Before You Quit Your Job, Consider This

Things to consider and questions to ask yourself before you quit your job.

There's probably not a person among us who hasn't dreamt of telling the boss what we really think and then striding out the door, never to return. What generally keeps this from becoming reality, of course, is that pesky little detail of having to support ourselves until the next job comes along. If you're currently stuck in a miserable employment situation and are contemplating an exit, the following tips will help you make an informed and confident decision.

CAN YOU AFFORD TO QUIT?

Unless you have emergency funds squirreled away or the luxury of a second income, the loss of a regular paycheck isn't something to be taken lightly. Career counselors advise that you should have at least enough funds set aside to tide you over for three months. When it first became apparent that your current job wasn't a good match, did you start diverting money to an "Exit Fund"? Most people don't. By the time the job becomes completely intolerable, the decision to leave is usually a spontaneous one. Even worse, many private sector companies no longer allow their employees to remain on the premises once they have given notice. Whatever your good intention or expectation of having two weeks to wrap up pending assignments is superseded by the company's assumption that you will either engage in sabotage or encourage your co-workers to jump ship as well.

DO YOU HAVE SOMETHING ELSE LINED UP?

It's always easier to get a new job when you already have one, the logic being that someone else currently values your talents enough to pay for them. Leaving a bad job is a no-brainer if someone else has made you an offer or if you have been in the process of going into business for yourself. Likewise with working part-time; whether or not there is the potential for your second job to transition to more hours, just the security of having something on the side will keep your morale from sliding into a slump.

THE BENEFIT OF HAVING BENEFITS

If you have been with your current employer for some time, you have probably paid into medical and dental benefits that you don't want to lose. This is especially significant if you have children and spend a lot of time in hospital emergency rooms. While your future employer will probably have a benefit package that is comparable, keep in mind that these may not go into effect until you have been an employee for three to six months. Do you have enough savings in reserve to cover that lapse in service? Insider tip: try to schedule any necessary doctor and dental appointments just before you leave.

IS THERE A LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL?

It's usually not the job itself that drives us to a state of anger, frustration or distress; it's the people we have to deal with on a day-to-day basis. In analyzing whether you should leave your current position, take a look at which elements are permanent and which are simply temporary inconveniences. In the fast food industry, for instance, there's a high rate of turnover. It may not be in your best interests to quit your job just because you can't stand the fry cook who works the same shift as you; odds are that he or she will (1) be back in school by the end of summer, (2) irritate enough other employees and get fired, (3) get switched to a different shift, or (4) get transferred to a different franchise. On the other hand, having an incompetent supervisor who just happens to be the boss' favorite daughter is a scenario that's not likely to change in your lifetime.

CHANGING THE SCENERY

Are there opportunities within the present employment structure to either transfer to a different division or pursue in-house training that will allow you to transition to a new job? Before you throw in the towel, consider whether you can use your current employer as an ally instead of an enemy. If you have a demonstrated value to the company, the last thing it wants is for you to go off and start working for its competitor.



PEOPLE WHO NEED PEOPLE

One of the things that often keeps us in unsatisfactory jobs for the long term is simply the bond of friendship we have formed with our coworkers. The fact that you are all enduring the same annoying conditions with one another equates to a comfort zone that is going to be missing, at least initially, in new surroundings. While your chums may cheer you at the outset for making the break to freedom and/or landing a better gig somewhere else, you also need to be prepared for an underscore of resentment. In addition, your departure will probably have generated a backlog of work that they have had to subsequently absorb, thus upsetting what had been an acceptable""albeit miserable"" status quo.

FRAME OF REFERENCE

Can you call on your current supervisor and co-workers to provide stellar endorsements to your next employer? If you quit in a huff, don't count on it. No matter your mindset or opinions about the people you are leaving, it's crucial to keep things as professional and pleasant as possible. Whenever you can, try to get their commendations in writing.

PROFESSIONAL COUNSELING

Many an employee has quit a bad situation only to discover that the very same set of circumstances exists in the new job. Is it possible that an attitude adjustment is in order before you furiously start burning bridges? If you can't afford counseling, seek out a friend whose opinions you trust and respect. Examine the patterns of your employment history, as well as how and why you react to stressful situations. Career counselors also suggest that for 5-10 days you resolve to treat your present job as if it were brand new and to not allow any of your traditional responses to be triggered.

PERKS PLUS

Life is full of trade-offs. So are jobs. Make a list of the 10 things that are compelling you to quit. Now make a list of the 10 things you have on your current job that you might not have on your next one. Let's say that you currently have a six-block commute to the store where you work. With the exception of bad weather, it's a route that you can easily walk, saving wear and tear on your car as well as gasoline and parking expenses. You can even come home for lunch, a bonus that saves even more moola plus allows you to play with your kids, watch a soap opera or take a short nap. What if your next job is 40 miles away and doesn't provide paid parking? Will it be worth it to you to spend more time in rush hour and less time at home where you used to be able to kick back and relax midday?

SENSE OF SELF

How well do you deal with uncertainty? If you're someone who needs to feel secure 24/7, quitting a job when you don't have anything to fall back on may not be your best choice. The initial euphoria at escaping an untenable and unsatisfactory environment can give way to feelings of defeat, worry and desperation if the two weeks you budgeted to find a new job starts stretching into months. That's where you need a strong support network to keep your spirits high and your ambitions focused. Whether it's a spouse, a parent, a mentor or a best friend, it's important that you have someone in your corner with whom you can discuss options and keep yourself going over the rough spots ahead. The flip side, of course, is to look at this decision as an opportunity to break free from the time and energy constraints that have been holding you back from doing something more meaningful with your life. To be able to take all of the effort that you have been pouring into work for someone else and divert it to a path that benefits you and your well being 100% could be a jump that's long overdue.

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