The Worst Times to Quit Your Job

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There might never be a perfect time to quit your job, but some times are worse than others. Even if you hate your job and you want out of there as soon as possible, it’s better to make an informed decision and leave when the timing is right. Don't decide in haste and quit in the heat of the moment—it could cost you money and negatively affect your future career prospects.

Be sure to consider all the factors carefully when you're thinking about handing in your resignation and weigh the pros and cons of your reasons for moving on.

Reasons to Stay

  • You have nothing else lined up...and no savings.

  • You don't have a long-term career plan, so your move would be more lateral than upward.

  • You've recently committed to a project so you would be leaving your team and your employer shorthanded at a critical time.

Reasons to Go

  • Your days with the company are probably numbered anyway, so explaining your resignation to a potential new employer is easier than explaining why you were fired.

  • You have one or more solid job prospects in the wings.

  • It might be time to move on if your employer treats you so poorly that each day is a stressful, emotional ordeal.

You Fought With Your Boss or Co-Worker

If you have a conflict at work that can’t be repaired—and that can happen—think strategically about the best way to move forward. Make sure you're not making a rash decision. Explore ending on good terms so you get a positive reference.

You Don't Have Another Job Lined Up

It isn’t always easy to get hired, and it can be harder to find a job when you’re out of work and desperate. Factors such as a down job market or your occupation not being in demand can make it an uphill battle. Hold off quitting until you’ve been hired elsewhere if you’re in an industry with a poor job outlook.

You're About to Be Fired

There are both pros and cons to quitting before it happens if you think you’re about to be fired or laid off. If you quit, you won’t have to explain to future employers during job interviews that you were terminated. It’s easier to explain a resignation.

The flip side is that quitting could disqualify you from collecting unemployment. When it seems pretty certain that a layoff is in your future, it might be better to wait until it happens. In addition to unemployment, you could be offered a severance package that will help you transition to new employment.

You're in Line for a Promotion

Is there a promotion on the horizon? You might want to put that better job title on your resume. It will provide you with additional opportunities when you’re ready to begin job hunting, and you might even like the new job enough that you decide to stay.

You Don't Have an Emergency Fund

Quitting can be expensive. Do you have an emergency fund with enough money to cover your expenses for a month or two...or six? Keep in mind that even if you’re hired reasonably quickly, the job might not start immediately and you might have to play catchup with at least a few bills.

You Haven't Really Decided on a Career Yet

Do you have a clear idea of the next step on your career path? You might want to do some career research before you start looking for a job if you’re not sure. Try to figure out career options while you still have job security. Take evening or online classes, volunteer on weekends, and explore some ideas for what you want to do next.

You're About to Get a Bonus

Does your company give annual or holiday bonuses? You might not be entitled to receive yours if you quit shortly before yours is due. In fact, you probably won't. Hold off until afterward to ensure that you get your extra pay.

You've Taken on a Big Project

It might be a good time for you to move on, but it could be the worst possible time for your boss and your team if you've just taken on a big project. Unless you must quit due a personal safety, health, or wellness issue, quitting right after you've agreed to take on a big project can reflect poorly on you and rob you of good references.

The standard notice period is at least two weeks. You should consider giving your employer even more of a heads-up if you’ve just agreed to take on a project.

You Haven't Finished Classes Reimbursed by Your Employer

If your employer has provided you or your family with a tuition benefit, you could lose it if you quit while you or your dependents are still in school. Check the fine print of your tuition reimbursement plan and act accordingly.

Your 401(k) or Pension Is About to Vest

Think long-term. It could be worth holding off on your resignation if it’s a matter of staying just another month or two to get additional retirement benefits. Consider what you want to do with your 401(k) and how much it’s going to cost you if you leave your job now.

You Have a Baby...Or You're About to Have One

You might be entitled to paid or unpaid time off if you’re pregnant or have an infant. Check on what happens to your eligibility before you decide to resign while you're on maternity leave. It could make sense to wait and turn in your resignation when you're near the end of your leave.

You Still Have Vacation Time

Some employers have "use it or lose it" vacation policies. Consider using your time if you have vacation or other paid leave still on the table and it seems likely that you'll lose if you don’t take it, or you won’t be compensated for it if you quit. If you don’t have a new job lined up yet, you could use your vacation time to find one.

You or a Loved One Have Health Problems

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides for unpaid time off if you or a family member are undergoing medical treatment and you need time off from work to deal with that. Your state or employer might also offer paid disability benefits. You must have worked for your employer for a certain period of time to qualify for most benefits.

Also check on any employer-provided health insurance benefits to see what happens with your policy if you terminate employment.

How to Decide When to Quit

Think smart and carefully plan your departure so you’re quitting at the best time. Consider if there's a way you could turn things around and learn to love your job. If not, make the decision to quit on your terms, and have a timeline for your departure in place.

Take time to carefully and professionally tell your boss that you’re leaving, and negotiate a start date with a new employer and a departure date with your old one to help the whole process move along more smoothly. You won’t burn any bridges, and you won’t have to stress about any of the details. You’ll be able to focus all your energy on starting your new job and enjoying your brand new position.