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Consider these 6 factors to decide when to quit your job

Unsure if you're truly ready to quit your job? Consider these tips and questions to help you decide to move to a new role, organization or even career.

With layoffs prevalent in the tech space, some workers might opt to hold on to their current jobs even if they feel unfulfilled. But is it worth it to settle, rather than explore new horizons?

Like so much in life, it depends on multiple factors and each individual's situation.

People are often reticent to quit jobs for various reasons, such as the following:

  • Finding a new job is a daunting task.
  • It's unclear whether another opportunity will be measurably better.
  • Financial risks are significant.
  • One might not possess the skills that organizations currently seek and value.
  • An employee might lack a solid network that can help with a job search.

"There will be reasons that you want to leave something behind, but you also make a change when you feel like there [is] something you're going toward," said Tracy Brower, Ph.D., a sociologist based in Holland, Mich., and author of Secrets to Happiness at Work: How to Choose and Create Purpose and Fulfillment in Your Work.

"Make sure that you're excited about what you're going toward," she said. "If you don't have that 'toward' mentality as well as that 'leave behind' mentality, it might not be the best time to make a change."

Reasons for quitting your job (or not)

Tracy Brower, Ph.D.

Almost every professional deals with difficult colleagues, demanding customers and grueling projects, and` these can drive some to quit. Nevertheless, Brower encourages tech workers to analyze whether their dissatisfaction stems from short-term discomfort or systemic issues that they no longer tolerate.

For example, you might have a colleague you don't get along with, but it is just one individual. It might be possible to find a way to stop working with them rather than quit your job entirely.

However, if poor behavior is common and even accepted company-wide, it might be time to leave.

"If the organization has a culture that doesn't value people or doesn't respect your time, that may be more of a systemic issue," Brower said.

Another good reason to quit is if you see no room for career development. "If you look around and say, 'I don't know if this organization has a lot to offer me in the future,' then it might be a good opportunity to quit and move on to an organization that holds more possibilities," Brower said.

One reason not to quit -- at least not right away -- is if your current work is valuable to keep building your career, such as high-profile projects or in-demand skills, said Merideth Mehlberg, an executive coach and career strategist based in Alameda, Calif., and author of Your Finest Work: Career Fulfillment in a Complicated World.

For example, your department is in the middle of a mission-critical upgrade with a rapidly approaching end date, and your participation would significantly bolster your list of accomplishments. Another scenario could be if the company is going through an IPO which can create extra work and disruption across the organization.

"It's really hard, but wouldn't it be great to be able to say you'd been part of an organization that did that?" she explained.

Envision and plan your next move

Before you jump headfirst into a new job search, reflect on what you want out of your next career move. As part of this exercise, Mehlberg advises to develop a list of non-negotiable priorities.

For example, if you feel dissatisfied that your current company doesn't recognize your efforts, a non-negotiable might be that your next organization has a culture that prioritizes employee recognition.

Knowing what you want helps you tailor your messaging on social media platforms such as LinkedIn, and in conversations with other people -- and even with yourself. "You need to be specific to be successful in that search to get you in a better situation," Mehlberg said. "You have to be clear on what it is you want."

Lay the groundwork before you quit your job

It's wise to do some financial planning prior to leaving your company. This creates some stability if there is a gap between when you quit and when you start your next job, Brower said.

Also, build a network of people you can reach out to during a job search. "It really is hard to start with a blank slate, but if you know some people you can ask questions, and you can have one-on-ones," she said.

Here are several steps Mehlberg encourages to prepare for a job departure:

  • Update your resume and online presence, especially on LinkedIn, and ensure that your messaging is consistent.
  • Develop content on social media that establishes you as a thought leader in your space.
  • Take a new headshot.
  • Gather testimonials and recommendations from peers and colleagues that focus on your accomplishments. (Provide this in return to create goodwill.)

Additionally, consider ways to upskill. "Oftentimes technologists look at what [their companies] need, but that might not be the same tool set that other organizations you're targeting need," Mehlberg said. Engage in continuing education to help fill these gaps.

Assess your energy level

A job search demands energy. For those who choose to remain at their current employer while they hunt for a new position, this effort is an additional project on top of every other responsibility for their job.

Merideth Mehlberg

Mehlberg urges tech workers to assess whether or not they have enough energy to make a career change right now. People who are unhappy at work are often drained, and before they can be effective on a job hunt they must find ways to renew their energy.

"If they don't, they are going to risk not putting their best foot forward in the conversations that they have," she said.

Think carefully before you quit cold turkey

In some instances, it's tempting to quit without having another job in the pipeline, but Brower cautions against this.

"If you quit cold turkey, it may be a decision that's motivated by a high level of emotion. It might be you're angry, or you're hurt, or you're frustrated," she said. Sometimes these emotions are based on difficult short-term situations, but these will also reach an end.

Suddenly quitting also removes the opportunity to take preparatory steps toward a new opportunity. Activities such as updating your resume, connecting with your network, practicing your interviewing skills and researching the market establish the foundation for a successful job search.

"Some of those preparatory steps not only help you find something a little sooner, but they'll also help your confidence," Brower said. "When you're confident, it's easier to find another job."

However, there are times when quitting cold turkey is reasonable. Mehlberg cites the following examples:

  • The company has done something that conflicts with your ethics.
  • The work environment is toxic, despite your best efforts to bring change.
  • The work environment is so toxic that you don't have the energy to try and bring change.
  • You suffer a serious ailment or injury.
  • A family situation requires you to be a full-time caregiver.

A lack of enthusiasm for the organization is another reason some people quit outright. "Sometimes a person can get galvanized by identifying a moonshot that they want to take, or something that feels more aligned with what's important to them," Mehlberg said.

Try to fix what isn't working for you

While there might be very good reasons to quit, leaving your job before attempting to improve your working conditions might not produce the results you're after. Before you move on, engage with senior management to examine how you can take control of the current situation.

"Have conversations with your leadership about what [your] non-negotiables are and comparing that to [what] your situation currently is," Mehlberg said. These discussions will help to establish what support the organization is willing to offer, and how you can obtain it. "When you haven't investigated some of those options, [quitting] can feel a bit premature," she said.

Carolyn Heinze is a Paris-based freelance writer. She covers several technology and business areas, including HR software and sustainability.

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