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Letter to my daughter: when to call it quits

In a letter to my daughter than anyone’s child can use, I address the difference between quitting and job sampling, encouraging the next generation to buck up and work hard, not quit when the going gets tough.



Dear daughter,

You’re now a junior in high school and firmly planted in the youngest generation that is entering the work force. Employees leaving college these days value perks over pay, are extremely philanthropic, creative, and while many think your generation’s core contribution is Instagramming and playing video games, there is nothing further from the truth.

Youth today are creative and prefer to contribute to society, but this energy has proven to be a challenge for employers who can’t seem to keep a young employee for more than two years, as they change jobs more frequently than any other generation in history, often changing fields altogether. While this is a challenge, it is one I want to talk to you about, because each of these job hops involve quitting a job, so some would say your generation is one of quitters – I disagree, I think you’re empowered to find your true passion and weed out quickly what doesn’t make you feel connected deeply to society.

While as parents, we encourage you to find your passion, we also encourage you to do so in a meaningful way. Getting a job at a news station when you graduate, only to switch to retail management, then graphic design, then real estate is called sampling, not finding your passion, and while you’ll watch your friends go forth and sample, we highly encourage you to avoid this.

That is not to say that you should never quit a job, but there are conditions under which it is appropriate and which it is not.

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When a boss calls you sexy and spanks you on the way out of the office, it’s time to quit (and sue). When a boss pushes you to work harder and you’re not having fun, it’s not time to quit. The myth is that you’ll find your passion and every task you do will make you happy and you’ll have fun, but the cold truth is that while I am one of the lucky ones who has a career I’m passionate about, I hate talking on the phone, I hate working on the weekends, but these are all required in order to be able to do the things I am passionate about and enjoy doing (namely writing).

Two contrasting quotes to consider:

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes, but they don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton, founder of the Hilton hotel chain.

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.” – W. C. Fields, famous old school comedian best known for a lovable curmudgeon.

So which is it? They seem to contradict each other, no? No.

Hilton is tapping into the truth that you may mess up on the job and everything may seem to be working against you, but a true leader will take it on the chin and forge ahead for the sake of the company, for the sake of seeing her vision through. But Fields is right – if you are inherently bad at your job, no amount of hard work is going to change that.

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For example, if sales are slumping and it is your job to make them succeed, you need to put in the hard work and innovate, improve morale among your staff, and get creative – not quit. If your job is to get on stage to talk about your brand, but after two years of trying, you still throw up beforehand and have a shaky voice on stage, you may just not be good at it and need to explore your options.

Quitting because you don’t want to wake up in the morning to make it on time or because you have a mean coworker is not admirable, and is childish. Quitting because the grass looks greener in another field is called sampling, and it is childish. You’re smarter than that, and you know how to work hard, so when you join the workforce, it is our hope that you heed Hilton’s advice and stick to it, even when it is extremely difficult – that’s what will set you apart and make you truly successful.

Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

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