Is it time to quit, or should you stick it out?

Since the very early days of the pandemic back in 2020, it’s been painfully obvious to me from the countless conversations I’ve had with my students – not to mention hundreds of people online across crafts, across industries, and all across the world – that there has been a seismic shift happening with our relationship to work.

Despite the awful circumstances, we have all simultaneously been granted the gift of perspective, i.e. we’ve finally had the opportunity to slow down and ask whether or not the work we do contains any kind of meaning whatsoever, and more importantly whether it’s fulfilling us. Unfortunately, the vast majority of us came to realize very quickly back in 2020 that the life we considered “normal” was no longer working for us, and we had no interest in going back to it. (Not only are we back there, I’d argue the “new normal” is considerably worse. But that’s another newsletter for another day.)

I’ve wondered for the better part of two years now what has really happened to our relationship with work and why our perspective has changed so much. And thanks to discovering organizational behaviorist Anthony Klotz, it’s now MUCH clearer to me why we feel so different about the work we do (and it’s meaning…or lack thereof).

If you haven’t heard it already, the term that best describes the mass exodus of people from their jobs over the last couple of years has been coined “The Great Resignation,”and has essentially been driven by the following factors:

  1. BURNOUT. Even before the pandemic burnout was at epidemic proportions, and the pandemic only exacerbated it further (or at the very least helped us recognize how burned out we really were).
  2. Watching millions of people die around the world forced us to confront our own mortality.
  3. Having the opportunity to work from home – and then having that opportunity largely taken away as things slowly went back to “normal” – caused us to reevaluate our priorities and set boundaries between work and things that really matter to us (like putting our kids to bed in person rather than via FaceTime).

These factors amongst others led many to decide it was time to cut the cord and begin the process of career reinvention (a transition I help my students work through every single day).

Are You Considering a Change?

If you too have been swept up in The Great Resignation and you’re considering a major career change, know that:

  1. You are not alone
  2. Career reinvention is absolutely possible (at any age)

But you must have the confidence what you are doing is no longer the right fit, otherwise you could experience The Great Regret.

If you’re considering cutting the cord, here are three very important things to consider before acting upon the impulse to leave your current job or project:

1. How much are you allowed to contribute, and how much is your voice HEARD?

It doesn’t matter if you’re an entry-level production assistant or the director of a $200 million studio blockbuster, if you don’t feel your are allowed to contribute your unique ideas and your skills, there isn’t much point in sticking around. A large part of what makes our work meaningful is our level of contribution and impact. If we can’t contribute, we ultimately end up considering “quiet quitting” because what’s the point?

Let’s say you’re an editor like me who just feels like every suggestion you make falls on deaf ears, or even if you’re a production assistant who’s trying to improve the efficiency of ordering lunches but nobody wants to make changes because “this is how we’ve always done it,” you no longer see a reason to show up to work every day. You simply become an extension of your workstation. At a very basic level we as human beings need to be acknowledged, and if our voices are not heard, the job becomes torture.

2. How loyal is your job to you?

In the freelance “gig economy,” loyalty is hard to come by. We float from job to job every few months, weeks, or for some day-to-day. So how can we determine whether or not we should stay at a project or a company sheerly out of a sense of loyalty?

I believe that once I’m committed to a project, I’m not going to leave that project. I made a commitment based on certain agreed-upon expectations (e.g. rate, hours, frequency of overtime, how long it will last, etc), and I intend to meet (and exceed) those expectations. Because it’s the right thing to do – even if a better opportunity comes along in the meantime. HOWEVER…if my employer is unwilling to commit to our agreed-upon expectations – i.e. if they constantly move the goal post – my loyalty disappears. Whether it’s overtime I was told wasn’t in the budget, extended timelines, or responsibilities that were promised but never delivered, loyalty swings both ways.

I’ve only left one show in the middle of a season, and that was because the job itself was so toxic to my well-being it wasn’t worth killing myself for the paycheck. Moreover I learned there was ZERO loyalty to me and my needs (politics I won’t go into in this newsletter), and the expectations were constantly changing well beyond anything I was every promised.

Here’s the reality – we are all replaceable within 24 hours. So keep that in mind if you are killing yourself at a job you hate simply out of a sense of misguided loyalty.

3. What alternatives are out there right now?

If you work in Hollywood like I do, we’ve never seen such an abundance of content like….ever. This is a massive buyer’s market for talent right now (i.e. YOU), and there are endless opportunities out there for those willing to prioritize the time & energy to level up their skillsets, improve their marketing materials, and step outside their comfort zones to pursue more meaningful work.

If you are considering a major career shift but you don’t see any viable alternatives out their for your specific skill, craft, or position, you want to be very honest with yourself about what’s realistic so you don’t experience The Great Regret. But if you see an abundance of opportunity out there, don’t fall into the trap of thinking those opportunities only belong to others with more skills, more experience, or better networks.

This could be your time.

Is It Time to Move On?

If after reading today’s newsletter you’ve come to realize (or you already had suspicions but you weren’t quite convinced) that it’s time to move on, stay tuned for tomorrow’s podcast with Anthony Klotz who originated the now ubiquitous term “The Great Resignation” who’s life’s work is studying the psychology of quitting (click here to subscribe so you don’t miss the episode when it drops). My conversation with Anthony is one of the most informative & engaging conversations I’ve ever had about why we’ve experienced such a seismic shift in our relationship with work since the pandemic, and more importantly what changes we need to make to pursue more meaningful work in the future.

In the meantime, what potential red flags do you see at your job that might be causing you to think it’s time to move on?

Be well.
Zack Arnold
Creator, Optimize Yourself

Zack Arnold (ACE) is an award-winning Hollywood film editor & producer (Cobra Kai, Empire, Burn Notice, Unsolved, Glee), a documentary director, father of 2, an American Ninja Warrior, and the creator of Optimize Yourself. He believes we all deserve to love what we do for a living...but not at the expense of our health, our relationships, or our sanity. He provides the education, motivation, and inspiration to help ambitious creative professionals DO better and BE better. “Doing” better means learning how to more effectively manage your time and creative energy so you can produce higher quality work in less time. “Being” better means doing all of the above while still prioritizing the most important people and passions in your life…all without burning out in the process. Click to download Zack’s “Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Creativity (And Avoiding Burnout).”