The Worst Times to Quit Your Job
There may never be a perfect time to quit a job, but there are sometimes that are worse than others. When you’re thinking about turning in your resignation, be sure to consider all the factors involved carefully.
Even if you hate your job and want out of there as soon as possible, it’s better to make an informed decision and leave when the timing is right for you. It’s important not to decide in haste that could cost you money and negatively impact your future career prospects.
The 17 Worst Times to Quit a Job
- After a Bad Fight With Your Boss or a 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 and see if it is possible to end on good terms, so you get a positive reference. It might even be possible to stay, so think it over before you make a final decision.
- When You Don’t Have a Job Lined Up: it isn’t always as easy to get hired as you might think, and it can be easier to find a job when you’re employed than it is when you’re out of work. If it’s a down job market or if your occupation isn’t in-demand, it could take a while to find a new job. If you’re in an industry with a poor job outlook, hold off quitting until you’ve been hired.
- Before You Get Fired (Maybe): There are pros and cons of quitting before it happens if you think you’re about to be fired. If you quit, you won’t have to explain why you were fired during job interviews. It’s easier to explain a resignation, but quitting could disqualify you from collecting unemployment. Weigh those pros and cons before making a final decision.
- When You're About to Get a Promotion: Does it look like there’s a promotion on the horizon? You may want that better job title to put on your resume. It will provide you with additional opportunities when you’re ready to job search. You might even like the new job enough to want to stay.
- When You Don’t Have an Emergency Fund: Unless you have a new job ready to start, quitting can be expensive. Do you have an emergency fund with enough money to cover your expenses for a month or two? Or possibly longer? Keep in mind that even if you’re hired right away, the job might not start immediately.
- If You're Totally Unsure What You Want to Do Next: Do you have a clear idea of the next step on your career path? If you’re not sure, you may want to do some career research before you start looking for a job. Instead of quitting, try to figure out career options while you still have job security, e.g., by taking night or online classes, volunteering on weekends, and exploring ideas for what to do next.
- Just Before You Are About to Get a Bonus: Does your company give annual or holiday bonuses? If you quit shortly before yours is due, you may not be entitled to receive it. Hold off until afterward to ensure you get your extra pay.
- When You Have Taken on a Big Project: It might be a good time for you to leave, but it could be the worst possible time for your boss and the team you work with. 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 result in subpar references.
There aren’t any legal requirements that would compel you to stay unless you have an employment contract that specifies how much notice you should give your current employer, but the standard notice period is at least two weeks. You should consider staying even longer if you’ve just agreed to take on a project.
- Before You Finish any Classes That Are Reimbursed by Your Employer: If you or your family has a tuition benefit provided by your employer, you could lose it if you quit while you or your dependents are still in school. Check the fine details in your tuition reimbursement plan and plan accordingly.
- If You’re About to be Laid-Off: Most laid-off workers are eligible for unemployment benefits. When it seems like a layoff is in your future, it may 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.
- If You Need Unemployment Compensation: If you resign, unless it’s for a good reason, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. You may be eligible for unemployment if you quit for a good cause, but you will have to have worked a certain number of weeks to qualify. Check what you’re eligible for in advance. You’ll find information on your state unemployment website.
- Just Before Your 401(K) or Pension Vests: Think long-term and if it’s a matter of staying for another month or two to get additional retirement benefits, it could be worth holding off on your resignation. Consider what you want to do with your 401(k) ahead of time and what it’s going to cost you if you leave your job now.
- When You’re Not Ready to Job Search: It’s important to be prepared to job hunt, and, in an ideal world, to start your search and get hired before you resign. There are circumstances where that isn’t always possible, but you can have your resume ready and a working knowledge of the job market for someone with your credentials. One of the worst times to quit your job is when you don’t have another one, only to discover that job searching isn’t as simple as you thought it would be.
- If You Have a Baby or You’re About to Have One: If you’re pregnant or have an infant, you may be entitled to paid or unpaid time off from work. Check on what happens to your eligibility before you decide on resigning while on maternity leave. It could make sense to wait until you near the end of your leave to turn in your resignation.
- When You Have Vacation You Need to Use: Some employers have use it or lose it vacation policies. If you have vacation or other paid leave time that you will lose if you don’t take it, or if you won’t be compensated for it if you quit, consider using it up. If you don’t have a new job lined up, you could use the time to find one. Also, you may not get vacation time right away at your new job, so this could be a perfect time to take your dream trip.
- If You Have Health Problems: If you’re undergoing medical treatment and need time off from work, the Family and Medical Leave Act provides for unpaid time off. Your state or employer may also offer paid disability benefits. To qualify for most benefits, you will need to have worked at your employer for a certain period of time. If you quit, you may not qualify. Before you resign, check to see if medical leave is an option. Also, check on your health insurance benefits to see what happens when you terminate employment. You may need to pay for continuing coverage.
- During or Just Before the Holiday Season: Many companies offer extra paid days off during the holidays and employers who are hiring often wait until the beginning of the year to start new employees. Waiting to turn in your notice could get you a little extra paid time off during the hectic holiday season.
How to Decide When to Quit
Think smart and carefully plan your departure, so you’re quitting at the best time rather than the worst. 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.
Taking the time to carefully and professionally tell your boss you’re leaving, as well as negotiating a start date with a new employer and a departure date with your old one can help the whole process run 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 the right way and enjoying your brand new position.