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20 Tips for Knowing When to Quit Your Job (And Do it the Right Way)

Written By Jessica J. Williams | Feb 21, 2017

Knowing how and when to quit your job is a question you will face at some point in your career.

“How do I know if it’s me or the job?” “What if the grass is always going to be greener on the other side?” “Should I wait until I have another job before I quit?” “I feel guilty quitting and am afraid of letting people down.” These are just some of the questions I get asked as a career and leadership coach.

I get it; a career shift is a very stressful life event. When I decided to quit my job at a successful public relations firm to start my own business, it was crazy hard (and scary). The uncertainty about your future can be overwhelming, and the fear can downright stop you in your tracks.

Here’s the advice I give my clients (and what worked for me) when you start considering a job change:

1. Trust your gut.

Don’t check your intuition at the door. When it comes to your career, this is the greatest tool you have. Ask yourself, what feels better or worse? What feels restrictive and what feels like freedom? Always follow what feels light and free, even if it leads you down a road less traveled.

When I quit my job to start my business, I let my intuition guide me through the process. It was hard and the outcome wasn’t exactly what I predicted, but it ended up being one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

2. Do your research.

Do your homework by checking websites like Glassdoor.com, Salary.com and PayScale.com to see comparable salaries for your work in your zipcode. It’s important to know what the going rate is for the work you’re doing.

You’ll also want to know how the market for your services is changing. Alltop.com is an aggregator of industry related news, and a great resource for knowing the current trends in your sector.

Finally, research your potential employer or new business idea’s financial stability and market position before you leap into a new job or start a business. You’ll want to know how viable your new endeavor is.

3. Check your expectations.

Is it your attitude, your manager, your job duties, your clients or the organization as a whole? If one thing shifted, would you want to stay or go? How does one thing affect the other?

2010 research study by Harvard Business Review found that, “People fail to be realistic sometimes [and] to be self-critical, and [they therefore think] that external circumstances and environments have more to do with their frustrations or failures than their own issues.”

What can you do to shift your inner world (your mindset, belief systems and the stories you tell yourself about your work and your colleagues) that might help to shift your outer world? It’s amazing what can change when you start the change from within.

4. Talk to your network.

This is when all that networking you’ve been doing (right? right?) is going to pay off. Talk to trusted colleagues and advisers about their view of the market, your organization and the current situation. Get an honest take from an outside perspective to see the bigger picture.

Your network is your biggest asset during a career change. When I started my business, it was the difference between success and failure.

5. Hire a coach.

Good coaches work on moving you forward and getting you unstuck. They work quickly to help you identify limiting beliefs and mindsets that are standing in your way. When considering whether to change jobs and how to do it, a coach is always a wise investment.

I have hired coaches to help me navigate career changes and business development many times in my career, and it has always paid for itself.

6. Play out all scenarios.

So you think that you’ll love starting your own business way more than working as an employee in a company? Before you take the leap, have you tested the market, gotten a few clients, and run your numbers? How long can you survive on savings until you build up your business? Ask yourself these five questions before you take that leap.

If you think another industry or sector is going to make you happy (like working at a nonprofit over a for profit), talk to people in the industry before you invest in education, certifications or a major career shift. Know all the scenarios of how this could play out–time commitment for the job, potential compensation, growth potential, etc.

7. Know what’s holding you back.

If you’re miserable and want to make a change, get real with yourself. What’s holding you back? What’s standing in your way? What have you done to overcome these obstacles so far? What more help do you need? Where are the gaps in your understanding of the problem? What can you do to shift your actions, mindsets and belief systems to make a difference?

When I first started my business I was struggling to earn a decent living, but as I cleared out my limiting beliefs and changed my mindset things shifted and my business took off.

8. Understand your options.

Know what is possible for you and your professional success given the information you have available to you right now. Can you take your time looking for another job or is there a sense of urgency? Talk to recruiters in your community to see how quickly your odds are of transitioning out of your current job. For example, if you’re in a high-level position and looking to become a VP at your next position, that could take some time. Know and set realistic expectations for yourself.

9. Set goals.

What are your career goals? Where would you like to be six months from now? Three years from now? What do you value in work? Is it freedom, flexibility, money, impact on others, making a difference, respect of your peers? Set some goals.

Try this…take 10 minutes out of your day and imagine what you would want your career to look like if nothing was standing in your way. What would it look like, feel like? What would the energy in the room be like? How’s the light? Who else is there? Where are you? What are you doing? Visualize it to the fullest extent of your imagination and start tracking your career moves in that direction. What is in that visualization that you can start to express more of in your current job?

10. Give yourself time.

From the moment you decide to find a new job, to the day you land a job offer, expect the process to take six months to a year at least. Give yourself plenty of time and set realistic expectations about your timeline.

11. Be honest with yourself.

Be curious about your desires, aversions, fears and the uncertainty. Be honest with yourself, but do it with compassion and forgiveness. You only know what you know when you know it. Do the best you can with the information you have at the time and work on becoming intimately curious about yourself.

Building my business has been a catalyst for radical transformation in my life. Can you see this time as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and as an opening for self-transformation?

12. Create a plan.

If you can help it, don’t make a move without a plan. Do your research. Set goals. Identify how you will reach those goals. Talk to people you trust and spend time with people in your industry to know the trends, key players, influencers and best employers.

13. Know your strengths.

Take a Strengths Finder assessment. It costs about $15 and assesses your top five strengths. This is important because when you use your strengths at work, you’re more likely to experience flow (a state of complete immersion in an activity), and feel more satisfaction with your job as a result.

14. Work on your relationship to money.

Money is energy and your relationship to that energy can be a HUGE sticking point. Develop your relationship to money by reading books like The Soul of Money, attending money workshops, and noticing your habits, belief systems and mindsets related to money. This will help you as you plan your big career move.

It wasn’t until I started working on my relationship to money that I was actually able to open up and receive payment for my services. Thank goodness for the coach who helped me with that, otherwise I’d still be stuck.

15. Trust people to be who you’ve always known them to be.

If your boss has proven to be selfish, neglectful or money hungry then expect them to continue to be that way when you give your notice, ask for a raise, or apply for a promotion. If your boss has proven to be communicative, thoughtful, generous and kind, then expect them to be that way when you make your move.

16. Be careful telling your company you’re looking for another job.

This is a question I often get asked. “Should I tell my current employer I’m looking for another job?” And the answer is “NO.” Unless you feel guaranteed that they will not fire you or lay you off for a reason you feel confident about.

17. Turn notifications off on your LinkedIn profile.

It’s common to start updating your LinkedIn profile when you’re looking for a new job. There’s a little button on the right hand side next to your profile (editing) page that says, “Turn notifications to your network off.” Click that button to prevent your current employer and colleagues from getting notified of the changes. Of course, they could always go directly to your profile and see those changes but the likelihood of them remembering exactly what your profile photo, tagline or summary looked like previously is slim.

18. Be careful about following your passion.

There’s a lot of talk out there encouraging you to “Follow your passion!” Do not follow your passions on a whim without the assurance that you will get paid for the work you do. Unless you have a trust fund, which in that case…have at it!

And remember, your happiness at work is less tied to your passions as it is to you using your greatest strengths and talents, being surround by colleagues you like, having opportunities to grow, and using your creativity, problem solving and technical skills to make a clear impact. Also your commute matters, a lot.

19. If you want to start a business, plan carefully.

Starting a business requires that you not only be an expert in your craft, but that you also have the means, resources and knowledge to operate, market and sell your business and its services. Surround yourself with other entrepreneurs and business owners. Go to networking and professional development events aimed at small businesses and entrepreneurs to learn, connect and get resources. Do all of this (and get some clients, if you can) before you quit your job to start your own business.

When I left my job and started my company, I already had several clients, a website, a huge network of support, a coach and access to resources for whatever I needed (through my community).

20. Leap and trust.

Or forget everything I just said and throw caution to the wind. You’ll certainly fail fast and learn the hard way, but sometimes that’s just what your soul needs. I’ve leapt out into the unknown many times in my life and a net always appeared. Trust. Surrender. Leap.

What do you worry about when it comes to quitting your job and pursuing a new endeavor?

Jessica J. Williams is a change agent, coach, facilitator, speaker and author whose mission is to usher the divine feminine into our way of doing work in the world. She is a transformative and sought-after leader for the empowerment of women on a global scale working with individuals, nonprofits and corporations to advance the professional development of strong, powerful female leadership.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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One Comment

  1. Lori A.

    Hey Jessica,

    Thanks for sharing all this advice. It’s timely because I’ve been unhappy in my current job for months. I am following my gut and exploring what else is out there. Who knows what will happen. What I’m hoping to do is move toward something positive rather than run away from a bad situation. My biggest block is the guilt factor — letting down my co-workers and my boss. They’re great, but their support isn’t enough to keep me going. You are always so generous with sharing your knowledge and I am one grateful reader!

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