Even in a job they hate, most people know the obvious reasons not to quit without anything else lined up:
- You have a better chance of getting a job when you already have one because your employability is social proof.
- When you are employed while you are networking, distant contacts are more likely to connect because they won’t assume your outreach is strictly to ask for a job.
- By keeping your job, you keep money coming in and don’t get into a situation where you run short on cash and have to settle for something out of desperation.
However, there are additional, yet often overlooked reasons for hanging onto your job even if you hate it. Don’t worry – I’m not going to make a case for settling for less than a fulfilling career. However, if any of the conditions below apply to you, chances are that your unhappiness isn’t job-related, and you’ll just bring your current problems into your new job and hate that one too.
You have no idea what you want next – only that you don’t want what you have now
Too many aspiring career changers get so worked up resenting a job that isn’t ideal, yet they don’t have a viable alternative. By alternative, I don’t mean a new job in hand, but just a prototype for a job – roles that match what you want and companies that interest you. It’s critical that you are moving towards something you want and not just away from something you don’t.
You can’t recall where you spend your time away from work
Don’t assume that quitting your job will magically give you all this free time to devote to your job search. You already have free time – early mornings, workday breaks, evenings, weekends. If you’re already not spending time on your search, giving yourself more time is not going to make you use it more productively. In fact, the lack of structure from having a job may encourage you to accomplish less.
You make a six-figure salary and still can’t make ends meet
Too many unhappy professionals insist they are underpaid when in fact they are fairly paid for what they do but they’re terrible with money management. They don’t have a salary problem; they have a spending problem. If that describes you, leaving one job for another that pays a little bit more will not solve your original problem and will make you feel underpaid again. Furthermore, if you keep hopping from one job to another in the hopes of capturing a bump in pay that many times comes with a new job, that strategy has its limits. The further you go in your career, the more important it will be to demonstrate results over time. The further you go, the more complex your job typically becomes and therefore the longer the runway you will need to get those demonstrable results. Eventually, the opportunities to move around will dry up.
You can’t name at least three professional connections who you could call right now to jumpstart your job search
Your network is so important to your job search and not just because it helps to have referrals. Even if you don’t get an introduction to a job, your network can provide information. For example, information about the people you’ll be interviewing with – what their personalities are like, what their work priorities are. Industry experts can give you nuance about the trends and challenges facing your dream employers so you can impress them with how much you already know.
You can’t talk about your current role without complaining, getting emotional or sounding negative
If you are so negative about your current job, this might seem like a good reason to quit your job right away. You think it will make you more positive and therefore a more attractive candidate. While it’s true that having a positive attitude is a must for an effective job search, quitting your job isn’t going to make you feel better about it. You’re still going to have to talk about it in interviews. You invite even more probing questions about it and have to talk about it more because you left without anything lined up.
The best time to stretch your capabilities is in a job you hate
You can practice negotiating hard because if they fire you, that just means you get severance instead of quitting with nothing. You can practice pushing back on unreasonable requests or pitching ideas without fear of rejection because you have nothing to lose. You can finally set boundaries with your needy colleagues because you won’t see them soon enough.
The best time to expand the negotiation, communication and relationship skills that you know you’re going to need in every job is in the job you have right now. At the very least, you were leaving anyway so if things get awkward, you’re out of there. But at its best, you might find that you greatly improve your environment, your relationships, even your stature. You might feel better enough about your job that you no longer want to quit.