Thinking about quitting your job? Here's how to decide if it's the right choice for you.
2020 has given a whole new meaning to “work-life balance.” With 42 percent of the U.S. labor force working from home full-time according to the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research, many of us have to redefine our daily schedules and balance life in unprecedented ways.
This can certainly be said for working parents who, in many cases, have had to add the role of educator to their resumes. With the start of the new school year, working parents are now being given the difficult task of deciding between trying to do it all or making calculated choices to benefit their families — at the expense of their careers.
From August 28 to September 10, 2020, TopResume asked 2,122 U.S. working parents about their plans to accommodate their children's education for the 2020/2021 school year. The survey found that one in five working parents are considering quitting their jobs to accommodate their children's education. Other professionals have considered quitting their jobs for various reasons, including health concerns, ineffective safety protocols, child care woes, and a lack of compassion from their employers.
If you're thinking about leaving your job, the guide below will help you decide whether this move is the right one for you.
Table of contents
Signs it's time for you to quit your job
No one takes a job with the expectation that it will turn into a disappointment, much like no one chooses to go into a new relationship thinking about how it may not work out.
When you arrive at the realization that your job has become a source of anxiety, things may look grim indeed. If your relationship status with your job is “complicated,” that's just another way of saying “It's not working.” So how do you know when to end it?
Many professionals have a strong resistance to leaving a job that's not working out. Quitting is hard because it carries an implication that you gave up, did not try hard enough, or were not good enough to make it work. The reality, as Seth Godin so aptly puts it, is that the motivational quotes that tell you “Quitters never win and winners never quit” are wrong. Winners quit all the time — they just quit the right stuff at the right time.
That can be surprisingly difficult to do. How do you make sure you quit for the right reasons? How do you find a new job while employed? Here are questions to ask yourself that can help you think through your complicated relationship with your job and make the best decision.
Are you unhappy with how your employer treated you during the pandemic?
Is it the people you work with? The culture?
Are you sitting at a desk for too many hours of the day?
Would a different group, manager, or position be better for you at the same company?
Is your current work environment just not for you anymore?
Do you dread going in (or logging in) on Monday mornings? It might be a sign that its time to find a new job.
Is the discomfort you feel short-lived and brief, or constant and permanent?
What is your "point of no return?" What is your deal-breaker?
Does the mission of your company not align with your values?
What would need to change in order for you to be happy at work?
Are you happy with your company's diversity and inclusion initiatives?
Does your company have remote work options?
Do you have another job lined up?
Where is the problem really coming from?
Before you plan your next career move, your first step should be to honestly look at the current situation and figure out what's happening. Sometimes, the issue has little to do with the job and everything to do with your personal life.
Dissatisfaction or missing pieces in one part of your life can certainly spill elsewhere, so check your basics before you give up on a career. Health, sleep deprivation, relationships — figure out where exactly the problem is before you make any dramatic changes at work.
Is your discomfort temporary or permanent?
Professional growth does not come pain-free. If the discomfort you are experiencing is a temporary side effect of learning new things or stretching into new challenges, quitting your job will rob you of an opportunity to grow and advance professionally.
If the discomfort is permanent or damaging, however, staying in the situation will cost you time from your career and not contribute much by not thinking outside the box at work.
What is your personal “point of no return?”
Everyone has a personal set of factors that are firm nonstarters. What are yours? An abusive boss or manager, a job that has offered no opportunities for growth and career development, a commute to the new office that consumes two hours in one direction — you decide what would spell an absolute “no” for you.
What needs to change for you to feel great about staying?
This is the reverse of question three: Instead of thinking about what would make the decision to quit a no-brainer, consider what it would take to stay. Most situations can be salvaged, even if just in theory. Perhaps it might take reporting to a different person, finding a trusted mentor, or taking on a good career development opportunity or interesting side project.
Have you exhausted your options for making it better?
This may be the most challenging because it forces you to face the fact that the complicated and painful situation you are in was co-created with your active participation. Be brutally honest and ask yourself if you have really done everything you could to make this better. Own your part in the mess so that you can begin to dig your way out.
As a working parent, should you quit your job?
As a working parent, you also have additional considerations in addition to the checklist above.
Before you hand in your notice, consider all of your options.
Have you explored hiring extra help or tapping your extended family members to pitch in?
Or, if you've already ruled out those possibilities, have you spoken to your manager about adjusting your schedule so you're available to assist with your kids' education?
TopResume found that nearly a third of households are heavily relying on childcare providers or family members for extra help, while a little less than half have successfully negotiated with their employers to modify their work schedules to accommodate their children's schooling.
In addition, consider whether your children's education is the main reason for quitting your full-time job, or whether you were already considering leaving your job when the COVID-19 pandemic first hit.
If you were already on the fence about staying with your company before your district announced its plans for the school year, it is a sign that it's time to quit — regardless of whether or not you have a Plan B for accommodating your kids' education needs.
Reasons not to quit your job
While there are plenty of reasons you should quit your job, these reasons are not some of them.
You're receiving criticism from your boss
While no one likes to be criticized, those comments can help you become a better employee. It's human nature to think that we're doing everything right, but often, this is not the case.
Newsflash: When someone is paying you to perform a job, they have the right to decide if you're meeting their expectations or not. Even if you don't agree, try to find a grain of truth in the criticism. If you get offended and quit every time your behavior or your work is criticized, you'll be changing jobs quite frequently.
Consider this: According to a Leadership IQ study, 46 percent of new hires will fail because they lack the ability to accept feedback. The study also found that 23 percent of new hires can't recognize and manage their negative emotions, while 15 percent have the wrong temperament.
In other words, if you refuse to allow someone to point out what you're doing wrong or you won't commit to making those changes, then you're undermining your chances of ever achieving career success.
Even if you have a bad boss, think twice about quitting. It's important to learn how to deal with difficult people. If the situation becomes unbearable, consider taking your case to human resources or ask to transfer to another department.
Of course, if your boss is a tyrant, you shouldn't accept abusive behavior, but make sure that you're not confusing oppression with an unwillingness to accept feedback.
You were passed over for promotions
Let's be honest: No one who's been passed over for promotion ever thinks the person eventually selected was a better choice. Each one of us wants to believe that we are the best choice. However, there are a lot of factors that contribute to this type of decision.
For example, some companies promote employees based on seniority, while others are concerned with looking for candidates who can not only motivate employees but also hold them accountable. If you're the type of person who avoids confrontation at any cost, you might not be considered for a team lead or a management position.
On one occasion, an employee was passed over for a management position because this individual left work every day at exactly 5:00 p.m. — not 5:01 p.m. or 5:02 p.m. Regardless of what was going on or what deadline was looming, the employee refused to stay one minute past 5:00 p.m. However, the other managers at the organization rarely left work on time, and if they did, they would often continue working when they arrived at home.
It's in a company's best interest to promote the most qualified people, so being passed over for a promotion is rarely a case of someone who is “out to get you.” Before you throw in the towel, try to discover the common denominator among those employees who've received promotions to find out what they're doing that you are not. Also, consider what you would do if you moved to another company and did not get promoted there. Would you quit again?
You want more money
Obviously, everyone wants to earn more money. But, sometimes those dollar signs can cloud your vision. If you currently have a job that you love — or at least really like — you need to weigh the pros and cons of quitting.
For example, your current job may be quite flexible, while the new workplace might not be as accommodating. You may be accustomed to coming in late, leaving early, or even working from home when the kids have events at school or medical appointments. How would your lifestyle change if the new company had a more rigid schedule and required employees to request time off months in advance?
Also, when evaluating a compensation package, consider more than just your salary. An affordable health insurance plan should be a major consideration — especially if you're the primary provider for your family. You also need to factor in the amount of vacation and sick time the new job offers. If you plan on going back to school, don't forget to find out if your current employer — or a new one that you're considering — offers tuition reimbursement.
There are other “little” factors that, when taken as a whole, could eventually become a major plus or a major negative. For example, if you're going from free, close, and secure parking to a job with remote, paid parking, this not only means that you will now have to pay parking fees, but you'll also be standing around (in the heat, rain, or snow), waiting to be picked up and dropped off at your office. Also, because you're parking so far away, the chances of running errands on your lunch break are greatly diminished.
Another consideration: If you're quitting a job that is 15 minutes from your home for a job that is 45 minutes away, this will increase gas consumption, wear and tear on your vehicle, and stress levels, especially if you're spending more time in traffic.
In addition, if you're leaving a job with a low-cost cafeteria or the ability to store your lunch in the refrigerator for a place with no economical place to eat nearby and limited or no refrigerator space, you might end up spending significantly more on your meals.
These are just some of the factors you need to consider if you want to leave your job for one that pays better. Ask yourself, “Is it worth it?”
You want to start your own business
There's a big difference between quitting your job to start a new business, and leaving because your new business has been up and running for a while. According to Entrepreneur, while 75 percent of small business owners are supremely confident that their company will be profitable, 50 percent fail in the fifth year, and at the 10-year mark, 70 percent of small businesses have gone belly-up. The vast majority of these failures are a result of cash flow problems.
It should also be noted that only 20 percent of small businesses fail within the first two years. This fact is important because one or two good years can create a false sense of success. That's why it might be better to hold on to your day job until your business has been successful for several years.
While no job is perfect, it's important to approach employment from a realistic perspective. Always weigh the advantages of staying against the drawbacks of leaving before submitting your letter of resignation. You may find that your job is more beneficial than you think.
What do the signs tell you?
If your answers to these questions only increase your desire to quit, that's OK! If you have that little voice in your head — you know, the one that's telling you something's off and that you should be doing something else with your life — give yourself permission and the space to listen to it.
Explore your options, daydream, see what ideas come to you, and make a game plan to make the right changes in your life.
How to quit your job
If you are set on quitting your job, here are some key points to remember.
Know it's OK to disappoint others
You're in the driver's seat of your life. No one else knows what's best for you but you — not your parents, your grandparents, your spouse, your best friend, or your mentor. If you make a career choice to please others before you please yourself, you may grow to resent those people in the long run.
Also, you're the one who has to get through each day, and no one else can or will do it for you. If you know that quitting your job is the best choice for you and your family, trust that others will see it too.
Along those same lines, one obstacle to pulling the plug on your current position often has to do with the feeling of loyalty to your co-workers and managers. Though this might seem like a noble action, if your work is impacting your quality of life — you're not doing anyone any favors by staying. Your manager and co-workers might be disappointed or sad to see you leave, but ultimately they should understand that you need to do what's best for you.
Have a game plan
After you do some soul searching and make the decision to quit, you need to create a game plan so you're not stressing about money and paying your bills in the foreseeable future. Whether it's …
looking for a part-time job that offers more flexibility,
saving up to start your own company,
or landing a consulting gig so you can be your own boss and make your own hours
… having a game plan in place will support the transition from your current job to whatever your next step is.
Also, before you quit your job, it's important to note that it's typically easier to find a new job or make the transition to a new career path while still employed at your current position — especially when it comes to your finances.
However, if balancing home life and your job is causing you to stress to the point of sickness or is causing you more harm than good, it's OK to quit before you've determined your next step.
Two weeks' notice is the business norm and common courtesy to your employer. Even though you may not be technically required to give more notice than that (check your contract), in some situations you may consider doing so anyway. If your position is specialized, complex, or mission-critical to the company, you may think about staying longer to give your employer time to find your successor. If your industry has a busy season, you may time your departure in a way that does not leave your team in a lurch.
If your employer asks you to stay longer than two weeks, you are under no obligation to do so. Instead, continue on with your plan so that you start your new job at the scheduled time. You can offer to help your previous employer after hours to help with the transition, if necessary.
Update your resume
Once you have your game plan squared away, it's time to focus on your resume. Make sure you've gathered all the information you'll need to properly update your resume and sell yourself in an interview before you quit, in case your company decides they don't want you to give two weeks and has you leave immediately — which is something they are allowed to do.
Too overwhelmed to update your resume? Hiring a professional resume writer to help you out will not only take the pressure off you, but a professionally written resume also helps you land the job faster — and even helps you earn more. The transition between quitting your job and landing your new position shouldn't be overly stressful.
This may be difficult for some of you, particularly if you did not enjoy a smooth relationship with your boss or co-workers. If you would rather resign by text and never see the office again, resist the temptation to do so. Instead, make sure you write a resignation letter and (if possible), tell your supervisor in person. If you are currently working from home, you can email or video chat with your supervisor, but make sure to have an official resignation letter on top of that.
Within your letter, make sure to include a brief explanation of why you're leaving, thank them for the opportunity, and let them know when your last day will be. Stay positive, emphasizing how the company has helped you and why it's time you need to move on.
Leave with grace
If and when you do decide to leave your job and send a goodbye email, do so as gracefully as possible; don't burn bridges if you can help it. It can be a small world, and people remember those who handle things in a respectful and appreciative manner.
If you quit your job without notice, in a rude manner, or in a way that can harm your professional reputation, that could follow you around to your new job, your job search, or even a new industry. Trust us, you never want to ruin your professional relationships this way — you never know when you might need to call on these connections later in your career.
Thank people for the experience, the opportunities, and the learnings that you are taking with you. Have a private conversation with your mentor or sponsor and other people who have been supportive and helpful. And, if you choose to, stay connected. Whether you use Facebook, LinkedIn, email, or meeting up for coffee, stay in touch with the people who matter to you.
We know it can be interesting to go against the grain. It can also be tough to admit that you simply can't do it all. It might take you some time, but eventually, you know you need to listen to that little voice that's telling you to make some changes in your life — and it might need to start with your job.
If that means quitting your job or requesting a temporary leave of absence, it's OK for you to do so. It's OK for you to put your family first. And the fact is, you're the only one who can choose to do it for yourself.
Not sure if your resume is ready to re-enter the job search? Our professional resume writers can get you up to speed.
This article was updated in September 2020. It was originally written by Ronda Suder and contains work written by Natalia Autenrieth and Terri Williams.