Thinking About Quitting Your Job? Ask Yourself These Questions
When we're thinking about quitting our job, worries about money or fear about finding new work might hold us back
Executive and career coach Lindsey Carr breaks down the questions you can ask yourself to make your decision easier
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You're at the point where you're metaphorically on your knees – everything about work is feeling negative. You're stressed and anxious and quite frankly just want to walk away. You’re not enjoying your free time as you can’t switch off. Things are not great!
It's a really tough decision isn't it? What do you do now? Do you stay until you find another job or do you leave now without a new job to go to?
First of all, it's a really personal decision and there isn't a 'right' or 'wrong', only a decision based on you doing your best at any given time. Life is a series of decisions and this is just one of them.
In my experience of working with clients in this position, the two main factors that will keep us unhappily employed until we’ve found another job are:
- Our finances
We all have different relationships with money; often our money mindset is inherited from our parents. What we consider enough/not enough will vary massively from family to family/person to person. In order to decide if you can afford to leave your job without another to go to you must do your sums and ask yourself some tough questions.
- Go through your outgoings - if you didn't have a job for the next three-six months, how would you manage?
- What can you cut out if you really had to?
- What is the absolute minimum you need to bring into your household?
- What savings do you have?
- What other ways can you make money?
- Can you save money from your job over the next three months to facilitate leaving then?
- What jobs would you consider taking to fill a financial gap?
Your decision may rest entirely on this exercise. You may want to leave but can come up with no ideas about how to cover your outgoings unless you stay put in your job. As a final attempt, you may want to ask yourself ‘how can I afford to leave my job’ before you go to bed at night or go out for a run or doing some gardening; basically any task where your logical brain takes a rest. Our brain likes a puzzle and you may get random ideas as a result of this exercise.
If you feel that you really don’t have the choice of leaving your job without another to go to, then it might be time to engage with a careers professional to help you reassess your job/career situation and to make some new decisions. Often clients start to feel less anxious or stressed about their job when they’re working on their exit plan! Their current job starts to matter a bit less especially when they can get excited about something else and start to see new possibilities.
Even if financially we decide we can leave work without another job to go to, our fears will often stop us from taking any action. Fears tend to show up like this:
- What will an employer think (if I have a gap on my CV)?
- What will my family and friends think if I’m unemployed?
- What will happen to my mental health if I’m not working?
- What if it takes me ages to get another job?
- I don’t know what else I could do so how can I make a move?
- What if there’s no jobs in my location or in the type of work I want to do?
You’ll see the pattern here – most of them are ‘what ifs’. We won’t know for sure until we’re actually in the situation whether these fears will be realised BUT if you name your fears then at least you can think through what you would do if that happened.
What will an employer think (if I have a gap on my CV)?
Every employer is different. What one employer might view negatively another would take in their stride. If you have a specific employer in mind that you’d like to work for, how can you find out how they view candidates who’ve taken a break from work? You can’t control what an employer thinks but you can control the way you tell your career story and what you do with your time between jobs e.g. caring responsibilities, some substantial volunteering that was important to you, a physical challenge.
What will my family and friends think if I’m unemployed?
If this is important to you then sit them down and have the conversation. If they know how unhappy you are, would they wish for you to stay? If they really don’t get it, then ask them for what you need – e.g. that you will raise the topic of finding work when you’re ready and you’d rather they didn’t keep asking you, for them to respect your decision, etc.
What will happen to my mental health if I’m not working?
Work provides most people with far more than a salary. People often miss the structure that work provides. Create a loose structure for yourself. Try to make sure you allow yourself some down time away from job-hunting.
Consider giving yourself time to do things for your mental health, test out some new career ideas, get in touch with old contacts for coffee to let them know that you're on the market, start some volunteering or a hobby you've wanted to do, spend time with friends who work part-time, keep a journal of what you’re doing to put yourself in a good place for your next job role (particularly useful to look at when our mood drops).
What if it takes me ages to get another job?
What if it does? This is why you need to do your sums initially. Currently employers in hospitality and care work are desperate to attract new people. Could you do something like that even if it were temporary? Do you have skills you can sell on a freelance basis? What other changes could you make to your lifestyle if you really had to? Can you let out a room in your house? The structure you’ve created will help here.
I don’t know what else I could do so how can I make a move?
This can definitely keep people stuck. Working with a careers professional can help speed up the process of working it out.
What if there’s no jobs in my location or in the type of work I want to do?
How do you know this for sure? Depending on the type of work you want to do, jobs may be found through the ‘hidden job market’ rather than advertised widely. If you’ve explored this thoroughly (by talking with your contacts) and all the evidence agrees, then you’ll need to review your decision about your location or the type of work you go for.
People who are more likely to leave a job without another to go to tend to either a) consider they have enough money to take a risk and/or b) are less fearful and more trusting that they will deal with whatever happens.
About 40% of my clients leave their jobs without another to go to. And they've all been okay - securing a new job has been an improvement (from a small improvement to an enormous improvement) on the job they've left. They've just not known WHEN this would happen and they needed to keep their nerve and be able to manage the not knowing (and their finances).
Back to what I said at the start. There is no right or wrong decision, only a decision made by you doing your best at any given time.