How Do You Know When It's Time To Quit?

Are you contemplating the big decision?

World Domination Summit 2013 - Portland, OR
Flickr The author, Tess Vigeland
One of the questions I've been asked over and over since leaving Marketplace is how I decided when to pull the plug and leave a really great job in public radio.

Decision made in a flash
I've addressed this before by noting that there were myriad reasons why I left -- some I'm discussing publicly, some I'm keeping private. But what it wasn't was a long, drawn-out discussion with myself/my family. I made a decision on a Friday, gave notice the next week, and left three months later (I wanted to give my employers transition time to find a new host for the show; more than a year later, they're still looking for my replacement.)

Quitting was not something I contemplated seriously for any length of time. Yes, I'd been unhappy for a while, but leave my job?! No way! That would be the height of idiocy!

So I had not really done any planning for my own departure. And not only did I lack a plan, but I didn't even have a notion of what I might want to do next. I hadn't been dreaming about my next job, because I already had my dream job. So why would I bother thinking about what came next? I honestly thought many, many times that I might just die of old age behind the microphone.

I think we tend to hear mixed messages when it comes to quitting jobs. On one hand, we're told it's stupid to leap, to leave, without already having a backup plan in place, without having another dream we're chasing. It's stupid for financial reasons, it's stupid for career advancement reasons, it's stupid for fill-in-the-blank reasons.

On the other hand, we're exhorted in best-seller after best-seller to follow our passion! Live the dream! Don't spend another minute in a job that isn't 100% fulfilling! Something else will come along and it will be even more awesome! Leap and the net will appear!

There has to be a happy medium, right? But where is it?

I still don't know, and I've been trying to find it for about a year now.

The pluses of being lost
What I do know is that stepping away without any real plan, while terrifying, was still good for my mental health. I needed to leave a job that wasn't challenging me and that wasn't feeding my soul, as much as I loved the actual work and the wonderful people who listened and called in to the show each week.

There is an intangible benefit to taking that leap and seeing where it leads, even if people think you're bonkers to do so (and plenty of people did). And although it took several months, the leap did land me in some pretty exciting places recently.

So is it time for you to leave?
It's such an individual decision, and no one can tell you when it's time for you to leap. If you're contemplating it, what factors are going into that decision?

How would you know when to move on, especially if you actually like your job, but something is nagging at your subconscious and whispering to you to jump into the unknown? Share your stories in comments section below and email me at

And come back here every Wednesday morning for my next post. Maybe we can figure this all out together.

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

But who has the money to do that?

September 19 2013 at 10:17 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Moody Monica

I was at the same point this year when after 35 yrs of Federal service I decided to retire. I'm in my late 50's and it's been quite a life changing experience. I felt more like a babysitter of my employees and I left to take care of my physical and mental health that I was neglecting for years. I retired in April and still feel out of sorts.

September 19 2013 at 4:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
crazy ray

I worked for a Japanese owned company. I had worked for the company for decades before it was purchased and had successfully built a booming, lucrative business. However, the new owners had bigger plans. They changed the accounting rules so my end of the business was no longer profitable. They also demanded unqualified loyalty, or, more accurately, blind obedience. When we continued to try and make the business work, they instituted their age-old policy of marginalizing. They took away my resources one by one, then blamed me for the lack of performance in the business. Well, as Dylan said, you don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows. I left and haven't regretted a minute of it, accept, perhaps, for the friends I left behind who still labor for these clowns.

September 19 2013 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to crazy ray's comment
Tess Vigeland

Hey Crazy Ray -- that's a good point that I didn't get to in this post... leaving behind valued coworkers and friends. I'll write about that in another column.

October 10 2013 at 6:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Ha. I left a 15 year-long career in retail when I was told that I couldn't be promoted into ANY kind of management position because I lacked a 2 yr. college degree. Every store that I've worked for has gone out of business. For the longest time, I thought it was something I had done. Zayre, Lechmere, Caldor, Levitz, Stuart's. All gone.

September 19 2013 at 11:20 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

You know it is time to quit when you get another guaranteed job offer that pays better and has much better benefits. Simple as that.

September 19 2013 at 10:23 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Must be nice to be financially stable enough or have someone to back you while you find yourself. Unfortunately everybody does not have that luxery. Personally I dont understand why the article was written. She really offered little insight or anything other than the fact that she quit her career and hasnt landed on her feet yet. Also implying that it's somehow justifiable by the fact that she hasnt been replaced yet at her old job.

Sounds more like breaking up with a person and a year later you've basically achieved nothing so you look up your ex and find solace in the fact that he's single too. Unless I missed something in the article. Seems pretty pointless.

September 19 2013 at 9:18 AM Report abuse +4 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Mike's comment

Maybe her leaving didn't create a vacancy??!

September 19 2013 at 11:22 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I was extremely happy in my position until new management took over and decided to bully me into quitting (age and a workman's comp case) - I hung on for two years but finally one day my pride took over and I walked out - It was the best move I ever made - and I'm not looking back - with my credentials and talent - I've had more offers than you can shake a stick at - but I decided to retire and free-lance if I need the money - (I'm a master photographer) - The best tribute to me was that my staff all walked out as soon as they heard I left. And 6 months after - under my boss's tutelage - all 4 studios closed - it seems all my clients also walked out - Oh well.

September 19 2013 at 12:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I completely understand. I did exactly the same thing. I left a job that I was on for ten years. I was extremely unhappy for most of that time and it just got worse near the end. I stayed because it is what you do. You find a job that pays well and stick. That net that catches you hasn't appeared for me yet but when looking back to a year ago when I left, I still say it was the right thing to do. It's starting to get a little hard but, that is what life is sometimes and I've pushed through hard before and came out just fine. I will again. I have since started my own business. It's going slow but I'm still standing. God is good.

September 19 2013 at 7:24 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to ryrae3's comment
Tess Vigeland

Good luck, ryrae3 -- and I'm glad you feel like you made the right decision. That makes the struggle worthwhile.

October 10 2013 at 6:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Search Articles

Picks From the Web