Make a Call on Quitting Your Job Without Any Regrets
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Make a Call on Quitting Your Job Without Any Regrets

Plenty of workers want a fresh start now, but a new gig isn’t always the answer. Here are things to consider before firing off a farewell email.

By RACHEL FEINTZEIG
Wed, Aug 4, 2021 11:56amGrey Clock 4 min

It feels like everyone’s doing it.

In the United States, more than 7.5 million workers quit their jobs in April and May, up from 4.3 million during the same period the year before. Everyone’s talking about fresh starts. Burnout, the return-to-office mandate, boredom after a year of career stagnation: They can all seem like good enough reasons to send that farewell email.

But is leaving your job right now the right call? How do you make a decision you won’t regret?

More than a third of workers are looking for a new job, according to a May survey of 1,021 Americans from PricewaterhouseCoopers. Anthony Klotz, a management professor at Texas A&M University who studies resignations, says “turnover shocks”—being passed over for a promotion, watching a close colleague resign—often spark an employee’s desire to leave.

In these times, we’ve all basically experienced a turnover shock, he says. “So much change has happened over the last year that in some way or another we’ve thought, ‘Is this what I want to keep doing, in my life and my job?’”

Still, he recommends employees slow down and think hard before walking. Nearly a quarter of more than 1,000 workers polled by staffing firm Accountemps in 2017 said they had regrets about leaving former jobs. We often quit because we think a new gig will solve the 20% of our job that currently bugs us, Dr. Klotz says. And it might, at first.

“There’s that honeymoon period, and then you realize, ‘Oh, this company has a different set of problems,’” he says.

Consider the alternatives. Can you tweak the responsibilities of the role you have to make it a better fit? If you’re burned out, would a leave of absence help? For those desperate to hold on to remote work, Dr. Klotz recommends testing out life at the office for a couple of weeks. Maybe you’ll be shocked to find you love wearing real pants again and seeing other adults during the day. Or not—but at least you’ll know for sure before you resign.

Several years ago, Sam Jacobs left a job in a hurry. His company, a New York City tech startup, was struggling financially. His days as a sales executive began to fill with talk of pay cuts, layoffs and dwindling cash on hand. Meanwhile, a new company backed by high-profile investors was recruiting him, offering a sexy C-suite title.

“It felt like I needed to get off the sinking ship,” Mr. Jacobs says. He took the new job.

A few months later, he received a barrage of text messages. His previous company, righted by new management, had been sold. Friends and professional contacts offered their congratulations, unaware that he’d given up his stock options when he left. He’d missed out on about a million dollars, he estimates. Worse yet, he was struggling in the new role.

“In the moment, I had a horrible feeling,” he says. “It just felt like I couldn’t make a right decision.”

Now the CEO of Pavilion, a professional networking and training community, his default advice to those unsure about quitting is: Stay. Often you’ve built up your reputation and trust with colleagues at your current company. You know how to get stuff done there.

“When you take on a new job, there’s risk built into it,” he says. “There’s so much that happens if you just stick around.”

Anthony Gonzalez was torn about whether to leave his job at advertising technology company Smartly.io in San Francisco in late 2019. He knew how lucky he was to be friends with his colleagues and feel no anxiety on Sundays about the start of the workweek. But another firm, which specialized in digital marketing for the travel industry, approached him with the promise of a significant pay bump and a bigger team. He said yes. Five months later, with the pandemic ravaging travel, he was laid off.

His shock soon gave way to introspection. He realized he wanted to be closer to family, and moved home to the Miami area. Most companies he interviewed with wanted him back in San Francisco. But his old bosses at Smartly.io offered him a new role that could be done remotely.

“If I had not taken this journey, this wouldn’t have been on the table for me,” he says.

He has some regrets about leaving. He’s now reporting to someone who used to be a peer. But he’s happy with where he landed, and grateful for the perspective shift.

“I feel like a lot of times I was making decisions for all the wrong reasons,” he says.

To be sure, sometimes leaving is the answer: to a toxic boss, unsustainable hours or a can’t-miss opportunity. And even with obvious red flags in their current jobs, humans can be too scared of transitions to make a move.

Katy Milkman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and author of the book, “How to Change,” says people tend to escalate their commitment to everything from jobs to relationships, even when they’re not working out.

As a result, she says, “You don’t optimize. You don’t achieve as much.”

So if you’ve made your pros-and-cons list, fully considered all the potential downsides of leaving and are still completely torn? It might be worth just going for it.

When Stacy Lightfoot started the application process to become the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s first vice chancellor for diversity and engagement, she was scared. Her job at the time was at a nonprofit, not a higher-education institution. And after more than 12 years, she was comfortable there.

But the impact she could have at the university, especially as the first Black woman to hold a cabinet-level position, felt big. She prepped tirelessly for round after round of interviews, including one marathon session this spring with members of the campus community.

“It was about an hour into that interview that I heard myself,” she says, and realized how ready she was for the role, if it was to be hers. “I told myself that I could do this.”

She started the job a few weeks ago. It’s going great.

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Andy Warhol’s portrait of the late Queen Elizabeth II sold for C$1.14 million (US$855,000) at an auction last week, setting a record price for an editioned print by the Pop artist, the Canadian auction house Heffel said.

Warhol created the screenprint in 1985 based on a photograph taken by Peter Grugeon at Windsor Castle in 1975, which was released in 1977 on the occasion of the Queen’s Silver Jubilee, according to Heffel.

Queen Elizabeth II died in September at the age of 96 after a seven-decade reign, making her one of the longest-reigning monarchs in history.

The portrait features the then-reigning Queen wearing the diamond-and-pearl Grand Duchess Vladimir Tiara and a matching necklace, and a blue sash pinned with a medallion with a miniature portrait of her father, George VI, on regal blue background. The outline of the portrait was accentuated by diamond dust, which glimmered in the light.

This print is one of only two editions signed as “HC” for Hors d’Commerce (not for sale) aside from the 30 numbered editions with this colour scheme and diamond dust, according to Heffel.

The consignor acquired the print circa 1996 from Bob Rennie, a prominent Vancouver businessman and collector, according to Heffel, which declined to disclose the identities of the consignor and the buyer.

Offered as a highlight at Heffel’s 85-lot auction of Post-War and contemporary art on Nov. 24 in Toronto, the print realised a price more than double its presale estimate, and was the highest achieved by an editioned print by Warhol, the auction house said.

The previous auction record for an editioned Warhol print was for a piece from the same edition, also in the regal blue coloursold in September at Sotheby’s for £554,400 (US$662,000), according to Heffel.

The most expensive Warhol work is his portrait of Marilyn Monroe, Shot Sage Blue Marilyn, which was acquired by gallerist Larry Gagosian at a Christie’s auction in May for US$195 million, marking a record price for a work by an American artist at auction.

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