So You Want To Quit Your Job

Thinking of throwing in the towel? We’ve got just the advice you need, from decision-making hacks to candid tell-alls.

Nora Carol, metrometro, Juan Moyano, Chris Stein, Martin Barraud/Getty Images

It’s a little ironic, isn’t it, that in the process of compiling these stories about the Great Resignation, I’ve had a half-dozen friends leave their jobs, plus a similar number who plan to do so soon. In some ways, it’s surely part and parcel of my social circle, which is composed of millennials, a generation that’s poured itself into careers seeking purpose and is, perhaps in response, the most likely group to jump ship. What feels new is my reaction to my friends’ decisions: awesome jubilation.

Back in the ’90s, like, when we first met Will & Grace’s Jack McFarland, screenwriters used changing careers as a way to indicate a character’s flippancy (acting teacher, student nurse, the list goes on), a correlation between self-realized adulthood and holding a steady job that I saw reflected in real life. In my parents’ generation, the baby boomers, 41% of people stayed with the same company for more than 20 years, so if someone announced they were quitting a job or career writ large, skepticism would usually follow. But in the last three years, we’ve done a 180. Now, to watch someone I love leave the rat race? The chutzpah! The self-respect!

In the second half of 2021, a record number of 20 million-plus Americans left their jobs, nearly equal to the population of Australia. For many, “burnout” has been a driving factor, a word whose loosey-goosey definition strips it of its impact, which Eve Ettinger explores in “Have We Been Thinking About Burnout All Wrong?” Two different analytics firms, Gallup and Visier, conducted polls in 2021 analyzing workplace burnout, and found that roughly a quarter of Americans feel burned out “very often” or “all of the time,” which can have dire long-term implications, as Katherine Plumhoff reports below.

If you’re navigating these waters and thinking of quitting, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve collected tips from HR executives, financial advisers, and mental health counselors about how to decide. I hope it helps.

Brianna Kovan, features editor

1. The Role Of Burnout

I’ve spent the last two months talking to people in the throes of burnout, a good swath of whom are thinking of quitting their jobs. For many, the feeling manifests as a near-constant dread of work and a sense of being trapped in those circumstances. “Burnout puts you in chronic survival mode,” one person told me. “I’d love to say, ‘Oh, my daily yoga and CBD water helped me keep it together,’ but all that matters when you’re in survival mode are the most basic [things], like food, sleep, and bonding with loved ones.”

But what really is burnout? Eve Ettinger set out to explore that question last fall, leading to some surprising conclusions.

Wellness

Have We Been Thinking About Burnout All Wrong?

A term suggesting rock bottom stops meaning rock bottom when we’re all there and, somehow, still going.

2. The Big Decision

There’s an idea I keep returning to, which I’ll admit feels nearly anachronistic for 2022: You can’t fix burnout with self-care. As much as it’d behoove us to believe it, you can’t sheet mask your way to wellness or pedicure a path toward healing. So what can you do?

Sure, quitting outright is one option, but there are other avenues. One person I spoke with started with a two-week vacation. (It didn’t help her, unfortunately, which echoes a Visier finding that 49% of employees said PTO only temporarily relieves burnout.) Another took a two-month fully-paid medical leave from her consulting job, allowing her to rest, start therapy, and implement healthier lifestyle practices. “It was 100% the right thing to do,” she said. Another option, if you’re able, is to take a sabbatical, a practice that has tripled in popularity over the last few years.

3. Get In Loser, We’re Quitting

So, you’re ready to join the Great Resignation? Below, we’ve collected expert advice on the logistical nuts and bolts that need to happen next, from scheduling an exit interview to talking to your immigrant parents about the decision. “For me, part of the burnout was feeling that there was no ending in sight,” one person told me. “Once I started planning to leave, I immediately felt better.”

The Best Way To Tell Your Immigrant Parents That You’re Quitting

Freedom is calling, but first: a cross-cultural and -generational conversation.

Yes, You Need To Prepare For An Exit Interview

And please, keep your resignation letter off TikTok.

Plus, A Few Tips From Folks Who Recently Quit

The No. 1 thing people recommend? Budget, budget, budget. Take Dana, for example, a former in-house communications manager at a tech startup. Before quitting in January, she was an A+ employee, making $150,000 annually, but depleted to the point of panic attacks and public displays of impending implosion. The Los Angeles transplant rejiggered her budget and started saving. “It’ll give you confidence,” says Dana, who was able to set aside roughly $11,000, which will cover three months of her expenses. “You don’t need as much [money] as you think, and for the stuff you do need or want, you can pre-save for it.” For her, that meant setting aside about $600 for activities like pottery, knitting, and sewing. “A big part of this break is trying to find hobbies and habits that I can fold into my life.” Here, three other recent exiteers share some final wisdom.

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