When is the right time to resign from a job you feel loyalty to but currently hate?
July 4, 2010 3:03 PM   Subscribe

When is the right time to quit a job you feel loyalty to but currently hate? I'm a programmer in the video games industry, I can afford to do so, I want very badly want to work somewhere else, and I have a hard time looking for work while pretending to be a good employee.

I've been employed as a programmer (but heavily involved in the creative direction of a the projects) by the same game studio for the last 5 years, and it's very clearly time for me to move on. Several of my closest friends at work have left for other jobs recently, I have no confidence in the future direction of the company, and I've grown increasingly cynical. Many people are just fine with drawing a steady paycheck, but I'm the kind of person who needs to be passionate about my work to be a happy person.

I've been half-heartedly looking for new work for the last 6 months, but I find it difficult to schedule on-site interviews and such while pretending to still care about my work. I think it's hurt several of my job interviews as well, as my irritation with my current job situation has come out and made me more negative then I would like. I think my current job is stopping me from getting new ones.

Has anyone been in a situation similar to this before in a semi-creative field? I don't have any real personal attachments locally, I've been saving money for a situation like this, I can easily go 6 months between jobs, and I don't think I can live with myself for any longer if I'm working at a job I hate. When is the right time to quit a job you hate, even if you don't have anything else lined up? If I were to do so, what makes sense? I don't have access to health care any other way, so I am thinking of paying for COBRA for a few months, which is expensive but probably a good idea.
posted by JZig to Work & Money (15 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
In the current economy, it's best to have the rabbit in the hat before you walk on stage. Land the new job; ask for a buffer of time longer than the standard two weeks; quit and take a vacation to reset.
posted by plinth at 3:28 PM on July 4, 2010

If you replaced "programmer" with "librarian," you'd be in the exact same situation as me. Loathe my job to the point where I don't care about it, but unfortunately can't afford to quit.

Perhaps I'm showing my ignorance of how programmers work, but is your environment the sort where it's taboo to actively seek out new employment? Have you talked to your boss about perhaps rearranging things to make your job enjoyable again? Could you take on a less hectic schedule so you can go on interviews?

The only hurdle to your quitting without having another job lined up is this supposed meme going around that if you don't have a job, you can't get one. (Can't verify the truthfulness of this, though.)

Good luck with your job search, and do keep in mind that there are many, many people in your shoes right now.
posted by Anima Mundi at 3:33 PM on July 4, 2010

I really suggest staying at the current job, and just working on a positive interview frame of mind. Hunting for jobs while depleting your savings can get really depressing. I've always found it much easier to find a job when I've gone into it full tilt rather than here and there. When I started actively interviewing elsewhere, I just started cashing in the extra time I'd been working to get the time off I needed for the on-site interviews. That might be a possibility for you as well.
posted by Zophi at 3:35 PM on July 4, 2010

If you can schedule several interviews in a one- or two-week period, do so and book that time off as vacation. Use the time recharge your attitude so you interview better, as well as reorient yourself on your long-term goals. Right now you're burned out and anxious and probably not thinking entirely straight.

Even though you have a buffer, you should probably keep your current gig until you have an offer in-hand, especially for health insurance reasons. Taking some time off will hopefully make that decision easier, especially once you start shopping around. Knowing there's an end to a difficulty often makes that difficulty more bearable.
posted by seanmpuckett at 3:35 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Finding a job is a hassle whether or not you currently have one. There's a lot of advantages to looking while still employed - both in terms of stress, and in terms of leverage in negotiations. Plus "currently working productively" looks good to potential employers.

I certainly understand how it can be harder to avoid procrastinating the job hunt when you don't have a fire under your butt like burning through savings can light, but if your current situation is bad enough to warrant quitting, turn that motivation into motivation for the job hunt.

For the most part, anywhere that isn't a management / scheduling disaster should be able to let you set a start date a month out - which should be long enough to finish things up at your current job and have time for a short holiday. But don't even talk about that until you have mutually agreed the new job is a good fit.

As for negativity during interviews, reframe your job hunt. You are not trying to escape a situation you hate and are trapped in, because you are NOT trapped - you can quit. Your current job has some things you like about it (they pay you, you're making games, you have creative input? Make this list) BUT you are looking for opportunities to make your life even better. Focus on the things that you want from the new job.
posted by aubilenon at 3:53 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

Could you take a vacation or sabbatical to help improve your attitude?
posted by amtho at 4:10 PM on July 4, 2010 [1 favorite]

i have been in a very similar situation, in a related part of the industry (educational/edutainment software for kids). i chose to take my exit between projects, took about a year off before landing another full-time position (with someone i had worked for at the previous job), and didn't regret the decision at all. if you have the financial resources to walk away, i think it is worth it.
posted by jimw at 4:23 PM on July 4, 2010

Don't quit. I never looked sideways at an applicant who was out of work because he was laid off or fired -- it just isn't evidence of any lack of qualification, and once you get blatant cheating-on-expenses or punching-out-bosses reasons out the way, doesn't much factor in the evaluation.

By contrast, I always found people who had just quit to be sketchy, and found that my colleagues tended to look at such candidates similarly. The suspicion is that the candidate lacks a need or determination to make a living, or was having trouble but lacked the moxie to make an effort to save either his current situation, or having a paycheck.
posted by MattD at 4:38 PM on July 4, 2010

Hi! I can tell you a few things.

1 - At least one of your fleeing former co-workers is now at the company I work for (real nice guy, by the way!) and he's pretty happy here, so... first of all, you might want to be careful with having your real name on your profile when you're talking about how much your job sucks unless you want your company to make the choice to leave for you.

2 - I was where you were before a little over a year ago, completely miserable all the time but determined to press on because I was in the gaming industry, so I HAD to be happy, there was just something wrong with ME, right? I mean, that's what my bosses told me all the time, about how many people would KILL for my job and how all my concerns were baseless and I was ungrateful and things weren't really that bad. Things turned out to be really that bad,* I had the choice made for me, and two months later accepted an offer for a job a million times better than the old one where I discovered I wasn't burned out after all. I'm currently suffering through two weeks of mandatory vacation. Point is: sometimes it's not you, it's them.

3 - The average burnout rate for the gaming industry is something like three years,** so since you can afford it, I say go ahead and take a couple months off to reconsider your life. Figure out if you'd be happier using your programming skills to make 250k+ a year instead of making way less than you're qualified to make because you're in an industry where you get free sodas,*** or if you'd like to join the Peace Corps and help save the world for a couple years, or switch careers entirely. Don't play games for a couple months and see how much you miss them. Get a change of scenery. Just step away from it - I am told the industry is always hiring talented programmers, so you're not going to miss out by taking time to breathe. Any company in the industry worth working for will understand burnout.

MeMail me if you want to talk or vent!

*omg seriously, like making-out-with-cthulhu-bad

**I'm making this up but it sounds about right, right? Maybe it's more like five years these days.

posted by susoka at 5:05 PM on July 4, 2010

"I've been half-heartedly looking for new work for the last 6 months I think this may be part of the problem. You would not be happy approaching your job half-heartedly, why approach your job search this way? Set a number of goals for how you will go about your search. Give yourself deadlines and parameters. In other words be professional about your search.

Next, your feelings about your current job should not be the chariot you ride in on. It should be the feelings you expect to have about your next job. What do you look forward to in this new job. What enthusiasm do you bring to this job? Nobody wants to hire an embittered person running away from the present. They want an enthusiastic person running toward the next opportunity. Try to project that in your interviews.

And, as mentioned above, look for that new job before you bail out. It can get really easy to slough off the first weeks, relax the next month or two, and suddenly find yourself desperate for whatever crappy job is dangled in front of you. Bird in hand and all that....
posted by Old Geezer at 6:31 PM on July 4, 2010

I'm a twenty-something software dude, and I'm guessing you are the same. I was in a similar situation, and finally grew the balls to quit my job and move on, and I do not regret it for a second.

If you have savings, are relatively healthy, and you have no dependents or huge debts, there's no better time to take a risk than right now.

I moved to Australia from Los Angeles, which is probably more extreme than what you're considering. I backpacked around for a few months to recharge my batteries, and now I'm living in Melbourne -- building my freelance development/consulting business for clients in both countries.

It's going well, and I NEVER could have done it if I still had my old, stable, boring job.
posted by adamk at 8:23 PM on July 4, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the good responses!

I didn't make it anonymous, because I wanted to respond and hey, if people want to look stuff up they can. I'm kind of past the point of being secretive with my current situation, and if anyone from work reads this somehow (don't go out of your way to forward this or anything), it's not you guys trust me :) Being laid off would be the absolute perfect outcome for me, but that doesn't seem to be in the cards.

A somewhat relevant issue is that I'm actually entirely out of vacation time, having spent most of it specifically on job interviews, and I'm not at all a fan of pretending to be sick for interviews, there's a level of dishonesty that I personally can't deal with.

The stigma of quitting vs. looking while employed seems to vary significantly with industry and location, because I've been point blank asked "You're unhappy at your current job but are still there. Why are you still employed there?" a few times, so I'm not sure what stigma is worse. Probably depends on the individual like everything else.

I told myself 6 months ago that there was 0 chance I would still be employed where I am now, and I failed. I'm worried that if I still have this to fall back on I'll be here another 6 months from now.

Some sort of sabattical/unpaid vacation seems like a really interesting way to go, as it is certainly possible that my mind could change after a few weeks off from the grind. Have any of you guys tried that route out?
posted by JZig at 12:43 AM on July 5, 2010

Best answer: I was in a similar situation earlier this year, doing a reasonably well paid job that I absolutely hated and feeling like I couldn't apply myself to looking for something else while feeling so bad about things. In the end I quit with no plans about what to do next. My manager didn't want me to leave and had just had someone else resign from the same department, so I negotiated an 8 week notice period instead of the usual 4 weeks, but taking off one day a week, using up surplus holiday days, to look for another job. I ended up being offered a PhD studentship and am an awful lot happier now. I don't regret the decision at all. Though I would say, don't quit your job if you're not financially able to do so. I started saving up so that I would be able to have a few months out of work without getting myself in dire straits!

If you have savings, are relatively healthy, and you have no dependents or huge debts, there's no better time to take a risk than right now.
I totally agree.
posted by lizabeth at 2:16 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

Go to the boss, tell him you're massively burnt out. Take a long break. Go to New Zealand, or help a friend build an addition, whatever.
posted by theora55 at 9:49 AM on July 5, 2010

I have never regretted leaving a bad job, and I have done it under less favorable circumstances than yours. I have only ever wondered afterward why I didn't do it sooner.
posted by not that girl at 10:26 PM on July 10, 2010

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