Should I Quit My Job? Connecting Career Vocation and Soul
Should I quit my job? Here we are, on a beautiful sun-filled summer day. Perhaps you’re on summer vacation. Work may be far from your mind! And yet…
And yet, there’s something about the summer vacation period that leads us to look at our jobs from a different angle. When we get away from the patterns of daily work routines, we often can see our work or career differently from how it looks when we’re right down in the trenches. Over the years, hundreds of people in stressful jobs have told me how hard it can be to focus on anything other than immediate deadlines when they endlessly keep arising. And in 2022, that’s the nature of many jobs!
Should I quit my job? That question may well come into more focus when I have time off from the regular daily routine. When I’m outside of the regular weekly vortex, I may find myself more in contact with what it is that I really want from my life. I may also find myself more in touch with the whole of my personal journey—and that’s important.
How do you even assess whether your job is right for you? Even more fundamentally, how do you start to figure our what you’re looking for from a job? [Please note – for the purposes of this discussion, I’m including self-employed options as a kind of “job” or career.]
What Do You Want from Your Job?
There are a number of key areas to think about, when it comes to asking whether your job is giving you what you need:
- Does my job meet my basic material needs? Clearly we want jobs that provide at least a basic living wage, have safe working conditions, and provide sick leave and disability insurance. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, or in continual fear of getting sick, this isn’t the job for you.
- Can I manage my workload, on an on-going basis? This is a big issue, as many people currently feel that their employers continually ask them to do more with less.
- Do I have a sense of community or connection with the people I work with? If not, it can be very hard to get a sense that work is satisfying, valuable or meaningful. It’s essential that work feels psychologically safe.
- Is my job adequately rewarding? I’m using the term here in a broader sense than just salary. Does my job provide other opportunities to develop, both professionally and personally?
- Is my job actually a fit with my life, and with who I am? Recently, this broad question has been in the background in our culture as we witness what Texas A & M Prof. Anthony Klotz labelled “the Great Resignation”. This huge wave of post-pandemic resignations comes as many workers re-examine their priorities and values.
From the perspective of Jungian /a-midlife-transition, it is this last question that is the most important. How does this job align with who I really am? From a Jungian perspective, the key life task we all face is individuation. This is the development of the individual personality, or, as Jung puts it, “the development of the psychological individual as a being distinct from the general, collective psychology” (Jung, CW 6). So, the question arises: is this job making me more or less myself?
The Dangers of Just “Keeping On Keeping On“
From this perspective, the greatest danger is that we will never even ask the question of how my work relates to my true identity, to the essence of me. Many years ago, Paul Simon expressed it perfectly in the song Slip Sliding Away:
We’re workin’ our jobs, collect our pay
Believe we’re gliding down the highway, when in fact we’re slip sliding away
It can be very easy to simply let inertia carry us when it comes to our work life. A job may be absolutely soul-sucking, and yet we continue day after day, month after month, year after year. We can suppress our real feelings, and experience them coming back to us in the form of anxiety or depression. We may never get to the point of confronting vocation, or of what it is that we feel we’re meant to do with the gift of our unique lives.
Should I Quit My Job? What Does Soul Say?
I’d like to close this post with three quotes by Jungian analyst James Hillman:
…the purpose of life is to make psyche of it, to find connections between life and soul.
Each life is formed by its unique image, an image that is the essence of that life and calls it to a destiny.
…you find your genius by looking in the mirror of your life.
On its most fundamental level, how I approach my job, and whether I remain in or leave my job, is a soul question. It has to do with the essence of who I am, and with making my daily life an expression of that true essence.
The expression of that true essence is fundamental to our journey to wholeness. Finding and expressing who we most fundamentally are is the very heart of Jungian analysis or /a-midlife-transition.
Wishing you every good thing on your personal journey,
© 2022 Brian Collinson, 2238 Constance Drive Oakville, Ontario (near Mississauga)