Deciding to Leave Your Job: Questions to Ask Yourself

By Ellen Mehling, Career Development Consultant, METRO

With the economy gradually improving, more people are starting to consider leaving their current jobs. How do you know, though, when it is really time for you to seek a new position?

20150219_DecidingtoLeaveYourJob.jpgThis is not a decision to be made lightly; there are many things to consider. A lot of these factors are subjective, too. What is not a problem for someone else could be a dealbreaker for you, and what you consider a significant perk could be a negligible factor to the next person.

Questions to Ask Yourself
If the answers are “no,” a new job may be the way to go.

Are you compensated appropriately? Are you working reasonable hours with a salary (and other things) that make it worth it to you? Do you receive satisfactory raises on a regular basis? Beyond salary, take into account all your perks, benefits, vacation time, flex time, ability to work from home, short commute, etc., and their relative importance to you.

Does your workplace and supervisor encourage, support, and value professional development? Do they provide opportunities for growth, new responsibilities, and promotions? Does this support include paying for workshops, classes, conference attendance, membership in professional organizations, etc., and time off? Having to do it all yourself, on your own time and at your own expense, can chip away at your morale.

Is your work appreciated by your employer and supervisor? Do you feel energized and satisfied rather than drained or dispirited at the end of a workday or workweek ? Do you feel that your efforts are recognized? Some days and weeks are going to be harder than others at any job, but when work regularly leaves you feeling unappreciated and with little energy for anything else, it may be time to leave.

Is your job a good fit for you? Do you feel comfortable with your co-workers and with the culture at your workplace? Is the work/life balance with this job acceptable to you? A workplace that is a bad fit can be exhausting and stressful, as each interaction requires extra effort.

Is your boss reasonable, fair, and professional? It has been said that people don’t leave companies, they leave managers. A supervisor who is abusive, dishonest, unethical, dismissive of employees’ concerns, and/or who micromanages everyone they supervise is a common catalyst for resigning.

Are you doing what you really want to do now? Your current job may be one you accepted even though it was not what you really wanted to do, because of the difficult job market. Or your job may be a position you wanted in the past, and now you find what you want has changed. Your reason for leaving in this situation would be to move toward something positive rather than away from something negative.

Definite Red Flags
Regardless of anything else that might be going on, if the answer to any of these questions is “yes,” you should polish up your resume and start applying to jobs right away.

Has your boss recently become dissatisfied with your work? Have they suddenly started micromanaging you, or become mostly incommunicative, and hostile when there is communication? Are you being excluded from meetings, having information kept from you, or being relieved of responsibilities? Have you been put on a performance improvement plan? These are often precursors to a firing.

Is your workplace unstable? Is there frequent restructuring? Have there been budget cuts or rumors of layoffs? Are there tense whispered conversations in the hallways? Has your workplace hired an “efficiency consultant” (or someone with a similar title) who is examining workflow and procedures throughout all departments? Have you been asked to write a detailed description of all that you do or “apply” for the job you currently hold? Has your company/employer been bought out by another company or your department merged with another? Has more than one person in upper administration resigned suddenly, recently? Instability may mean layoffs are coming.

Are you miserable most (or all) of the time at work? Do you experience little or no enjoyment in any aspect of your job? Constant or near-constant dissatisfaction is too high a price to pay for employment.

Is your work situation negatively affecting your health? If you are experiencing symptoms like insomnia, panic attacks or anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, difficulty concentrating, headaches, stomach aches, chest pain, etc., because of work, the stress has reached toxic levels and you should plan your exit as soon as possible. You may also want to seek help from a medical doctor and/or therapist. No job is worth this much suffering.

Final question: Do you vacillate between a panicky “I’ve got to get out of here” feeling and a hopeless, trapped, “my current job is the best I can hope for” feeling? Many of the job seekers I advise describe something like this, and some have been feeling this way for years. While severe health-damaging distress is definitely an indicator that you need to get out, things don’t have to be absolutely intolerable for you to decide to make a move.


If the idea of job hunting seems terrifying or overwhelming, and if you are comparing your unhappy work situation to (worst-case) unemployment, then it can seem like staying is the better choice. Misery and unemployment are not your only two options, though. It is possible to take deliberate steps to get yourself into a job situation that is a good fit, where you enjoy going to work and where you feel you are making contributions that are valued.