As a career and executive coach, I hear from scores of professionals every month who are ready to ditch their current job without having another lined up. Many have simply had enough (of the toxicity, politics, lousy management, overwork and overwhelm, stress, boredom and more) and they feel they can’t take it one more minute. I’ve been there and know exactly how that can feel.
The reality, however, is that quitting your job without another one can add a whole new set of challenges to your plate that you may not be ready to deal with.
Here are some key questions I receive from professionals ready to quit without a net, and my best advice:
What should I be thinking about before I quit my job without another one?
For most people, it’s a very challenging position to be, to be unemployed while looking for another job. If at all possible, it’s best to stay employed until you find new work (unless the situation is truly untenable, and then you should consult a lawyer or get other forms of outside help).
The best first approach in the short term is for you to do what’s necessary to make this current role better today – to empower yourself to deal more effectively with what you feel you can’t tolerate. During this period of growth and stretching yourself to handle the challenges more powerfully, you should also be interviewing, networking and connecting extensively with as many colleagues and new employment opportunities as possible. In that way, you’ll give yourself time to grow, improve your situation and craft a better story to tell about yourself and your career while you’re looking for another great role.
The reason this approach works best for most people is that:
1. In the eyes of prospective hiring managers, you’re more desirable to them if you’re currently employed.
2.Working through the challenges you’re facing in your existing role brings more confidence, self-esteem, and clarity, and helps you learn some critical skills (like conflict resolution, negotiating, advocating for yourself, leadership, communication, etc.). You’ll also learn new approaches to overcoming challenges that will help you in the next chapter and role.
3. Once you’ve worked through your challenges in a productive way, you’re better able to talk about your experiences at this current job in a way that is compelling, confident and inspiring. Often people who quit before having another job find it extremely difficult talk about the job in a positive and self-assured way, which is important to do if you want to land a great new job.
Before quitting a job without another lined up, ask yourself:
Why do I feel compelled to leave so urgently? What is making me want to run? It’s important to avoid what I call the “Pendulum Effect” – running as far away as possible just to escape an unhappy situation.
Is there anything I can do now to address my challenges (talk with HR, speak with your boss, ask for a new project or a potential new direction that will be more exciting for you, ask your internal mentor or sponsor to help you address any challenges you’re facing, etc.)
What is my financial plan, if I quit? How will I weather the transition to another role, financially speaking? What money do I need to pay my bills and keep my household running, and pay for critical health and life insurance and other essential investments?
What challenges that come from quitting a job without a plan are most surprising to people? Are there challenges that men and women often don’t anticipate, either professionally or financially?
Quitting a job before we have another one often sounds like a great idea (especially when we’re in a great deal of emotional pain in unhappy jobs and just want that pain to stop). But in reality, it can bring on a host of new and unexpected challenges.
First, it can be very stressful to look for work when you’re challenged in paying the bills and are pressured to take just any job. Quitting can leave you feeling adrift and lost, isolated from others and confused as to how to spend your time , which is a challenging emotional place to be launching yourself from.
Secondly, if you quit without addressing exactly what has not been going well, or dealing with it an empowered way, those same challenges will often follow you in the next job and employer no matter how different you think this next position or employer will be.
Further, it can take significantly longer to find work today than we would ever imagine. Stress mounts as job offers are not being made and money is being depleted. Many marriages and relationships suffer under the strain, and our physical and emotional well-being can be negatively affected as well.
Finally, looking for work today is a radically different experience than even five years ago. Eighty percent of jobs are now found through networking, not through the traditional channels we used to rely on such as recruiters and applying directly.
For those who are not well networked, aren’t active on LinkedIn and haven’t been engaged outside of their employer with peers and colleagues in the industry, it’s often a rude awakening, and more challenging.
Successful career and job change is very possible and can be a very productive process, but there are specific steps that need to happen to ensure that you’ve got all the necessary components in place to make it work as smoothly as possible.
In a financial sense, what would you recommend I do before I quit my job? What financial questions should I ask myself?
Financially speaking, before quitting a job, it’s important to take these steps:
1. Meet with your accountant and/or financial consultant and get intimately familiar with your money situation – what is coming in, and what goes out each month. Then develop a transition plan that will carry you through at least six months of potentially not finding work.
2. Understand all the financial ramifications of leaving this job – the stock options, bonuses, commission, etc. that you’re entitled to. Make a clear evaluation of what you’re walking away from, and make sure you understand what you’re leaving on the table if you quit. Think too about the ultimate timing of when you leave so you can maximize your earnings.
3. Think about what you would do financially in the event that you didn’t land a good job within six months. How would you live and how would you fund the transition period?
4. Talk it through fully with your partner to get on the same page about how you’ll deal with the emotional and financial challenges as a team.
5. Before quitting, determine what you can do now to create more wealth, including spending less, saving more, investing more wisely, etc. Create a plan where you’re fully in control of your money situation, and nothing is a surprise.
Quitting an unhappy job before you have another role is certainly an option, but from an empowerment perspective, it’s vitally important that you make every decision in your life with your eyes wide open and with all the options fully vetted, and not just “run.” And it’s critical to make sound, well-founded decisions that will lead you in a positive direction rather than repeating the situation of taking another job you don’t like because you’re desperate for the money. When you approach it with eyes wide open and fully prepared, your decision-making process will be stronger and you’ll have no regrets in later months and years.
In the end, greater awareness equals greater choice. Be as aware as possible about what it takes today to land great work, rectify or improve your current situation, and make your career growth process as beneficial and productive as it can be.
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