How to quit a job and not regret it
A 5 minute read • Simon Q
Part of our career counselling series. It’s possible you are already thinking about how to quit a job given that you clicked on the headline. But it’s a big decision to make and one you shouldn’t take lightly.
Expectations of jobs have changed
I have been employed for over 30 years in a wide range of roles as diverse as laboratory-based research and commercial copywriting. I’ve seen workplaces change from being stiflingly formal and hierarchical to remarkably informal and inclusive. People have also changed from being blindly loyal to their companies to being more in tune with their own needs and goals – and more than willing to jump ship for a better deal.
There’s also a huge difference in attitudes to jobs between younger and older employees. Older workers still expect loyalty and long service to be rewarded yet recent graduates prefer to be paid on results and performance.
Recent graduates also carefully check out a prospective employer’s ethical and environmental performance as well as the pay and benefits of a job and use this as part of their job-seeking research.
What this means is that some larger companies try to tie people to employment with long-term incentives such as shares and bonuses that vest after several years. While these can be financially rewarding for the employee they can encourage some people to remain in jobs beyond their best.
Assess your current job objectively
If you are looking for a change, a new challenge, or are simply bored and unfulfilled at work, it’s worth looking objectively at your current job. Ask yourself:
- What do you like and enjoy about your current job? What makes you fulfilled and the job worthwhile?
- What could be better?
- Is your current job helping you achieve your longer-term career goals?
- What can you (or someone else) change that would make your current job better?
- What would a new job offer that’s different to what you have now?
It’s important to ask these questions because you may decide to stay in your current role if you can effect some changes that increase your satisfaction. It can also take a while to change jobs so being happier in your current role for a while is a better way to transition to a new job.
Think about your personal needs and goals
Next, it’s all about you. Ask yourself:
- What do you need to be fulfilled in a job?
- Do you crave independence and autonomy that you don’t currently have?
- Do you prefer being part of a larger team?
- Are you motivated by money and seniority? Some people aren’t
- What recognition do you need for your efforts and successes?
- What are your long-term career goals?
- What’s non-negotiable?
Based on your answers to these questions you can decide what are you not getting from your current job and whether or not you can fulfill your needs by remaining in it.
Should you stay or leave?
When you add together your thoughts on your current job and your personal needs, it’s easier to take an objective view on whether or not you should stay or leave. What you have done is a basic ‘gap analysis’ that will help you identify what’s missing from your work life and make your decision.
So, if you’re motivated by a higher salary or more annual leave and would like to stay in your current job, then ask your manager for a pay rise or more paid leave. She just may agree without conditions, or you may need to negotiate. Every time I have asked for a promotion or pay rise it has been granted.
Also take a longer term view of your current role. If you are motivated by a more senior position, would staying in your current job or company get you what you want in a couple of years? You can be quite crafty here. There’s nothing wrong with asking co-workers about their career plans to get some ideas and also test who’s thinking of moving on and therefore leaving a vacancy that you could fill.
You may also want to think in terms of risk and opportunity, both of which can apply to staying in a job and jumping ship to a new one. If you leave, you could lose some long-term benefits and incentives. Sure, some of these are lock-ins to stop good employees from leaving, but you can view this as an opportunity cost and possibly get some better benefits by moving to another company.
But if you are keen to leave, then try to move to something better or with greater prospects rather than simply escape from something you don’t like. If you get the first right, the second will be a given.
You’re leaving – what now?
You’ve decided to leave. Now you have a few additional decisions to make, specifically, how, when and what to tell people. It sounds easy, but I have seem people make a mess of leaving a job.
You usually need to resign in writing to both your boss and your HR team. I strongly recommend that you do this with tact and dignity, no matter how tempting it is to tell people what you really think about the job or company. Importantly, this will also help you negotiate a smooth exit and could see you get out of the door more quickly. Remember that your contractual notice period can always be discussed – a sensible employer will not want to hold on to an employee who has already ‘mentally’ left any longer than necessary.
Resigning can be an emotional event not only for you but also your co-workers, some of whom may look up to you and many of whom will probably remain your friends when you leave. And you’ll also be surprised how many people from your past pop up in your new company after a year or two, so burning bridges is not a good strategy.
“Burning bridges is not a good strategy”
Once you leave, be aware of how much of your old job you cling on to. If you left under a fallout cloud or with negative feelings, re-visiting your old place of work and keeping in touch with co-workers who did not become your friends can potentially prevent you moving on.
It’s mentally healthy to avoid looking back and ruminating on a job you didn’t like, so don’t regret your decision, even if your short-term prospects looks less favourable than you hoped. And when you get into your new job, moaning about your old company isn’t helpful either.
I know it’s a cliche but you can’t change the past and your energies are better spent on making a brighter future. It may take a few jumps for you to be really happy at work and you many need to make a few compromises along the way. But it’s your life and you owe it to yourself and the world to make the most from it.
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