Put this job on probation. Ask yourself what would make it better, worth staying. Then see what you can do about pursuing it. Talk to your boss and tell him/her you don't feel like the two of you have good communication and you would like to work on that (you have nothing to lose at this point, since you would like to quit anyway). Is there a project or activity that you think you would be more passionate about? Ask if you can have some of your time allotted to that.

You are at the beginning of your career, and you are in a good place with your savings. There will be no better time in your life for taking risks. Take this as an opportunity to try to figure out what you like to do and what you want from a job and see if you can make that happen for yourself. Even if it doesn't work at this job, it will give you some confidence and experience that will help you in the future.
posted by carmen at 9:53 AM on January 3, 2010

I was you four years ago. I left college, easily got a job in the field I wanted, then quit the job after three years and having saved up a few thousand. I was unhappy with new management in the office anxious to take some time off and maybe travel (I'd been working since high school). I ignored everyone's advice to find another job first. I also stupidly believed that I had enough experience and enough skill to land myself another job whenever I needed one.

The money ran out quickly. I was stuck in temp jobs for a couple of years, and although I liked several of them, I was never offered a full-time position and was completely demoralized. I went on interview after interview, and was always told that the company people loved me but that there was one other person whose experience was more relevant to the position; I know that I didn't completely blow the interviews since two of those companies called me this year to see if I could take other positions. Within those four years, two separate companies hired me to run projects and then ran out of money before they could get the project off the ground. The competitive market and unpredicatable circumstances left me without a steady job and with piles of unpaid bills for a long, long time, even though I have an ultra-fancy degree and come with dozens of recommendations and contacts. Eventually, I crawled back to my old company and freelanced for them for two years, but they eventually ran out of money and had to cut off all freelancers. Finally, I got a loan from my parents and went back to school. I hate it, and it's the only the means to an end, and the end is to get a job. Also, I'm mortified that I'm an adult and my parents are helping me (they're mortified as well).

I realize this will likely not happen to you, but if I ever came across a time machine, the first thing I'd do is go back to the day I quit my job and stop myself from doing so without having another job lined up. No one will ever call you a jerk for leaving a situation that leaves you unhappy, but you may find yourself the protagonist of a painful comedy of errors for a long time afterward if your contigency plan doesn't include more than a couple thou in the bank.
posted by coffeeflavored at 11:08 AM on January 4, 2010

P.S. Sorry about all of the typos. I swear my cover letters were better written.
posted by coffeeflavored at 11:11 AM on January 4, 2010

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