we've all worked jobs we haven't loved and even a few we've downright hated, but leaving a job can be stressful both financially and emotionally. even though nonfarm employment rose by 243,000 in january, according to the bureau of labor statistics (bls), the unemployment rate is still sitting at an intimidating 8.3%. so when is the right time to hand in your notice and break up with your current job?
you see warning signs
as much as your performance reflects on the company you work for, so does the company's performance reflect on your career. if your company is in financial trouble, it could not only lead to layoffs, it could lead to you being professionally associated with choices you don't agree with. of course, the higher up the corporate ladder you are, the more this association will affect your measurable results, affecting both your current standing within the company and your resume if and when you ultimately look elsewhere for work. this does not mean you should run at the first sign of trouble - in fact, staying on and being a part of the solution that turns a company around is a huge career boost, one that would hopefully be rewarded without you having to leave.
beyond financial concerns, if your company is engaged in practices you do not ethically agree with, it may be time to cut your losses. if you value your relationship with the company, voice your concerns through the appropriate channels and offer practical solutions. if the word from above is that those practices are here to stay, it may be time to jump ship.
you can't advance where you are
if you are happy with the level of responsibility you have achieved, there's probably not a reason to be concerned. however, if you have your sights set on opportunities that simply won't be available to you where you are, your career may stagnate. if advancement is important to you, be sure to bring it up with your manager - they aren't mind readers! ask what you can do to put yourself in a position to be promoted; this may include taking courses, learning more about other departments or spearheading new projects. make sure your desire to move up is known, but, most importantly, demonstrate that desire by putting in the work to back it up. don't come off as ungrateful for or unwilling to fulfill your current role.
your health is affected
it happens sometimes that the coworkers are friendly, the company is great and you're still unhappy. it could be that the role isn't what you thought it would be or simply that being in that role has made you sure it isn't what you want to do. no one (or at least very few people) enjoy their job 100% of the time, but if you dread going in each morning to the point that the stress and unhappiness is affecting your health, it may be time to reassess. the niosh report stated that about 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful. yes, we often have to work at jobs we don't love to make ends meet - that's part of adulthood - but if the job you have is making you miserable, it's time to look elsewhere.
you have a feasible backup plan
this is the most crucial step. do you have enough savings to live off while you look for work? do you have a plan in place to freelance or work somewhere temporarily in order to keep a roof over your head? is your partner able to support you if you're off from work for six months? a year? be realistic about your spending and saving, and create an unemployment budget that includes several timelines and contingency plans. the best case scenario is that you have another job lined up before you quit, but that simply isn't always possible.
the bottom line
on average, a full-time employee works 37.5 hours per week - that's approximately one-third of our waking lives. for many, a job is just a paycheck, but if that's the case we should strive to at least be content with the work we're doing for that money.