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Last Updated on February 4, 2019

Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Unhappy but Pays Well?

Should I Quit My Job If It Makes Me Unhappy but Pays Well?

Why are you so sad? You’re getting paid, right? And you’re getting paid well, right?

I know why you’re so sad.

Because you dread going to work every single day. You spend your lunch hour crying with your office door closed. You go home and drink alone or stress eat like nobody ever stress-ate before. Or just go right to bed and start the cycle all over again.

The bad news is that this is not an uncommon occurrence for American adults in the work place. A Gallup poll published in September of 2017 stated that 85% of adults worldwide hate their jobs.[1] From this poll, 30% of Americans are engaged at work, which is a better statistic; but this still means that 70% of Americans are not enjoying their 40-plus hours every week at their place of employment.

If you’re one of the 70%, then you have probably considered looking elsewhere to make a living and earn so you can pay your bills. But at what point do you start looking for new work? And at what point do you throw in the towel and just quit? Depending on the intensity of your situation, this could be a fine line or a wide gap.

How Did I Get Here?

In my 25 years working in higher education, I’ve held nine different jobs at nine different colleges and in seven different states. When I say that out loud to others, I sometimes get strange looks…or someone will just say, “Wow.” But my own career trajectory is not that off base of the average American. Balance Careers states that the average employee will change jobs ten to fifteen times with 12 being the standard number of job changes.[2] Meaning I’m below the national average. So take that, Position Tenure Critics.

Still, it would seem odd to intentionally leave a position after 9 months, as I did once back in the early 2000’s. While I did not “quit” that job, I began my exit plan shortly after the fifth month of employment.

Was I unhappy? Not exactly. But I also did not feel supported by my supervisor, and the question of “fit” plagued me on a weekly basis. While my situation was not unbearable day in and day out, there was one major Camel-Back-Breaking-Straw, so to speak, that propelled me into the direction of weekly searches on Higher Ed Jobs.

But I’m very aware that some of you out there are in a situation like I described in the early paragraph of this article and prompted your attraction to read more…

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Why Am I Staying in This Unhappy Job?

For those of you in the miserable job that makes you cry, drink, and stress eat on a daily basis….how would you answer that question? Do any of these ring a bell?

1. This was the first job you were offered after college or graduate school.

When I was in my final year of graduate school, my friend Lori and I were hell bent on having a job in place before commencement. And I had been dead set on moving to Chicago because that’s my hometown.

I had three great interviews in Chicago, all at private schools. One by one those jobs went away and were offered to other candidates. Now it’s April and graduation is less than a month away. My final interview was at a university in Washington.

When I was offered the job, I considered my choices – take the job or hold out for something else. The latter would have made me the only person in my Hall Manager Cohort without a job at commencement. And I just couldn’t have that.

I took the job and moved to the Pacific Northwest. I got married there, too. I met my best friend there. And left the job after two years. It was a matter of fit.

2. It was the best salary you were offered.

I’ve never had the luxury of choosing a job based on the salary, but plenty of my friends have. In fact, I even gave a friend at my current employer a hard time for choosing salary over quality of life issues.

I can’t tell you not to take a job if the salary is good. But if the salary is the only reason you’re taking that job, then I would try and find one more compelling reason why you should say “yes.”

Make sure that you have something to fall back on if the rest of the job turns out to be horrible.

3. Your friends work there.

Who doesn’t want to work with their friends, right? Especially if one or more of them is having an amazing experience and they are just so excited that you are going to be working there too.

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Keep in mind that your friend’s reason for accepting a job may not align with yours. Having that friend at work may be the only blessing at this particular place of employment.

4. Your parents (significant other, mentor, etc.) told you to take it.

Ah…the outside influence. Not always so outside.

It’s tough to tell the people closest to you to bug off when it comes to taking a job. Easy for them to say “go for it,” right? They aren’t the ones who have to go there day in and day out.

Pressure from those closest to us can be really difficult, but in the end it’s your decision. If you find yourself in a job under these circumstances, then you don’t just have to figure out how to get out of the job; you have to figure out how to break the news to the pressure-giver.

5. You were afraid that there would not be any other offers.

You can relate this one back to my story in #1. When you are really desperate to find something because you need to get out of a nasty situation…or if you just get freaking tired of going on interviews, that first offer can be a god-send and let you breathe a sign of relief.

I’ve been down this road. I was not originally planning on leaving Position #7; but when my supervisor told me that this was as far as I could advance in that organization, I thought hard about whether staying was a good idea. I applied for jobs that did have room for advancement as well as higher salaries; and when one was offered to me, “FOMO” (fear of missing out) hit me in the face so hard I couldn’t sleep for two days.

Yup. I took that job. Yup. It was partially a big mistake. But that’s another story for another article.

There are probably another 50 or so answers to the “How Did I Get Here?” question…and you may have more than one that applies.

Questions to Ask Yourself If You’re Unhappy with Your Job

With all that in mind, here are some thoughts related to quitting your day job if you are unhappy but the money is good:

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1. What specifically is making you unhappy?

Is it the work itself? The commute to work? Your supervisor? Your colleagues? The salary? That there are no good vending machines or you can’t walk to Starbucks?

Nail down specifically what is making you unhappy. Then – consider whether you have any power over changing those things.

For example, if you don’t like the work itself but you do like your supervisor, then sit down with her and talk through it.. Maybe she just needs to hear you say you aren’t fulfilled in the work.

If your colleagues aren’t positive people or you just don’t get along with them, do you have the opportunity to switch teams or move to a different cubicle?

Don’t make the decision to quit if you can’t say why you would be quitting.

2. Is your current career field nourishing your passion and purpose?

I worked in certain facet of higher education and student affairs for more than 20 years; and I’d say for 15 of those years (in different increments), the position was fueling my purpose. And the times when I felt “wrong” in the job was usually when I would get itchy to leave.

The idealist in me always says that we work way too hard day in and day out to do something that we don’t enjoy. So why WOULD you stay in a position that doesn’t support your passion or purpose?

3. Are you prepared to make a lateral move?

I am thinking of a recent conversation I had with a counselor over the notion of “would you rather be right, or would you rather be happy?” And I think that Jen Sincero said that too. But it makes complete sense.

Would you rather be happy in a position that might be a lateral move? Or would you rather dig your heels in waiting for promotion or advancement to present itself?

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Part of choosing happiness means putting that choice first, and so your ambition may need to take a quick break while you remove yourself from the toxic place currently causing your unhappiness.

4. Do you have a plan?

Unless you have a rich uncle hiding out somewhere who can support you, then you probably aren’t in a position to walk into your supervisor’s office and give notice immediately. You’ll need a plan.

Can you afford to take a month or so off and do some soul searching? Does leaving your job also mean leaving your field and trying something new? Will you need to update your resume and let your references know that you’re searching? There are many things to take into consideration once you start leaning towards quitting.

I have only quit a job once without a new job waiting for me elsewhere. At the time, I was honoring my husband’s desire for a location change (warmer weather). And he had been such a good sport about all the other job changes (at this stage I was on Position #4).

We moved from Illinois to Arizona with some semblance of a plan; but I did temporary apartment leasing for almost six months before landing on my feet with something that felt permanent. If I could go back and do it all again, I would have beefed up that plan just a little bit.

Final Thoughts

Only you can make the choice about quitting your job. You have to be able to make that decision and live with it regardless of where you stand. But weigh every factor first and talk to your close friends and your family while you are deciding.

The grass may be greener on the other side, especially if you have time to fertilize it first.

More Resources About Career Change

Featured photo credit: abi ismail via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Gallup: The World’s Broken Workplace
[2] The Balance Careers: How Often Do People Change Jobs?

More by this author

Kris McPeak

Educator, Author, Career Change and Work/Life Balance Guru

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Last Updated on March 14, 2019

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

How it helps you:

If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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How it helps you:

Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

How it helps you:

This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

How it helps you:

One word: hierarchy.

All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

How it helps you:

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Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

6. What do you like about working here?

This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

How it helps you:

You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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How it helps you:

What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

Making Your Interview Work for You

Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

More Resources About Job Interviews

Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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