Q: I moved to a new state some months ago after my husband got an exciting job offer. After a couple of weeks, I also got a job in my field. The problem is that I’ve been miserable for roughly two months, give or take a few weekends when I can get my mind off work. The job I do doesn’t seem to be serving anyone, and I don’t get any personal satisfaction from it. There’s also a clique among the other women, so I don’t even get meaningful social interaction. I’m ready to quit, but I stay because nothing else has opened in the area, and my husband doesn’t want to leave his job so quickly. How much time do you have to give a job before deciding it won’t get better and bailing?
A: Baseline rule: It’s true you want to avoid a work history timeline that reads like Morse code—but if you’re concerned about professional etiquette and not survival, you don’t “have” to give your time and effort to a job that’s making you miserable with no foreseeable end.
That said, how urgently do you need to escape? From your letter, it seems as though your job isn’t toxic or abusive, just . . . “meh.” Granted, treading quicksand isn’t much of an improvement over falling into a snake pit—but it does give you a little more time to examine your options.
The most obvious question to me is whether quitting your job would improve your reality. Could you and your husband get by on his salary? If not, how likely is it that you can find a different job that will satisfy your financial and personal needs? Finally, are you willing to risk letting your current career sputter if you give up the only opportunity you’ve been able to find in your field? I’m not nudging you toward any particular answer, but you need to take a clear-eyed look at what lies beyond your immediate discomfort and make sure that vine you’re grabbing isn’t actually another snake.
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If changing your reality is not currently in the cards, it might be time to reexamine your expectations. Are you expecting depth, purpose and meaningful connection from a job and newish colleagues that aren’t equipped to offer them? What if instead you were to look at your job as . . . just a job? A paycheck? Something to keep your skills up to date? As defeatist as it may sound, “It is what it is” can be a liberating answer to “It’s not what it should be.” If you see it for what it is, you can see sticking it out as a deliberate choice, not some misfortune you’ve stumbled into.
One last thought, just in case your lackluster job is a convenient scapegoat for bigger, deeper disappointments: You’ve uprooted yourself to benefit your spouse’s career—which happy, healthy couples do all the time, no judgment—but you are entitled to ask yourself what these changes mean for you. Does your new location afford you any opportunities you didn’t have before—to travel, (re-)discover hobbies, explore new literal and figurative terrain?
And I hope you’ll let your husband in on this conversation—not to persuade him to regret this move, but to give him a chance to help you shift the narrative from “I moved for his job offer” to something more like, “We made some big changes together.”