So it’s time to go. Maybe even past time. You’ve been thinking about moving on from your current job for a while, and you’re wondering whether to stick it out until you find a new job or leave now. Here are some things to consider.
The answer is almost always to stay until you find a new position, unless your job is affecting your health or wellbeing. Planning your exit gives you time to set goals and deadlines and to create a budget for paying down debt and reducing your current expenses. You should be prepared to cover expenses when you leave; you may have to pay for COBRA coverage for interim benefits or cover medical expense out of pocket until your new benefits kick in. You may wind up commuting longer distances, so your car may need repairs or upkeep. In most cases, you won’t qualify for unemployment if you quit your job, so you won’t have that safety net to tide you over.
If you plan to stay at your job for a while, take a careful look at your recent performance. Are you starting to let your lack of passion for the job show? If so, pick up the pace. There are two dangers in letting your performance lag: one is that you may be asked to leave before you’re ready (aka being fired.) The second is that even if you’re not fired, you may not be welcome back to the company if your last few weeks or months were lackluster. I’ve written before about the importance of leaving on good terms and how new jobs don’t always turn out the way you hoped. Both good reasons to make sure you have a bridge back to your former position.
Make sure that your job search efforts are ethical and done on your own time. Be aware that a flurry of sudden activity, including a series of absences for interviews or updating your LinkedIn profile may tip off coworkers or your boss that you are getting ready to make a change. Being ethical about your plan includes deciding what you’ll say if someone asks you outright if you’re planning to leave.
When you do start looking in earnest, keep in mind that it’s easier to find a job while you’re still employed. Companies still have a bias toward people who are working. In fact, if your period of unemployment lasts more than a few months, it can be very difficult to get back into the market.
Matthew O’Brien, writing for The Atlantic in 2013, says that there’s a very big gap between the job market for those who have been out of work a short while and those who are long-term unemployed. He reports on a study by a researcher who put 3,600 fake resumes out into the market. He kept all demographics (like education & experience) equal except for the length of time the applicants (all with racially neutral, male names) had ostensibly been out of a job. He wanted to see who would get called back. The results were definitive.
He writes; “Employers prefer applicants who haven’t been out of work for very long, applicants who have industry experience, and applicants who haven’t moved between jobs that much. But how long you’ve been out of work trumps those other factors.” If you quit, be sure you can get back to work quickly.
You may also be raising red flags if you quit your job without a compelling reason you feel comfortable discussing.
Alison Green, who writes the “Ask a Manager” blog, says: “As for whether it’s going to be a red flag for employers in the future, it probably will be for some. Rightly or wrongly, employers tend to assume that people don’t quit jobs without another lined up unless (a) they were about to be fired, (b) they actually were fired and are just saying that they quit, or (c) they’re potentially someone who walks when things are frustrating, which is worrisome because of course every job will be have frustrations at one point or another..”
Should you stay or should you go? Until you have a great job offer in writing, you should stay.