Guest Post: When to Leave

Today’s guest post takes a hard look at a really hard issue — figuring out when to move on from a job that’s not good for you. We all know people (or maybe we are that person ourselves) who struggle with finding fulfillment at work. So often we stick it out in jobs that make us miserable because we convince ourselves that there aren’t any other options. “This is what I’m good at,” or “I can’t make money doing what I love,” or “I don’t know what I want to do or what I’m good at, so I might as well stay here” or “I really just want to get married or find my vocation, so this miserable job will have to do until that happens” … any of that sound familiar? 

As a note from the LifeInTheGap bloggers, bear in mind that these single years are YOUR years. It’s time to figure out who you are, what your talents are, and what makes you feel fulfilled. If you’re spending 40-odd hours a week in a job that makes you miserable, maybe it’s time to reassess. Why have you been given this time of singleness? Are you using it to your best advantage, for the advantage of those around you, and most importantly for the glory of God? Or are you stuck in a rut, just waiting to “see what happens” with your life? Remember the parable of the talents. God hands out the resources, but he doesn’t necessarily spell out how you’re supposed to invest them. That’s up to you to figure out.  And there’s absolutely no shame in being single and doing work that fulfills you. There’s also no shame in taking a job that pays less (as long as it’s enough to live on) if it’s something worthwhile that utilizes your God-given abilities. 

When to Leave

By Trena Pilegaard 

I just got out of a four-year relationship. It was a pretty sorry affair, not abusive physically, but I have suffered emotional trauma from stewing in a passive aggressive environment. In the end, I had even started to question the healthy image I had of myself. Perhaps I am too young. I don’t have any relevant experience. Perhaps I don’t know what I am doing. I stopped putting any exceptional effort into the relationship because I never received the encouragement I needed to continue, nor did my exceptional efforts seem appreciated. The only reason I stayed was that I was terrified of leaving.

And now comes the clincher, this wasn’t a romantic relationship, this was my job. Does it sound familiar now? Have you been in the same kind of relationship? The average American spends 40+ hours a week at his job. If he doesn’t own the company outright, that is 40+ hours of being under the direction and control of another person. If that person is a good leader, this won’t be a problem. You’ll grow and thrive under good direction, you’ll move upward and forward. Your supervisor will expect to see marked improvement and growth and invest in your growth. He’ll encourage your ideas and, even if he doesn’t use them, encourage you to bring more ideas to his attention. Of course there are positions that, by their nature, may be static. A good supervisor will make sure that even these professionals will receive the development they need so they don’t stagnate in their work.  But if you’re in a bad environment with bad leadership, no matter how kind the people are, 40 hours a week will wreak havoc on you.

There is only so much passive aggressiveness a person can take before they break, and early this spring I reached a breaking point. Before I had always found reasons to stay. I can’t find another job. The pay is sufficient. It’s a bad economy. I need the insurance. I should be happy to have a job, there are a lot of people who don’t. I don’t know what I want to do. If I just try harder to be happy… I just need to smile more. I could find a million reasons to stay. But I didn’t listen to the most important reason for leaving – I was completely miserable. 

In different circumstances the reasons I had for staying in my job would have been good – for instance, if I had others dependent upon me or if America was in the equivalent of the Great Depression. But the fact of the matter is there are jobs out there that would make me happier and help me develop my talents. We aren’t in the Great Depression, bad economic times to be sure, but there is still work to be found. And I am a free agent; the only person that is dependent upon me is me. I may starve or have to set up camp under the Key Bridge, but I don’t have to worry about providing for dependents. (And even then, I have an amazing network of loving family and friends, so if I ever find myself under the Key Bridge because something like WWIII has broken out, there will probably be a few of us there together – so even then I wouldn’t be alone.)

It got to a point where it was either my sanity or the job. After a lot of encouragement and prayer from family and friends, I chose sanity. Now it seems so silly to me that I thought there was a choice at all. I should have left a long time before I came to this crossroad. It was amazing how quickly doors started opening as soon as I made up my mind to leave. I was accepted to grad school, I had not one but two jobs offered to me without even applying, and as soon as people found out about my plans, I had their unwavering support and prayer. 

So how do you know when it is time to leave your job? Pretend you’re a fish in a man-made lake, perhaps a river that has been dammed. As long as the water is clear and fresh, and you are able to enjoy your surroundings, I’d say you’re good. With the clear water you should be able to see your goals and move around freely. But when the water gets murky and stale, and it’s hard to see, get out. Not only are you left vulnerable to predators you can’t see, but you can’t even see where you’re going. As soon as I gave my letter of resignation it was like I had opened the doors of the spillway on the lake. Fresh water started flowing in again and stale water was washed downstream. 

Trena Pilegaard is a first-year grad student at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. She blogs about lifestyle, favorite things, and other bits of randomness at Sacred Monkeys of the Vatican as she lives out this craziness called life. 




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