Couldn’t Be Me: I love my job, but I think I need to quit

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In this week’s advice column, we answer what to do when you like your job but know it’s time to leave. Plus: What fictional world would you most like to live in?

Welcome to Couldn’t Be Me, a weekly advice column where I solicit your personal dilemmas and help out as best as I can. Have something I can help you with? Find me @_Zeets.

It’s hard to consider leaving a place you enjoy working, even when there doesn’t seem to be a path for growth. Many of us never get the chance to do a job we like, much less work in a space where we feel comfortable. Yet it’s disappointing to find out you’re not as appreciated in that space as you should be. This week, we engage with that conundrum, and take two more questions about books and the fictional world we’d most like to live in.


Andrew:

Are there any writers who you thought you wouldn’t like or whose writing wouldn’t be quite to your tastes that you actually ended up enjoying?

CBM:

I’m not sure, actually. The closest example I can remember was when I read something by Alan Jacobs in an old soccer blog eons ago. He wrote about the Brazilian soccer player Socrates who died after going into septic shock from food poisoning. Socrates’ health had deteriorated to that point from heavy drinking, and Jacobs started off what is otherwise a wonderful essay by saying:

“Sócrates is dead. It’s hard to see how anyone could be surprised. It’s also hard not to think that he died because he wanted to, since Sócrates always seems to have done what he wanted to.”

I was so mad at the suggestion a man died because he wanted to, rather than because of a problem he could not escape even as it was killing him, that I went on Twitter and got into a fight with Jacobs. But that anger at a specific thing didn’t diminish my admiration of his writing or his thinking. We actually became fond of each other afterwards.


Anonymous:

I really like my job and coworkers. The work is very fulfilling and I’m able to be creative. It’s also been great for getting exposure for my work. This is the kind of place that helps a person “make it” if she stays the course long enough. If I leave this job, I’ll probably leave the field altogether. The only problem is that I don’t get paid much at all, and they have a terrible track record with promotions. Even if you get one, which is extremely difficult and usually requires an outside offer, the raise is never much. The pay is not sustainable for where I live, and as of right now, it’s too time consuming to pick up a second job. I’m going to ask for a raise in two months, but should I be prepared to walk if I don’t get one substantial enough?

CBM:

That’s a tough situation to be in. I think it makes good sense to always have an exit strategy, especially if you’re in a position where you know the chance of you growing in a company is slim. If your employers isn’t willing to reward your talent until they might lose you to a competitor, then it doesn’t seem like they really appreciate you, nor are they trying to maximize your potential.

Since you seem to like the industry you’re in, I do think you should look at other options in the industry just to see if you can continue doing the work in a more appreciative environment. It would be a shame to give up something you enjoy and feel fulfilled by just because one company is bad at helping their talent grow.

Beyond that, I’m also a big believer in exploring the many possible lives someone can have. I’ve worked as an IT specialist, an engineer, a professional soccer player and writer. There are possibly other avenues in life that can fulfill you and allow you to express a different side of yourself. I think you should list out a few of those possibilities for your exit strategy, and determine whether you have the courage to go into that uncertain, but exciting world of building a new work identity. I wish you the best of luck.


Michael:

If you could live in any book, which would it be?

CBM:

This is an interesting question, because what people tend to do when they answer questions like these is imagine themselves as one of the main characters in the book, rather than a background character. If someone answers by saying Harry Potter, it’s almost certain they’re imagining themselves as a wizard or a witch, rather than one of the lowly humans who have no idea that magic exists just around the corner.

So, I think for a question like this, it would be good to think about what books have the best world for the lowest individuals, or are the most fun for inconsequential characters, rather than which ones are the best for the protagonists.

With that said, I would like to live in something like Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Not that it’s good at all for normal people, but because their lives are being decided by the moods and desires of the gods. When you wake up, you never know if you’re going to make it until the next day or if one of the gods is going to turn you into a tree because you didn’t praise them the way they wanted. It’s pure chaos and dystopian as hell. I think I would enjoy the complete disorder of that world before a bolt of lightning takes me out for blasphemy.