How Do You Know When It's Time To Quit?

World Domination Summit 2013 - Portland, OR
Flickr The author, Tess Vigeland

One of the questions I've been asked over and over since leaving Marketplace is how I decided when to pull the plug and leave a really great job in public radio.

Decision made in a flash
I've addressed this before by noting that there were myriad reasons why I left -- some I'm discussing publicly, some I'm keeping private. But what it wasn't was a long, drawn-out discussion with myself/my family. I made a decision on a Friday, gave notice the next week, and left three months later (I wanted to give my employers transition time to find a new host for the show; more than a year later, they're still looking for my replacement.)

Quitting was not something I contemplated seriously for any length of time. Yes, I'd been unhappy for a while, but leave my job?! No way! That would be the height of idiocy!

So I had not really done any planning for my own departure. And not only did I lack a plan, but I didn't even have a notion of what I might want to do next. I hadn't been dreaming about my next job, because I already had my dream job. So why would I bother thinking about what came next? I honestly thought many, many times that I might just die of old age behind the microphone.

I think we tend to hear mixed messages when it comes to quitting jobs. On one hand, we're told it's stupid to leap, to leave, without already having a backup plan in place, without having another dream we're chasing. It's stupid for financial reasons, it's stupid for career advancement reasons, it's stupid for fill-in-the-blank reasons.

On the other hand, we're exhorted in best-seller after best-seller to follow our passion! Live the dream! Don't spend another minute in a job that isn't 100% fulfilling! Something else will come along and it will be even more awesome! Leap and the net will appear!

There has to be a happy medium, right? But where is it?

I still don't know, and I've been trying to find it for about a year now.

The pluses of being lost
What I do know is that stepping away without any real plan, while terrifying, was still good for my mental health. I needed to leave a job that wasn't challenging me and that wasn't feeding my soul, as much as I loved the actual work and the wonderful people who listened and called in to the show each week.

There is an intangible benefit to taking that leap and seeing where it leads, even if people think you're bonkers to do so (and plenty of people did). And although it took several months, the leap did land me in some pretty exciting places recently.

So is it time for you to leave?
It's such an individual decision, and no one can tell you when it's time for you to leap. If you're contemplating it, what factors are going into that decision?

How would you know when to move on, especially if you actually like your job, but something is nagging at your subconscious and whispering to you to jump into the unknown? Share your stories in comments section below and email me at

And come back here every Wednesday morning for my next post. Maybe we can figure this all out together.