Before going to university, we think very carefully about the profession we want to pursue. Choosing a career is a very important task, after all, we don’t want just a job, but the one which will inspire us the most. We want a job which thrills us, where we can get the most of ourselves. And then, 10 years later, we stick with a job that doesn’t meet our needs anymore. What we have now is “just a job”. We might feel bored, under-challenged, stressed. That is not what we dreamed about, so… How did this happen?
Many people have the inclination to stay longer in a position than they should. Even if someone has a vast number of reasons to leave a company, there is an irrational fear of quitting a job. Even if we are unhappy, stressed, lacking motivation, quitting a job involves a lot of strength. Between the moment of realizing that we should quit the job and the moment we actually quit, sometimes years pass by. Why?
In Psychology there is a cognitive bias called the sunk-cost-fallacy. Sunk cost means a past cost that has already been incurred and cannot be recovered. The sunk-cost-fallacy describes the tendency people have to stick with something, even if it doesn’t seem to be profitable anymore, only to avoid losing the initial investment they made. Like buying a dozen bottles of wine, which happens to be awful. But you already paid for it, so you drink all the bottles. It is not the most rational decision to drink something which tastes awful only because you paid for it. The same happens with your career, if you have already put much effort in a particular project, you will probably stick to it, even if the current chance of succeeding is low.
The sunk cost fallacy is very dangerous for unhappy employees. It leads to an endless loop of waiting and postponing: “The next project is coming soon, maybe things will get better“, or “I want to finish this project first” (this is the best one, because projects rarely get finished!), or “I wait till the next promotion chance“. When you look back, you have complained for about 5 years… And you are still there – unhappy, bored, stressed.
What makes the decision of not quitting even more irrational is that we usually put all the losses related to quitting on one side of the balance, but nothing on the other side. The losses related to not quitting are not considered at all. A not fulfilling job wastes your time (which is limited, remember!), your nerves, your health. And more importantly, you give up the fantastic feeling of accomplishment, to feel active, energized. It just feels great to have the right job.
Another common fallacy when estimating wins and losses about quitting is that the losses related with not quitting are usually perceived as fixed, but they aren’t, they increase with every day you don’t quit. Every day you lose time, every day you lose energy, every day you lose motivation. Those losses are cumulative and raise as time passes by. For that reason, postponing brings nothing positive for you.
If your work is not fulfilling, start to look for another position today, not tomorrow. It is easy to wait and find many reasons why you should give your job some more time. After all, “good things come to those who wait”.
Mastering a career is like stock trading: only the beginners wait till it’s too late.
Your opinion matters! Where does the fear of quitting a job come from? Share your experiences with us!
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