My friend J told me I was crazy to quit my job as a visiting professor in Thailand.
I was teaching at Thailand’s top university.They put me up in a great hotel and I lived as an expat. I ate great food and I never experienced Japan’s summers or winter months because I would be in Thailand instead. Truthfully there were a lot of things I liked about the job.
But for me, one thing was missing and that was the opportunity to learn something new. After six years, the challenge was gone. I was just going through the motions and I didn’t want to do it “just for the money” or even the suntan.
They kept calling and asking me to return. I really loved the people, but I haven’t gone back. There was just not anything else for me to do there. The teaching was not enough. I need to feel like I am also learning something.
To me, the lack of a chance to learn is one of the most important reasons to quit.
In any job, you want three things:
1.to be fairly compensated,
2. you want to make a contribution; and
3. you want to be able to learn something.
People usually quit for the first reason, or at least that’s what they say. They choose a new job for the the second reason.
Too often they ignore the third reason. But it is often the most important.
One of the reasons I stayed at my full-time university position in Japan so long was that in 19 years, I could always learn something.
How about in your job? Is there a chance to learn? Can you take advantage of those chances?
Do you tell people your job is boring? It may be because the learning has stopped. Is there anything you can do to make it more interesting.
Some of my former students are working for General Electric. It’s a place that chooses the best people and challenges them continuously. I never hear these graduates complain— because the learning is non-stop.
Last night, I had dinner with another former student who just started working for a government agency in southern Japan. In his own words, he told me he “is doing only routine work”. “Routine work” means basically filling out forms and scheduling deliveries. For him, it just could not get more routine than this. There is no chance to do anything else for three years, which is basically his time for training.
One problem: It’s killing his spirit. I asked him if there was any way he could make the job more challenging, if there were things he could learn there. [It’s always best to see if you can find some learning where you are before you leave.]
He told me there really wasn’t and I believe him. He’s decided to leave after just a few months. To him, it’s the right choice, the only choice now.
When the learning stops, or when the chance for learning doesn’t exist. That’s the best time to quit.
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