When to Leave Your Job for Your Sanity’s Sake

Here I was again, staring at my keyboard, eyes unfocused and filling with some ineffable emotion. It was happening once a day, and while I was better at managing it with breathing techniques and keeping positive images around me, that creeping, gaping monster was there to sing a sad song when I had let feed.

I’m a strong believer in taking mental health seriously and that it doesn’t get enough focus in the insurance industry. We have an article on rational reasons to stay in a job, but not one on the emotional reasons. So, if you found yourself like me, listening to that wail that had no right to loom so large, this article is for you. It can hopefully give you a framework as to when you need to change a job for the good of your mental health, not just for your career.

1. Try Counseling and Other Avenues First

Counseling is amazing and you should definitely take advantage of it before seriously considering a job change. Obviously, if something horrible or illegal is going on, skip this step, but I know I tend to get trapped in my own mind a lot when I don’t feel good about a situation. Find a therapist you click with (which may take a while) and talk to them about your issues. It could be something outside of work that’s affecting you, but if you do have issues with your work environment, therapy is an excellent space to voice those issues and get some validation or other perspectives. For me, it definitely made me feel like I wasn’t being ridiculous. My therapist also gave me great coping techniques for the situations I couldn’t change.

There’s also medication. Obviously, talk about this with your therapist/doctor, but for some people, this is a massive help. The only issue is that this is not changing anything about your environment – it might help you to cope with it or change your habits to not be bothered so much, but you’re still in the same position. It’s not going to work for everyone, but depending on the circumstances it might be worth a shot. For me, it was great the first few months and then after that reality came back and I felt pretty much the same as before. My environment hadn’t changed and I couldn’t change the things that mattered most to me (like location) and pills can’t change that either.

Also, this doesn’t necessarily have to come out of your pocket. Many companies offer an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) with a set number of free counseling session for employees – check with your HR representative to see if you have a program like this available.

2. Time to Evaluate Your Position

If therapy has fixed the situation for you – AWESOME! But if not, it’s time to evaluate where you are in your career and try to be as objective as possible about how long you can stay sane in your current position. If you find yourself unhappy every day, unable to get yourself to out of bed or to work on time, then you may be a little more pressed to move than if you have sporadic days of disliking where you’re at. Here’s a few helpful questions to get you through the process:

  • What opportunities would be available to me if I decided to start looking right now? Would different, better opportunities be open to me if I held out for 6-12 months?

This can make a huge difference in what you decide to do in the moment. If you think holding out for 6-12 months is better (maybe you have a promotion coming or you haven’t been at your current job for a year yet), then that at least gives you a bright spot on the horizon to focus on. It’s important to remind yourself that nothing is permanent and you’re taking the right steps to get where you want to be.

  • What can I financially manage? Am I willing to take a pay cut for the things that really matter to me (flexibility, culture, title, etc.)?

This might matter more for the types of roles you’re going to look at. For instance, if you want flexibility and are unwilling to take a pay cut, maybe you need to look at sales where you will have to work a bit more but get to make your own schedule. If you value a set salary and schedule, then maybe something in underwriting would be a better fit. Culture is something that is particular to each person, so think about what you like (oversight vs autonomy, a sense of community, fun perks) and try to get a sense of that as you’re looking into potential employers or during an interview.

  • Do I want to relocate or am I willing to? If so, can I swing that financially and will my significant others be happy with that decision?

This is relatively straight-forward, but if you’re looking to move to a specific area, where would you prefer? What opportunities are there now and are you qualified for them? Always make sure to talk things over with your significant other (unless it’s just you – then take on some adventures!) as relocating is a major stress.

Obviously, there’s a lot that goes into it, but these are some good questions to get started. It’s difficult to feel anything but trapped when you’re emotionally drained and depressed, so having a framework makes you less likely to commit to things that you’ll regret later.

3. If You Don’t Like Your Current Role, What do you Want?

It’s easy to feel like you just aren’t meant for insurance, especially if you’re in a call center.  However, insurance is an awesome career for a million reasons and chances are there’s something you’d like to do within it. And, if there’s one good thing to come from your decided-dislike of your current role, it’s that you crossed one off the list that you don’t want to try. Now’s the time to read up on other types of roles, which you can do by looking at job descriptions, asking people you work with about their job, and going outside of your physical proximity to LinkedIn to field some questions. A lot of people around me were quick to point out what roles they thought I would fit well in and explain what those roles are like. I also know of some companies that will let you shadow other departments for a few days to see if that’s a better fit (and if you like your company this makes it a much easier transition!). Our Co-Founder and Chief Motivational Officer Tony offers free career advice to help you figure this out.

4. GO FOR IT

This is the hardest thing to do, especially in insurance where you probably make a decent wage and are at a desk much of the time. It’s easy to sit there and chug along, unhappy but ostensibly doing well. Don’t be someone who lets their mental health fall to the wayside in favor of material matters or resume-status. If you aren’t happy, you should work on fixing it! And you don’t need to do it alone – make use of your friends, connections, and peers. One day, you’ll hopefully be able to do the same for someone else.

About Taryn Haas

I'm a philosophy nerd turned Associate Underwriter at Vermont Mutual. While I won't find Wittgenstein in CG forms, the language and logical constructs make both studies interesting to decipher. Occasionally, you'll find me playing my keyboard and singing passionately with my fiance at local cafes, or tucked into a corner writing sci-fi/fantasy stories.

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