Knowing when to change jobs

Publication: The Orange County Register (CA)

Section: Career Q&A column

April 30, 2007

Michele Himmelberg

QUESTION: I am so frustrated with my job that I want to quit. Should I get another job first? How do I manage my work in the meantime?

ANSWER: You know it's time to quit when the copier jams and you curse it, kicking it so hard you break a toe.

You know it's time to quit when the phone rings for the 10th time in 11 minutes and you're so flustered by the interruption that you bark at the caller -- the chief of customer service, doing a quality check.

You know it's time to quit when three friends get laid off and you cry -- because you wanted to be let go.

We all have stress. It's so ingrained in our lifestyle that sometimes we think it's normal to feel tired, to put off important duties and to constantly feud with the boss.

When stress gets out of control, it's time to stop and evaluate. Are we stressed because we have too much work, or work that's not satisfying enough? Is it fear of a layoff? Cutbacks are a big stress generator in the workplace, and they're becoming more prevalent in Orange County.

Occasionally, the stress builds so high that it's worth quitting, even if you don't have another job. If your health or home life are deteriorating, it's worth having that tough conversation with the boss about what you want and need. And if you can't get it, you have to be willing to walk away to protect what's most important.

Several experts offer this caution: Make sure you know whether it is you or the job that's the problem. Are there things you need to fix before jumping into another situation?

Take the first steps toward a job you will like. Just moving in that direction will reduce stress levels, said Rachelle Canter, president of RJC Associates, a San Francisco-based consulting firm (

Canter, who has a doctorate in psychology, wrote "Make the Right Career Move: 28 Critical Insights and Strategies to Land Your Dream Job." It's a step-by-step guide to help workers identify and land the job they want so they don't experience the stress of feeling trapped in a bad job.

Before you resign, research your options in the local job market, Canter said. There could be many more work options than you realize. She also recommends these tips to manage job stress, whether you fear a layoff or can't wait to leave.

Take a breath: If anxiety starts to build, take 10 deep breaths to relax yourself. Try a five-minute meditation.

Take a break: Find someone you like and can commiserate with, and spend a few minutes venting. Make sure to laugh -- it's the best stress reduction around.

Take time for fun: Spend five to 10 minutes doing something you like: Read a book, knit, play a computer game, do something non-work-related that makes you happy.

Take a time out: If the stress is unbearable, physically remove yourself from the workplace. Head outside for a five-minute walk, for fresh air and a reminder that there's a big world outside the job.

Copyright 2007 The Orange County Register, Calif.

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