Should You Quit Before Finding a New Job?

Do you dread going to work every day? Sometimes a job turns out to be truly miserable – a destructive company culture, an infuriating boss, overwhelming hours or travel, a re-org that marginalizes your role…..these are just a few of the things that can turn a once promising job into your daily dose of dread. That’s a sure sign that you need to move on.

Should you heed the oft-repeated advice that it’s easier to find a job while employed? It’s true that many recruiters have a bias against the unemployed, especially if the gap is long-term (generally considered to be 6 months or longer). Marketable skills grow stale quickly, so most career advisors caution against quitting before landing a new role elsewhere.

But, finding a new job is a time-consuming and often daunting task. Most business professionals understand that a successful job search entails lots of networking, targeting a specific set of companies, and being patient through multiple rounds of interviews that can drag on for weeks.

So, before resigning, make sure you’ve fully considered every possible way to alleviate some of your dissatisfaction – have a candid talk with your boss, pursue a different role or lateral move, take on a new project – do whatever you can to proactively address your situation before cutting ties.

At the same time, be realistic about what cannot be changed. There are circumstances that will inevitably lead to parting. For example, if you’re in a fairly senior role and no longer see eye-to-eye with the board or leadership about the company’s direction, or you’ve encountered an ethical challenge you can’t overcome. It could be that your life situation has changed, and the structure of the job just doesn’t fit any longer.

After considering your alternatives and circumstances, you may decide that quitting ahead of a new job is the right decision……if that’s the case, be better prepared by coming to terms with these issues:

1)   Are you prepared for the boss to “show you the door”?  Most people give a couple weeks’ notice and offer to assist with a transition. However, some execs don’t want your presence after a resignation. While an abrupt departure is probably not your expectation, it does sometimes happen, so think through the various scenarios. To ensure a smooth departure, consult our ACS Career Management Resignation checklist.

2)  Can you reasonably explain your exit when networking or in future interviews? You will be asked about your departure, so best to anticipate how to put a positive spin on the situation. There’s no need to air your grievances against a former employer. You should succinctly explain how you arrived at your decision to leave and then turn the conversation towards the skills you want to bring to your next role.

3)  Can you offer a reference from someone in the company you’re exiting? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the boss. Ask a trusted colleague if he’ll consider a future reference should the need arise. That way, you can signal to prospective employers that others will vouch for your performance.

4)  How will you spend your time after the exit? Our ACS data shows that on average it takes about 6 months to land a new job. It’s unrealistic and somewhat debilitating to spend 40 hours a week on search activities. You will need a constructive and targeted search plan to land well, but remember that a transition is also a good opportunity to pursue things you haven’t had time for, like taking a course, getting a certification, or furthering your skills in some way. Volunteering or joining a board can also be both fulfilling and great networking. Also, think about how you might engage in short term project work, especially if the search stretches on for weeks. Our Independent Consulting page has a number of tips.

5)  What are your salary requirements? This question is asked by nearly every recruiter and often very early in the screening process; leaving a job can put you in a more vulnerable position when negotiating your next salary, so do your homework early and understand what a reasonable range of salary is for your targeted role.

If you need help mapping your way out of a dreaded job, Darden’s Alumni Career Services is here to help!

By Marty Speight, D96

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