In my career, I have left jobs when:
- The job I was hired to do was finished.
- The job I was hired to do could not be finished.
- The job I was hired to do would be finished just fine without me.
- I was not able to do the job I was hired to do.
- The job I was hired to do wasn’t worth doing.
- I was no longer learning new things (that’s my most frequent reason for leaving).
- They told me that my pay was going to be “temporarily” delayed.
- They asked me to do something illegal or unethical.
—Jerry Weinberg, What is the right reason to leave a job?
I’d like to add one more reason for leaving a job:
The pain of the job isn’t worth the gain.
Though this is related to Jerry’s 5th reason, I think it’s worth being explicit about the effect of a job on your mental, physical, or spiritual being. Many years ago I took on a client where every interaction was unpleasant. The owner argued with me about my recommendations, groused about my bills, and repeatedly implemented something different from what I had proposed and complained about the results. It took me a while, but one day I sat down and wrote him a letter that said I was unable to work for him anymore. It was the right decision, it felt good, and since then I’ve been better able to disengage in a timely fashion from work that isn’t working for me.
Sometimes you have no choice but to continue with a job you’d leave if circumstances were different. Sometimes you run up against one of the above reasons to leave a job, and you have no choice. But when you have a choice, don’t overlook your own needs because of a commendable but perhaps now misguided loyalty to the commitment you made when you began.