How can you know if it is the right time to quit your first civilian job? As the transition master coach for Military.com's Veteran Employment Project, I hear about how the itch to quit happens to veterans and military spouses like you all the time.
At first, you can ignore the itch to quit and keep showing up day after day. You can tell yourself to just stick it out until you have been in the job at least a year. (As if a job you hold for a year looks any more impressive than a job you held for eight months. It does not.)
You tell yourself to commit more. Try harder. Seek first to understand. Despite your best efforts, however, the itch builds until a “rage quit” is spreading all over your body like a group of possessed fire ants.
This is actually a good sign. It means your soul is trying to tell you something about work your mind does not want to hear – because you are not the kind of person who quits things.
7 Good Reasons to Quit Your Civilian Job
Yet, there are very good reasons to quit a job and find something better. Here are a few I've heard from vets that really resonate:
- The job you thought you were taking and the job you actually ended up with are two totally different things.
- You are not making enough money to pay your bills.
- You took a job that is well beneath your abilities and there is no path forward.
- You despise the company, including your boss, and all it holds dear.
- You can see much better opportunities at another company, and maybe you have already been approached by a recruiter.
- You are embarrassed to tell your friends about your current job.
- You are bored out of your mind, and you have an idea for a better fit.
While indulging in a “rage quit” is never a good idea, these factors are clear indicators that it is time to look for a new job. I know you dread it. No one enjoys the job hunt. This is a great time for veterans to look for a job, though. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment for veterans has decreased from 6.5% in 2020 to 2.4% in March 2022.
One Good Reason To Stay
The itch to quit, however, is not only experienced by veterans or spouses who have a good reason to quit. For some, there is an embarrassing three-year itch that happens even when you are in a pretty good job.
I heard about this again just a few weeks ago when I got a call from a former client. "I think I'm outta here," he told me. I was a little surprised. He seemed to have landed well at a good company with people he liked in the city he wanted to live in most. His boss was even a good guy.
When I tried to pin him down on the reason why he was ready to leave, I asked a lot of questions:
Were they paying him enough? Probably. He just had a raise.
Was the work environment toxic? No. He liked the people on his team, and his boss was a pretty good guy.
Were there opportunities for growth? Sort of. He had one offer of promotion.
Was the company in financial or legal trouble? No.
Were they asking him to do anything immoral or illegal? No.
I was racking my brain to try to figure out the cause of his itch to quit when I landed on one more reason.
How long have you been in the job? Just more than 2½ years.
The Three Year Itch
And right there was the problem. , I see veterans get the itch to leave their civilian job right around the three-year mark – the same time they used to get orders in the military. Spouses are every bit as likely to look around for a change, as if there is a Permanent Change of Station (PCS) move on the horizon.
I hypothesize that it is sort of like the fabled seven-year itch for marriage. Something in your brain tells you that surely you have mastered this set of skills for this job, just like you did during your military career.
This is not your intention. In a recent survey we conducted with our Veteran Employment Project community, we know that your initial intention is to get a job and stick with it. Fifty-eight percent of our veterans said they intended to stay in their first job five years or more. Another 22% said they intended to stay three to five years.
What Can You Do About the Three Year Itch?
If you are experiencing that three-year itch, pay attention. Unless you hate the people you work with, the pay is bad or a super opportunity opens up, don't run away. This is the time to reconnect and go deeper. The three-year itch could be a signal that you have mastered your current job as you know it.
Initiate three to five informational interviews. Ask your current bosses about the skills they think you need to improve on. Look on your company's website for other job listings that interest you. Talk to your veteran peers at other companies and find out what they are experiencing.
The itch to quit is always uncomfortable, but if you examine what is really going on, you can move to the next step in your wonderful career.
Jacey Eckhart is Military.com's Transition Master Coach. She is a Certified Professional Career Coach and military sociologist who helps military members get their first civilian job by offering career-level Master Classes through our Veteran Employment Project and on her website SeniorMilitaryTransition.com. Reach her at Jacey.Eckhart@Monster.com.
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