In blogs, forums, and social media, there seems to be an increase of testers voicing their disappointment in their jobs. Some people feel like they're treated poorly for being part of the QA team; others dread the mundane and repetitive work that testing entails. Many mention they feel stuck in their role and can't see a way out. Each reason is different, but they all contain the same underlying feelings.
Lots of those who are let down by their work have mentioned that they're seriously considering quitting QA altogether. It's one thing to feel like your current workplace isn't offering you the things you need, but seeing so many people wanting to leave the testing profession entirely is a bit problematic for the industry's future. With fewer experienced testers out there, it'll become more difficult for organizations to reach the quality they need to succeed.
Of course, leaving your line of work may be a prudent action to do in some scenarios. If you feel like you're not enjoying your career path and want to explore something else to do or your personal circumstances require a change in your life, you should think about it. But sometimes, these moments of wanting to quit everything altogether can be turned around for your current testing job. It can also allow you to thrive for the rest of your career as a tester.
These days, it's not super-easy to find new work in almost any profession. I see messages every day by testers who haven't been able to find a job in months. If you're in a position where you're unhappy about your job but feel like there's room to make it better, you can begin finding ways to make the situation better for you and your organization.
First, find out exactly what you're unhappy about
As human beings, we're prone to have moments where everything looks bleak at work, and there's no way out of where you are right now. In these moments, your brain stops all rational thought (also known as an amygdala hijack), and you'll come up with tons of reasons why everything sucks with our careers. That's the moment when most people bring up the topic of quitting altogether.
Some of those reasons might be legit circumstances. However, most people wouldn't honestly believe all of the reasons why things aren't going well are true. They might have an idea of what's bugging them, but often the real issue runs deep beneath the superficial, immediate responses your brain throws at you in times of distress.
If you feel you're in a situation like this, the first thing you can do (after calming down and taking a few deep breaths) is to spend some reflective time on yourself. Think of all the reasons why you're unhappy with your work, and peel back the layers to figure out what exactly it is you don't like. Questioning your reasoning when your mind is relaxed usually reveals blind spots you couldn't see when you were possibly freaking out.
For example, when you're at a point where you're fed up with your job and are this close to quitting on the spot, you'll blame everything for the way you feel. But maybe the issue isn't as broad as you think. It could be that your current tasks aren't challenging, and you're experiencing extreme boredom. Perhaps it's one particular co-worker who's getting on your nerves.
It could be any number of problems. The point is that you might have only one thing that's upsetting you at the current moment. Once you know what that one thing is, you can decide with clarity whether or not it's worth spending time correcting the issue. It's easier to figure out if you want to find ways to make work more exciting or co-exist with that annoying co-worker than trying to fix everything around you.
With a calmer state of mind, you'll be able to pick out what's indeed causing you to feel the way you are in moments of stress. It discards less-important issues, letting the real problems come up to the surface. Having only one or two obstacles instead of dozens helps you decide if you should take them on or if it's simply not worth the effort.
Start making every day a tiny bit better
If you decide that the things that are bothering you are fixable, you'll likely want to start making some changes to improve your situation. Usually, people look to making their own situation better and making their workplace better overall. It's a noble effort, but most employees' main mistake is to jump in head-first and want to make drastic, sweeping changes as quickly as possible. This sudden movement creates a jolt with everyone around you.
Your managers will probably feel threatened because it can make them think that if you want to change so many things, it's because you believe they're not a good manager. Even if you feel that way, you probably shouldn't say it - even indirectly - since you'll need their support to get what you want. Also, you might alienate your teammates. Some may not share your grand vision and won't like someone "rocking the boat".
If you have big plans to improve your work environment, don't start big. The best thing you can do is to make small, incremental changes as you go. Spreading out little changes here and there is an easier sell to the rest of your organization. It also makes those changes more comfortable to adopt as a normal part of the team's workflow. Tiny changes might feel like they do not affect anything, but they accumulate and grow into something substantial over time, especially if you can show noticeable improvements.
For example, let's say you're a manual tester and want to learn test automation, but your company doesn't want to spend time on it. Instead of immediately seeking work elsewhere, you can take one of the most tedious test cases you have and learn how to automate it on the side. When you're done, begin using it and keep track of how much time and effort it saves you and the team. You can repeat the process a few more times while directly showing your manager the benefits of automation. Together, the team can develop a plan to do some automation throughout each sprint, building up your test suite along the way.
The key to introducing change is to make those changes as unobtrusive as possible. Starting small helps you build something new that you can put into play. Once it's out there, you can track the results and demonstrate how these changes can benefit everyone. Repeating the cycle adds up over time, and you can overcome your issues without making radical changes.
Join forces with others who feel the same
If you're feeling a bit down about a few current work situations, chances are there's at least one other person who feels the same way as you do. After all, if you're feeling stressed about your current testing processes or want to learn different ways to improve QA's efficiency, it's almost guaranteed one of your fellow testers is thinking the same.
If you have a trusted co-worker who has similar grievances about the things that are bothering you, get together with them, and talk about it constructively. Instead of complaining about the problems, make a plan to tackle your next problem together. Everyone has a unique perspective and complementary strengths.
Having someone sharing your struggles makes the process less lonely and will accelerate your process. Having an extra mind crunching through a single problem helps you find a better solution sooner than going alone. And don't worry if someone doesn't share all of your objections the same way as you. Use common ground to find the areas you both think can improve and overcome them for everyone's sake.
An excellent example of this is from my personal experience at a previous job I had. One of our testers would often mention that as our app grew in scope, it became more challenging to keep up with regression testing. He was the only full-time tester and didn't have any programming skills. As a developer, I felt the same pain differently. Because testing went too long, I would often receive last-minute bugs to fix right before our deadlines.
Instead of the tester complaining about development having too many defects or me complaining that testing was slow, we came up with a plan to deal with the issue. I took some time to set up our (admittedly sparse) automated testing suite on the tester's computer and began slowly showing them how it worked. While he learned to program by writing small test cases and sending them to me for review, I got more insight into how he performed his manual testing, which gave me ideas to improve his efficiency with manual testing.
After a couple of months, the tester could write automated tests covering the boring parts of their work. Simultaneously, I made it easier for testers to perform exploratory testing by setting up development flags on separate staging servers, which significantly sped up their work. Regression testing took less time, and I received far fewer bug reports during the week. It was a win-win situation for both of us.
In every tester's career, there will come the point where you'll begin to question if it was worth making the choices you made to get you where you are. It could come from issues that happen in your current workplace or after years of experiencing the same problems, no matter where you go. Regardless, you'll likely want to give up everything.
Sometimes, it's a wise choice to make. You might have experienced different situations that are unrepairable, and it's best to walk away. But more often than not, these thoughts are a knee-jerk reaction to one or two conditions buried underneath the fog of negative feelings. When you're upset, your rational brain shuts down, and it's tough to spot what's truly bothering you.
Before making any irrational decisions, try to take a few moments to step away from the situation for a bit. Give yourself some room to clear your head. This period will likely bubble up the real problems you're facing. Usually, you'll discover that your issues aren't as widespread as you one thought. This step allows you to figure out if what's bothering you is worth fixing or if you need to step away permanently.
If you want to fix your concerns, don't jump all in with solutions to fix everything. Trying to do too much at once will overwhelm you and everyone involved in the process and probably make your problems worse. Manage your grand vision by performing a small chunk of your plan first, and demonstrate value to those around you. You'll make advances without disrupting the rest of your team, making it easier to implement more of what makes you happier with your work.
Finally, if you're feeling upset about something related to your work, it's almost guaranteed that there's someone in your organization that feels the same way. Seek them out and join together to resolve the things that are making both of you unhappy. It'll speed your improvements and make the journey less lonely. Even if someone doesn't share all of your gripes, you can make significant progress sharing the load with someone else.
These aren't the only things you can do to make your situation better. For instance, if you're a senior tester, mentoring junior QA team members can be incredibly fulfilling. Or you can establish a routine of meeting with fellow testers for lunch once a week to discuss what's new in the testing world. Doing something you haven't done before is the only way to get out of the ruts we all get into from time to time.
It's easy to tell someone to quit their job if they're unhappy, but it's not always the right thing to do. If you're fortunate to have stable work during these times, don't take it for granted, especially during moments when things aren't going as you'd like. With a clear and relaxed mind, you can find ways to turn the bad into something good for yourself.
How have you overcome moments when you've wanted to quit your job or your career as a tester altogether? Share your experiences and help others by leaving a comment below!