So, you’ve decided to quit your job. Maybe the company is struggling or you’ve realized you just aren’t passionate about the position, but no matter the reason, you know you will be leaving.
Now, the question is: should you stay at your current job until you find another, or do you leave before you have something concrete in place?
As a recruiter, I’ve heard this question many times over the years. As is so often the case with important questions, the answer is not clear cut. If you’re considering quitting your job before you have another lined up, there are several factors to consider, and you will need to decide which course of action is best for your situation.
What To Consider Before Quitting Your Current Job
Staying Has Its Benefits…
Conventional wisdom is that it’s better to stay employed until you have secured another job. Being gainfully employed can help your marketability and gives you more leverage in negotiations, especially salary negotiations.
You can also spend valuable interview time showcasing your accomplishments and experiences instead of explaining why you left your most recent position without another job lined up.
Finally, employment keeps the money coming in. If you don’t have a good financial cushion, continuing to work while you are looking for a new job may be your only option. If this is the case, you must face the challenges of trying to do both concurrently, and make the best of the situation. However, if you are fortunate enough to have money in savings or otherwise be able to carry household expenses, it might make more sense to leave.
…But Those Benefits Might Not Be Enough
Sure, being employed puts you in a better position as a candidate and can help you look better on paper. However, the ramifications of staying might not be worth it.
If a person is struggling with the decision to quit and focus full time on their job search, it’s likely because they are a very loyal and deeply committed person. They may have feelings of guilt and deception that become debilitating the longer they have to go into their current job, day after day, and hide the fact that they are planning to leave.
“For those who value loyalty, job searching can feel like “cheating” on their current employer, the emotional aspect of which can be very draining. “
A thoughtful, well-researched job search takes time, and if you feel you’re not living up to your own values of loyalty and honesty, that weight can get heavier every day. It’s not just loyalty to your company, or your boss, its loyalty to your clients or internal business partners, peers and subordinates. Anyone, really, who is counting on you to deliver on the promises (implied or overt) that you make when you show up each day.
This emotional burden won’t resonate with everybody. Some people change jobs more often than others. Some feel like they’re just there to do a job and earn a paycheck. But for those who value loyalty, job searching can feel like “cheating” on their current employer, the emotional aspect of which can be very draining.
Don’t Underestimate the Time Crunch
Another thing to consider is the amount of time you’ll spend on your job search. This might be less impactful emotionally, but it is still very real.
Between research and logistics, considering travel time and time spent in multiple interviews, I estimate that each job lead for a leadership role requires about 15 hours. If you interview for three or four positions, that’s a lot of time spent either out of the office or at least not fully plugged in to your current job.
Again, if you’re driven by a strong sense of commitment and loyalty, this time spent away from your job and responsibilities (physical or mental time away) will take a toll. This burden could very well offset any potential benefits of trying to do both at the same time.
Make a Graceful Exit
Whether you go or stay, you do not want to leave your current job on bad terms. It is never good to burn bridges. Remember this if you start to feel like you are away from your job too much, or if you’re not invested enough. You don’t want people to be happy to see you go, or to not sing your praises after you leave.
Your professional reputation will follow you for a long time, long after the emotional stress of making a job change has passed.
“Whether you go or stay, you do not want to leave your current job on bad terms. It is never good to burn bridges.”
A Recruiter’s (New) Perspective
I’ve recently seen quite a few leaders grapple with this decision for all the reasons noted above, and it caused me to reevaluate the interviewing process from the candidate’s point of view.
When I work with a hiring manager on a search, I spend significantly more time walking in their shoes than each individual candidate’s. Consequently, it’s easier to identify with the client’s pain points, in having the open position, and feel more in tune with that side of the equation.
I understand now that you can easily become desensitized to the candidate’s experience of a job change. As a recruiter, a huge part of my job is to encourage people to change jobs. However, it’s not nearly as simple as recruiters often think it is for a person to just “check out this opportunity” no matter how compelling or attractive it might be.
This is all to say that there is no right or wrong answer to this question. Either scenario presents challenges, but only you can decide what is best for you.
I hope people in a time-consuming job search see this post and feel “seen.” I hope recruiters who see this will have more empathy and consideration for the candidates they are shepherding through a search.
A job search can be a long, hard slog. Don’t compromise your sense of well-being. Trust your gut, and come up with a solution that is best for you.