Design a Quitting Plan: Opportunity Cost is Real in Your Career

Nicki Gilmour
Stop doing things at work that don’t work. Heard this before?

Has anyone told you to quit unproductive habits, or even quit your job? Well, today we are going to talk about not quitting.  At least, when you shouldn’t.

How many of us quit at the wrong time? When the going gets tough? The other side of the coin is that so many more do not quit something when we should ( job, project, partner, habit etc.) to do something better that we do not know exists yet.

Beyond being a coach and keeping my knowledge up to par, I love reading good personal and professional development books. I can be found having a little peace away from the madding crowd on the floor of a Barnes and Noble in summer months when work is less crazy. Air conditioning an added bonus. Recently, I picked up Seth Godin’s “the dip: a little book that teaches you when to quit (and when to stick)” and it resonated deeply for this column and the career advice I offer. Seth has a great blog too and this book is based on this blog “The four curves of want and get.”

Basically, the dip, according to Seth, is the moment we want to quit in the hard bit. This means when we feel exhausted or frustrated in our career, working out, or trying to learn new skills generally. Sometimes, things get hard, setbacks happen. No new news there, but why this book is a good and quick read (but gender bias in his examples at every turn in the book with implicit assumptions around the best being portrayed as a man continually is my only critique of an otherwise fabulous read), is that it compels you to think about why you quit when you do.

What is worth pushing through to the other side?

This little gem of a book talks about what criteria can be created to give yourself the permission to quit for the right reasons and at the right time. Invaluable.

Why is it that some of us don’t quit when we should?  When there is a dead end or a cliff that ultimately creates a downfall or loss for us in some way?

It got me thinking about so many of the people I coach.

It is my opinion that we are all in a state of quitting, we just do not know it. Much like Steven Covey’s identified habit of ‘begin with the end in mind’ in his book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, success often comes with an exit strategy or a desired outcome.

We might be at the start of the curve and full of enthusiasm. But, over time it is inevitable that we are fighting entropy, boredom or irrelevance unless we find new ways to do things. We should know our mission and our end goal but change the product, tactic, approach where necessary, quit those things, but not the stuff that makes us great and makes us happy.

Seth Godin agrees, “The best quitters are those who decide to quit in advance, not because of panic or momentary dip. When you are being asked to settle for less, compromise or drop out, your desire to quit should be at its lowest. If it’s the easiest time to give up that is not the time to give up. “

He continues, “Strategic quitting is a conscious decision you make based on the choices that are available to you. If you realize you are at a dead end compared to what you could be investing in, quitting is not a reasonable choice, it’s a smart one.”

You should quit when you are facing a cliff or a dead end. Forget pride, sunken costs, quit when you know you can do better or be better or have more of what you want.

What is the bigger picture?

So, the message here is don’t quit your job if there is still value to you in the firm or industry, quit the way you do your job or quit the team or manager or even the firm. But, know what you want and need to know what you have to do to get it.

Need help figuring this all out? Work with a career coach – schedule a free exploratory chat to see if coaching is for you with Nicki Gilmour here.