Did the title of this article make you do a double take? You might ask yourself: Why would I quit a job if I’m paid really well? I get it. Having a nice salary helps cushion a lot of the blows life can throw at you after leaving the military. You can afford a nice lifestyle, save for a rainy day (and emergencies), help family and your community, pay off debts and enjoy vacations. But when a high-paying job comes at other costs, sometimes no amount of money is worth it.

I’m reminded of the formula for value. We perceive something as valuable or having value, when the benefits we derive are greater than the costs to us. For example, if the luxury sports car gives us status, recognition, confidence and personally meaningful rewards, we can justify the cost of the car because we value what it gives us. Similarly, if we’re considering hiring an employee with tremendous skills, credentials and certifications (benefits) who’s perceived to be hard to work with, challenges authority and is unmotivated, the costs of hiring that person are greater than the benefits, and we see low value.

It’s important to think of your job and career in terms of value, too. You may have taken a lower position to get a foot in the door in the hopes of being promoted in a company that is known to advance people from within. In this case, you perceived the cost of moving backward (in job title, for instance) to be outweighed by the benefit of getting promoted faster.

Compensation (pay, salary, benefits, perks, etc.) is where the value formula gets tricky. It can be easy to convince yourself that a hefty paycheck is a greater benefit than the costs to your personal life, mental health and overall happiness. We can justify being paid well to compensate for what we know isn’t good for us.

If you feel your job isn’t meeting your personal, professional and family goals, and you’ve explored options to fix the situation, you may decide it’s time to move on. Here’s how you quit a job when the pay is great:

1. Get clear on why you need to move on. 

If the travel schedule is taking you away from your family too much (and after multiple deployments, you’d promised them this wouldn’t happen), that’s a legitimate concern. If the environment you work in is toxic and it’s affecting your health, you have every reason to advocate for yourself. Be clear on why you’re quitting. 

2. Be honest with your employer about your needs, what you’ve tried (to fix the situation) and what you’ll be pursuing next. 

Their first reaction might be to offer you more money. Prepare for this in advance by reminding yourself of what you need and want, and how this doesn’t align. 

3. Refrain from speaking negatively about the company. 

Sure, it would be great if you highlighted every inadequacy of the team, showed how ineffective your co-workers were or how much of your job was not needed, and the company was motivated to make changes because of your input. Some companies might. Others may continue to use a high salary to attract people who will put up with unpleasantries and frustrations.

A good job is where you’ll do good work, with good people in a good environment. You’ll be compensated well for your insights, talents, experience and skills, and will grow in your learning about your field. Using your own set of criteria, decide what’s best for you, your career and your family and align with an employer who supports you, what you can offer and where you want to go.

The author of “Success After Service: How to Take Control of Your Job Search and Career After Military Duty” (2020) and “Your Next Mission: A personal branding guide for the military-to-civilian transition” (2014), Lida Citroën is a keynote speaker and presenter, executive coach, popular TEDx speaker and instructor of multiple courses on LinkedIn Learning. She regularly presents workshops on personal branding, executive presence, leadership communication, and reputation risk management.

A contributing writer for, Lida is a passionate supporter of the military, volunteering her time to help veterans transition to civilian careers and assist employers who seek to hire military talent. She regularly speaks at conferences, corporate meetings and events focused on military transition.

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