If you're like most people, you have days where you fantasize about quitting your job—getting away from your boss and your co-workers, and maybe even the work itself. But while there absolutely are times when quitting is a good idea—when your boss asks you to do something illegal or unsafe, for instance, or when you've been offered a fantastic opportunity somewhere else—most of the time it's smart to think through all the consequences before you decide to leave.
Here are seven things to think through before you deliver your resignation.
- The job market is really bad right now. It's not unusual for a job search to take a year or more these days. And even if your finances allow you to go without work for that long, simply being unemployed, especially for that amount of time, may make it harder to find your next job. Employers tend to prefer to hire people who are already employed.
- Future employers will want to know why you left. You can count on future interviewers asking why you moved on from this job. It's best if you can explain that you left after a solid stay for a better opportunity—not that you hated your boss or your co-workers drove you crazy, or that you were so bored that you quit with nothing else lined up.
- You won't qualify for unemployment. In most states, you won't qualify for unemployment benefits if you resign, only if you're fired or laid off. If you're leaving for another job, this won't matter—but if you're quitting with nothing lined up, you may find yourself without a financial safety net. Speaking of which…
- You have bills to pay. And even if you have savings, they might not last as long as you need them to. What if your job search takes a year or more? Will you be able to survive that long? Will you have any savings left over at the end of it?
- You won't actually "show them" anything. People often think that quitting will prove something to their boss—like showing how essential they were to the business, or showing that they have options. But it rarely works out this way: While your employer might be surprised at first, they'll quickly move on without too much hardship. The decision to quit your job should be made because it's the right decision for you, not to prove anything to someone else.
- If you haven't been at your job very long, you risk looking like a job hopper. A stay of less than a year will cause most prospective future employers to ask about what went wrong. And while employers will generally excuse a single short-term stay, if you start to have a pattern of them, the most desirable employers will lose interest in hiring you. If your resume makes you look like a job hopper, smart hiring managers will wonder whether you get bored too easily or can't hold down a job, and they'll wonder if they'll be next on your short-term list.
- There are frustrations at every job. People sometimes quit a job because they don't like their co-workers or manager or the way their office does something—only to find that their next job has the same problems, or even worse ones. Some aggravations are likely at any workplace, so you want to make sure that you're being realistic about what you're likely to find at other companies.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.