When should you start looking for a new job? Should you quit first and job hunt second? Or is it better to start looking for a job before you turn in your resignation? The saying that you shouldn't quit your job before you find a new one is often true, but there can be exceptions.
Difficult bosses who threaten your mental or physical health, relocation for a partner's job, intolerable working conditions or levels of stress, an inability to master the job, an employer who has asked you to do something unethical, or an organization that is going under are all signs it's time to quit your job sooner rather than later.
In other cases, you might be changing your career and need education or training to make the transition, which can't be completed while holding down your current job.
Everyone's circumstances are different, so it's important to carefully evaluate the timing when you're ready to move on from your current job. For some people, it will be easy to get hired for a new role. For others, it may be more challenging and take longer to line up a new position.
Starting a Job Search Before Quitting
It is often worth considering to at least start a job search before quitting your current position. Ideally, you will start your search prior to your work situation becoming so bad that you can't stay. If you can start looking before you quit, it will give you an idea of what it may require for you to land a new position.
Starting a job search while you are still working has other advantages in addition to continuing to have a paycheck and benefits. If you quit, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
That said, there is currently less of a negative association with an unemployed status. There is also far less stigma attached to “job hopping” (leaving a job every year or so) than there used to be, because more industries than ever before are offering project-based or temp work to short-term hires.
Explaining During Job Interviews
If you're employed, you will have less explaining to do regarding your need for a new job during job interviews. You can maintain a positive spin on your current position and focus on why the new job would be even better.
That's helpful when you're answering interview questions about leaving your job. It's easier to discuss why you're moving on when you're still employed than it is to explain why you quit without having a new job lined up.
Should You Tell Your Employer?
If you do choose to begin your job search while you’re still employed, think carefully about whether you want to make this news public at work. Whether you do this depends entirely upon the type of job you hold, your seniority, and your employer’s needs.
Most employers aren’t happy to realize that they’re going to have to put the time and money into a hiring search. On the plus side, if you are a valued employee or have a significant amount of seniority and/or expertise, your current employer might offer you a raise or incentive in order to entice you to stay. Alternatively, you might be able to enlist the support of a key manager with the promise of smoothing the transition for your successor.
Or, they might just fire you immediately and find someone else to do your job. Thus, you will need to carefully gauge your employer's potential reaction to learning of your planned departure to decide whether to maintain a covert approach to your search.
Unless you're covered by a bargaining agreement or employment contract that states otherwise, in most locations, employment is considered to be "at will," which means you can quit—or be fired—for no reason.
When to Quit Before Starting a Job Search
When they are circumstances where you simply can't stay, or if you are one of those people with an extremely busy work schedule, it may be necessary to ultimately leave your job in order to invest sufficient time in your search.
If you do decide to quit, be sure to have a financial plan in place to cover your projected food, housing, and other expenses, since you don't know how long it will take to find your next job.
Otherwise, start your job search while you're still employed to ensure you won't have a gap between paychecks.
Keeping It Professional
Whatever you decide about the timing of starting a job search, avoid saying anything negative when you depart.
Make sure that you maintain positive relationships with your bosses and co-workers, since your next employer may require references from your previous employer or may conduct a background check. When you resign, keep it professional and don't burn any bridges with your current employer.