When is It Time to Jump Ship and How Do You Do It?

It’s only human nature to sometimes want to quit your job. You are having a bad day. Your boss is a jerk. Your colleagues are idiots. Your clients are fools. Then you go home, have a shower, a good meal, watch some television, read a book, play with the kids, get a good night’s sleep and, in the morning, the boss appears to be no longer such a jerk, your colleagues are no longer such idiots, and your clients are not all that foolish (except for that one…there’s always one!). There may even be a few people at work that you actually like and respect.

But there are times, we have all had them, when we realize that enough, really is, enough, and it is time for a change. As I have written previously, change is the only constant in the universe. Most people are afraid of change. “Better the devil you know…”​ as the saying goes.

When it comes to employment the adage is, “It is easier to find a job when you have a job.”​ If you don’t like that one, there’s another, “Don’t quit your job until you have a new one.”​ Both say the same thing; both are correct.

So what are the rules for looking for a new job?

First, I have what is called the “Sleep Rule.”​ When I make a difficult decision, if I sleep well that evening, I know it was the right decision for me. So if you can literally “sleep on it,”​ go for it. By the same token, if you are so upset about work that you can’t sleep, it is definitely time for a change. If your job is making you sick, there’s nothing to discuss.

Second, you may not want a new job. If you like your boss, colleagues and clients, perhaps you are just bored. I have had a number of clients with whom I have worked on convincing their bosses to give them new/additional responsibilities. In the end, everyone was happy.

Third, if you really do want a new job/employer, be aware that the more public your job search the less confidentiality you will have. If the boss finds out, they will start looking for your replacement. That is why preparation is so important. You have to have a network of professionals whom you can trust to advocate on your behalf. Most jobs are not advertised so you will only hear about them from private sources. (And, for the record, those jobs are the best jobs!) So it is important to build your network now so you will have it when you need it.

Fourth, if you do not just want to change jobs but professions, make certain you have all the qualifications for a new profession and be prepared to start at the bottom. If you have been in marketing for ten years, and now want to work in cybersecurity, that’s great. But you have to go to school, learn the trade and get the certifications. And then, professionally, all you will have to show that is relevant to your new profession is ten years of customer service experience. You will be competing against persons with actual relevant experience so it is important, when you choose the school (it can be an unaccredited trade school) that you choose based on their record of finding employment for their graduates. A degree in Computer Science from Harvard may be impressive but, if all you have on graduating is a piece of paper, debt and an appointment to apply for Unemployment, maybe a degree from a school on the second floor of a shopping mall, where they can actually get their graduates employment, with little to no debt, is a better option.

In any case, to know what you need for your new profession, just look at job postings. Focus on the qualification. While, usually, all that is important is to have the “required”​ qualifications, since you are starting from scratch, so to speak, you should also pay attention to the “preferred”​ qualifications as well. And, here’s the hard part, keep in mind that the job descriptions of today may not be the job descriptions of tomorrow!

Fifth, regardless of whether it’s a new job or a new profession, do not be emotional. You must be rational. Prepare for the worse case scenario: Your boss finds out and replaces you. So you must have a minimum savings of at least six months to make sure you can pay your bills.

Sixth, when you resign, be nice about it. Not that it really matters what an employer/supervisor puts in your personnel file, but you want to make certain that your letter of resignation leaves the right impression. Thank your employer/supervisor for their support and mention some of the accomplishments you had. Make certain to include in the letter your contact information and a statement that they can reach out to you if they need any help. You should also write, and reference in the letter, a report on any outstanding projects, what needs to be done and how best to do it. That way, the record will be balanced.

Seventh, when you resign, if your employer makes a counteroffer, reject it. Your colleagues will be jealous that you quit and then got a raise/promotion/whatever and they, despite their loyalty, received nothing. You will not be the favorite person in the Lunch Room. The boss won’t trust you and you can forget about any promotions. Nothing good comes from accepting a counteroffer.

So be confident in your decision. Discuss it with people you respect. And, as I said, sleep on it. Your subconscious will tell you what to do!