Original insights in international business and marketing

A Better Way to Know if You Should Stay or Quit


It’s inevitable.  Sooner or later, everybody asks themselves whether they are in the right job or not.  It’s a perfectly normal question but one that many people struggle to answer.

Recently, a number of colleagues and friends have been telling me about how unhappy they are in their current positions.  They would go on about one thing or another but they seemed unable or unwilling to recognize the issues at the heart of their dissatisfaction.  Worse, they seemed almost paralyzed about what to do.  On a couple of occasions I couldn’t help myself and blurted out something like “If you are so unhappy, then stop complaining about it and do something!”  With hindsight, I realize that perhaps this wasn’t the best, most enlightening advice I could have offered.

So it got me thinking about how people need to objectively evaluate their professional circumstances and come to their own conclusions about what to do next.  It usually doesn’t help when someone else spells out what you should do.  It is always better if you can reach the conclusion yourself.  The difficult part lies in identifying the key criteria or questions you need to ask.

Having been in that very same situation several times over my career, I have developed a simple set of guidelines which I use to regularly gauge my professional satisfaction in a particular role or organization.  I’ve come up with what I call the three pillars of professional fulfillment.

1.  Compensation (financial reward)

2.  Learning (intellectual reward)

3.  Fun (emotional reward)

Each of these pillars is accompanied by one very simple Yes/No question:

1.  Are you well paid for what you do?

2.  Are you learning/growing in this job?

3.  Are you having fun/enjoying what you do?

The answers to these three fundamental questions hold – in my experience – the key to what a person should do next.  If you cannot answer ‘yes’ to at least two of these questions, you are most likely in the wrong job and you should leave.  But before we get there, lets examine the different scenarios and combinations.


Don’t Walk, Run! (0 “Yes” out of 3)

If you cannot answer in the affirmative to any of these three questions, the choice is very clear: leave.  Now!  Don’t bother hanging on or hoping for things to improve.  You are just fooling yourself and delaying your chance to find professional happiness elsewhere.  Staying in such an environment is simply toxic for the soul, makes you bitter and wears you down.  Leave without hesitation or regrets. Leave now!

Plan Your Next Move. (1 “Yes” out of 3)

Answering yes to only one of these questions is slightly better but still not enough to keep you hanging around.  The urgency to leave may not be as great but you should nevertheless actively start planning your next move.  When only one dimension is working for you, you are still very much out-of-balance with your needs.  You are highly unfulfilled and should make leap/change within a matter of months, not years.

  • Good pay, but no learning and no fun:  a lot of people find themselves in this situation.  The job is boring and you don’t enjoy it but the money is so good.  How could you ever consider leaving?  Well, do consider.  Such positions, although lucrative and financially rewarding, do take their toll on the psyche.  You can stick around for a while but in the long run, this type of work isn’t sustainable.  You may have it good for now, but if you aren’t developing professionally (and the economy keeps evolving so quickly) this situation is likely unsustainable.
  • Good learning, but low pay and no fun.  You’re probably getting valuable experience but your heart is not in it and the compensation is just awful.  You know you can’t keep at it for long but you also realize you need the experience and skills from this job to help you nab a better one.
  • Great fun, but low pay and no learning.  Sounds like a summer job or internship but eventually we all have to grow up.  This job may be enjoyable for now but it is doing nothing to further your career, let alone your finances.


Hang in There!  (2 “Yes out of 3)

Things are looking much better.  You have met the minimum criteria for continuing in your present position for at least a few more years.  Yes, it is not perfect but 2 out of 3 in today’s economy isn’t bad.  Bear that in mind even as you keep your radar turned on for other better opportunities down the road.

  • Good pay, good learning but no fun.  Can’t complain too much.  Yes, it can be a drudge but look around you and see how many friends struggle to even get 1 out of 3 from their jobs.  Think of this as a very well remunerated professional development program.  You are getting generously paid to develop skills and knowledge which will help you make the next step up in your career.
  • Good pay, great fun but no learning.  You can’t have it all but at least getting out of bed to work each day is not so tedious.  You enjoy your job and you’re getting well paid!  Not bad.  For many people this is already the dream job.  And maybe it is for you too – if you are content just coasting and if you are fairly sure you can spend the rest of your career this way (I.e. stagnating).  Be careful, such a position, although comfortable now, could become a liability in the long run if you cannot develop new skills and competencies to stay relevant in the market.
  • Great fun, good learning but low pay.  You love what you are doing and you are learning a lot.  The pay sucks but work isn’t tedious and you are gaining great experience.  This may not be sustainable for the long run but as long as your finances can allow, this is not a bad way to invest in your career.


Perfect. (3 “Yes” out of 3)

There you have it:  The mythical dream job.  Something that probably less than 5% of the workforce has at any one time.  When your financial, intellectual and emotional needs are aligned, you are in the Zone.  You are also pretty lucky so try not to harp on about the bad coffee or the lack of close parking options.  This job is a keeper.

Remember these three questions and regularly take the pulse of where you are professionally.  Depending on how you answer, you may well decide to bask in the sun, stay put for a while, slowly walk away or just run straight for the exit.  You will also notice that in each of these scenarios, there is little room for complaining.  You are either happy, satisfied or taking action.  The choice is yours.

photo credit: snigl3t via photopin cc

4 comments on “A Better Way to Know if You Should Stay or Quit

  1. clb50
    March 12, 2013

    Reblogged this on The 9-to-5 Diaries.

  2. Dirk Hüske-Kraus
    March 15, 2013

    Having just had a coaching-esque talk with a former colleague, this issue came to my mind too. I’m with you on many of the things you mentioned. For instance, I gave the advice to do regular, though not too frequent evaluations of satisfaction. I added to this the advice to form concrete expectations, like “What, exactly, has to change in a certain area for me to be satisfied again in a particular dimension.
    I differ, however, from you in that I cannot really differentiate between “learning/growing” on the one hand side, and “having fun” on the other hand side. You may call me an odd character, but I only have fun if I see to things happening: 1. I achieve my business goals as well as
    2. I learn.
    So – for me – the fun dimension is obsolete as it is already covered by the growth dimension.
    In my personal coordinate system I do have a third dimension: Do I make a difference? I.e., can I really say that by me doing what I am supposed to do I also helped people, improved an undesirable situation, created (part of) a great product, made a customer happy etc.
    Only when literally at the end of a day I sincerely can confirm that I did a tiny step towards making a difference, I can say I’m in the right job.

    • Andrew Hyncik
      March 15, 2013


      Thanks for your comments. I think we are pretty close on this one. It’s just that for me, the “fun” dimension (as I casually call it) represents more of the emotional payoff from doing the work. A job can be emotionally rewarding in many different ways: You can help the environment, the community, save people’s lives or just enjoy the interaction with folks around you for example. The fun dimension appeals to the heart vs. the more practical left-side of the brain. After all, a job can be be rewarding, satisfying and teach you new things every day without necessarily appealing to your heart/emotions. That’s why so many people decide to leave seemingly prestigious and rewarding careers to pursue their dreams. They were handsomely paid and got to do interesting work but the fun/heart/love/joy (whatever you want to call it) just wasn’t there. Hence, for me, the fun/emotion dimension is absolutely necessary and it even tends to take on greater importance further on in life as we start looking for deeper meaning in the work that we do. Cheers.

  3. Pingback: DSNY Family » Are you happy with your job? Who Cares?

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This entry was posted on March 12, 2013 by in Leadership, Management and tagged , , , , , , , .

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Andrew Hyncik

Andrew Hyncik

Parifornia is the creation of Andrew Hyncik, an experienced International Marketing executive who's lived and worked for over 20 years in both Europe and North America.

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