I want to leave my job...how do I finagle this?
June 21, 2010 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I wanted to title this "give me permission to quit my job"...but I think I'm settled on that. Now what? Lots more inside.

I had a job. For a variety of reasons (including workplace drama created by my superiors, not enough social contact, changes to working hours/conditions, and additionally, not feeling like there was room for growth) it was stressing me out to the nth degree, to the point that I started planning to leave to work on a farm/WWOOF (because I was really worn down but wasn't sure whether I could find a new job - more on that later - and didn't want to just leave without anything concrete to go to.) I will admit that some of the problem was me not being great at stress management and organization, or being assertive in the workplace, but by friends' comments when I told them about work, I think there was some atypical craziness going on.

Then I realized that instead of working on a farm, I should deal with the issue that was stopping me from applying for new jobs: I don't have the diploma for my bachelor's degree because I had an incomplete in one class. So, I am taking a short summer class (at my fairly well-ranked alma mater in a different city) to knock off that incomplete and get the piece of paper. (Previously, I had no idea how to present this to potential employers, and I was really embarrassed about it, so it stopped me from applying for most jobs.)

But: for some reason, instead of just quitting with the legit reason of needing to take a class in another city, I said that I needed to be away for X amount of time. To my surprise, I was told that I could take that as unpaid leave and come back afterwards. I figured I might do that, because hey, the job market sucks.

Several weeks into this all, I really, really, really don't want to go back ever again. It's not that I don't want to work - it's that I don't want to work at that job. Right now I think I would literally rather clean houses or scoop dog poop, although in the long term that will be a problem in terms of building a career/resume.

My problem is that I don't really have references. I feel like I wasn't doing a good job prior to leaving - due to the stress and frustration and drama and being overwhelmed with stuff being thrown at me - and I don't feel like I left on great terms. This job I'm leaving is the place where I've worked the longest and done the most skilled work, and I was unemployed for a year before working there (see above re: being afraid to apply for jobs.) And if I leave like this, I don't think I can ask my supervisors/boss to be a reference for me for new places in the same city, and there are essentially no coworkers. (Am I right there?)

How do I finagle this (both the quitting and the transitioning to something else/applying for other jobs)? Am I totally nuts for not going back? How can I make sure this leads to the best outcome? I'm not even sure what to else ask here, but I feel like I need some advice. I can support myself for a bit (about a year though I would really not want to burn through savings like that) without a job, but I worry that I won't be able to find anything else, or "recover" careerwise. Not that I had a career before, but in terms of creating one.
posted by clever anonymous username to Work & Money (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, I would rather not work on a farm *now* because I'm getting lonely and missing my friends in my old city, and social anxiety is an issue for me, so keeping up with people and continuing to be social is a big deal, so that I don't backslide with that.
posted by clever anonymous username at 10:15 AM on June 21, 2010

Two things about references:

1) They are very overrated. Most people will only confirm the fact you worked there, due to legal issues, and anyway most hiring companies only call references AFTER they've basically decided to hire you. It's more of a check-up then an actual part of the decision.

2) So many people seem to think you are obligated to list your boss from your most recent job. Not at all! Most places only ask for two or three- just cherry-pick three people from any point in your career who will say good things about you. if you are young and don't have any past bosses, use a college professor or someone you interned for.
posted by drjimmy11 at 10:44 AM on June 21, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seconding the references being overrated thing. I just got a PhD and I was having trouble finding an academic job, so I started going through what people have written on how to find a non-academic job after grad school. One thing that they all agreed on is that academic hiring is really the only place where references carry a lot of weight. (It's not clear to me how they get away with this from an HR point of view, come to think of it.)

Not that I had a career before, but in terms of creating one.
but the career you have isn't in What You Want To Do, is it? (what do you want to do?)
posted by madcaptenor at 1:18 PM on June 21, 2010

Agree with the others about not worrying about a reference from your current job, and also you should be able to pick up a reference from whoever is teaching the class you're taking. Make a point to go to any tutorials or office hours or whatever and contribute to class where possible then just ask near the end of the course. It's part of what University teachers do so won't be considered weird. They won't know you really well but will still be able to say something about you, and that's all you can hope for from most references anyway.

You can also start looking for a new job near the end of your course, so might not even need to go back for a bit. It's usually easier to find a job while you're employed so, if you can stand it, go back to work and keep looking if you haven't found something first. But either way, you've upskilled now so moving on to a better job is not at all unexpected (and your next job doesn't even have to be better, it sounds like trying something different would be a good start for you right now).
posted by shelleycat at 2:06 PM on June 21, 2010

Take this for what it's worth, but I cannot recommend to you strongly enough that you preserve the option of returning to your job. You can always take unpaid leave and then let them know towards the end of said leave that you won't be returning. Don't preemptively remove an option for yourself.
posted by WCityMike at 6:51 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: WCityMike, that's what I did. I'm supposed to return soon and I can't bear the thought of going back, hence current dilemma.
posted by clever anonymous username at 6:58 PM on June 21, 2010

I wouldn't try to over think things especially when you're stressed out. The chances are, you've already considered all the available options. You know what you need to do, if you don't wanna go back. If you're afraid of the small stuff like references, then you're gonna have to go back to the current job. The thing is that you shouldn't let small things get in the way of good changes in your life. Like Wcitymike said, take the most out of this chance. Even if you go back, spend majority of your free time looking for another job. A job that's going to give you better opportunities, not only the job itself, but with your personal life. Don't stay where you're not happy. Good luck, don't give up, and believe in yourself!
posted by icollectpurses at 10:15 PM on June 21, 2010

I'm sorry, anonymous; I misunderstood where you were in the chronology of things.

I would advise you not to leave your job.

It is embarrassing to me to admit what I'm about to, but, to be explicit: I have a decade's worth of experience in the legal administrative field, I type at 121 wpm, and one of my references is a sitting judge. I live in the third biggest city in the country. And I have not found work in one year, eight months. And I have not limited my applications to the legal admin area.

Maybe your experience finding a new job would not resemble mine. But the following is what I have seen in the current situation.

For one thing, the job market is so flooded that most companies are only looking at people with near-identical experience to the position they're seeking to fill. This is unlike "normal" times where they'll consider people with comparable but not identical experience. Why the difference? The job market is so supersaturated with applicants that they end up having a plethora of candidates with experience in the exact position they're seeking to fill.

For example, companies needing a receptionist have the freedom to look only at people with prior receptionist experience. Another: hospitals have the freedom to look only at those administrative personnel with hospital or medical experience. And so on and so on; you get the idea. This will significantly reduce the number of job openings for which you will be seriously considered.

Another thing: a lot of employers are actively excluding the unemployed from consideration from positions, as odd as that may sound; their theory is that the best are still working, and they want the best for their position. The longer you've been unemployed, the less they will consider you.

On jobless boards I have seen people say that they've even been unable to find work at McDonald's. I don't know if that's truly the case or just a matter of where they live, but it is not pleasant to hear. It makes me wonder how easy it would be for you to find jobs that would allow you to "clean houses" or "scoop dog poop." When you go to a maid service and apply, will they hire you with no cleaning experience? When you apply to a dog-walking company, will they hire you with no dog-walking experience? They might. But they might be full-up and be turning away ten people with former maid experience a day.

On a wider, more macro scale, when we started going into the Great Depression, President Herbert Hoover was a deficit hawk. His policies made the Great Depression get significantly worse. Yet the modern-day deficit hawks appear to currently be showing sway in Congress. It looks as if policies in the near future are going to be led by them, these deficit hawks. To me, that doesn't bode well for the economic recovery, and leads me to believe a double-dip recession might prove very possible. I try to be optimistic. And macroeconomic fates aren't always directly tied to our own: people can be laid off in great times and find new jobs in tough ones. But ... still.

(Senators have this month let the unemployment benefits of nearly a million people lapse since June 2 while they play political games in Congress. They have shown a remarkable willingness to repeatedly allow unemployment benefits to lapse during an election year, as this is the second, or maybe third, time that they've let benefits lapse. Of course, this would be academic, as, if you quit your job, you'd not be eligible for benefits.)

Given all of the above, again, I would advise you not to leave your job. I think it runs the risk of creating a situation for you that would be deeply more stressful than whatever stressful factors you have going for you at work.
posted by WCityMike at 10:41 PM on June 21, 2010

Response by poster: WCityMike, you've just expressed everything I have considered and worried about, which stopped me from leaving this job months ago. I hear the horror stories and I give that stuff an enormous amount of weight in my head. But my decision has basically been made.
posted by clever anonymous username at 4:55 AM on June 22, 2010

clever anonymous username: But my decision has basically been made.

Well, frankly, were I you, I'd look for a new job while returning to my old one. It is a far less stressful act to look for new employment while employed, and, as I said, some employers are even biased positively towards the currently employed.

If not, then this is what I advised someone who knew they were going to be laid off soon. I'd suggest you implement the same suggestions.
posted by WCityMike at 10:50 AM on June 22, 2010

I'll also say this, as my last comment in this thread, and then, honestly, I'm just going to remove it from my Recent Activity and stop checking in on it -- your actions are frustrating me that much (proof, I suppose, that I'm personalizing this far more than is healthy, and for that I apologize -- but at the same time, I do believe what I'm saying is something of benefit to you that you really need to hear for your well-being, because you're so locked in to your decision).

You say your decision has been made. I'll still urge you one last time not to take that road, the same way I would urge someone not to start drugs or do some other thing that I saw as potentially devastating to their life.

Right now, no matter how much you hate it, your job provides you with a precious benefit: the ability to pay for shelter, food, electricity, Internet, and the ability to keep any credit card companies to whom you owe money from calling you multiple times a day. I cannot tell you how many people would love to have that simple level of security right now, no matter how unpleasant the employer – and you're about to just throw it away.

I'm not as worse off as some people are in this situation, but I'm getting there, especially with benefits turned off. I can tell you that you don't want to be where I am, and I can say that your actions right now, especially in the specific way you're doing it, is going to put you not only where I am but worse than I am, because employers always want to know how you left your last job, and being laid off while assured they loved your performance is a much better way than "they gave me time off to relax [which is how you'll need to phrase it since you didn't tell your prior employer it was to finish your degree] and I decided not to return."

You see, the future reviewing companies will perceive your old workplace giving you unpaid time-off but keeping your job available to you as a kind act on their part. And they will see your decision not to return as a bad way of responding to that kind act. An employer is immediately going to think, "And what's to stop this person from doing the same thing to me? He did so with his last employer. They accommodated his request and s/he turned around and left them."

What would I advise instead?

You seem to really hate your job. Fine, that's not a great state of affairs and I understand the need to change that scenario as soon as you can.

So: return to your job; schedule therapy sessions either pre- and post-workday and become adept at advanced stress-relief techniques; start spending hours each evening searching for any full-time job you can get that seems better than your current employer (use the information I put in that advice-thread I linked one comment up to supercharge your job search); and schedule lots of self-care happy things that make you laugh and relax and have fun, to counterbalance the stress of your work hours.

I know you want to escape a source of great stress for you. I have been in jobs that have been sources of massively great stress for me. But this is not escaping from a high-stress situation into a low-stress situation. This is jumping from a high-stress situation into a much-higher-stress situation. It is not going to serve the purpose you're seeking it to serve.

The only way I could compute what you're doing as a healthy measure would be if somehow working at your work is causing you to have suicidal thoughts. If that's the case, then ... well, it's still not the jump I'd make, but better alive and unemployed than the alternative.

'Nuff said. Good luck to you.
posted by WCityMike at 1:55 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: For what it's worth, after much thought and stress I psyched myself up to return to the job, got back to the city where it was (with significant difficulty, due to some personal and housing-related crises while I was away), and when I checked in with my boss, I was essentially told "haha, just kidding, we didn't save the job for you!"

I'm glad to be done with it.
posted by clever anonymous username at 7:51 PM on October 24, 2010

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