Fight or Flight. This is a primal response, and one that operates at a basic biological level. We either stay, and combat the perceived threat, or we flee. We are forced to make a choice.
The situation becomes more difficult if there is no particular catalyst to which we are compelled to react. Dissatisfaction at work can creep in as this latter variety.
So how do you know when to quit your job and go to a new direction? Should you just endure (“tough it out”)?
I reflected on these questions last year. Nothing of particular significance had happened that ignited the fight or flight response. I had essentially landed the dream graduate job after having completed law school. The conditions were ideal for smooth sailing. I contemplated why it was that I was not receiving the satisfaction that I should have been in this job.
First, I considered whether this was just a phase. I thought I would give it two months. Interestingly, as the months continued, I started to cast the net wider; I questioned whether I was in the wrong job or perhaps the wrong profession. The latter was going to be a more significant dilemma.
Second, I started to keep a journal of the best parts of the job: those things that I found most rewarding. I found that the highlights of my days and weeks spoke volumes. I also recorded the worst parts of the job. True to form, these lists materialised as adjacent columns: the classic “pros and cons” list. This visual scale was telling.
I started to consider whether the challenges that I experienced in the job were ones which were making me stronger and helping me to ascend on the steep learning curve (that everyone kept talking about). Then I considered whether the challenges were just that because they were causing dissonance within me. I questioned the compatibility between the ethos of the profession and my personal ethos.
Third, I came to the realisation that most low-level intern-like jobs probably “suck” (for lack of a more eloquent phrase) in some way or another. However it is important to keep one’s eye on the prize. I deliberated: what does the next rung up on the ladder look like? And what about the top of the ladder? What does that job look like?
I was aware that I had set upon a certain professional trajectory. The object of the current role was to become one of those people at the top of the ladder one day. That was the goal: the driving force, the motivation, the incentive.
However, how do you stay in your job when the people you are supposed to become are the people you don’t want to become? Who do you want to be? Or more aptly, who don’t you want to be? Make a list. Which version of yourself are you becoming?
Perhaps some of the above considerations can help you decide if you should stay in your job or if you should go. Irrespective of whether a decision is imminently required, the power of self examination in goal setting and goal getting, and the courage to act upon those goals, cannot be a bad thing.
All things considered, I decided that the job was not for me and I handed in my resignation. Further, the traditional and clinical side of the legal profession does not seem to be a harmonious fit with my current goals and aspirations: both professionally and personally.
Emily Knowles, a new Lumi blog writer, has just moved from Adelaide to Melbourne in the pursuit of a longstanding passion for psychology – so stay tuned for more content!