Knowing when to quit

Sometimes clients come to me because they are struggling at work, feeling like they’re not making progress, not getting on with people or feeling like they don’t fit in. Recently, a number have come because they want something different post-Covid but aren’t sure if leaving their job is the right move.

Platitudes and empathy might help here, but there are times when you have to point out that something else might be going on. Not necessarily because of something the person is doing wrong or not doing at all, but because they are in the wrong place.

Sometimes you have to accept you are a square peg in a round hole and move on.

A conversation I’ve had time and again goes along the lines of:

Me – Yes, I see you are struggling. Can you think why that might be?

Client – I don’t know but I just feel like this isn’t for me anymore. I’ve tried and tried but it’s just not working.

Me – Why do you think it’s not working?

Client – Well, (gives example) …

Me – OK, I’m hearing a few things there, some about work, some about your approach to your work so let’s explore those in a bit more detail…

After a while, what usually emerges is that the client is in the wrong role or environment for their strengths, values, working style and sometimes for their expertise. And post-Covid, the realisation that we are in the wrong role or place is becoming far more common. It happens.

We take a turn or accept an invitation and end up in a place that wasn’t quite what we expected. Or, as we’ve witnessed, unimaginable world events occur and shift how we feel about where and how we work. But most of us are programmed to keep pushing, keep trying harder, keep trying to be good enough to make headway.

My next questions are: “Have you thought that maybe this isn’t the right role (or environment) for you to succeed in? Have you thought about moving on?” 

In short, maybe it’s them, not you. Maybe it’s time to shift.

It can be a relief, distressing or a combination of emotions to make these realisations. There’s usually recrimination about how they ended up there and what they did wrong, but once we’ve worked through that and put it in perspective, there are the questions of “How do you get out? And when?” And it’s important to accept that you may have to leave, that whatever you try, you cannot thrive where you are.

I think about it like plants. Some like shade, some like sun and they’ll rarely do well in the wrong climate. Yes, you can try, you can feed them and nurture them and at the end of the day, they might grow a bit, but they just won’t thrive in the wrong environment.

I was recently asked to contribute ideas on if there was a good time to leave your job. My answer was, not really. Like most major life decisions, there is never a perfect time, it’s about taking a decision, owning it and making it work. Obviously, understanding your financial commitments is critical so you know how long you have to find new income and what that income needs to look like, but even then, sometimes you just need to take the step.

One thing I’ve always had is a feeling in my gut, an instinct for when something isn’t working or is the wrong decision. It took me years and some wrong turns to learn to trust it, but even when I’d chosen something and it wasn’t working, I learned to have the confidence to change. Not always straight away, but I embraced that my instinct was right and I made plans to change.

Choice is important. Change is liberating.

And I’m now prepared to choose me, to walk away, reassess and choose something else. Why? Because I know what I’m good at. And I know how and where I can thrive.

Yes, there have been hard times. Yes, there have been times when I’ve had to stay in a role or company for practical or financial reasons. But acknowledging that you’re in the wrong role or place helps you feel like there is an exit. And, just so we are clear, it’s not because you’re failing or you made poor choices.

If you’ve tried everything you can and it still doesn’t work, maybe you need to accept it’s not you, it’s them.

If you’d like help to move forward or gain some perspective on what your future might look like and whether you’re in the right place to thrive, why not contact me and see where a session of Career + CV Therapy can take you?

Email louise@careertherapy.co.uk
Linkedin Louise Newton
Photo by Bernard Hermant on Unsplash

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