Sirin Kale | Contributing Writer | Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Ask An Adult: Should I Ever Quit My Job Without Having Another One Lined Up?

Ask An Adult: Should I Ever Quit My Job Without Having Another One Lined Up?

The Debrief: If you hate your job - really hate it - and have nothing else lined up, is it ever ok to just walk away?

Many of us fantasise about quitting our jobs. Maybe you’d quit in a blaze of glory to your favourite Kanye West track, like this girl. Or you’d just sidle out of the office one rainy Wednesday morning, mid-Excel, never to return.

According to a recent survey, 23% of all employees are currently looking for a new job. But what if you haven’t found a new job yet, or don’t have time to look – is it ever OK to just quit?

A Google search for this throws up more than 300 million results – from people telling you it’s career suicide, to others saying it’s the smartest move they ever made. We got the low-down on whether you should you ever quit a job without having another one lined up.

Will employers think badly of me?

Zena Everett, executive career coach, reassures me this isn’t a problem. ‘Employers are interested in how you treated your last employer, so it’s better to say that the job came to a natural conclusion and, rather than sneaking around behind your employer’s back, you decided to look around properly and find something you were interested in.’

Plan how you’ll present yourself to future employers. ‘Focus on selling yourself to your next boss, and don’t worry too much about explaining a gap in your CV. Make sure you go to interviews really energised and having used your time off to do something positive – making new contacts, or travelling, or learning something new.’

How can I tell if it’s time to quit?

Don’t take the decision to quit lightly. Emma Mamo, Head of Workplace Wellbeing at Mind, the mental health charity, warns: ‘Being unemployed is a risk factor for developing mental health problems, due to a lack of purpose and routine.’

Before you quit, assess what exactly about the job is making you unhappy – and be sure it’s the job, rather than other factors in your life, such as friends or relationships causing the problem.

Consider speaking to your boss. Good employers will want to hang on to talented staff, and may be more understanding than you think. Mamo explains, ‘There’s a business case for supporting people’s wellbeing, instead of losing good people, so we’d always encourage you to speak to your employer and see if there are opportunities available in other teams, for example.

‘But if that doesn’t work, you need to do what’s right for you – work has a huge impact on mental health.’

What if I don’t find something straight away?

You need a game plan. Ideally, have money saved – three months’ salary is good, but at least enough to tide you over for a month or two. Alternately, find a way to save money – move back home for a bit, or get a job in a pub.

Now that you’ve quit, you’re going to have a lot of time, so use it sensibly. John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You Love, gave me tips. ‘Work on your personal confidence. Use the time you’ve got now to reach out to people and research interesting organisations. It’s important to keep your energy levels high – get support from friends and former colleagues, practice talking about yourself so that you’re ready for interviews, and get out there and network with people in the relevant industry.’

Will I ever get another job?

Ally, 26, from Peckham, shares her experience. ‘I worked at a small beauty PR company, with just one manager in charge. The atmosphere was awful – a culture of bullying, constant threats over job security, a really stressful environment. One day I thought, “I can’t take this any more,” and resigned.’

After quitting, Ally got proactive. ‘I wanted to work for a charity, so I looked for roles in the third sector, and was honest in interviews about my reasons for quitting – everyone was understanding.’

Her advice? ‘Figure out what you want to do and be firm with recruiters – they’ll try to push you into certain jobs (in my case finance roles), but stick to your guns and be clear about what you want.’

And now? ‘I’m working in the fundraising team at a youth charity, and I’m so happy. Quitting was the best decision ever.’

What if I want to quit but I’m scared?

Jen, 26, from Berlin, was nervous. ‘I’d had doubts about my job at a charity for a while, but living abroad meant I didn’t have a safety net – I couldn’t get welfare benefits or live with friends or family for free.’

But for Jen, quitting to go freelance helped her feel in control again. ‘Now I’ve done it, I feel so much less anxious, like everything I was worrying about wasn’t as major as I thought it would be. I hadn’t realised how trapped and unhappy I’d felt, but now I’m in such a healthier position and I feel much more in control of my choices.’

Still thinking about doing it?

When you feel trapped and unhappy – in a relationship or your job – it’s easy to feel paralysed and overwhelmed by it all. And walking out of a job with nothing more than a few stolen mugs, without the uterine-like safety of another job to go to, is terrifying. I know – I just did it.

But, once the shock subsides, and you start to get annoyed with people telling you how ‘brave’ you are – like you’ve got cancer or something – I realised that the hardest thing about quitting was quitting.

Now is also a good time to quit. According to figures from the Office of National Statistics, employment is up, while unemployment fell to 5.5%, down from 6.6% a year earlier. So if the thought of still being in the same job in a year fills you with horror, then maybe it’s time to quit. It’ll be hard, but go on – who knows what’s out there?

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Follow Sirin on Twitter @thedalstonyears

Illustration: Marina Esmeraldo

Tags: Ask An Adult