As a career strategist, a big part of my job is providing career advice. One question I’m often asked is whether I think it’s okay for someone to leave their current job before they have another one. Two thoughts immediately pop into my mind.
First, I wonder if the person is hoping I’ll give them “permission” to walk away from their current role. Unfortunately, only they can give themselves that permission.
The second thought, and what I almost always say is, “it depends.”
Quitting your job without another lined up is a bold move. Sometimes it’s the absolute right thing to do and sometimes the consequences can be greater than you imagined. So, if you’re asking yourself, “should I quit this job before I get a new one,” you need to answer these five questions before doing anything.
1. If I leave my current role, what kind of financial or emotional burden will be placed on me or my family?
Some people have enough cash saved that they can forego their job’s income. Or they may have a spouse or other person in their life who can support the household and make it possible for them to leave their job.
Be aware, however, that most job searches take from six months to a full year, depending on your years and level of experience. The higher the position you want is on the organization chart, the longer it takes. If you don’t have enough savings to take the place of lost income and there’s no one else you can rely on for financial support, leaving your job without another job lined up is risky.
How Long Will My Job Search Take?
If there is another breadwinner in the household, is that person’s employment stable and is the person willing and able to pay the household’s monthly bills and other financial obligations that will occur during your job search? If yes, leaving now is less risky.
If leaving your current role won’t create a financial or emotional burden on you and those in your household, then leaving might be feasible.
2. Will leaving my current role right now burn any bridges with my current company or colleagues?
While no one expects you to stay at a company for the rest of your career, leaving a company unexpectedly or during a critical project can be a mark against your trustworthiness and professional standing. Especially if leaving creates a hardship for your employer or colleagues. Remember, these people will likely be your references for future employment, so leaving them in the most professional way is in your best interests as well.
If leaving now will burn bridges, how much will you need to rely on references from your current employer? (FYI – if you’re looking to stay in the corporate world, you’ll need to have good references from your most current employer.) Do you have prior employers who can recommend you? How about past clients or co-workers? This is where recommendations on LinkedIn may be invaluable if you have to suddenly leave your current employer.
Sometimes, like when you’re part of an already sinking ship, you may find it’s better to leave, so you don’t get caught in the cross hairs. If your company or department is already on fire or about to ignite, most employers will understand why you left because they can empathize with your situation.
If the worst case scenario is true, consider announcing your decision to management to give them more notice than normal, or even offer to stay on board until a replacement can be found and trained. Sometimes having an announced departure date, even a few weeks or months in the future, can help get you endure a job you’d like to leave now, and still leave on the best possible terms.
3. How much of your current or past skills are in demand in the current economy?
If your skills are in high demand, leaving a position without a new one waiting for you may not be a big deal. But the opposite is also true. If your current skills aren’t in demand, don’t forget to think about past skills. You might have some you can dust off and quickly bring up to speed to meet current market demands.
Keep in mind it’s important to think in terms of skills, rather than job titles. Jobs have both technical and behavioral skills requirements. If you’ve got great behavioral skills, you might be able to get by on those, particularly if those skills are in high demand.
If your past and present skills aren’t in demand, leaving without a new role already lined up is obviously quite risky. If you’re in this position, it might be more wise to create a plan for getting trained in the skills you need to be more in demand. Seeing a plan and moving towards it may give you the energy you need to stay where you are until you can smoothly move into your dream job.
4. What do I need to do to prepare myself for a job search?
Are you clear about what you want to do and how to communicate that to anyone you meet? Are your resume and LinkedIn profile updated? Do you exude the confidence and a strong enough personal presence to be competitive in the interview process? Do you have a sizable personal network of business contacts, friends and acquaintances who can be your eyes and ears for new employment opportunities?
If you answered the majority of those questions positively, then you’re probably in a good position to start a job search. If you answered those questions negatively, then ask yourself if you can turn those answers into positives while you continue working.
Hunting for a new career position is highly competitive and may be harder than you remember. It’s important to be truly ready to promote yourself and set yourself apart from other job seekers.
5. What mental, emotional or physical price will I pay if I stay in this role?
Sometimes jobs can become so toxic that staying in the position will exact a serious mental, emotional, and/or physical price. Is the income, insurance, or other benefits of the position worth the costs of staying in the job? This can be a highly subjective assessment, so it’s best to get input from people you trust to be honest with you before answering this question. Sometimes friends and family can see how you’re being affected by your job even better than you can yourself. To get an unbiased opinion and guidance, you might get some direction from a career coach or trusted adviser.
Weigh their answers against your own thoughts and see what you come up. The result might surprise you and give you the perspective you need to make a clear decision.
If you make the decision to leave your current role before having another position is lined up, then create a plan for resigning in the most professional way possible. It’s tempting at the end of a bad work day, week, or month to throw in the towel and walk out the door. Before you do, though, ask yourself the questions above and carefully consider what makes the most sense for you, your family, and your health.
While fortune might favor the bold, it’s definitely prudent to look before you leap out of a position when there’s not another one already lined up.
Julia is a Career Strategist and Gallup-Certified Strengths Coach based in the Bay Area. She helps career-focused professionals showcase their unique abilities and talents in order to amplify their presence in their chosen fields and when re-entering the job market. Julia uses her extensive leadership experience in executive management, business development, team building and recruiting to help her clients have the career they always wanted. Learn more about Julia at www.JuliaHolian.com, www.LinkedIn.com/in/JuliaHolian, https://Twitter.com/JuliaHolian (@JuliaHolian) and www.Facebook.com/JuliaHolian.