Should You Quit Your Job? 6 Things to Consider Before Resigning

Written by on March 29, 2011 in Career, Success Tips with 6 Comments

How do you know if you should quit your job? By considering these issues before you resign yourself to looking for new work (though I personally think quitting is exciting, because it offers so many new opportunities!).

Before the tips, a quip:

“I’m not after fame and success and fortune and power.  It’s mostly [that I want] to have a good job and have good friends; that’s the good stuff in life.”  ~ Drew Barrymore.

She’s right: a good job and good friends are key to the good life! If you’re unhappy at work, you’ll be unhappy at home. And if you’re unhappy at home, everyone suffers. That’s why knowing if you should quit your job is so important – but you can’t just resign from work without considering a few things, first.



Have you heard of Tim Ferriss’ The 4-Hour Workweek: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich? It’s an excellent career resource, and can help you figure out how to manage your career effectively and strategically.

Should You Quit Your Job? Before Handing in Your Resignation…

The days of quitting a job you don’t like and knowing you’ll find another job soon are gone.  The reported unemployment numbers are higher than they’ve been in decades, and when you add the number of people who’re underemployed or have simply given up looking for work, the numbers are frightening.

Even so, you should quit your job if you’re miserable at work! The long-term emotional and physical damage that can result from feeling trapped in a job you hate may literally make you sick.  While there are no easy answers to whether you should resign from work, here are a few questions to consider…

Take a step back, and realistically assess your situation

Try to distinguish between the realities of your job, and your perceptions and emotions about it.  Is your boss just cranky sometimes, or is he (or she) truly being emotionally or verbally abusive?  You may be earning less than you think you’re worth, but is your salary completely out of sync with similar jobs in other companies?  It’s difficult working in a job for which you are clearly overqualified, but are there sufficient opportunities available to you right now to find a position for which you are better suited? Before quitting your job, you need to consider the consequences.

Talk with someone you trust – but not a coworker

If you’re having trouble separating the reality of your workplace from your feelings about your job, ask a trusted friend or family member to talk through it with you.  Make sure you select a person whose guidance you trust.  This is a very important conversation and your decision to quit your job can have profound consequences on your emotional well-being, your finances, and your career.  The person you talk to about quitting your job should know you well and preferably have some workplace wisdom.  You should expect them to give you honest feedback.  At this point, you need wise counsel about quitting your job, not a cheerleader.

Consider the cost-benefit ratio of resigning from work

In today’s economy, deciding if you should quit your job is more complicated than ever! Before resigning from work, ask yourself these questions:

  • How long do you think it will take to find another job? Be realistic.
  • Since most companies don’t offer relocation packages these days, how likely are you to find the job you want in the area you live in now?
  • Are you in a financial position to move at your own expense?
  • If you leave your job, will you qualify for unemployment benefits if you need them?
  • How much could you expect and for how long?
  • If unemployment benefits are not an option, how long do you think you could survive on your savings or other cash you have on hand?
  • If there are jobs currently available for the type of work you want to do, what are employers paying for them in the area where you live?
  • If the prospects for finding another comparable job quickly in your area are slim, how willing are you to consider other types of jobs?
  • What jobs might you be interested in and qualified for?

To answer each question, you need to research how many jobs are available, what they pay, and how you might compare with other candidates looking for the same time of work.

If you want to resign but can’t, read How to Quit Your Job When You’re Scared.

Identify your options for finding new work (before you resign!)

If your answer to the “Should I quit my job?” is YES, then it’s time to figure the best time to resign from work! Will you stick it out until you find another job?  Will you draw an imaginary line in the sand, vowing to quit the minute your boss crosses it?  Will you ask for a raise and resign if your request is denied?  Will you give yourself a certain amount of time to see if things improve, and then leave if they don’t, whether you have another job or not?

Create an action plan and start looking for new work

Whether you decide to stay or to leave, you need a plan to move you from where you are to where you want to be.  Sometimes simply knowing that you have a plan helps relieve some of the stress of quitting your job.  Your action plan might include taking professional development classes or enrolling at the local community college to take some courses, either in your current profession or a new one.  If your company has an HR department, talk with someone there about ways to improve your current situation.  If you decide to look for a new job, start networking and researching your options.

If you want to quit your job but you’re not sure what you want to do next, take a few online career aptitude tests and read books on changing careers, such as Job Search Magic: Insider Secrets from America’s Career And Life Coach by Susan Britton Whitcomb. Consider taking a part-time job in a new field, even if it’s a volunteer position, to gain experience and contacts. If you’re not already active in social networking, this is the time to start.  LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter  have revolutionized the job search process.  Create a new resume.  Plan on having a different resume, or at least a modified one, for each position you apply for.

Before and after quitting, take care of yourself

Chances are that if you’ve been miserable at work for a long time now, you’re feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, and may even be financially strapped and dealing with low-self esteem.  You may not know which is harder, finding the strength to stay or the energy to do what you’ll need to do to move on.  That’s why it’s critical for you to find ways to take care of yourself, regardless of what you decided to do about your situation.

Experiment with different stress management techniques to see which ones work best for you.  Possibilities include yoga, guided imagery, aromatherapy, massage, prayer, meditation, exercise, and simple deep breathing exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere.  If the issues at your job are relationship-based, do some reading on dealing with difficult people, conflict resolution, or effective teambuilding.  If you need professional help, consult your HR department and/or your insurance provider to see what options may be available to you.

For more tips for achieving your career goals, read Why Doing a Good Job Won’t Get You Ahead at Work.

If you have any thoughts or questions about whether you should quit your job – or even how to resign from work – please comment below.

Written by Sydney Tyler Thomas, a writer and small business owner living in Virginia. She is author of The Joy of Soulful Knitting: Reflections on the Art of the Craft. You can also visit Sydney at her blog, New Calling.

Sydney also wrote How to Stay Focused at Work When You Have Problems at Home, here on Quips and Tips for Achieving Your Goals.

6 Reader Comments

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  1. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Donna – I don’t think “grinning and bearing it” is the answer. Even if you have to take a different job that pays less, you may be happier and more fulfilled at work. I don’t think money should be the most important priority — though it is incredibly important! I know. But, I think it’s more important to work in a place you love, with people you respect (and vice versa).

    Just my two cents, added to Sydney’s valuable advice! :-)

  2. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen says:

    Lynn – another suggestion is to start looking for work, even before quitting your job. Put out feelers, find out if there is work for you. Maybe another, better job is literally right around the corner! The only way to find out is to start taking action. Another thing you could do is look into unemployment benefits. You mention that you don’t think you could get them if you quit for relocation purposes…but do you know that for sure? Maybe you could find out.

    Also — and this is for anyone who is wondering if they should quit their jobs — what is holding you back? Sometimes there are very real considerations that make us hesitate (eg, bills to pay, kids to feed), while other times we’re in our own way (eg, we’re in a rut, we’re scared, we don’t have all the answers).

    Resiging from work s risky, there’s no doubt about it. But, if you start looking for new work before you quit (and maybe even land a new job before you quit), and/ormake sure you have a few months’ worth of financial cushion, then quitting your job may be the best thing you ever do for yourself.

  3. Sydney says:

    Lynn, I hear you. I particularly understand the pain, frustration and anxiety of facing a “decision that seems impossible to make.” You are right that the prospects of finding another job in this economy make an otherwise obvious decision so much harder, particularly if you don’t have any other source of financial support.

    It sounds as if you need to continue doing whatever you’re doing to try to find another job, but this may not yet be the time to jump ship because not having a job will probably add to the stress and depression. I wish I had some good suggestions for you, but the only thing that I can suggest would be to try to find ways to make the commute less unbearable while you have to do it. Is there any way that you could share a ride with someone to help with the driving and the expense? I often find that listening to uplifting music or books on CD help make long, lonely drives a little more bearable. Is there a skill that you need to brush up on for your job search that may have an audiobook available? If all else fails, maybe using the time to learn another language may help. I know it sounds silly when you’re facing a crisis, but if it can at least take your mind off of the traveling it may help ease some of the distress.

    Take care,
    Sydney

  4. Lynn says:

    Great article, this part especially spoke to me:
    “Chances are that if you’ve been miserable at work for a long time now, you’re feeling stressed, depressed, anxious, and may even be financially strapped and dealing with low-self esteem. You may not know which is harder, finding the strength to stay or the energy to do what you’ll need to do to move on.”

    I have been very unhappy at my job for the past few years, my job is no longer the job I was hired to do. But now I am faced with a decision that I find impossible to make. 3 years ago my commute increased from 20 minutes to 40 minutes one way. Starting Monday it will be increasing from 40 minutes to 80 minutes one way. The 40 minute commute has taken it’s toll on me emotionally and physically, I am suffering severe anxiety, depression and stress related health issues. I fear the 80 minute drive will push me to my breaking point. But I am afraid I will not be able to find a new job or get unemployment benefits if I resign due to relocation.

  5. Sydney Thomas says:

    Donna, it is so hard to continue to give your best effort day after day in a job where you are underappreciated and there is no meaningful communication or feedback. I can only imagine how frustrated you must be feeling.

    You mentioned that you have other prospects but that they pay less and require a longer commute. If any of these opportunities pays enough to meet your financial needs (including the cost of more gas at higher prices), you may want to seriously consider taking another position. If you can make the finances work, it may be worth the peace of mind to find a job with better working conditions, even if you can’t see yourself staying there for the rest of your career. I’d just caution you to make sure that any moves you’re considering are financially feasible, and learn as much as you can about your prospective manager before accepting any offers. You don’t want to jump out of the frying pan into the fire!

    Wishing you the best,

    Sydney

  6. Donna says:

    I am considering quitting my job because I feel extremely under appreciated. I received a low review score though my supervisor did not speak to me concerning my performance for the entire year leading up to the review. During the review, he stated several mistakes I had made earlier in the year but nothing of the accomplishments I had (they were numerous). He also mentioned he saw recent improvement. I also was passed up for the annual merit because of the low review score. I have tried discussing my concerns with the Director of my department but she ended up going straight to my supervisor about our discussion and he in turn expressed his frustration with me during a meeting for going to the Director. I have zero communication concerning performance or job duties or expectations. I am questioning if I am such as under performer, why am I continually getting added job duties including leading a major project ? Everyone in my department receives bonus awards except me and I have no communication as to why. I had no communication concerning why I wasn’t getting a merit. I believe it’s personal and has nothing to do with my performance. I do have other prospects but for less money and a longer commute. I really don’t know where to turn at this point. Grin and bear it or move on to something else?

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