It sounds bad, but I’ve left a few jobs over the years. It started when I was 25 and left my corporate job after four years there and went back to grad school to become a speech path. I remember being sad about leaving my coworkers, but I had already begun dreaming about a different future. I’ve worked for several different school districts over the years. I’ve worked as a district employee and other times worked as a contract employee. Obviously I’ve moved and had children, but there have been lots of changes, probably more than the average person.
On the other hand, I married a man who has been working the same job for 13+ years. My husband Mike says he is happy and has no interest in leaving. He has weathered staffing changes and, frankly, I’m impressed by his guts over the years. I should say that he does actuarial work for a nonprofit and does not have a school-based job.
When to/ How Quit Your Job
When I asked him, “Why do you like your job so much?” he answered without hesitation. “I feel a part of a team, I feel like the work I do makes a difference, and I like what I do.” Simple stuff, but everything he said is so important to your overall quality of work.
I recently read about Neil Pasricha’s new book The Happiness Equation. He discussed the Four S’s of Work and what makes work rewarding and valuable to employees. Why has my husband endured while I have bounced around more than him? Mr. Pasricha’s book helped me think more deeply about what makes people stick around in their jobs:
- Obviously you need to feel part of a team or have friendly coworkers. I have found that some school cultures include SLPs, but some don’t.
- There needs to be some kind of structure and rules at your work so that you have a defined set of responsibilities. There is a lot of variability in this, depending on where you work.
- Using your whole brain creatively at work is really going to keep you going as the years wear on. Again, some positions are more stimulating than others.
- Does where you work fit into your personal story? When I worked at Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for six years, I defined myself as a CPS employee. I didn’t want to leave because I didn’t want to be at a “little” district; I liked the “big” district feel. Well, I left and it was a good thing for me. I changed that story and it was most definitely the right thing to do, even thought I felt nervous making the change.
Using Mr. Pasricha’s framework as a reference point, here are 5 ways you know it’s time to leave your job:
How to Know to Quit Your Job: When It’s Time.
1) No Social Interaction
If you don’t have a couple friends at work, whether they are other SLPs, teachers, or classroom aides, then your social bucket isn’t filled. You want to feel included with and valuable to staff. Of course there is usually that one teacher that dislikes you, but most of the teachers and the principals should like and value your contribution to the school.
2) No Clearly Defined Role
If you have too many students on your caseload (over 60) and no one seems to care or advocate for you, then you might need to look for other work. In my experience, if you have over 60 students, you will struggle to make progress and feel ineffective. There’s nothing like feeling ineffective to make you burn out of this profession. Or if you are being taken away from the speech therapy work that you trained for (and enjoy) and being asked to do reading intervention or you are taking on additional work, then you need to consider if that is the right position for you.
3) No Mental Stimulation
When you stop learning in a position, your skills stagnate. If you feel like your skills have plateaued, it might be time to move on. Every year I get new kids and each of them are puzzles so I personally feel like I am stimulated in this profession. If you don’t feel stimulated, it might be time to switch settings to acquire new skills.
4) No Personal Story
Is working in that school or district part of your personal story you tell people? Do you identify as an employee of this or that? If not, then you haven’t really brought that into your story. Maybe taking a year off and doing a contract year of therapy in Hawaii is part of your story. Think about what you want to tell people about yourself. Being an SLP, it’s easy to have our career as a big part of our personal story because it becomes part of our identity, but what about where you work? Does it fit?
5) Asking the Question?
If you are wondering “Is it time to leave?” then there is something that is not right in your position. It might be a small adjustment that needs to take place (getting a better speech room) or it might be time to find a different job somewhere else.
I challenge you to think deeply about what you are doing now and if it is right for you. Let me know what you think in the comments! Thanks!
Rebecca Matthews says
I liked the systematic approach and the reflective nature of your post and thank you as it certainly is a question I keep asking – what I haven’t done is worked out what needs to change just yet so that my story includes where I work.
Sarah Wu says
Thank you Rebecca! It’s a process for sure! 🙂
Very insightful! Lots to think about here!
Sarah Wu says
Thanks Linda! 🙂
Martha godsey says
Very good points. I started in the field in public schools, get bored, go to another environment, but really liked working with kids so I went back. I have 21 years in public school and the rest in outpatient rehab, snf, nursing home, and hospital.
Sarah Wu says
Love that Martha. We evolve, don’t we? 🙂
Amy Purdy says
Thank you very much for this article. I recently handed in my resignation to my school district where I’ve been employed for 19 years. I have 96 kids on my caseload (including a population of Deaf & hard of hearing students and two multi-categorical classrooms with other forty student. I have tried for 5 years to get help both from our Human Resources dept and our Special Education dept to no avail. I don’t want to leave but I feel I can no longer stay. It makes me very sad. Your article has restored my confidence in my decision.
Sarah Wu says
I think you made the right choice. I’m proud of you for taking care of yourself! I’m also making a change this fall that will help me take care of myself and my family. Good luck! 🙂
Susan Berkowitz says
I keep feeling like it’s been a long time since I had all buckets filled. Some good things to think about here. Thanks
Sarah Wu says
Thanks Susan! 🙂
This is a great article! My husband sounds like yours; he has been in the same place doing the same job for 14 years! I have changed jobs many, many times and used to feel ashamed. “What is wrong with me? After a month in a new job I feel like I’m doing a prison sentence.” Happily, I now have the right mix: private practice doing home visits and private (indepth) evaluations for school age students; and then the other hours vary. Sometimes it’s temp agency work at a local school, or 0-3 cases to get extra hours…and I love the little ones. I see birth to age 21, but occasionally I get an adult articulation case. Sometimes I am asked to do feeding consulations, just 1-2 visits, and that’s great. For me, variety is king. Not being in the same building(s) so that I am getting out into the world is the best! And not always having a higher authority rule my day is very important. I know what I do makes a difference because I can give so much individualized attention to those I work with. –Your article can be a useful tool for those who are frustrated at work. We have many resources with the Internet to help us move into a different speech therapy job. It’s worth the effort!
Donna R. Miazga says
Thought-provoking stuff here! I took this year “off” the school job I’ve been at for 14 years and it has been a wonderful opportunity to see what else is out there! I’m trying to decide what to do next year. I really liked the point about whether or not you view your district as part of your personal story. Food for thought for me, thanks!
Julie Seto says
Rick’s wife Julie Seto has just switched jobs with Starbucks and is now a manager with Bloomingdales women’s and children’s depts. Can you send and invite to this blog? Rick thinks she might have much to say. Rick’s here on his annual LA business trip.
Well this really hit home and made me feel better about my decision to leave acute care at a hospital where I had only worked for 2 months. I became an SLP as a second career – later in life – and had a wonderful CF + full year at a hospital network 2 hours from home. I moved away and worked my tail off to gain experience. Had a great supervisor and opportunities to float to other settings. Did about 12 MBSs but did not get enough opportunity to become profocient. However the rest of my experience was invaluable. Moved back home to be with my spouse and was sad to leave but found a new hospital job. Told DOR I still needed support with MBSs but was competent for all other requirements. Day 1 I shadowed with another SLP. Day 2 there I was only SLP on duty and had to figure everything out from then onward. DOR started INSISTING I do MBSs after “observing” TWICE. After several confrontations whereby I tried to explain that I was not fully competent yet and no one there had tested me and signed off, DOR insisted again and said “it’s OK, the radiologist will be there to help!”. Again, recognizing how unethical this all was, I refused. Finally had to resign because no way was she going to get the point that my license and CCC were not worth risking ! Starting at a new rehab and doing home health + 1 day per week. contracting in a school and praying I never encounter that type of situation again!