How Do You Know When It’s Time To Go

Even the best job has its downsides. I’m betting that, at one time or another, most all of us have vowed to quit a job. But having a bad moment—or even a bad day, week, or month—is not necessarily a sensible reason for leaving a job. Most of us don’t have the luxury of not working, so the decision to quit should not be made lightly.

That said, there are times when leaving is the right choice. Sometimes it’s simply about fit—the work isn’t fulfilling for you, doesn’t utilize what you do best, or isn’t going to lead you to where you want to be. Sometimes it’s about chemistry—your manager and you just can’t seem to see eye to eye on anything. Sometimes you find yourself working for an organization or a manager that is unfair, unsupportive, or both. 

Yet no matter what the circumstances, it’s worth thinking carefully about your options before taking the big step. Consider:

Is the problem fixable?

  • Have you tried discussing the problem with your manager, including suggesting some solutions? As one recruiter put it, “One big mistake I have seen people make is failing to ask their current employer for what they want.” 
  • If the problem is with your manager, or with your specific job, is there another position or area of the company you can move into?
  • Could the lack of support or resources you are experiencing be temporary—the result of some circumstance, like budget difficulties or a merger, that could soon change? Or perhaps you are in line for a promotion that could alter your situation?

If none of these repairs seem possible it may, indeed, make sense to leave, but you still need to be careful to avoid going from frying pan to fire. Consider:

Are you ready?

  • Where will you go from here—do you have any solid leads on a new job? If not, unless your situation is truly untenable, consider putting some time into job hunting before you cut yourself loose. 
  • The best possible situation, of course, is to move straight from one job to another, but if you aren’t able to do that, do you have something to live on until you get a new job—without cannibalizing savings meant for something else, like retirement? What about health insurance—if your coverage is currently through you employer, how will you be covered during any employment gaps? (Keep in mind a new position may include a waiting period before insurance benefits begin. And that while your employer is legally required to offer you extended coverage for a period of time through COBRA, that coverage can be very expensive.)
  • Is your resume up-to-date, and have you thought about what you will tell prospective employers about why you left your last job? 

Finally, when it’s time to go, experts advise doing whatever you can to leave on good terms. After all, if you haven’t yet secured a new job you’ll want good references, and even if that’s not a concern you never know how you and your coworkers’ or boss’s paths may cross over time. In “Fifteen Things to Do Before You Leave Your Job,” job search expert Alison Doyle suggests:

  • asking your supervisor what you can do to make the transition easier (and then doing it)
  • remembering to say thank you to those who have supported you—including co-workers, clients, and vendors, and 
  • resisting any temptation to bad-mouth management or staff, or crow about your new job in front of teammates. 

The days when a person worked for the same company from adolescence through retirement are long gone for most of us. While the decision to leave a job should always be carefully considered, sometimes it is just the right thing to do. In those cases, taking the time to do it right can make all the difference.

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