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The insider's edge on job search & hiring™

Should I quit before finding a new job?

Quick Question

quitWould you ever advise quitting a job before having another one lined up? I have completely lost faith my employer and job and I fear getting fired or worsening what’s left of my relationships here. I’d like to quit now. Is that a bad idea? Thanks.

Nick’s Quick Advice

People do it all the time — they quit their job before finding a new one. I suggest taking a little time to think it through. Emotions can carry us away and lead us into poor decisions. Time has a way of separating our feelings from the facts. (See Is it time to quit my job?) I’m not saying you should not just up and quit — that’s up to you.

There’s also the “how” of quitting to consider. For more about this, see Quit, Fired, Downsized: Leave on your own terms. Make sure you control your exit and that “the door doesn’t hit you on the way out.”

Think before you quit

But if there’s no urgent reason to act now, pause and:

  • Consider what options you really have, and,
  • Map out the possible consequences of whatever you decide.

That is, is quitting your only option? Can you transfer to another job or department or company location that might solve your problem? And, if you quit suddenly, how will that affect your life?

Here are some other questions to consider:

  • Can you afford a protracted unemployment if you quit without a new job?
  • Do you have enough savings to tide you over for 3-6 months — or longer?
  • Do you have good job prospects that you could develop quickly?
  • Considering the area where you live and work, are you job hunting in a field where being unemployed will affect how you’re perceived in job interviews?
  • Will being unemployed help you devote the necessary time to job hunting? Will it improve your state of mind?

Depending on your answers, quitting immediately could be a good idea. But only you can make the judgment.

Unemployment bias and misery

As a headhunter I’ve never worried that a good candidate was presently unemployed — but some headhunters, recruiters, HR people and employers have a bias against unemployed people. It’s goofy — it reveals that employers and recruiters don’t trust their own judgment of a person’s value, and they don’t know how to identify discounted value that they can capitalize on. But you may find yourself dealing with that bias.

If you’re planning to get a new job through strong personal contacts, those contacts may have enough positive data about you that irrational biases won’t affect you.

The flip side of bias against unemployed job seekers is bias against demoralized, discouraged and unhappy job seekers. If staying at a miserable job while you’re interviewing for new jobs renders you ineffective, then it may be better to just quit and get excited about getting that new job!

I don’t offer quick and easy answers because there are none. My mentor taught me long ago: “Use your judgment, and do the best you can.” Focus on the two bold-faced words. Think about the benefits and risks, and go from there. I really think that’s how to go about it. I wish you the best.

(If you’re going to quit, do it right. Take a look at the topics list for my PDF book, Parting Company: How to leave your job. How you leave can affect a lot of things you may not be aware of.)

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11 Comments
  1. I have been in a job for over 6 years and felt my soul being drained out of me.
    I was not given much direction anymore, 2 top sales people were laid off and I felt I was next.

    I felt the shoe would drop so I got my resume finely tuned and started interviewing.

    After 6 months of this really sinking in, it happened. I got laid off. The boss who lives on
    the other side of the world from me was as nice as could be. The HR contact was kind too.
    They gave me a generous severance package of about 2 months.

    I had told my mom and my boyfriend over her house that I would steal the champagne once laid off since this would free me and we’d all celebrate. That conversation from my former boss happened early February and the champagne I took out of there sits in my fridge undrunken. The champagne was bought by the VP that hired me who went to another company and forgot about it, so technically it’s not really stealing but I felt like a little rebel.

    I felt hurt. It never fails but the feeling of being redundant hit me. Plus interviewing close to 50, with skills that don’t translate so well in my interviews is making things hard. I get told I look 10 years or more younger (like most women!) but I am no spring chicken. I swear it’s harder now. The last interview I had yesterday – 2 guys separately looked at my resume and saw it went back to 1998 and remarked on how far it went back.

    I though have thoroughly enjoyed the chance to reinvent myself. I checked out Nova Workshop in Sunnyvale and it’s free help, paid for by your and my tax dollars (California with some Federal money). I took a course on Ace the Interview and still managed to more like Bomb the Interview. But every step counts.

    I will be consulting with a free Career Advisor next on 2 questions I need help with – Why should we hire you? And What are your biggest accomplishments? I have things listed on my resume but I get stage fright and trip up.

    I read your article on Age Discrimination and it’s so spot on. It is the bringing to the table the critical skill they need. This is kind of hard in sales, especially when you have worked in a more a lead generation role, not closing the deals.

    I have learned to suck it up whenever recruiters give me feedback. Gone are the days when I could not take it too heart. I just revamped my resume with a hard-@$$ recruiter who ripped it to shreds, let me know there was a job she could send me to…then didn’t. I wrote all her comments down then went to work.

    I am now sending the revised resume over to a nicer recruiter who sent me out on that interview and apologized I didn’t make it, that she did all she could. She has agreed to give me feedback. Meanwhile the harsh recruiter who wrote me off spent more than half an hour, invested that time in me and the other recruiter that is more patient with me will get the added benefit should I nail it at the next interview she sends me on.

    I am still working through this maze but getting your house in order is great advise.

    It’s the difference between freaking out and being able to take care of myself, work on my skills.
    I still say no to job opportunities past Mt. View from the South Bay when Palo Alto turns into more than an hour commute. I’ve done enough of those. I can also say no to dubious weird creepy job opportunities a recruiter brings up when I do research and wonder if they are part of the dark web or something.

    I also have a long list (7 pages) of head hunters I have acquired over the years on Linkedin. I go through them and write them. This starts my job opportunity pipeline being filled with interviews.

    I hope this post helps someone. Sorry I am so verbose.

    • @Ruth: I give you a lot of credit for facing this head-on. I’ll tell you something my first boss told me when I became a headhunter. My job was to find people for companies, and it seemed that’s all I was doing. No one was getting hired and I was earning no fees. (My entire compensation was commission – no salary.) She looked through all my send-outs, looked at me, and said, “All you need is one to close. This job is about hearing ‘no’ again and again. All you need is one.”

      That got me through. I realized how true it is. You will kiss a lot of frogs in your job search. And though it’s always smart to tune your presentation and what you tell recruiters and employers, most likely it’s not you. There’s just no match. So don’t beat yourself up. On to the next. You need just one employer who needs you. The secret is, put all the frogs behind you when you walk into the next interview. Focus on what that particular employer needs, and talk about that, show how you will do the job. I wish you the best.

  2. Thank you Nick.

  3. I fell that I disagree with you. A hiring bias against the unemployed is rational. Presumably, the unemployed applicant has applied and likely gotten at least phone interviews at other places, and all other potential employers passed on the applicant. I think that this is a good example of the value of crowd-sourcing. A fair number of independent people evaluated and rejected that person, and that information should be factored into your hiring decision. How much is up to debate, but it would be unwise to reject this relevant information.

    This being said, I have been unable to find a job after getting my PhD last August. So a hypocrite I am not.

    • @MollyG I respectfully disagree that this is a rational use of crowd sourcing. I believe that using other employers as the basis for evaluating your job candidates is giving up ones competitive advantage. Every workplace culture is unique as are the challenges of every role. Being unemployed just means that the candidate can start work earlier.

    • Well, employers aren’t necessarily rational…. hence this blog ;-)

      • “Aren’t necessarily rational” — you have a gift for understatement! That and your many other gifts make this blog a joy to read.

    • @Molly: “I think that this is a good example of the value of crowd-sourcing. A fair number of independent people evaluated and rejected that person, and that information should be factored into your hiring decision.”

      I could not disagree with you more. Whether we’re investing or hiring, the objective is to identify value the rest of the market has missed or discounted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve placed outstanding workers with my clients after many other employers were incapable of recognizing the value those workers offered.

      There’s an underlying assumption in what I say: Most employers are terrible interviewers and even worse at judging whether a job applicant will be successful on the job.

      SF’s comment below is right on the money. It’s all about competitive advantage.

  4. I have rarely quit in my career, but I have a personal “you’d be a fool not to” rule. What is this rule I speak of? You’d be a fool not to quit if..

    1) A guaranteed fantastic opportunity comes up and the consequences of quitting are slim

    or

    2) Your job is so unrewarding in relation to the average job immediately around you that quitting would be a reward in itself.

    For example, I recently quit from a sales position after working my tail off for nearly two years because the sales manager did everything in his power to support his own WIFE in the sales team at our expense through favoritism, even going so far as to give her credit for sales she never performed on her own (including my own). It was so in-your-face that we even lost clients to her because she would offer them special deals and discounts that were normally forbidden to the rest of us mere mortals. Taking merchandise before the contract is finalized? No problem! To make matters worse, the business owner refused to deal with this issue while our sales tanked and hers soared (and this is someone who cannot close a sale without her husband in tow). By the end of it, I realized I was making just as much as someone who worked in a fast-food restaurant…so I left. I would had been a fool…not to.

    • Side note: Concerning condition #1, it also must be an opportunity that is IMMEDIATE. No sense in quitting if you can ease out of it with a two-weeks notice and earn another reference under your belt.

  5. Greetings — I am interesting in learning the best way to get in touch with local recruiters. Any tips? THANK YOU for your help.

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