5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Quitting Your Job

I QUIT! Employee quitting work
By Alison Green

Quitting your job can be the brilliant move that frees you up to do something better, or it can be a rash decision you end up regretting later. If you're starting to think about resigning your job, here are five questions to ask yourself to make sure it's the right decision for you:1. Is your decision being driven by emotion? Most people have moments when they want to quit their jobs – when work frustrations have built to the point that their thoughts turn to escape. Most of the time, that feeling will pass. So if the impulse is new, give yourself a few weeks, and see if it passes.

If you still think you should quit after a few weeks have passed, then it's something you can take seriously. But don't make such a major decision in the heat of the moment or after a single tough week.

2. How long have you been at your current job, and how long have you stayed at previous jobs? If you have a pattern of leaving jobs after less than two years, future employers will worry that you're a job hopper – and that you'll leave them quickly, too. Sometimes it can be better for you in the long run to stay a bit longer in a job, so you don't harm your ability to get jobs you want in the future.

There certainly are times when it's reasonable to leave a job after a short period of time, such as if you're doing something quite different than what you signed on for; if the terms of the job, such as pay or location, change significantly; or when your health of safety is at risk.

The catch is that you can only do it once with impunity. If you start racking up multiple short stays, that's when employers will start wondering how reliable you are. You do get one freebie, though; just make sure you don't use it lightly. (After all, if you leave a job quickly, you'll need to be especially careful about the next job you take, since you're going to need to stick around there for a while.)

3. How long will it take you to find another job? People sometimes quit their jobs with nothing lined up, thinking that they'll have a new one in a few months. But in this job market, job searches can take a year or even longer. Many people only realize that once they've already quit and it's too late. In most circumstances, you shouldn't quit without another job lined up.

Be realistic about your next steps and the likely timeline for moving on, so that you can manage your own expectations and make good decisions in the meantime.

4. Think about the advantages of your current job that might be hard to find somewhere else. For example, if you have an incredibly short commute, unusually generous vacation leave, the ability to work from home whenever you want or a higher-than-market salary, be realistic about how likely you'll be to find those things in your next job – and how much you care.

Sometimes when people do this calculation, they realize they're willing to put up with a difficult boss in exchange for a short commute and great pay. Other times, they realize they'd gladly take a small pay cut and spend a bit more time on the road to work in a different environment. The call is yours; just be thoughtful and realistic about what you value most and what trade-offs you're willing to make.

5. Have you talked with your boss about what's making you unhappy, and is it likely to change? This doesn't work in every case; in some situations, the work or culture just isn't the right fit, the boss is a nightmare or you want to move into a completely different field.

But in some cases, talking to your boss can actually help. For example, if your commute is wearing on you, could you get permission to work from home one or two days per week? Or could you flex your hours to avoid rush hour? Or if a particular client is destroying your quality of life, is it possible to spend less time on that account and move to work that won't make you want to pull your hair out? The answer might be "no," but sometimes it might be "yes" – and you usually won't know until you ask.

Too often, people assume the answer will be "no," and so they never ask – when, if they did, sometimes they would end up discovering that their manager cared enough about retaining them to be willing to make changes. Again, this doesn't happen every time. But it's often worth asking the question.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search and management issues. She's the author of "How to Get a Job: Secrets of a Hiring Manager," co-author of "Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results" and the former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management.
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