When Is It Ok to Quit Your Job Without Another Lined Up?

American workers have become fickle. Whether it’s due to higher salary standards or a demand for greater work-life balance, people now quit their jobs at unprecedented rates. In 2013 alone, 2 million people per month voluntarily left their jobs. At BVOH, we’ve seen a steady rise in the number of candidates who want to leave their current positions, regardless of whether they have another job. The cultural climate encourages rapid movement from one position to another, as young workers seek jobs that provide financial stability and meaningful work. But leaving a job without a plan isn’t always a wise decision. It’s important to think through the professional and financial consequences before submitting your resignation letter.

To Quit or Not to Quit

Family emergencies are often the catalysts for people to quit their jobs, whether they have other opportunities on the line or not. A sick child or dependent parent might force you to restructure your life, including scaling back your professional commitments. Many companies offer sabbaticals to employees who work with the organization for seven years or more, so find out whether that’s an option. If you know that it’s time to move on, however, personal changes provide a good opening to do so. Perhaps it’s not even a tragedy that spurs the decision. Many people decide to leave the workforce or take extended time off to be with their young children, and most employers understand those choices. If you’ve demonstrated loyalty and hard work all along, you won’t harm your professional relationships or your future prospects. Company acquisitions are also great opportunities for reflection. If your company is bought by another organization and the nature of your job changes, it makes sense to reevaluate the situation. This is a good time to use the vacation time you’ve accrued and try something new. However, younger workers in particular are prone to quitting their jobs after a year because they’re stressed out. They bounce from job to job or go through long stretches of unemployment, leaving significant gaps in their résumés. When employers read that you’ve left several jobs after a short period, they interpret that as a lack of resilience. No hiring manager or business owner wants to invest in someone who will likely quit after a year or less. If a former boss feels burned, they may refuse to submit a recommendation for you on future jobs. Worse, they might give you a poor reference. And if you think you don’t need to list them as references, think again. Any future employer insists on knowing why you don’t want them to contact past supervisors. Leaving on bad terms raises a huge red flag for hiring managers. Quitting jobs frequently without having a next step in place also costs you raises and promotions. When you’re unemployed for several months, you don’t have leverage to negotiate for higher compensation. You’re making zero dollars, so the prospective employer doesn’t need to woo you away from anything. Anything they offer will be better than zero, so you hold little bargaining power. You might also get passed over for a high-level role. Employers may perceive you as desperate, instead of as someone who wants the job but has plenty of prospects. Before you decide to quit, ask yourself what it is about the job that’s become so unbearable. Talk to your boss about the struggles you’re facing, or ask a mentor for guidance. You may be able to work with your manager to create an environment in which you experience less stress and are more positive about the job.

Leaving Gracefully

If you’ve considered all the angles and still want to leave, do so on good terms. Here’s how to quit without burning bridges:

1. Provide ample notice.

If you’re quitting for non-emergency reasons and you aren’t starting another job immediately, there’s no excuse for giving only two weeks’ notice. Tell your boss as soon as you’ve made the decision, giving them plenty of time to process the information and begin recruiting your replacement.

2. Assist with the transition.

Offer to help find your replacement and develop a transition plan that doesn’t leave your colleagues burdened by your extra work. Stay on long enough to train the new person and ensure that they’re capable of taking over your responsibilities. Leave your boss and teammates in a good place so that you can maintain those relationships.

3. Organize your finances and insurance.

Your health coverage will likely end shortly after your last day, so time your exit appropriately. Schedule any check-ups or procedures before you quit so that you can maximize your coverage. When you leave a job voluntarily, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits or insurance assistance. Educate yourself about your options before you’re out of a job. Save enough money to get through the next several months so that you don’t become desperate when you are back on the market. Employers can tell when you’re grasping for any job, and they’re less likely to hire you because of it. Having enough money to live on enables you to interview for new positions from a place of strength and confidence. Otherwise, you’ll end up taking any job for the sake of a paycheck, which may derail your career. Taking the wrong job and quitting again after a year signals that you didn’t think things through. Hiring managers look for candidates who are thoughtful and intentional about their careers. Don’t put yourself in a position where you must blemish your résumé to survive. Before you decide whether to quit, ask yourself whether it’s the right move for your career long-term. If the answer is a resounding no, reach out to your hiring manager and try to solve the problem. Sticking with a job and showing a willingness to try to work through problems before you decide to move on demonstrates fortitude, and that’s an attribute every employer wants to see.

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