When you’re in a job you hate, or even just one that you've decided to leave, it’s very tempting to quit even before you have something else lined up. We won’t tell you to never quit your job before you have an offer letter for a new position, but we will tell you that you need to have a solid plan.
There are a few things to think about, and they don’t all involve money:
1 - But let’s talk about money first. Lack of money leads to desperation, and desperation leads to bad decisions. You need to have a comfortable financial runway, and by comfortable, we mean 6 months. You may be thinking, “Oh, it won’t take me that long to find a job I love. Something will happen.” But it might take that long, especially if you don’t have any idea how you’re going to find the as-yet-unknown job you know you will love (more on that, later).
Assuming that everything will all work out the way you want it to just because, well, you want it to is called magical thinking. And magical thinking won’t pay the bills or lead to a fulfilling career.
So make sure you have enough saved up, or that you have enough gigs lined up to put food on the table while you figure out your next step.
2 - What’s your story going to be? Let’s say you have some savings and enough gigs to stanch the financial bleeding and you know you can live comfortably, without panicking, for at least 6 months. What are you going to tell people when they ask why you quit your job? You’d better have a really good reason or else you risk looking like a flake, which will not help your professional prospects. “I just hated it and couldn’t do it anymore” is not a strong enough reason. I’m not here to list all the reasons that would be compelling, but this is definitely something you should float by a few people to see how your story lands. It’s always best of you have something you want to focus on rather than just something you’re running away from.
3 - Similarly, you need to have a story when people ask what you’re doing to land your next job. You can’t just say you’re going to start applying and hope something comes along. Doing that will be nothing but a demoralizing waste of time. You need structured steps to figure out what you want to do and then get there, which is where we step in.
4 - You also need to figure out how you’re going to fill the hours in your week. Many people take for granted how much time there is in a given day when you don’t have to be at an office. Your job search should not be a full time job in itself – you need to socialize, exercise, and get involved in projects and volunteer opportunities so you have interesting things to talk about. When you meet new people, whether or not they can help you with your search, you want to be someone that they want to talk to. And having interesting things going on is how you can make sure that happens.
Filling your days seems easier than it is in reality. You need to schedule so that you have places to be and appointments to keep. You need to become your own boss and manager, which means figuring out all the things you need to get done – job search tasks, networking, seeing friends, taking walks, volunteering, engaging with a side project – and when, exactly, you’re going to do them. I'm not saying you have to be super rigid, but suddenly having more time on your hands often means you get less done, rather than more, unless you’re disciplined.
5 - Finally, don't burn any bridges. The people you're working with now - your colleagues and bosses - will ideally be a part of your ever-growing network for years to come. Even if you hate your job, it's important to make sure your professional relationships remain intact, along with your reputation. This is why it's important to pay close attention to your mindset. If you decide you're done, even if you don't actually quit, it's easy for your attitude and the quality of your work to tank. You want to end on a high note - don't let things deteriorate to the point that everyone is happy to see you go.
The decision to quit your job is never something you should take lightly. But if there are moral, ethical, physical, or mental health reasons you really can’t continue, make sure you have an interim plan in place.
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Published on 6/5/2019