Don't Quit Your Job
Please note that this piece is my opinion and is intended for people working high-demand roles, though you may find it helpful regardless of where you are in your worklife. I'm not here to advocate for enduring in a place that is abusive with no efforts to change in sight. Leave as soon as you can in any such situation. Thank you in advance for being kind and considerate in your responses.
If, like me, you are a software engineer, you enjoy a certain level of power in your career. Your skills are in high demand! If you're not happy with how things are going, if you're bored, if you want to make more money, if you're sick of Inigo greeting you with his full name and a reminder of your mortality, you can simply go get a new job. I know first-hand of companies who are desparate for help building their software. And they're desparate because other companies are too and are doing everything they can to "win the talent war."
And we're all humans! We don't like being uncomfortable, being unrecognized, being bored, or any other sort of unpleasantness. So you might think, if you have the power to leave to one of these many companies desparate for your skillset, why not just do so? You certainly can. I certainly have! But I don't think you should.
A Better You > A Better Salary
One of my personal values is that perserverence builds character. I've learned this through personal experience. I've purposefully chosen to do some things the hard way in my life through the advice of others whom I believe are wise. And I can confidently say what it produces is worth more than almost anything else. When I do something difficult and I push through the urge to quit, I've found time and again that I come out more resilient, proud of what I've done, and more like the kind of people that I admire the most.
This plays out in my personal life often. I just finished bringing my lawn back from probably the worst state it's ever been in. Where the grass grows the most, it had gotten as tall as me. I was out there day after day, slowly working my battery-powered mower through grass taller than it was comfortable with in am-I-even-breathing-right-now humidity and oppressive heat, slashing through the really tall stuff with my trimmer. I had to do it in stages and it was taking so long that I had to go back to areas I had already done to keep them cut down before I could move on to areas I hadn't got to yet. I'm not trying to make it sound like I'm some hero for doing this. It was hard work. There were big ugly bugs living in the jungle that was my backyard. Spiders as big as my hand. I was sweaty, stinky, and sneezing. It was not fun.
But when it was all done and I was drinking coffee the next morning watching the sun rise over my backyard, it was an almost embarassingly emotional moment. I was really proud. I did something hard, even on the days I didn't want to, and in some small, barely perceptible way, I knew I was different.
I had considered paying someone to fix it for me, maybe even to mow it for me from now on. It's very possible (and very easy) to choose the easy road every time. I know where that road goes. I've walked down it quite a long way! And I can tell you this: you might make a lot of money, but one day you will be given nothing but hard choices. The people who thrive on that day are the one who have been willing to do hard things. The people who didn't (people like me) crumble and end up searching for excuses.
I encourage you to really contemplate what you want to get our of your work. There's so very much more to you and your life than money and even happiness!
You Can Make A Difference
If things are not so great (or even really bad) where you are, then chances are you're not the only one feeling it! Maybe others are burned out. Maybe others feel their efforts go unnoticed. Maybe others are wondering when they're gonna get a raise, or a promotion. Maybe others are tired of hearing that one VP make the same ignorant joke again and again. And if you leave, that's one less person who's sick of it, but also one less person who might actually do something about it. After all, your skills are in high-demand remember? What do you really have to lose? The job you're sick of? "Sigh. Looks like I'll have to go to a new place where I'll be happier and make more money... Woe to me and my pitiful state!"
But you might find that you're not the only one who's tired of the problems and who wants to do something about it. It's easy to dismiss one dissenter, but every voice added brings more evidence that there's a problem. Sometimes organizations with good intentions are simply blind to their own problems. You can be the one who pushes to make things better. And if it turns out that things are rotten to the core... 👋
Besides, this will require you to learn how to communicate hard things well, which is a massively valuable skill! So many problems need not be problems but no one close to the problem knows how to talk about it without blind rage or dismissable timidity. So even if you get tossed out the door for trying to change things, you'll learn from it and take it into future conflicts. Eventually, you'll find yourself being the bridge that heals gaps others were afraid to fall into. You have an opportunity to make things better! If you choose to push for the well-being of others and take a little personal risk to do so, I think you'll find what you gain greatly outweights whatever you might lose.
Influence Takes Time
On the topic of changing things, it's much easier to influence change the longer you stay at a company. With time, you gain understanding of where you are and relational currency through knowing others and being known. It makes more of an impact when someone says something's wrong if they've been around for 5 years instead of 5 months, even if the person who has been there 5 months has "more experience." And with that influence you can make things better for yourself, make things better for others, get promoted, make more money, etc. Smart leaders know when someone could have got fed up and left instead of trying to make things better and that relational currency can be a gold mine.
I've been at Asurion, where I am now, for at least as long as anywhere I've been before, almost certainly longer. (Time is hard for me to keep track of 😅) I can tell you with certainty that what I say and think carries more weight than it did when I started. And it should! I know more than I did when I started, in general and about the company in particular. So what I say comes from an ever-increasingly knowledgable place. That's something you can't buy or magically receive by finding the right job!
And, hey, sticking around even makes you a more attractive candidate when you do decide it's time to leave. In high-demand positions, people will be willing to overlook repeated short tenures, but most people are given pause by it. You do yourself a favor by showing that leaving for a new job is something you do rarely and under careful consideration.
The Grass Always Looks Greener...
It's a cliche to say the grass always looks greener on the other side. I'm gonna say it anyway. Because it's true. I've thought it to myself so many times.
"I'm so sick of this (project/team/company/domain)! Man, if only I was working at Acme Inc..." Pulls up their job listings
So you do leave, convinced things will be better, or at least that they can't be worse! But lo and behold, turns out there are people at that other place, too. Actual people who do people things. Like discriminating against people for stupid reasons, holding grudges, holding to familiar patterns out of fear of change. Need I go on? Where there's smoke, there's fire. Where there's people, there's problems. Fortunately, fire can keep you warm and people can do amazing things. But you must know what you're getting into when you're around them. Even if the things that drove you nuts about where you were are better at your new job, there will absolutely be new things that will drive you nuts in new ways you have newly discovered are possible.
Once I left a job because I was tired of the work and felt I would get more of the kind of work I wanted at a new place. At the new place, I got to travel, I got payed a ton of money, and I got to do work that was much more like what interested me. But it sucked. I worked on a legacy system that I barely could understand, was handed work that I had no idea how to do with minimal guidance, and felt very alone all the time due to the working conditions. (Note, I'm being vague because I don't wish for my experience with my prior employers to reflect poorly on them.) The old problems were gone, but the new ones were much worse.
And let's not forget another cliche: wherever you go, there you are. What if maybe, just maybe, the problems you saw, the ones that bothered you the most, were ones that you were part of? Let's not forget you're one of those people I was just talking about, too. We (read: I) like to think we've got it all together, especially when it comes to the problems that get under our skins the most. But we're not so great as we think.
Take me for example!
One of the things that really grinds my gears is disorganized projects. "When is that due? Wait, when?? Tomorrow?!" But guess what? I've struggled with organization my whole adult life. I've grown, but it's still a problem. And it has been a problem everywhere I've gone. Including at that place I mentioned above. The biggest problem of all at that job was that, honestly, I wasn't ready to be trusted with things and expected to have good work ethic and get it done in a timely manner. I would procrastinate and dodge questions about how things were coming. Getting a new job didn't stop me from doing the kinds of things I did before.
Oh and remember how I was talking about all the hard work I did on my lawn? I could give you excuses about how it got so long, but really it was because I didn't do anything to stop it. I could move to a new house, but that new lawn would still be under the care of a person who doesn't care for it enough to keep it in shape.
So what do you think is going to make me happier? Running from the fact that I've got a problem that needs fixing, finding that it crops up everywhere I go? Or accepting that I'm flawed, committing to working on me, and actually creating lasting change in myself, for myself, and for those around me? Probably the first one, but the second one okay too I guess.
Now that you've read through my opinion piece and are either galvanized to fight for personal growth and stay where you are or shaking your head in disgust while you formulate a scathing response that sounds better in your head than in will when you read it back to yourself on the screen, let me pause to say that another personal value of mine is that every situation deserves a nuanced analysis. Few things in life are truly cut-and-dry, black-and-white, always-do-this. Consider what I said. Consider the alternatives. Sometimes it's time to go. Sometimes it's time to stay. Sometimes it's... both... somehow? But I hope I've given you pause the next time you're about to start looking at job postings.
There's a lot to gain in your life that doesn't involve a new name on a new paycheck if you know where to look.