Toolbox Ad FinalCareer on FireI love the phrase “Don’t jump from the frying pan into the fire!” Initially, it sounds like good advice; who doesn’t want to prevent certain disaster?

If you think about it, though, the frying pan isn’t really a great place to be sitting, either. Relative to the fire, it’s not bad, but do you really want to be in a job that’s “not bad”? (Click here to tweet this thought.) How many of us are in the frying pan right now?

If your boss is always taking credit for your work, your coworkers consistently eat your lunch or your office mate makes loud, personal phone calls, you may get fed up one day and say the two magic words we all wish we could utter — “I QUIT!” But those hastily muttered words can cause you to take shortcuts. Out of desperation and a lack of due diligence, you may take an offered position because you need the job and you didn’t have a plan in place prior to throwing your hands up in despair and walking out.

What can cause even the most patient among us to run screaming off the cliff and straight into a blazing five-alarm career fire? Here are some common things that can make you want to quit your job, and how you can best handle them:


The Micromanaging Boss

From personal experience, I know that working for a nitpicking, hovering-over-your-shoulder micro-manager borders on abusive. A good day is when your boss is on vacation or out sick. A bad day is when you wish you had called in sick because you really believe that one of you is not going to make it through the day alive.

A person who works this hard to control others clearly has issues, and while you’d like to just do your job and say “he’s not my problem,” he has made his issues your issues.

Keep yourself sane by anticipating what your boss wants. Most micromanagers are also predictable. You know what they’re going to say before they say it, so why give them the opportunity? At one point, you probably really liked your job. Find, and then use, the passion you once had to begin to be viewed again as a “self-starter” and a hard worker. If your boss is constantly reminding you to do the same task, surprise her by saying, “It’s already done and in your inbox.” Do it enough times, and the reminders will dwindle.


No Opportunity for Advancement

You accept a job with visions of advancement dancing in your head, but very soon, you realize all of the senior managers have been in their roles for 10 or more years — and they don’t intend to retire anytime soon. Or maybe you notice there’s a very specific way to get promoted, and it involves dinner parties at the Senior VP’s home and golf outings with major clients. (Neither of which you are invited to attend.)

Depending on the size of the company or department you’re in, this can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. If you work for a larger company, it may be time to look at an internal job change. However, if you work for a small company, some of this should have been foreseeable. There are situations where employers over-promise in order to entice a prospective employee to accept the job, and that’s why I advocate for ensuring these promise are part of the offer letter. If an employer can’t put it in writing, know there is a very good chance it won’t happen.


Unhappy With Your Salary

If you are upset because you aren’t being paid enough, this usually occurs because you took a job out of desperation, hoping that your contributions and work ethic would be sufficient to guarantee a raise. This line of thinking is naive because if a company hired you below market rate, they were happy to save money. They are not then going to increase your salary to market rate just because you work hard. Everyone works hard. You need to know your worth up front and negotiate your pay.

Sometimes employees are underpaid because of reductions in salary. Or you may be unhappy with your salary because you didn’t receive a raise this year or the raise you received was smaller than you expected. But as Lisa Gates of She Negotiates will readily tell you, “Ask for more!” If you don’t negotiate, you’re leaving money on the table, and while there are a number of valid reasons for not doing this, it will most likely leave you dissatisfied with your job.


Your Contributions Aren’t Valued

Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting providing what you believe is a great suggestion to a problem, only to have your boss say, “That’s good, but why don’t we hear what John has to say”? John then basically says exactly what you said, and he’s lauded as a visionary who “gets it”!

This happens frequently to women, but we’ve all experienced it in some shape or form. It gets tedious. After a while, you stop sharing ideas, then you stop coming up with ideas and, eventually, you avoid the meetings altogether.

One of the causes for this frustrating phenomenon is what I like to call lack of visibility. The person giving you the proverbial (and sometimes literal) pat on the head doesn’t see you as anyone with anything to contribute. That may seem a little harsh, but at the end of the day, the truth is they aren’t valuing what you bring to the table, and they don’t view you as a leader.

When you find yourself in this situation, it warrants having a conversation with that person outside of the meeting. Take time to share your ideas in a one-on-one environment and get their buy-in in advance. Let your boss know you really appreciate their support of your idea and you look forward to feedback from others in the meeting. Now, the fact that you’re the origin of this great idea can’t be avoided. It also helps in the event your ideas are not received well. Better to know that in private than in a public setting.


You’re on a Sinking Ship

The financial stability of a company can change quickly, but the signs are usually there. Either you just weren’t paying attention or you didn’t know what to look for.

I’ve interviewed a number of controllers who were out of work due to layoffs. I’m always surprised by this. I think: Didn’t you see this coming? You review cash flow on a daily basis!  If anyone has an idea of the financial health of a company, shouldn’t it be the accounting folks?


What Do You Do If You’ve Already Jumped?

Unfortunately, you may be reading this after you’ve already jumped, and now you regret it. As you sit with the proverbial flames licking at your heels, you realize that as hard as it was to be employed where you were, it’s much more difficult to be employed where you are now.

Begin by doing the things you should have done (but didn’t) to prevent this in the first place. Reach deep within you and find some patience. You don’t want to make the same mistake a second time, so sit back, exhale and acknowledge your situation for what it is.

Assuming you’re not independently wealthy (or you wouldn’t be stuck in this situation), start by being thankful to have a paying job. Remembering the good things about your job helps keep a positive mindset and goes a long way towards making it through particularly miserable days at work.

Conduct some research. Prior to changing jobs (again!), ask yourself a few questions:

  • Are you working in the industry you want to be in?
  • Do you have the skills and experience you need to change industries?
  • Which company/companies would you prefer to be employed by?
  • What is the average salary for someone in this job in this industry in this geographic area?

Once you’ve taken stock of your career and where you want to be, create a plan. How are you going to make this work? Where do you start? Who is in your network that might be able to help you?

Going through these steps will give you something to focus on besides the job you hate. It will also help make your day a little easier to bear knowing that you’re creating an escape plan.

Is your career on fire? How can you get it back on track?


Stacey is the author of The Successful Interview: 99 Questions to Ask and Answer (and Some You Shouldn’t). Her writing has appeared in Forbes, and she has contributed to articles in Essence and Black MBA Magazine. She has also appeared on Connect with Stacey on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Forbes Insider's List opt in

Image: Flickr