You’ve reached (possibly for the 100th time) what feels like a breaking point professionally. Every ounce of you wants to barge into your boss’s office and give your notice, even if you don’t already have your next gig lined up. Of course, you deserve to find a better professional situation. But is it wise to burn your bridges without knowing your next move? Should you quit without a new job lined up?
Whether it’s your controlling boss, your intense work hours, your ruthless coworker, or a pervasive feeling of stagnation (or all of the above), something’s bothering you, and it needs addressing. However, quitting impulsively can lead you into more frustration and stress than you have at the moment (minus the pay you’re getting).
If you truly don’t think you can hang on much longer, here’s how to approach the idea of quitting your job without a new one.
- Advocate internally first. If you’re at the point you’re willing to be jobless, can you honestly say that you’ve done everything you can to get your needs met internally? Have you identified any viable solutions you could propose that might alleviate your aggravation? Whether it’s a part time work week, a shift into a consulting relationship, asking to transfer accounts/desks/teams, asking for additional help from the team… can anything help? Before quitting, see if you can find any solutions internally.
- Consider giving extended notice. Future employers don’t look kindly on people who leave a job without a new one. They assume that the move wasn’t your choice, and/or they view you as a potential flight risk. One way to mitigate the future hiring manager’s concern is to give an extended notice to your employer (6 weeks or more) to find your replacement. Of course, your current employer might not like that you want to jump ship, and might instead ask you to leave immediately. Even so, the fact that you made an offer of a long transition time could appeal to future employers.
- Give yourself a head start. If you haven’t yet spent 6-8 weeks on a concentrated job search while employed, it’s not yet time to quit. Begin a job search in earnest while you’re still employed, no matter how crazy your situation. Do employer research; build connections on LinkedIn; get your interview stories ready and polish up your resume. Begin to reach out to your network so that you have eyes and ears in the marketplace on your behalf. You’ll want the groundwork ready so that your first few weeks out of work have forward momentum and you’re not facing a totally empty calendar after you leave. As a bonus, you may find that even beginning a job search helps you feel better and cope with the demands of work. If not, at least you have laid the groundwork for a better job search result.
- Seriously consider lining up consulting work or starting a side hustle. If you can find even one consulting gig and the move won’t put your family in financial jeopardy, you’ll find yourself in a much stronger position in the job market. Check out gig economy sites (see our epic post on gig economy sites), ask your inner circle of networking contacts, and potentially check with former employers whether they need any consulting help now or if you leave your job.
- Build a financial safety net. One job seeker I spoke with was considering quitting his job with only two months of emergency savings in the bank. That’s not nearly enough; a job search can take many months, and you may be forced into an even worse career situation if you’re facing financial panic. While you’re still employed, try to cut your expenses up to half of your current spending and put any savings away.
- Get help. You need assistance, stat, to find time and energy for your transition to something new. You may benefit from offloading chores around the house to free up time for your job search, or finding ongoing coaching/therapy to deal with burnout and stress productively without overwhelm. Or, if you could use some help jump-starting your job search, we have career coaches or career counselors who can help you build the right game plan for your transition. (Get a personalized match to a career professional through our Career Coach Finder, here.)
When is it OK to quit without a new job lined up?
- Even though your work situation may seem unbearable, in my mind, the only times it’s OK to quit without a job lined up are a) if you’ve followed all of these steps, b) if you do have an immediate consulting opportunity, c) if you truly don’t need the money for at least a year, d) if your health or the health of a family member is at serious and significant risk if you don’t, and/or e) if you have enough of a network and support system that you can last 6 months or more out of work and won’t find yourself in worse emotional shape than your current frame of mind.The good news? Your new career awaits you. You’re going to give your notice at some point, and you’ll be free from this current situation, on to your next. It’s not a matter of when, but how you make the move. Use these tips, and you’ll have helped channel your current frustration into positive career action.