Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Four Lame Excuses Not To Quit Your Job

I'm no expert on job-hunting. Neither have I been in the workforce for very long (5 years and 9 months, to be precise). I have only quit my job once, and it was one of the most momentous decision I have ever made in my life.

I'm now a year and a half into my second job. People tell me I look better now - there's more light on my face, more flesh on my bones, more spring in my step. I have no regrets. I think I made the right decision switching jobs.

How does one successfully make the switch? What are the steps one must take? Such are questions frequently asked of me, mostly by those contemplating making the switch themselves. I answer them as best as I can, based on my personal experience, observation on the job market, and worldly wisdom.

Upon obtaining my advice, some have switched, some have decided against switching, some have yet to switch though they badly want to. The third group of people perplexes and amuses me greatly. When I ask them what's holding them back, I always hear the same reasons. 

Reasons? To be frank, they're just excuses. Lame rubber duck of excuses.

1. Waiting For The Right Time

Sounds Like... "No time to job hunt", "Not now, peak period, "But I feel bad for my boss and teammates."

It's Lame Because... If you really wish to quit your job, then you will find time to accelerate your exit. As the saying goes - where there's a will, there's a way. Should you push yourself to the point of exhaustion over work which you have no passion for? Do your bosses and colleagues own your body, mind and soul? Are weekends only reserved for retail therapy and hangovers? Nay, nada, negative.

It's your life, it's your career. Be selfish, look after yourself. If you feel like leaving now, then leave already. Don't have to stick round for three to six months, until the void that you leave behind gets filled up, and the mess gets cleaned up. It's not your job to find your replacement; it's your bosses'. Any boss that begs you to stay against your interest is clearly not a nice boss, despite everything he's done for you. Don't need to be hero and hold the fort - it's not like the world economy is going to collapse while you're gone. It's just a job you're leaving, not some deep complicated romance. Say your goodbyes - pleasantly but firmly - and leave.

Lameness Level: 10/10

Goodbye, files. Till we meet again... NOT!

2. Waiting For Benefits To Come

Sounds Like... "Bonus out in a few months", "Almost due to promotion", "Just hit my annual target, might as well stay on"

It's Lame Because... You work first, get rewarded later. Whether it's a matter of weeks or months, you'll always be at a juncture where there's something to look forward to. After bonus, there's increment. By the time increment rolls in, your team has clinched a sweet deal, promising of a better bonus and increment to come. Employers, sly as ever, will always throw sweeteners along the middle of the year to keep motivation high - allowances, free goodies and trips, talk of salary revision. Benefits are always invariably tied to a bond - employees have to reimburse the full or partial amount, if they quit within a period. It's all a trap, to make it harder for you to leave. Don't fall for it. 

I actually quit my previous job three months short of bonus time. I tried using that as a basis to negotiate a higher salary for my new job, but ultimately, I didn't lose too much sleep over the thought of losing my hard-earned bonus (four months, at least). If I had stubbornly waited for my bonus and stayed on till the year end, the opportunity of my current job would have slipped me by. Think long term, not short term. Focus on what your new job can offer, not what your current job could.

Lameness Level: 7/10

3. Waiting For That Big Project To Finish

Sounds Like... "I've been working on it since from the beginning like forever", "It'll look good on my CV", "It's my baby" 

It's Lame Because... Your life doesn't depend on that one big project. Fact of the matter is, everyone has some project they consider as big - don't need to act like yours is super special. When one big project ends, another big project will quickly come along. Sometimes, a few big projects will run in parallel. After all, bosses always want to squeeze the most of their employees, never leaving them a moment of peace for long. This means that during 80-90% of our time at work, we're all working on some big project. And if we refuse to quit until and unless we finish our big projects, there's only a very tight timing window where we are actually free to quit our jobs. It's rather silly.

I enjoy working on big projects. I enjoy marveling the fruits of my labour in big projects. But did my involvement in a few major court cases stop me from looking for jobs when I felt like quitting? Did job hunting significantly distract me from focusing on my big projects? Did I feel sad quitting before my big projects concluded? Nay, nada, negative. It all boils down to being disciplined and realistic. I've got a good job offer, which promises me big projects too. I'm young, and a long career ahead of me. I'll just start afresh again. The world won't run out of big jobs, big projects, big challenges.

Lameness Level: 8/10

Big projects have big demands - they demand the comforts of your home, plus a shot of whiskey or two.

4. Waiting For The Perfect Job

Sounds Like... "They can't offer me a 30% increase", "It's a totally different job scope", "I need to start from scratch"

It's Lame Because... No job offer will ever tick all the boxes on your wish-list, and you'll never know for sure which boxes will be properly ticked until you have started working there. The real problem lies with our unreasonable expectations - better pay, better hours, better colleagues, better environment. We all want it all, don't we? Sadly, this all-or-nothing mindset ain't going to work. Every career is a journey. Imagine you're on a train careening towards a remote destination. The further you travel down the track, the harder it is to get back to familiar ground. Once you think you're on the wrong track, you ought to quickly jump off at the nearest stop. Don't expect to get back on the right track immediately. Don't expect to leave a shitty job and land on your dream job, both in one go. 

I, too, had a rough wish-list. Yet, I didn't feel the need to check all the boxes. I just moved, without knowing what I was really getting into, without looking for perfection. I just moved, with moderate expectations. And you know what? More than a year later, looking back, I realised I have gotten far more than I could ever dream of - good pay, dynamic working culture, opportunities for development, and so on. And I got them not because of the original offer, negotiations and contract. I got them simply because I worked for it, after I got the job. The perfect job never drops from the sky on your lap. It's up to each of us to make the job we have chosen, as perfect as we can.

Lameness Level: 9/10

Punting in Cambridge at a company conference - never on my wish-list, and neither should it be on yours.

Enough With The Lame Duck Excuses

Stop whining about your shitty job, only to then make up lame excuses not to quit. Stop dreaming about scoring the perfect job, when you can't even wake up from the nightmares of your present job.

It's cold outside. It's getting dark. It's not safe to wander in the woods alone. Anyone can think of a hundred and one excuses not to move out from their comfort zone. It's an amazing ability we, as mature adults, have - to admit we're not happy where we are; yet at the same time, convince ourselves we can't be any happier anywhere else. It's lame. It's cowardice. It's self-inflicted misery. 

Clear your mind from doubts and fears. Take that leap of faith into the unknown. No matter where you fall, it will be much better than wallowing in a pool of mediocrity and misery together with your hundred and one lame yellow rubber duck of excuses.

Please do not swim here


  1. Yes...mature enough to feel uncontented yet so reluctant to move out from the comfort zone; Eager to change yet take no action. Fear has ruled out every possibility.

    1. We are all like ducks, swimming in shallow waters. But you know what? Ducks can fly, too. Most of us don't realise we have wings to spread, that take us high into the skies. That's the problem with many of us.

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