When to Leave Your Job: The 3 Factors to Look For

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "So Good They Can't Ignore You" by Cal Newport. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How do you know when to leave your job? If you don’t like it, is that enough?

You should consider three factors that signal when to leave your job. Rather than simply determining whether you’re happy in your work, these factors prompt you to consider how well your current job helps you build career capital. Ultimately this impacts overall career satisfaction.

Keep reading to learn when to leave your job.

Finding a Job You Love

What will lead you to love your work? Improving your career capital (scarce and prized skills) to the point where you’re so good people can’t ignore you. That allows you to pick and choose among desirable jobs.

When to Leave Your Job

There are certain jobs and situations that inhibit your ability to amass career capital. If your current job has any of the following factors, you should look for a new job:

  • The job doesn’t give you enough opportunity to develop scarce and prized skills. 
    • (Shortform example: Priya coaches soccer for an organization that has a strict curriculum and micromanaging bosses. All she’s allowed to do is follow the same procedures all the other coaches follow, so she has no opportunity to stand out, choose what skills she wants to develop, or practice them deliberately.)
  • The job is useless or immoral. While you could theoretically build up career capital at a job like this, you probably wouldn’t want to work there for as long as it would take.
    • (Shortform example: Karina works for a bank that helps its clients evade taxes, which makes her uncomfortable.)
  • The job involves working with disagreeable people. Again, while you could theoretically build up career capital at a job like this, you probably wouldn’t want to work there for as long as it would take.
    • (Shortform example: Joaquim’s coworkers are rude to him and he dreads going into work every day.)

Now that you have a better handle on when to leave your job, you should have a clearer path to career satisfaction.

When to Leave Your Job: The 3 Factors to Look For

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  • What makes people love their work
  • Why following your passion is not the path to loving your work
  • The four rules for loving your work

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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