#CareerLaunch: Why Millennials in Singapore leave their jobs

In the past 6 months, I’ve been on the receiving end of the question “Should I leave my current job?” from multiple people. Some were just ranting, while others were genuinely concerned for their sanity. A few asked “for a friend”, which is code for “I want to quit but I don’t want to say it’s me”.

I’m no career guru, but I have quit a few jobs before and spoken to countless individuals about why they even consider leaving apparently good jobs. I decided to take all our conversations and distill a little bit of perspective on when people know it’s time to leave.

1) The truth about their salary stings

Oh no

My friends are pretty productive, hardworking folk. Young men and women who tend to desire success, sometimes against overwhelming odds. Mostly, these 25 – 34 year olds work long hours at their jobs and take late nights in a bid to create something useful for the companies they work at.

However, not all are paid equally. Guess what? They know about it. What’s worse is that they have to face huge life changes like marriage, home purchases and investing for their futures. It’s not just stressful, it’s also frustrating when they know that their friends are making a little more money than them. Many of them also also realise that they might be doing things they love, but the things they love don’t pay them enough.

Count Money

While I still don’t advocate that money should be the #1 item to worry about when it comes to careers, the perceived differential in pay weighs heavily on all our shoulders. When this happens, then I whip out only one question:

“What do you need more for?”

I often ask people this question, more as a lead-in to self-reflection. Firstly, it helps them understand in clear terms what they define as a “need”, then allows them to list their litany of needsBy the end of that thought process (which can take an entire night), they’ll probably be able to know if this is a real problem or not. If it is, they’ll probably also figure out how much more they need. That’s highly important. Carrie’s perspective on this issue is also worth looking at, mostly because she’s asking the question of when money quits being fulfilling.

2) Their jobs aren’t challenging them enough


Some people desire jobs that make them grow by taking risks and facing difficult odds. This, interestingly, seems to be more important to the younger crowd of people (Who said Millennials are slackers?). I noticed that the younger the Millennial, the higher the chance that they desire jobs which require them to push the envelope further. Whole Food’s CEO, John Mackey, said something that resonated with me: Millennials are a generation that desires big challenges to solve.

This “take it to the limit” attitude is highly desirable for many companies. However, while hirers might ask for “high-performing team players”, their companies might not be set up for such behaviour. Managers might just want status quo, departments might run on low standards and other employees may just not be as motivated (or ambitious). This is often out of our control, and can cause some of the more ambitious ones to say #fuckit and just walk away from their jobs. It does feel like this might be a hasty move, so I tend to probe them with:

“Is changing this state of affairs from the inside a worthy challenge to you?”

I think that the lack of challenge might be a challenge, in and of itself. Can an exciting niche be carved out from your existing role? If yes, then that challenge can be highly desirable and may lead to future advantage.

3) The System fails to appreciate them

Exrreme Head desk

This one is occurs often in my industry, but can apply to almost any other person. I’ve had friends who produced stellar work, gotten results or built systems that drive serious revenue. However, they get punished for their successes. HOW?

  • Marketing Budgets get shrunk, even after they outperformed the market last year.
  • They’re asked to do more, on the same salary, because “you’re capable”
  • They’re passed over for a raise or promotion, even after a positive performance review
  • They’re told that they can do better, even after they’re told that they’ve done well

Once again, with feeling…

Bunny Headdesk

We’ve been taught from a very young age that if we worked hard and were successful, we’d be rewarded. We’d be given the latitude and leeway to drive even more success. We’d be given trust, and maybe a bit of tangible reward. in this case, the saying that “people leave their managers, not their jobs” is very true.

Being told that we can do even more is sort of a slap in the face, especially when there’s no other reward other than verbal recognition. I mean, as I once asked myself: “Why continue to perform when I’m punished for doing well?”

Well, it’s a hard one to answer. But, I will say that there’s merit is asking that question in a non-rhetorical manner. 

4) There’s a desire to start something new

Do it

This one’s a doozy. I sometimes get asked “Should I drop everything and start my own company?”. Often times, this is a lead-in for a business idea, with me acting as the sounding board.

It’s actually pretty awesome to hear people share their business ideas with you. When someone has an idea that has taken hold of them, there’s a fire in their eyes and a lilt in their voices. Here’s the thing though:

“Has the idea completely consumed your rational thought?”

In this situation, I think clarity of thought trumps passion. If your idea is “AirBnB for cats”, then you might be better off working at Pet Lover’s Centre. Just Sayin’.

“I can’t get no satisfaction”

I think the Rolling Stones song says it all: We’re never happy. This isn’t a “Millennial” problem or a “Baby Boomer” issue. This is a part of the human condition. We’re constantly comparing, desiring and seeking greener pastures.

I guess the final question I’d like to ask everyone, myself included, is:

“When it all ends for you, what will be left behind?”

After all, Death is a great motivator to get your shit together, isn’t it? 😉


About #CareerLaunch

#CareerLaunch is a series of articles aimed at the millennial reader by millennials, helping them make career decisions. It is is written in collaboration with Carrie of carriesim.com. Join the #CareerLaunch conversation! Email contact[at]carriesim.com and kenneth.lee.rj[at]gmail.com to collaborate on future articles.

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