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Personal Development

So, you think you want to leave your job. Now what?

Job dissatisfaction is a worldwide experience, and the occasional desire to quit is universal. When unemployment is high, however, employees of all types can be wary about leaving one job. Employers have all the power in the relationship, and people often feel that staying in a mediocre job or career is a better option than taking a risk with a new position — or worse, with unemployment.

This is an especially valid concern for those who are merely skating by or have failed to really stand out in their existing positions. For these folks, a competitive employment season can be too risky to warrant walking away from the paycheck they steadily receive.

There are always exceptions

Great employees do not need to fear the unknown, though, as they tend to thrive in any situation. Even during periods of competitive job markets, a person for whom excellence is a thread woven into his or her psyche will find employers willing to open doors. The opportunities are out there and ripe for the picking, no matter the market.

Because these successful individuals typically outperform in all situations, though, self-evaluation can sometimes be difficult. 8 Questions Before You Quit Your JobThey are not necessarily those who are the best team players or who follow the company rules, but those who have the desire and skills to strive for excellence in all endeavors they pursue. This is a rare and valuable quality, and it’s a type of work ethic that needs to be instilled early in someone’s life.

It’s difficult to put your best effort into everything you do. If you don’t feel that your life is physically, emotionally, or mentally draining, you are probably operating at less than your full capacity. While I don’t necessarily advocate wearing yourself thin from dedication to your job, it is a trait that bodes well in the workplace.

Even still, these extreme efforts can cloud the perspective of some. If you’re putting in 110% for your job, day in and day out, it can be difficult to take a step back and see whether you’re really where you need to be. Ask yourself the following questions as you, as a high-functioning individual, are considering whether to leave your work behind in favor of new opportunities.

1. Is the company rewarding me for my work?

Reward takes a variety of forms, and the best situation is where your desires match what the company has available. For example, if your only sense of reward comes from financial compensation, working for a non-profit organization with a tight budget could be problematic. Look at the whole picture. If you are passionate about the work you do, your reward may be intrinsic in the work itself. If you are working at your position more out of necessity than desire, your reward should take other forms, as something that is meaningful to you.

You need to let your company know what types of rewards are acceptable, as long as your performance warrants. If the company can find no way to reward you for excellent work, you should look to move on. Employees who seek excellence will almost always be in demand. Mediocre employees, on the other hand, are more susceptible to market forces.

2. Do I have good relationships with co-workers and managers?

Mutual respect is an important aspect of a fulfilling lifetime experience. You may spend eight plus hours a day with the colleagues and managers in your workplace. If you don’t believe them to be good people or if they don’t believe you to be worthy of respect, the time you spend working with them will be unfulfilling.

Beyond respect, you should expect to feel comfortable and at ease. That doesn’t mean there can’t be a sense of urgency, if necessary, within your workplace environment. Respect is the base and, above that, good relationships contain trust. You should expect your co-workers to be just as reliable as you. You shouldn’t need to micromanage others, and they shouldn’t be micromanaging you.

You can’t expect that everyone in your office will be your friend, but you can expect an environment in which there isn’t a pervasive sense of negativity.

3. Is there enough variety in my day?

While excellent performers can certainly function well in daily, repetitive tasks, this isn’t the best use of someone’s time and efforts. Most employees feel under-utilized with their set of responsibilities and authority, but this can be a significant problem for people who strive to excel. Great employees might be willing to put up with limited activities for a while, but it might be better to leave than stick around if there’s no sign of this improving.

Related: How to Prepare With a Flexible Career Plan

The best position for a high-functioning employee is one where you have the opportunity to use as much as your skill set as possible. This is one reason excellence-focused individuals pursue their own businesses; this type of start-up work requires use of all mental faculties.

4. Can I continue to learn from my managers?

Education is a life-long endeavor, particularly if you work in, are interested about, or are passionate for an industry that continuously evolves. Excellent employees know that they should rarely (if ever) be the smartest person in the room. Constant self-improvement is a need, not just for career advancement but for a sense of worth and value. If you are going to spend a large chunk of your day working with people, you want to ensure there are opportunities available for you to continue building your skills, not just from a technical perspective but from a philosophical perspective as well.

Large companies with resources generally understand that employees have a need to continue learning but struggle to learn anything from managers. Taking the place of these learning opportunities, you may find mentoring programs, tuition benefits, company-sponsored seminars, and other programs designed to allow employees to expand their minds. These are good, but not the best replacements for having a mentor who is interested and able to provide the insight you need to improve.

5. If I resolve my dissatisfaction, will I be happy?

Imagine yourself continuing to work at your current company but with all of the above concerns resolved. If this scenario still leaves you wanting more from your employment, it’s a great indication that it’s time to seek other opportunities. Even if you can’t put your finger on the cause of your dissatisfaction, you deserve to be happy. The danger is chasing an unrealistic dream.

The solution is to realize that happiness is a choice. You can simply choose to be happy with what you have. This isn’t “settling,” it’s analyzing your situation and concluding that your needs are being met. If your company is doing a good job of listening to your concerns and willing to place you in the best working scenarios, there is little more you can ask. If you can’t be happy with this, consider whether you would be happy anywhere. If so, consider moving on; if not, choose to be happy.

6. Do I have another opportunity lined up?

A standard piece of advice is never to quit one job until you have another opportunity ready to go. People who strive for excellence might have some trouble with this concept. Someone for whom excellence is an important personal virtue will likely work hard until the day they quit, leaving little time for aggressive job hunting or soul searching. Excellence transcends job market conditions, though, so demand for you will still be high.

As a valuable contributor to your organization, you might not need to be concerned about your company knowing you’re seeking other opportunities. If you’re considering leaving, you should have already had discussions with your managers during which you’ve made them aware of your disappointment. So, this should not come as a surprise to them. The organization is not going to fire you if you are still a great asset, and they might even be willing to help you find your next opportunity.

You will need to dedicate some time to self-marketing. Many people who strive for excellence don’t need external acknowledgment of their virtues for self-satisfaction. To find a job, however, you’ll need to be less humble and more willing to sell yourself as a desirable product. If, however, you are interested in making your own opportunities, you don’t need to wait for a job offer. There’s no time better than now to start your own endeavor.

7. Is my emergency fund ready?

People often stay in jobs they don’t like because they don’t want to risk losing the income. Households have debt to pay, whether from student loans, the expansion of a household, or overspending. Debt traps people into a situation where a strong percentage of every paycheck is destined elsewhere. This isn’t much different than indentured servitude. Even people who strive for excellence can be unprepared financially.

An emergency fund is the answer. Take some time to build an emergency fund from the ground up. Start by taking a small percentage of every paycheck and automatically transferring the amount into a high-yield savings account. You’ll want this account to be able to cover your living expenses for several months to prepare for a potential loss of income. Since you strive for excellence, consider expanding your emergency fund into a multi-layered emergency plan, which offers more flexibility and possibly less time to put into effect.

An emergency fund lets you take more career risks without hurting your family’s finances. You could take a more interesting and rewarding job for less pay, or you can start a new business without worrying about the immediate loss of income.

8. Will my decision affect my family’s stability?

Single people have more flexibility. They can take chances, move from location to location, and put up with less stability than people who have the added responsibilities of caring for a family. With a spouse and children, every decision you make affects more than just one person — and it’s important to keep this in mind.

The emergency fund mentioned above can help smooth financial rough patches when you make your decision to quit your unfulfilling job, but you need to worry about more than just the financial concerns. If your dream requires you to move away from Kansas and set yourself up in California, you can’t make such a decision without considering the needs and desires of the rest of your family.

Learn More: Resigning on Good Terms

The reality of the economy is that most people cannot afford to consider quitting a job without a solid plan in place for replacing the income immediately. Job satisfaction is a luxury at a time when most people feel that they’re lucky just to have a job. If you are someone who strives for excellence in all that you do, you have more options open because you’ve done quite a bit to improve your measure of human capital. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to seek out solutions for improving your current situation before making a significant career move by quitting.

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The concept of the Latte Factor is one of the most divisive in personal finance. Money gurus get so worked up over whether the Latte Factor is a valuable lesson in money management, that one might think the issue were as important as the national debt. Most of the time, passionate responses pertaining to the Latte Factor are based more on book sales and page views than any rational consideration of the issue, though.

latte

The Latte Factor is a term coined and trademarked by financial author and guru David Bach. He posits that small, repeated savings — of which people can make into habits — can aid the growth of wealth over time. The math supports this as truth: Assume you spend five dollars every weekday on a fancy, coffee-related drink on the way to your office. Now, imagine you cut out the coffee, or replace it with a $1.50, less-fancy drink. You would save at least $20 a week, or about $1,000 a year.

Take it a step further and put that money in a bank or invest it. Then, assume that you can earn a return from interest, dividends, or investment gains on that cash. Over the next ten years, you’ll have somewhere in the neighborhood of $15,000 more to your name than you would have, had you continued buying your daily gourmet drink.

Take it a step furtherLatte Factor Coffee

This concept isn’t limited to expensive coffee-related drinks, though. Any habits that result in spending money that could be deemed unnecessary can qualify for elimination due to the Latte Factor. Cook your own food rather than dining out once a week, and you could save just as much money (or more) over the same period. Cut out your premium cable package in exchange for Netflix or Amazon Prime streaming, and tuck that cash away.

Most people, however, don’t bridge the gap between reducing spending in one area and increasing savings with the difference. Unless there’s a concerted, conscious effort to transfer money from a checking account to a savings account or an investment, the money formerly spent on lattes or other repeatable expense will often just be spent on something else.

Furthermore, families that have already reduced their spending due to personal or economic situations may not have much room left to scrape the barrel. Finding additional savings can be too much to ask.

Yet another criticism of the Latte Factor is that it minimizes the importance of reducing large expenses. If a family gets into the habit of saving money ordinarily spent on lattes and uses that attitude to justify buying a more expensive car, all the work will have been for naught.

Well, I take that back: the work would have been for a more expensive car. But, in my opinion, there are about 100 better uses for that extra, squirreled cash.

Do what works for you

All spending is a choice. It’s easy to remember this when a friend refuses to spend time with you, citing the expense of the activity, while they continue to purchase unnecessary electronics equipment, for example. You can identify someone’s priorities by looking at how they choose to spend the money they have and the time they have available. If you look at your own priorities, your budget should match.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re broadcasting your priorities to the world. Spending money and time in one area of your life, at the expense of another area, is really all the evidence you need. If there’s incongruence between the priorities you think you should have and how you spend your time and money, consider changing something. Or maybe, you need to accept the idea that your priorities may not be what you expect. Your real priorities are evidenced by how you spend your limited resources.

So, what if the pick-me-up you receive by drinking a fancy latte in the morning is important to you? As long as you realize that your habit results in a hypothetical “loss” of $10,000 or more over the course of ten years, spend the money. Sure, buying a practical car that requires little care, uses fuel efficiently, and will last a long time can save money over the course of several decades. But if buying a less practical car makes you feel happy and won’t be a financial hardship — even if it means leasing a new car every three years — then go ahead.

Just remember, though: Your spending reflects your priorities.

I see this in my own spending. For example, I still drive my old Honda Civic. In one respect, I haven’t purchased a new car because I see it as an unnecessary expense. I’m more than comfortable with keeping the money I would need to buy a new car in my savings account. Meanwhile, I spend money on things other people would see as frivolous, such as photography classes and equipment, hiring a maid service for my apartment on a bi-weekly basis, coin collecting (though not much recently), and travel.

Is the Latte Factor relevant to your personal finance experience? What does your spending say about your priorities? 

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We all have those times when it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day. Between juggling work responsibilities, being there for the family, and maintaining relationships with friends, life stretches us thin. Spending time on personal and professional development can feel like a luxury that we simply cannot afford.

But in reality, most of us know that some luxuries can be worth the cost. Time spent in support of our personal and professional growth is not wasted, but rather an investment. Doing something you love is good for your emotional well-being. Plus, having a breadth of skills and interests can open professional doors, too.

The good news is that you can drive your personal and professional development, no matter how crunched for time you may be. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Whatever you’re doing, commit to it.

You’re the person that cares the most about your own development and growth. So, if you really want it to happen, you must be committed. No one else is going to do it for you.

It’s easy to spend your time worrying about failing to develop, instead of using that time to invest in getting started. Take a small step today and see how you feel.

Hack it:

  • Make a small goal to start off and build momentum, or it’ll quickly become overwhelming.
  • Use a habit-tracking app like coach.me to help you manage your daily goals. By checking in daily and using reminders, it’s easy to stay on course.
  • Use a public commitment app where you create a commitment contract — and put your own cash on the line if you quit. Try Stikk, the app which lets you create a commitment journal and share your progress with friends.

Prioritize and plan

Some development activities are just for fun. Others will be more professionally focused, and might even be a prerequisite for your job. To stay motivated, you need to understand what you’re getting from each experience.

If professional development is your goal, talk to your boss and others in your field for ideas of the activities and qualifications that really count in your industry. Prioritize these for greatest effect.

Hack it:

  • Balance personal and professional projects to keep it interesting.
  • Some activities, such as volunteering in a related field to your current work, can offer both professional and personal development
  • Keep records as you go of the development activities you have undertaken. These are a great personal diary, but also help you to keep your resume updated over time.

Use tech

These days, professional and personal development is often accessed at the touch of a button. Information is everywhere, and easier than ever to tap into.

Even if you only have a few minutes, you can read an article or a book online to access the latest ideas in your field. If you’re thinking of taking up a new hobby for fun, you will find a community of like minded people online. You can also discover ideas and support to get you started.

Hack it:

  • Do you see things you would like to read but never seem to have time? Create a reading list for later, using an app like Pocket or Safari’s Bookmarking tool. Then hit it up when you’re on public transport or have five minutes to kill waiting in line.
  • Look at book summary sites to get a feel for which books might be interesting to you. Or sign up to Blinkist for canned versions of non fiction books you can get through in 2-15 minutes. Their curated lists (like ‘Essential reading for job seekers’) are especially good.
  • Podcasts and audiobooks are a perfect way to access information if you don’t have time to read, but spend time driving or walking places. Services like Audible make downloading and accessing easy, and often offer free books.
  • By following the right people (leaders in your industry, for example) on Twitter and other social media, you can get leads on what is new in your field.
  • Try Google alerts to get articles on topics relevant to you, direct to your inbox.

Hook up with others

There’s a reason that weight loss groups are popular. The psychology of working in a team towards a shared goal means that everyone progresses faster — and often, has more fun with it.

If you’re lucky enough to to have a mentor or coach, or a ‘ready made’ group to work with, then use them well. But even if you don’t, there are other ways to find groups of active people looking to develop.

Hack it:

  • Make a public commitment to develop a certain skill or achieve a certain thing. Tell your friends you’re working on your development, and ask for their support. Maybe they’ll join you in your journey.
  • Look up like-minded people. They’re out there! Find a group in your city using Meetup, or go online to hook up with others using social media, special interest forums, and blogging groups.
  • The coach.me community has active groups working on a wide range of goals. You can hire a coach for a small fee, or simply join the discussion forums. Here, you’ll get ideas and advice from others doing the same as you.

It doesn’t matter what you learn

It sounds counterintuitive, but what you learn is not half as important as the simple fact that you are pushing yourself to learn something new. Anything you undertake — even if not connected to your job — stretches you outside your comfort zone. You’ll develop crucial coping skills for work and home.

Hack it:

  • Got a friend who goes to life-drawing classes? Attends cooking school? Or maybe you know someone who is learning computer programming? Join them! Most adult learning environments are happy to let their students bring a friend along to try the class out, so you have nothing to lose.
  • Get online with a site like Khan Academy. You’ll get free access to learning materials on topics from economics to programming, chemistry to history.
  • Learning a language is a great way to improve your employability, and is something that can be done in bite size chunks. You progress when you have the time, and continue practicing what you’ve learned in the interim. Try a site like lingvist or babbel for example, to carry your classes in your pocket wherever you go.

Look after yourself

A final note from me: look after yourself as you seek out new personal and professional development opportunities. It is an adventure which can get pretty addictive.

Don’t try to do too much or you’ll end up stretched thin and unable to do anything well. Pace yourself, do what you enjoy, and find what brings the greatest personal and professional rewards. By starting small and finding ways to expand your horizons — without having to drastically alter your lifestyle — you’re investing your time wisely in your own future.

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Any person is a product of his or her environment to a significant extent. And because so much of our personality is formed when we are under the age of ten, there’s something to be said for the benefits of being a child within a family situation that has a positive approach to money management — and life beyond just money, but money is the focus of this article.

I benefited from parents who put a priority on education. As I progressed through high school, I was encouraged to explore my various passions, as well, even though that contributed to less of a focus on the educational system that was providing my grades. Nevertheless, I was lucky. I didn’t choose my parents. I didn’t choose to be born in a first-world country to an educated couple. My family wasn’t rich, but I was privileged by not being within an obvious minority. Religiously, I was and am a part of a minority, but because it wasn’t necessarily visible, I benefited from at least some privilege of the majority.

It’s impossible to know if and how my life would be different today if these variables, all of which are beyond my control, were different. Chances are, some things would be different.

I’ve written on Consumerism Commentary often about taking control of your finances. That is exactly what I needed to do at the turn of the millennium. I was in debt, ignoring things like speeding tickets because I couldn’t afford the fines, spending all of my money on commuting expenses and basic necessities for living. I considered myself a victim of circumstances. Yes, I was a victim, even though I knew I had many advantages in life that would never be afforded to a lot of other people throughout the world and even my country of the United States.

My boss at a non-profit organization tried to impart his wisdom about life, but I wasn’t interested in hearing it. To me, it was empty words from a CEO who refused to offer important benefits to his employees, someone who was able to let the company pay for his expenses without any concern for the struggling financial condition of those who worked for him. Being able to afford a reliable vehicle for transportation was something he didn’t have to worry about, and from that position, it’s easy to say that all aspects of your life are a direct result of your choices.

This is a refrain common among motivational speakers. If there’s something about your life that you want to change, it is within your control to do so. And I eventually learned to accept most of this philosophy when pertaining to money management and financial independence. I still challenge any motivational speaker to go to country run by terrorists and say, “It’s easy. Just leave. Start a business. You’ll become rich.” It’s an extreme example, but there are people out there who really do believe any challenge can be overcome with a little hard work.

For most of us, that’s true. If you’re able to read this article, it’s probably true for you. But there are millions of people in the world who don’t have the luck to be born under your circumstances. Some of those millions of people will eventually escape their oppressive regimes, but the vast majority won’t, and it won’t be due to a lack of effort.

I’ve been very fortunately in my life, particularly these last few years if you look at life from a financial angle. The entrepreneur in me wants credit for that. In fact, the marketer in me finds it very important for me to advertise the fact that I’ve built an unexpected business out of nothing and reached financial independence at the age of 35. For many people, this is a dream come true. Anyone can have an idea, work hard for a decade, more or less, and change his or her life in an amazing way. This is the motivational story that people want to hear. Some who hear it will go on and do great things. Others will not be effected, and even if a motivational story changes one person’s life, doesn’t that make it worthwhile?

The human in me takes a different approach. The success story is such a powerful motivator that sometimes it drowns out the reality. The marketer doesn’t want to admit that factors other than perseverance played a role in success. The entrepreneur doesn’t want to believe that other people were involved in making the impossible possible. If you start to accept that there is more to your success than you, it makes it more difficult to sell books and products or to book yourself on national television.

We want life’s stories to be perfect and simple. We want them to be understood, from start to finish, within a 42-minute hour. A success story isn’t simple, though. Had I faced social obstacles like racism, I may have had a different outlook on life that led me in a different direction. If I had been born in 1776 instead of 1976, I might have died from bronchitis as a child. Had I been born in the Middle East instead of Brooklyn, I might have died in war. It would have been very unlikely for me to come out of a family without an education with a love for learning, a desire to live up to high expectations, and the tools necessary to succeed.

An entrepreneur will never credit “luck” when asked for the reason for one’s success (though many certainly will blame “bad luck” when they fail). To admit that circumstances, or anything beyond personal choices and effort, played a major role in success makes all the hard work seem less valuable. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without the advantages I was born with and the smart people I’ve surrounded myself with. Yes, I worked at my passion of building online communities since I was a teenager. That helped me prepare myself for the perfect storm that arrived with my business, where my passions coincided with a huge public interest and a large marketable field.

If I hadn’t done the work, I would have been behind, trying to catch up, if I had tried at all. But if the circumstances of my life that led to that instance were different, if I had been discouraged from using the internet, from spending my time learning programming languages, or from rewriting and writing code that allowed people to communicate online, I might not have followed my passions. If my parents encouraged me to worry more about my future earning potential than my hobbies, my life would have been much more boring and probably much less successful.

I can’t forget about all of these aspects of life just to sell a story about hard work and success. I can’t ignore my human side and neglect gratitude for others around me.

If you find yourself blaming your financial problems on aspects of your life that you can’t control while attributing your success to hard work, you might be able to motivate people to succeed. But you’d be missing, or perhaps willfully ignoring, the full picture. Your choices and your circumstances both help to form who you are today. The more you ask yourself, “Why?” the more you’ll be able to truly understand your circumstances today and a possible path for improvement.

No one sees success in the world without external influence. At the same time, all the hard work in the world can’t save everybody from the bad circumstances into which they were born. There are exceptions to every rule, but they are few and far between, and despite the use of exceptions as motivational tools, they’re not likely to help the majority of people.

Take a moment and thing about your failures and your successes. Who do you blame for your failures? Is it always someone other than yourself? If so, take some time and think about the choices you’ve made that may have led you to that result.

Who do you credit for your successes? If you only see the hard work you’ve done, take some time to think about whether your situation would have been possible had you lived in another time or another part of the world. Think about the obstacles you’d need to overcome.

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5 Steps to Make the Most of New Year’s Resolutions and Goals

by Luke Landes

As one year comes to a close, many people like to take a few moments and think about the year ahead. The setting of New Year’s resolutions is a time-honored tradition and a recurring theme at the end of each year. The new year has always been a chance, although somewhat arbitrary, to give yourself […]

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Happiness Is a Choice, Not an Ultimate Goal

by Luke Landes

Consumerism Commentary and the articles I write here have changed since I started writing about personal finance in 2003. I’ve personally gone through four financial phases over the thirteen years or so, and because I draw much of my writing from personal experiences, any readers who have been around over the past decade might have […]

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5 Keys to Full-Time Employment for Young People

by Luke Landes

The latest economic news from the Department of Labor paints a mediocre picture at best of the employment situation in the United States. It’s still difficult for young people to find full-time jobs. There may be some concern that this lower level of employment is going to be the new norm, and whether American society […]

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Privilege and Luck Drive Success: Toxic Financial Attitudes

by Luke Landes

Let’s forget that most motivational stories are designed to get readers to purchase something or otherwise spend money. Gurus who consider themselves motivational speakers know this well. In a room full or listeners or an internet full of readers, a story with a positive message followed by a “call for action” is an effective sales […]

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Nothing Bad Is My Fault: Toxic Financial Attitudes

by Luke Landes

The difference between financial independence and a life of financial frustration comes down to attitude. The way you approach all aspects of your life, not just money, has a significant effect on your long-term financial growth. Personal philosophies dictate how you act and how you react to any situation you face. It’s worth the time […]

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Rescheduling My Life: Using Google Calendar for Better Time Management

by Luke Landes

Time management has never been my strength. Part of my approach to time management is rooted in my disdain for over-organization. I don’t want to treat my time as if I were on an assembly line. For most of my life, however, I was somewhat bound by daily schedules, just like most people. In school, […]

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