How to Gracefully Exit a Job That You No Longer Love

Has the spark gone out of your job? Do you feel like the fit that you used to enjoy at work is no longer there? Maybe the leadership has changed, and you just don’t jive with the new team, or perhaps a more streamlined business practice has displaced some of the nuanced or creative work that used to set you apart and make you shine. If you are feeling like you no longer fit in, and you are sensing that your supervisor might be thinking the same thing, perhaps it’s time to dust yourself off and find a job that makes you feel excited about work again.

Step one is to look, very honestly, at your position and decide if it you still like it. Does it challenge and excite you? Because if it truly suits you, then that’s what it’s supposed to do. It’s easy to confuse familiarity with job security and fit. You may be feeling nervous about the wild shake-up that a job search will give your livelihood. Perhaps it’s been awhile since you’ve interviewed, and you are apprehensive about putting yourself out there again.

But what you are experiencing now–the tension of knowing that you are not quite in the right spot and the low-level awareness that others know this, too–that is actually more taxing than the project of job searching and interviewing. It’s hard to take the plunge, but job searching gives you something back emotionally that you are not getting now. Initiating a search is exciting, and it gives you the chance to look at your skills from a new perspective and to see your value through a new lens. What you are experiencing now is a daily endurance of discomfort. This is hard on your sense of self. You deserve better.

Try not to let your fear of the unknown paralyze you from fessing up to what you are intuiting if, in fact, your current job is just not working out for you anymore. If that’s your situation, then you’ve probably garnered a lot of emotional endurance, and you’re strong from doing so. Tap into that reserve, and use it to fuel your professional revival.

Go Back to the Basics

What do you love to do and what professional victories have you enjoyed? Revisit them, and track down the proof of your past successes. Use those samples to revise your resume and cover letter, but also use them to revitalize your professional sense of self worth. You’ve been feeling a bit on the the shelf lately, but that’s only because you are in the wrong job. That happens. Workplaces change just like people do. Just like you are in the process of doing. Don’t fight it. Evolve with it.

Your value is independent of your current situation. Remember what excites you and what you do well. Then look for a job that will give you the chance to do the work for which you are best suited and that is most meaningful to you. Embrace this opportunity; it can have a life-changing impact.

Communicate with Your Boss  

If you are sensing that things aren’t going well, then your boss probably is too. Your manager is in a tough spot because he or she is probably not sure how to bring it up. Because you haven’t done anything wrong, he or she can’t call a disciplinary meeting with you. The loss of fit is much more subtle than that, and from the management perspective it is kind of a grey area. Your boss will likely be relieved that you are taking the reigns with this. If you feel comfortable enough with your manager to do so, talk with her or him about what you are experiencing.

Start the conversation without mentioning resigning and without using negative or blaming words. Consider these prompts:

  • I am feeling like the fit I used to enjoy in my position is no longer there.
  • The parts of my job that I used to relish are no longer as prominent.
  • I don’t feel as engaged in my position as I used to.

It bodes well for managers when their staff members are willing to talk openly with them when things aren’t going well. It speaks well of their management and communication skills. It will look good to his or her manager when your boss explains that he or she had a conversation with a direct report who came to discuss a lack of fit. So this can be a positive thing, but it does put you in a delicate position. So you have to think carefully about whether or not you think you manager can handle it.

If he or she doesn’t have the communication or leaderships skills to deal with the conversation, or if your manager is the problem, then you might want to refrain from involving him or her. But if you feel comfortable discussing it with your boss, there can be some positive outcomes. Perhaps there are in-house options that he or she can advise you of; institutional knowledge is always precious, and if he or she can find another way to use your skills then it can be good for the company and for you.

A manager with whom you have a good working relationship may also be a good source of information because he or she knows the industry and may be able to talk you through other options where you may find a good fit. He or she may also have plenty of contacts and may be able to help you that way.

If nothing else, a supportive manager may give you time and flexibility to support you in your search. Leaving a job when you have realized that it is no longer a fit can be a peaceful process, as long as you keep your feedback positive and make sure that you and your manager have a relationship that can handle the conversation.

When you quit a job, you aren’t eligible for a severance package, but if you have a supportive manager he or she may be able to assist your effort in others ways.

Don’t beat yourself up. Falling out of fit with your job is not a failure; it’s an opportunity.