It is common knowledge that the best time to look for a job is when you already have one, but when is it okay to quit your job without another job lined up? Landing a new job before you quit the old one is ideal for several reasons:
- You have no employment gap in your background;
- You stay financially solvent, with no or limited break in your salary and benefits;
- To maintain the linear career progression that is more palatable to most recruiters and employers, going from one job to another.
Even though it’s better to leave a job when you already have a job, waiting for that next job may not be the right timing or strategy for you. Here is a checklist of ten questions to see if you are better off quitting your job even without another job lined up:
1. Do you have autonomy over your schedule?
If it is hard to take time off during the workday for interviews, it may not be realistic to find a job while you keep yours. You can start your job search on off hours and weekends (e.g., updating your resume, researching companies), but eventually you will need the autonomy over your schedule to come in late, leave early, take a long lunch and switch your calendar around at the last moment sometimes.
2. Can you keep your job search confidential?
If your field of expertise is small and a job search would be tough to keep confidential, then you might have a tough time juggling a search with your current job. If your boss is the suspicious type who monitors your schedule, you may find it hard to break away for networking meetings or even short interviews. To manage a job search, you need to be able to maintain confidentiality over your activities.
3. Can you keep your job from affecting your attitude outside of your job?
Go back to your search refreshed. Ideally, you don’t have to quit, but can use your ongoing time away from work (mornings, evenings, weekends) to bounce back.
4. Do you have someone at work who can help?
In the ideal world, your boss is supportive and helpful to your career. But if you’re so frustrated you want to quit without a job, my guess is that you don’t have that nice a boss. Still, if you have a colleague you can confide in, a friend in HR who can help you better manage up, or a mentor who can help you move laterally, you may be able to improve things despite your boss. If you have absolutely no support within your company, then you probably can’t improve your situation all alone and your best bet is to move on.
5. Can you convince your boss or HR to help you make a change?
Confronting a difficult boss or escalating to HR is a risky move, and if you don’t get help, your work environment may get uncomfortable. But you are going to leave anyway, right? Why not get some negotiation and difficult conversation practice in before you go? If you’re serious about leaving, you should do all you can to improve your situation. Otherwise, you risk leaving prematurely, when more could have been done.
6. Is there another role within the company you can play?
If you’re doing well at your job, a quick move could be a lateral one to another department or subsidiary within the company. So you work in a small company, there might not be anywhere to go. If you work in a big company that doesn’t encourage groups to share employees, then there might not be the ability to go. However, a lateral move is definitely something to look into before quitting altogether.
7. Can you get a leave of absence, flexible schedule or severance instead of just quitting?
If you are going to leave anyway, ask for what you need. You can quit if they say No, but if they say Yes, you get time off paid.
8. Have you run the numbers on how you will cover your expenses for at least three months?
Not everyone is motivated or constrained by money, but most people in the workforce do have financial obligations to consider. If you haven’t done the math around how you’re going to support yourself without this job, it is probably too early for you to quit. It can take several months to find another job (or start a business or apply to graduate school) so three months is the minimum time frame to look at. Calculating your expenses and comparing these to your savings and other sources of income is something you can do on your off hours or weekend time.
9. Have you planned out three months’ worth of activities after you quit?
I get that it’s hard to think clearly when you spend 40-plus hours of your best energy on the job you no longer want to do. However, It’s worth it to stay where you are at least long enough to sketch out some next steps. Like the money plans, you can outline action plans in your off time. If you quit without a job and without a plan, you can easily fritter away your time off and still find yourself unhappy and confused, only this time with financial urgency because the paychecks have stopped coming in.
10. Have you tried to make improvements in areas outside of your job first?
The best foundation for your job search is to have your life in order – health, stress management, relationships, money. So the first step to changing your job is changing your life. If you really are at the end of your rope with your job, you will find the motivation to make even a small improvement elsewhere. This will strengthen your job search foundation, while also proving to yourself that you are serious about making a change.
If you answer No to most or all of the last three questions, then quitting your job without another job lined up is premature, and you probably can still squeeze out more benefits from staying put. Quitting your job is disruptive and creates financial pressure where there was none before. Some people thrive on chaos and urgency, but for many it creates panic and paralysis. There are enough ups and downs in a regular job search that you don’t want to add undue pressure on yourself.