Most people these days can expect to change jobs 7 to 10 times over their careers. Having just one job (or even 2 or 3 jobs) over the course of one’s working life is extremely rare. So chances are that at some point you’ll want to quit your job.
Or you may decide that you’re just too unhappy where you are and it’s time to move on.
Take a look at that unhappiness: What things about your job are making you unhappy?
Arthur C. Brooks, author of From Strength to Strength: Finding Success, Happiness, and Deep Purpose in the Second Half of Life, left a career that was in many ways successful, but wasn’t fulfilling.
He pondered the formula for happiness he had lived with all his life:
“Bust your pick, play by the rules, work really hard, get a little bit of good luck, bank it, die happy.”
But that no longer worked for him.
He noted the British psychologist Raymond Cattell who coined the phrase “fluid intelligence” several decades ago to describe what makes people good at their jobs:
Fluid intelligence “peaks in your late thirties or early forties, and then it goes into decline. Cattell also detected a second intelligence curve that comes in behind it that uses different skills, which is called ‘crystallized intelligence.’
With fluid intelligence, you’re a cowboy. You’re a ninja. You’re the best at what you do. You can solve problems faster than others. Crystalized intelligence doesn’t rely on those skills. It’s your ability to teach others, to synthesize ideas, to recognize patterns. In other words, it’s wisdom.
And if you can jump to a new career or a way of doing your current job, that favors crystalized intelligence, you’ll get better and better through your fifties and sixties and seventies. And the big bonus is that you’ll be doing something that serves other people more. You’ll have more friendship and love in your life. And that’s cracking the code.”
How, When and Why To Quit Your Job
If you feel it’s time to move on, you’re probably right and you probably should.
Click on any link below to go directly to that section:
Are You Ready To Quit Your Job?
Quitting your job ranks right up there with other major life decisions like getting married or divorced, or moving.
Such a decision requires plenty of thought before moving forward.
A Harvard Business Review article says to consider these things:
- Am I working for the right organization?
- Am I in the right position?
- Am I positioned for the future career I want?
“If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then it’s a sign you need to look for a new opportunity. You should start by thinking carefully about what’s going on in your current organization. Maybe you’ve noticed people you respect are leaving the company, profits are down, or changes are implemented with little notice or rationale. This could be a sign that your organization is the problem, and you might want to look for a similar job with another employer.
Perhaps you don’t have opportunities to learn and grow, or you work for a boss who is impeding your career. In this case, your job might not be a good fit, and you might seek out a position in another part of your company.
Lastly, consider whether you’re actually prepared to take your next career step. If not, focus on building your career assets — your reputation, your industry knowledge, or your network, for example — to equip yourself to make a move in the near future.”
You may be so fed up with your job that you want quit on the spot and walk out of there for good, without giving notice.
You may want to lash out and vent angrily about what you hate about your job and your employer.
It’s NEVER a good idea to burn bridges like that.
It’s ALWAYS a good idea to leave on good terms.
As unhappy as you may be, secure a new job before you quit the one you have now. That is, unless you have the financial wherewithal to go without a paycheck for the several months it will probably take to land a new job.
NOTE: If you’re in some kind of danger if you stay at this job, by all means just get out of there with no notice. If you’re being pushed to do something unethical or illegal, you may also need to quit without notice, but see if you can stay put safely, long enough to find another job first.
Questions To Answer BEFORE You Quit Your Job
As soon as you start to think you may want to quit your job, it’s time to do some soul-searching and practical planning.
Start by asking yourself some questions and spending time answering them in detail. (These are based on suggestions from job search strategist Hannah Morgan):
Why do I want to leave?
Put together a list of the pros and cons.
List all the things you like and all the things you don’t like about your job, including the people you work with, your salary and compensation, your work schedule, your commute, etc.
Think about each item in both columns of your list and have people close to you review them with you.
You may find that, even though you’re not totally happy with many aspects of your job, you DO like enough about it to stay.
Maybe there’s a way to change the things you don’t like so that you can stay?
Do I really need to leave this company to get what I want?
Is it possible that your employer CAN provide more of the kind of work you want to do?
Of course, staying where you are is so much easier than putting yourself through a job search . . . which is often a vast unknown where you won’t really know how good a job is until you’ve been in it for a time.
If your problem with the job is boredom, maybe you can adjust your responsibilities, taking on new things while setting aside some of the things you don’t like.
What companies are a better fit for me?
As with any successful job search, it’s always best to target specific employers who need what you have to offer.
Then research them to find out precisely what makes you a good hiring choice for them.
Then you’ll have the info you need to:
- Define your personal brand around the qualities and qualifications those employers want and need for the kind of work you’re seeking.
- Put your brand to work, differentiating you and generating chemistry for you as a candidate.
- Create personal marketing materials (resume, LinkedIn profile, bio, cover letters, etc.) that showcase your ROI.
- Build an online presence that helps you get found and helps hiring professionals see that they must interview you.
- Purposefully and effectively network (online and in person) your way into these companies, to circumvent HR and penetrate the hidden jobs that are never advertised.
- Brand and ace your job interviews by helping interviewers see you on the job, fixing and improving things.
The only way to access the hidden jobs at companies you’re targeting is through networking. And networking is how you’ll get an idea of your target companies’ culture.
What is my exit strategy?
As I mentioned earlier, you should always leave a job on an up note.
You never know when/if you’ll end up working with that employer again sometime in the future, whether directly or indirectly.
And you’ll need strong reference letters from people there.
Once you’ve found another job, and have that in writing, here’s how to bow out gracefully from your current job . . . without burning bridges:
- Determine who is the right person to give your notice to.
- Before you actually quit, don’t tell anyone else at the company about it, or anyone who might tell someone at the company.
- Write out and rehearse exactly how you will verbally quit. Don’t do it by phone or email.
- Also write a letter of resignation to turn in after you verbally quit.
How to quit in person
The “quitting in person” part may be difficult. That’s why you need to write a script and rehearse it, so it flows well when you present it.
Saying something like this will work well:
“As much as I’ve liked (or loved) working here and all the opportunities you’ve given me, I’ve found another job that better aligns with my career goals. I’ve already accepted the offer.”
Keep it short and sweet, and then say nothing. Don’t let yourself fall into apologizing for leaving.
If appropriate, also add something like:
“Thank you very much for all your help over the time I’ve been here. You’re the best boss I’ve had (ever or in a long time).”
Don’t bad-mouth anyone or say anything about what you didn’t like about the job.
Give at least 2 weeks notice. Some say it’s a good idea to give more and state why you’re doing this:
“I know we’re still wrapping up the XYZ project and I don’t want to prolong completion of it so I’m happy to give you [how ever many weeks] notice so there’ll be a smooth transition through to completion.”
Your letter of resignation
Your letter of resignation should follow a similar approach:
- Say that you’re resigning as of XYZ date.
- Include a few positive things about the letter’s addressee, the company, and/or others you worked with there.
- Offer to help with a smooth transition of your leaving.
Who can I turn to for help?
Turn to those closest to you in your network: friends, family, co-workers.
Let them know you’re open to new opportunities. Tell them as specifically as possible what kind of job you’re looking for and with which companies.
And don’t forget to stay in touch with the people you know who worked at your company in the past.
They may have moved on to a company that you’d like to work for.
That gives you a valuable “in” into the company that could help you land a hidden job there. Many companies reward employees for recommending successful new hires. It’s a win for you, the company and the referring employee.
And you can turn to recruiters in your niche or industry.
How will I navigate the final few weeks?
The same Harvard Business Review article as above noted:
“After you’ve given your notice, you have two primary goals: to help with the smooth transition of your projects and responsibilities and to solidify your relationships with any colleagues you want to stay in touch with.
Transferring your work to others may mean helping to hire a replacement or it may be a matter of handing off projects to colleagues. Sort out with your boss which projects should go to which people. It may be helpful if you have some suggestions, but let your manager make the final decisions. Once you’re gone, you want your former boss and colleagues to think of you as thoughtful and professional.
You should also use some of your remaining time to connect with colleagues. Go out to lunch or coffee. Be explicit that you hope to stay in touch. And express gratitude for the opportunities and learning you’ve had. Consider giving personal notes to your direct manager, any mentors, and close colleagues. This can help you leave a good impression.”
It may not be easy to play out your final days at the company. Take Hannah Morgan’s advice:
“While you don’t have to give your current job 110 percent, you do need to do enough to keep it.
And for your sanity, think about what you need to do to survive in your current job. Avoid pesky co-workers, avoid conflict and don’t let your work or attitude slack. You want to leave this job on your terms, not someone else’s.”
Once you’ve given notice and have to make it through the final days, do these things:
- Continue working hard.
- Offer to train your replacement.
- Organize all your files and materials so your replacement will have an easy transition.
- Offer to be available after you leave to answer questions or tie up loose ends.
Asking for reference letters
A few days after giving notice, ask people for reference letters or recommendations.
If you’re exiting gracefully, as noted above, they should be happy to accommodate you.