Leaving your job is a big deal. Even in a strong economy, it's not always easy to find a new gig, and most people lack the resources to be unemployed for a long period of time.
Saying "I quit" may bring a short-term catharsis, but it can have long-term consequences, so it's not a decision you should make based solely on emotion. Instead, it's important to take the time to make a rational decision and avoid any of the three scenarios below.
You're not sure what you want to do
Jason Hall: It's hard to stick with a job you don't like. Throw in a lack of direction in your career, and it can feel incredibly frustrating -- like you're just spinning your wheels and wasting your life.
But unless you have something better lined up or a plan to start moving toward your next career, it's a terrible idea to quit just because you don't know what you want to do. You can rest assured that having nothing to do probably won't help you figure it out.
So before you walk out on a job to go "find yourself," take steps to figure out your next step while you still have a source of income. Take a few online courses in subjects that spark your interest. Spend some time researching in-demand careers in your area, and you may uncover a new career path that appeals to you.
Most importantly, don't convince yourself that you need to have your "dream job" to be happy. You might be surprised to learn that work that gives you a sense of purpose, while providing enough income for a good lifestyle, is more than sufficient. Those jobs are also a heck of a lot easier to find than the elusive "dream job" that so many people never find.
You hate your boss
Maurie Backman: Let's be clear: Having a bad boss can certainly make an otherwise decent job miserable. But if you like what you do, are happy with the salary and benefits, and enjoy working with your colleagues, you shouldn't let one individual drive you away, even if that person is your boss.
If your manager is rude, condescending, or overly demanding, your first step should be to arrange a sit-down and get to the bottom of his or her behavior. Maybe you rubbed your boss the wrong way, or maybe your boss needs a wakeup call about how he or she is treating you. Either way, you should attempt to iron things out with your boss before jumping ship.
If that doesn't work, your next move is to go to human resources and talk about transferring to another team. If you can find a similar role in another area of the company, you may be able to free yourself from your unpleasant supervisor without disrupting your life or your income. You can keep your job (or a variation of it) and continue enjoying any benefits you'd be hesitant to give up.
Of course, if neither move solves the problem, and your boss continues to be a big thorn in your side, you'd be more than justified in resigning and moving on. But don't rush to leave because of your boss alone without trying to fix the situation. You never know what might get your manager to ease up or agree to move you to another team, and once that happens, you're good to go.
You suffered a short-term defeat
Daniel B. Kline: In the early part of my career I was fairly brash. I worked hard, I was good at my job, and I was generally recognized as such. However, if I missed out on a promotion or had an idea for a new project turned down, my response was often to give notice and move on to the next thing.
In some cases I may have been justified, and maybe the position I left for was a better fit. Too often, though, I was just being impatient. When I felt my talents and good ideas were not being fully appreciated, it may have simply been less clear for the people in charge. Quitting just because something didn't go my way was immature. It probably also slowed down my career because I moved so often.
It's fine to quit if you've hit a brick wall and cannot progress any further at a company. If that's not the case, and you simply didn't get your way one a couple of occasions, then consider your choices with as little emotion as possible. You may find that staying makes the most sense for your career.