How to Handle Guilt from Leaving a Job | Personal Capital
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Home>Daily Capital>Personal Finance>Dear Tori: How Do I Handle Job Guilt?

Dear Tori: How Do I Handle Job Guilt?

When reports about the Great Resignation started last fall, many employers scoffed, thinking that most people leaving jobs would be in smaller industries or more transient occupations. We now know that the Great Resignation has impacted every industry –– whether it was employees leaving fields altogether, taking extended “gap-years,” or simply hunting for something better.

People leave their jobs for many reasons –– better pay, better flexibility, a better title, and unfortunately, often in search of better management. Whatever the reason, employees have left their jobs en masse over the last six months. In November of 2021 alone, over 4.5 million workers quit or changed jobs.

Read More: How Finances Factor into the Pandemic ‘Great Resignation’

Deciding to move on to a new opportunity isn’t always cut and dry, and sometimes, even when you’re offered the role of a lifetime (or even one that pays better), you have to make a tough decision. There’s a lot to consider when you’re thinking about leaving a job or a company that you’ve invested so much time and energy into.

Recently, I’ve seen questions like this come up a few times in my Facebook group.


Dear Tori,

I had a first-round call with a recruiter that went really well today –– they want me to move forward in the interview process. The job is a lateral move, but they’re offering me almost $40,000 more a year than I’m currently making at a competitor.

The numbers sound great, but I’m feeling guilty about entertaining the offer, almost like I’m betraying my current company who I’ve been with for ten years! I’ll admit, I’m burned out in my current role, and the idea of making more is really enticing.

Any tips on overcoming this guilt and anxiety?


Things have certainly changed in the last decade regarding job-hopping. What was once seen as red-flag behavior is now commonplace. Statistics say that millennials spend on average two years and nine months at a job, compared to the decades-long careers of the boomer generations.

That doesn’t mean that leaving a job is ever easy. If you resonate with this feeling of guilt or fear as you begin to think about leaving your current employer for something new, here are a few ways to help you make a choice you’ll feel confident in.

It’s OK to be selfish

I’m not sure who first said it, but the truth is that if you died today, your employer would likely start looking for someone to fill your spot tomorrow. Don’t get me wrong, not every employer is cold-hearted –– but the truth is, life and business go on with or without you.

This doesn’t mean that you weren’t an important part of the company or that your work wasn’t impactful –– it just illustrates the idea that we often spend much more time and energy assigning life or death-type emotions to something that is usually extremely clinical.

Some of these feelings of guilt over leaving your current employer surface because of positive feedback you might receive or even a philosophical connection with the work you do. It can be hard to leave a company whose mission and values you believe in –– even if the company you’re leaving them for is just as much in alignment.

In your career, you have to act in your best interest. That doesn’t mean you walk into your office tomorrow and start knocking over coffee mugs and screaming, “I QUIT!” –– but it does mean that you owe it to yourself to seriously consider a career move when it may facilitate a type of growth that may not currently be accessible to you.

Read More: How to Negotiate Your Salary and Career Advancement

Weighing out the pros and cons

Once you feel a little better about the guilty feelings, it’s time to weigh the pros and cons. As much as possible, it’s best to do this from an unemotional point of view. That doesn’t mean you don’t factor emotions –– it simply means you weigh your options from the practical and the emotional side.

Here’s a quick exercise that might help:

  1. Grab two pieces of notebook paper and draw a line down the middle on one.
  2. On the first page, write your current job on one side and the prospective job on the other.
  3. At the top, write out the key details about each job: the salary, the hours, whether it’s remote/flexible/in-office, PTO, stock options, retirement, etc. (essentially, everything in your compensation package)
  4. In each column, make a list of pros and cons for each job –– include what you like about both, what you dislike (or fear you’ll dislike), and any other important details that might help you make your decision.
  5. On the second paper, write up your dream work scenario and goals over the next 3-5 years. Dream really big here! What job title do you have? Who or what kind of company are you working for? How much money are you making? Are you traveling a lot? Working from home full-time? Leading a team? Lay it all out.

Now that you’ve done the exercise, look at these pages side by side and really see each position for what it is. How does your current position align with your dream position? Is there a clear path to where you want to be from where you are now? Would the new job get you closer to your goals, faster?

Hopefully, this exercise can help clarify your next move!

Use information as leverage

Another perk to looking for other jobs is getting hard data on your value in the marketplace. In the question submitted above, the writer is making a lateral move, just at a new company. If you’re looking to do the same and it’s only about money, this is a great time to take those numbers to your current boss.

You don’t even have to let them know you’re looking in this scenario. You can use a script at your next meeting along the lines of “I’ve been researching market rates and similar roles to my current position, and given my years of experience and skillset, I would like to be making something between $100,000 – $115,0000 in total compensation –– what can we do to collaboratively get closer to the market rate?”

You never know if your current company may decide to up their offering! If they say no, now you have a clear answer on if they’ll be able to offer you as much as a new company or position.

You have to look out for yourself at the end of the day. In the long journey that is your career, there will be many pit stops and change-overs –– some great, and others not so great. Even if you’re at a company for a decade or longer, it doesn’t mean it’s your final destination.

The bottom line

Making career advancements is one aspect of your financial life. It can help you afford the lifestyle you want and save for big long-term goals, like eventually not needing to work.

You can use online financial tools to get a better handle on your money. My favorite tool is Personal Capital. I check it daily for tracking my net worth and my progress towards goals like retirement, debt payoff, and (yes!) saving that first $100k.

Get Started with Personal Capital’s Free Financial Tools


Personal Capital compensates Tori Dunlap of Her First $100k (“Author”) for providing the content contained in this article. Compensation not to exceed $500. Author is not a client of Personal Capital Advisors Corporation. Additionally, in a separate referral arrangement between Author and Personal Capital Corporation (“PCC”), Author is paid $70 and $150 for each person who uses Author’s webpage ( to register with Personal Capital and links at least $100,000 in investable assets to Personal Capital’s Free Financial Dashboard. As a result of these arrangements, Author may financially benefit from referring potential clients to Personal Capital and/or be incentivized to present blog content that is favorable to PCC. No fees or other amounts will be charged to investors by Author or Personal Capital as a result of the Referral Arrangement. Investors that are referred to PCC and subsequently subscribe for investment advisory services provided by PCC’s affiliated adviser, Personal Capital Advisors Corporation (“PCAC”) will not pay increased management fees or other similar compensation to Author, PCC or PCAC as a result of this arrangement. The content contained in this blog post is intended for general informational purposes only and is not meant to constitute legal, tax, accounting or investment advice. You should consult a qualified legal or tax professional regarding your specific situation. Keep in mind that investing involves risk. The value of your investment will fluctuate over time and you may gain or lose money.

Tori Dunlap is a millennial money and career expert. After saving $100,000 at age 25, Tori founded Her First $100K to fight financial inequality by giving women actionable resources to better their money. A Plutus award winner, her work has been featured on Good Morning America, New York Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, and more. An honors graduate of the University of Portland, Tori currently lives in Seattle, where she enjoys eating fried chicken, going to barre classes, and attempting to naturally work John Mulaney bits into conversation.
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