We’ve all fantasized about walking into work one day and just saying “I quit,” particularly after a super stressful week. While it’s fun to think about dropping everything and making a big change, it’s not always the most practical decision. Your first gig as a new grad might not be a job you actually want, especially since finding a job is really tough for a lot of young professionals. Even after you’ve found the right fit, you might think about leaving because you’ve asked for a raise or promotion and didn’t get it, or you’re dealing with a work bully you can’t avoid. It can be difficult to know whether or not it’s worth it to stick it out and hope for the best or just get out of there ASAP. We tapped two career experts to help make it clear when you should put some extra effort into making things work and when it’s time to cut your losses and figure out your exit strategy.
1. Evaluate your current gig. If you think you want to quit your job, it’s important to examine exactly why you want to. Hallie Crawford, an Atlanta-based career coach, suggests making a list of things you don’t like about your current position and what you would prefer instead. Be as specific as possible, because this process can help you determine what your ideal job would be. If you don’t know what your best-case-scenario is, it can be hard to fight for it!
Crawford also suggests evaluating your current position in three key ways. First, think about whether or not your job is fulfilling. If it is, great! If not, figure out why and what could make it line up more with your personal values. Second, consider if you enjoy your job. We’ve all heard the saying that you spend more time at work than anywhere else, so actually liking what you do is pretty key. Third, figure out if your job utilizes your talents and skills. Your position should leverage your talents or natural abilities and skills regularly. If it doesn’t, that might be why you aren’t super psyched about it.
2. Consider the reasons you want to leave. There are good reasons to quit a job, and then there are bad ones. Let’s start with the bad. According to career expert Nicole Williams, getting a new boss you don’t get along with is not a sufficient reason on its own to leave. “You never know who might be waiting for you at a new position,” she points out. “You could run into exactly the same scenario or worse elsewhere.” Of course, if there’s an extreme situation that is causing you emotional distress, that’s a different story.
Another not-so-good reason is because you just don’t feel like being there anymore. Leaving without a plan is sometimes necessary, but Williams says that “the best time to look for jobs is when you have a job. Don’t place yourself in a situation where you are unemployed with bills to pay if you can help it. If your job felt overwhelming before, you are about to feel 100 times more so.”
The best reason to leave a job is money, according to Williams. If you’ve found a position that pays significantly more than the one you’re in, go for it. She recommends comparing any new package to your old one and weighing all the different components carefully. For example, a higher salary offer may not be as great as it seems if things like health insurance, paid vacation time and 401K matching are not included. Company culture is also an important consideration. ”Really invest in learning about this new company you may be moving to. Research them on LinkedIn, understand their value and what you’ll be able to learn and provide for them. Does this sound interesting? Not every job is designed for every person. You need to do some homework and make sure this switch is right for you,” says Williams.
3. Figure out your plan. Whether you’re quitting to leave for a new position or quitting with the purpose of taking some time off to look for a new gig, you definitely need a game plan. If you’ve been offered a new position and you’ve decided it’s the right place for you, congrats! You’re all set to quit and get started on the next chapter of your career. Just make sure you give at least two weeks notice so you can maintain your positive relationship with your current company.
If you’ve decided to leave your position without a new one lined up, look at your finances and figure out a deadline for yourself to find something new. For example, Williams recommends that if you can support yourself for two months without a steady income, then make two months your deadline for finding another job or at least something temporary to help you get by. And really use that time to figure out what your next move is, rather than sleeping in and catching up on your favorite TV shows! “It may seem like you’ll replace the stress of staying in a job you hate with the stress of trying to find a different job,” she says, “but it’s a good stress—one that will motivate you rather than make you sick to your stomach on Sunday evening.”
No matter what decision you make, Williams emphasizes that you should own it, especially if you decide to quit. “Once you decide when and how you’ll leave your job, own it. Be confident in your choice, even if you’re not sure how it will turn out. This is your life, and only you can decide what will make it better. After telling others about your decision to leave, you’ll get a lot of worried expressions and dissenting opinions. Thank them, and then disregard what they say. It’s very easy for other people to tell you what you should do when they haven’t experienced it for themselves.” In other words, you know what’s best for you better than anyone else. So go for it!
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