For a long time I thought if I was in a bad situation at work, I was just supposed to suck it up. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that sometimes it’s important to quit. If you’re in a situation that is hurting you, hurting others, or that you fundamentally don’t agree with, it’s your right to walk away.
In my junior year of college, I was working at an unpaid internship. I liked it a lot, but they were putting a lot of pressure on me, and my superiors were not around a ton. I would frequently find myself in situations where I had to choose between leaving at a fair time and screwing them over, or staying extra late to make sure they were covered. Wanting to please and not cause them problems, I always chose to overextend myself. Now that I’m a little less naïve, I realize that if an intern not constantly overextending herself is going to sink your company, than your company is the problem, not the intern.
I was really stressed out, and I knew my bosses were taking advantage of me, but I was determined to stick around and make it work. This was partially because I liked them and liked the work we were doing, but also because they kept mentioning that they’d eventually like to hire me. It seemed silly to quit if there was a job at the end of it for me, right?
About seven months into this internship my family’s financial situation completely changed, and it was clear I needed a job, not an internship. I decided to get brave and ask my boss if I could start getting paid. I told him what was going on with my family, and that I needed to start getting paid if I was going to be able to stay with them. I asked them if that was a possibility, since they had mentioned wanting to hire me for the last few months. When all was said and done, they offered to pay me a lump sum of $100.
I politely told them that in that case, I was going to have to leave. I don’t regret taking the internship, and still have fond memories of being there.But I now know that my time and skills are worth more than that. Now when I feel myself entering a similar situation I start to think about whether it’s time for me to pack my bags. If an internship or a job is clearly benefitting more from you than you are benefitting from them, they are taking advantage of you. If you know all that, and it is not worth it for you to stay, then it’s more than okay to quit.
About a year ago, I got offered a job at a wonderful company. All my coworkers were nice, I was paid fairly, and I had benefits. I had convenient hours and a convenient commute. Everything seemed perfect, except for the fact that this job was in a field that I was definitely not interested in. I took it anyway because I needed a job and I figured all the good things about the position would outweigh the one not so good thing. I could work at this job, make rent, and work on writing and standup at night. It seemed like the perfect solution to all of my problems.
But I made the mistake of underestimating the actual work I was doing. It was not only new territory, but it was hard. I thought I could master it with a passing interest, but it was soon apparent that it was going to take all of my attention and effort to succeed there. I was making mistakes, and my bosses were very concerned about my performance. They liked me, and they wanted me to do well there. They offered me one-on-one training with some of my superiors. The field required math, and I’m awful at math. It also required that I have 100% accuracy, which is something I’ve never had. My bosses called me in for a meeting, and told me that I needed to take on additional intensive training, or else I was probably going to lose my job.
I felt awful. I really liked them as people, and they had been very kind and understanding toward me. I also realized that I was square peg in a round hole. I needed a job, but I was never going to be the employee they needed at this job. On top of that, I didn’t have any further career goals at the company. It seemed unfair of me to waste their time and resources any further. I told them it would probably be best for everyone if I moved on. I needed to be at a different position where I was required to use my talents, not my weaknesses. They needed a better hire for this position. They were bummed, but I think that deep down they knew I was right. They brought in an awesome new hire, and I think their company is better for it. Even though I still have a good relationship with them, I know that it wasn’t meant to be, and that is okay. In the long run, quitting, although tough, was as important for me, as it was important for them.
I’ve been very lucky. The situations in which I’ve had to leave a position have been more positive than not. I’ve never been put in danger or sexually harassed by a superior, or had any of the other horror stories at work. But no matter what the situation, I truly believe that your own safety and well-being is worth more than any paycheck, at least if you are able to swing it financially for a little while. Although quitting isn’t the most popular option, I think that it’s sometimes the most viable one. So if you’re in a bad situation, or don’t like the direction you’re going in, don’t be afraid to throw in the towel. Because at the end of the day, you are more important than your job.