Who is the president of the United States? What is the square root of 64? How do you say “cheese” in French?
These questions have one thing in common: clear-cut and objectively defined correct answers (which you can Google).
But the most important questions in life, for example: “Should I quit my job?” do not. Still, this doesn’t stop us from asking them all the time.
Among the many work trends we are seeing during this pandemic, there’s been a significant increase in people’s intent to quit their jobs. This time period has even been referred to as the “Great Resignation,” though job quitting rates have been on a steady rise during the past decade.
Still, it’s safe to assume that the terrible economy that characterized 2020 and the earlier part of 2021 resulted in people “putting up” with jobs they would have otherwise tried to leave. Now, as the economy recovers and more opportunities arise—8.1 million to be exact—there is a growing interest from those same people to depart, or at least explore their options. There has also been a change in the main reasons people decide to quit. This year, flexible work arrangements are a major driver.
A recent EY survey distributed to over 15,000 people across 16 countries found that more than half of respondents (54%) would consider leaving their jobs post-COVID if they aren’t given enough say around where and when they work. Millennials and Gen Z are more prone than older generations to prioritize this perk due to benefits like no commute, cost savings, and less exposure to the virus. This is a big change since 2019 when only 2% of Americans considered the lack of a flexible schedule reason enough to leave their jobs.
Whatever may be driving you, if you are one of the many considering quitting this year, it would be good to consider a few more factors before you officially go on your way. The best way to evaluate your decision is to consider the four main factors that drive people’s job satisfaction, or the lack thereof.
Research once suggested that money is a weak factor in determining people’s job satisfaction and that if you pay people more for doing what they love, they will end up loving it less. However, a more recent study has challenged these assumptions, finding that financial incentives work as a motivator across different contexts and settings, including in jobs that are intrinsically motivating or enjoyable. Perhaps more importantly, research has found that even when people are not purely motivated by money, they will still base big career decisions on financial factors.
For example, even though reducing your commute by 20 minutes seem like a perk equal to a 19% salary increase, you are much more likely to pick a job with a longer commute and more pay over one that pays less but gives you more free time. So, even if money won’t ultimately satisfy, let alone, fulfill you, it is likely going to be a powerful motivator when you decide whether to leave your job. This is why it’s so important to take a step back and look not only at pay but also consider the three factors below.
Fun is at the opposite end of the spectrum from money. Why? Because boring, joyless jobs often pay a ton of money. You can safely assume that the world would have a lot fewer bankers and corporate lawyers if they earned as much as the average musician does. Most vocations or careers that appear to be inherently rewarding—entertainment, arts, sports, and crafts—tend to pay much less than corporate jobs.
The question for you to consider, then, might be: Is my current job fun? If you dread waking up and starting your work every day (even if it involves working from home), and if you are unable to focus on work tasks, or have little regard for your colleagues and boss, then you may want to consider a job, career, or organization that provides you with a more joyful experience
There is a long tradition of research that links creative jobs to intrinsic motivation, as well as evidence of a positive correlation between creative jobs and happiness. So, if you are feeling consistently bored or demotivated at work, finding a job that taps into your creative sensibilities may be worth your while. This fun dimension of work can also be satisfied in roles where you are able to establish meaningful connections with others. If you are on a team that shows strong levels of camaraderie, where the “play hard” part of the equation is as important as the “work hard,” you will likely be more to be satisfied in your role.
Lastly, a more challenging way to boost the fun factor in your career is to find a way to be your own boss. Scientific studies highlight a link between job satisfaction and self-employment, mostly because of the independence and autonomy self-employed workers enjoy.
We all want good jobs that pay well and match our skillsets. But it is even more important to be in a role that allows you to harness or develop your potential, learn new things, and become more employable in the future. This is where learnability factors in. In your current job, are you able to develop the skills and expertise you need to succeed in your industry? Or will they become outdated if you stay?
To make the best decision here, you need to optimize your career choices for challenges rather than comfort. If a job is too easy, you are probably not learning, which puts you at risk of stagnating. It’s a bit like going to the gym and exercising the same single muscle all the time—the rest of your body will suffer.
So, perhaps you want to quit your job if you are not learning anything new, or you feel that there are no career progression opportunities that will provide you with the experiences you need to grow into a more complete and better version of yourself. This could include managing people, working in different industries, changing roles, or working with a more diverse range of people. Think of these changes as traveling to new cultures. They will force you to adapt, but in turn, they will broaden your horizons and talents.
This is about whether your work enables you to contribute to the causes, communities, or movements you care about. You may be having fun, you may be growing professionally, and you may be well paid. But perhaps what you do has little meaning, and you need a bigger mission and mandate.
Finding a higher sense of purpose comes from identifying something bigger than your own career success, and focusing your time, talents, and energies on making the world a better place — at least according to your own standards and criteria. This is why many people change jobs later in their lives, from well-paid corporate jobs to more creative jobs like writing or photography, to more altruistic roles like those in charity work, or to more humane and instantly gratifying professions like teaching.
You can never be sure about whether your next adventure will be better than the last—the only way is to try. But keeping these four categories in mind, and trying to tick as many boxes as possible, or prioritize the ones that matter most to you, is a solid way to predict how satisfied you will be should you make a change. If you are well paid, having fun, learning, and working on something meaningful, consider yourself lucky. And if some or more of these are missing, then it might be time to consider better alternatives.