I am totally miserable in my job. I’ve been looking for a new job for a really long time, and get close many times, but it just hasn’t happened yet. I’m so frustrated, and I don’t know where to turn. I’m not sure how much longer I can hang in there. I feel like a shell of my self. Every day, I debate whether I should just quit, but I really can’t afford to not have any income (even though I am way underpaid in this job), and it’s been so hard to find a new job, I don’t have a lot of faith that I will find a new one if I quit. Do I quit? Do I just keep sucking it up? What should I do? -A, 31

 

My dear, I am so so sorry you are in this position. I have been there, full force, for years, and it is so painful. You’ve taken the first and most important step, which is to realize that for you this is a major HAYWALT, and that it is not going to change.

 

The first thing I’d say, which most people don’t want to hear, is that anytime anything is making you into a “shell of a person” and is making you that miserable, it is just not the right thing for you. When this is the case, leave immediately, don’t pass go, no rationalizing, no questions asked. Staying there is also not getting you any closer to where you want to go, and the longer you stay, the further away you get from yourself, and the harder it is to get back.
 

Sometimes, some people are able to stay in the rut situation, and find another job. Most aren’t. That was not certainly the case for me. I needed to leave to find the mental space, time and clarity to re-evaluate and re-orient again, before I had any chance of making a step towards myself and what I really wanted again. My internal GPS was so confused from trying to make an unworkable (for me) situation work that there was no chance I was going to make a step in the right direction from that place. When all your energy is pouring into just staying afloat in a toxic situation, you’re not very likely to have inspiration to do the exploration necessary to take the next step. You’re also so focused on just getting out, that most people find themselves in another situation that doesn’t feel quite right because they are taking the first thing that comes their way, and usually settle for a salary where they are again underpaid and undervalued.
 

And, you’ve tried that. You’ve been dutifully looking for new jobs, and it hasn’t been working. And I don’t believe it is because you are unhireable, or that there are no jobs out there. It’s very, very hard to find the right next job when you are miserable and depressed, and people can sense it, whether or not they can identify that as an issue. Nothing will change if you don’t make a change, so it’s time to try a different approach. Just walk away.

 

So, while my vote is squarely in the “leave immediately” column, this is not generally considered to be the most practical advice, and finances are a very real and important consideration, but we also often use them as an excuse for fear and why we “can’t” do something that feels scary. Look at just a 3-month period. This is enough time (especially if you are working with a coach) to see some real and significant transformation and progress. First, I always ask you to take a really good clear-eyed look at your finances and see if you can give yourself just 90 days/3 months runway.  Is it really impossible, or do you just think it is because you are afraid (with good reason, it is scary!)? Can you give yourself 90 days unpaid to transition? Do you have an emergency fund you can use? This is a good time to ask someone you trust to look at your finances with you and see if they can see a workable way to give yourself 3 months. I’m not suggesting that anyone dig into 401(k) money or go into credit card debt, but people are often surprised on what they can make work for only 3 months. And, ask yourself, how much is my sanity, serenity, fulfillment, happiness worth to me? (You can read how much mine is worth to me here.)
 

A notable moment for me in leaving my “career” at Google was when I realized that the thought of just a job, waitressing, was SO much more palatable to me then going back into that office. Is that the case for you? There are small, short-term ways to make some income in this 3-month period. Love dogs? Dog sit. Love running errands. Be a task rabbit. Remember, we are ONLY talking about 3 months here.
 
Quitting your job without a new concrete plan does require taking the long-view, and a bit of faith, that if you put all of your time towards finding a new job that is aligned for you and fulfills you and that you are uniquely suited for, then you WILL make more money than you would have otherwise and have more long-term success. In the short term, you will most certainly take a hit.
 

Still not sure if you “can” quit? That’s ok. It’s a really big decision, that goes against everything everyone has ever told you. You will know when you are ready. BUT, in the meantime, the anxiety and the angst of trying to make this decision every single day is brutal, and not helping you. It is actually making you more confused and doubling down on your misery. Thinking about this a little more, a little longer, a little harder…just not going to work. So, you still need to make a decision today. The decision needs only to be to: do something (quit your job), or do nothing (stay in your job).
 
If you’re truly not ready to quit, let it go. Do the opposite. Commit to staying in your job for 1 more month and not even debating it during that time, put a note on your cal to re-evaluate at that point, where you will get 1 day to ponder if you will “do something” and quit, or “do nothing” and re-commit for another month (or 3!).
 

In the meantime, get to work on enjoying your life without the weight of that decision lording over you. I’d suggest embarking on a month-long process of “sparking joy” and “tidying up your life” that I shared in another blog post. Maybe check out the Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that is a great catalyst for re-orienting your internal GPS and getting unstuck. Give yourself a solo long weekend away for a mini-sabbatical. Or, obviously, my personal favorite, find a coach who you love so you don’t have to navigate this alone!