Should I Quit My Job If I’m Working in the Wrong Industry?

You might have realized that you are working in the wrong industry.

Perhaps you enjoy the job itself or are just okay with it, but you feel like a goldfish in saltwater.

You’ve tried to adapt and assimilate to fit into the industry, without success. The question you might ask yourself then is: Should I quit my job? I know for sure that this is the wrong industry, but the job itself is quite acceptable. Is being in the wrong industry reason enough to hand in my resignation?

Quitting your job because you’re in the wrong industry can be the right move. Each industry is characterized by a different working environment, products and services, and also the corporate cultures of the companies within an industry. The bigger the misalignment is between what is important to you and how the industry works, the more of a case you have to leave your job and the industry. But before rushing out and saying goodbye to the world of automobile, finance, or construction, you need to ask yourself these two questions: The first question is: “Is it the industry that bothers me, or is it the specific company or the job?”, and the second question: Even if quitting is the right decision for me, is now the right time to quit, or do I have good reasons to hang in there a bit longer?

You might be working in the pharmaceutical industry in the finance department and feel that this is the wrong environment for you.

Although you’re not working directly on the development of pharmaceutical products, still you are dealing with revenue and costs related to these products. You have to attend meetings which talk about the profit and cost aspects of a certain drug.

You might find that some of your values are in conflict with those held by the companies in the industry.

Or you are working in banking and feel a strong apathy about working in the industry. You might be working in HR and don’t deal with banking products directly, but your role is to help people to excel and progress in their roles in the bank.

If you are not passionate about the industry, you may feel hard-pressed to provide people with options and advice in an encouraging way.

Perhaps you work in the tourism industry and hate the working environment. You might feel constantly stressed. There are just too many people around you. It’s too hectic and fast-paced, and your personality requires you to find a job in an industry that is slightly more relaxed.

This is an example of a case where there is a strong misfit between your personality which loves a more quiet and calm working environment and the fast-paced environment of working in a travel agency.

The working environment is something that is rather fixed and that you cannot easily change (except if you work remotely), and is a good reason to change industries.

At first, it might have been your gut feeling that hinted to you that you’re not in the right place. And that is a good indicator that the industry you’re working in now is not suitable for you.

While gut feeling is far from the only basis to decide on, it can be the first step in many cases.

As the next step you’ll need to ask yourself:

Question #1: Is the problem the industry that is not a fit for me? Or is it the company, or the job? 

Most companies in the same industry might have similar working environments. But this is not always the case. You might be able to find companies in the same industry that have a very different environment and do things very differently.

The film industry for example. It is very different to work in the finance department of a huge production company such as Summit Entertainment, which produced the film Lalaland, or as Producer of smaller documentary productions.

In both cases, you are part of the film industry but your working environment, the scope and product you’re dealing with, as well as the work pace, can be very different.

Another example is the banking industry. It is a very different thing to work in the marketing department of a huge bank such as HSBC or JP Morgan Chase & Co., or to work in the marketing department of a smaller, but perhaps more innovative and fast-evolving bank such as Tangerine Bank in Canada or DBS in Singapore.

If it turns out that it’s not the industry in general that bothers you, but the culture or working environment of the particular company you are working in, then hold off your plans to quit.

There is a good chance that the industry is a good fit for you, but that you need to move to a different company within the industry.

It can take some time to research and find out what your options are, so in the meantime, try to stay put until you know what your next move is.

But what if you know for sure that it’s the industry that you want nothing to do with?

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t survive for long in the oil industry. No matter how great and innovative their products are. Regardless of how much improvement they made in terms of sustainable production. And if they would let me work remotely from wherever, that wouldn’t be enough to retain me.

Even a salary that was 100% above the average of other industries wouldn’t be enough to keep me there, I guess.

I just don’t care about oil companies apart from the fact that they produce petrol I need to drive my car.

Here you have a clear cut case. It’s obviously a reasonable decision and a good idea to quit your job and change industries.

The next question you need to ask yourself is:

Question #2: Is now the right time to quit and leave the industry?

So you’ve made up your mind. You want to leave the pharma industry. Quit your job as finance manager and go into Banking.

If I were to rank career change in terms of level of difficulty, with ‘1’ being easiest and ’10’ being the hardest, I would rank this change as a ‘2’ or ‘3’.

Although the pharmaceutical industry and the banking industry are vastly different, if your goal is to work in the finance department in banking, then it might not be as hard as you think.

Sure, you’ll need to educate yourself heavily about the banking industry, products and services, but you already have the basic financial understanding needed.

What might pose a challenge is if you are already in a middle-management position.

The more senior you are in terms of your position in the corporate hierarchy, the more difficult it gets to switch ‘cold’ between completely different industries.

However, it is still much easier to transition into a similar role, albeit in different industries.

Let’s say that your goal was to change from finance manager in a pharmaceutical company to working in marketing in banking. That would take much longer. And there is an extremely small chance that you could transition instantly.

What needs to happen is a gradual transition.

This means that you acquire related skills, experiences, and knowledge first. And this requires time.

If you already know what your career goals are, then you are one step ahead of many other people. Take your time to plan your transition carefully. If you are due for a promotion or a salary raise in your current company, it might even be a good idea to quickly score that first.

Your last salary, at the time you leave the company will influence your negotiation power and may affect your future salary in the next company you work in.

Also, ask yourself if it is necessary to get a second education. A Bachelor’s or a Master’s degree, or even just a diploma, a post-graduate certificate, or a license. You might need to take time off from work to spend time on that.

If this is necessary, work out your financials in as much detail as you can.

Budget how much you need for your living expenses, to get a certification or second degree. Ideally, save up for that while you are still in your current job. Having a good chunk of savings will buy you more time when you are on job hunt later on.

Conclusion

In summary, it is reasonable to quit your job if you feel that you are in the wrong industry. Just make sure whether it is indeed the industry, or merely the company or the type of job that you want to abandon. Also think about whether now is the perfect time to leave, or if you should better hold off quitting your job until you got a plan lined up and your finances prepared.

Think of your transition plan first before preparing your exit.

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