at what point in my job search should I resign my current job?

A reader writes:

I am a graduate student and have a part-time position where my masters is mostly covered and I receive an additional stipend. Yes, it’s pretty nice. However, I can’t stand the job! It is so repetitious and because of that is just boring. I am going into a higher education program, so I want a job that I will be able to relate to my classes and relate what I am learning in my classes to as well.

I have applied for a full-time advisor position, not at the same school where I am obtaining my masters. However, this is more of what I am passionate about in higher education. I also have friends who know the hiring manager and executive dean of the campus who have put in good words for me.

Do I wait until I hear something promising (interview, etc…) from the full-time position before I resign from my current position? Also, do you think connections in the workplace are an advantage for applicants, to at least get an interview?

Oh dear.

I know the answer to this question will seem obvious to regular readers, but I get asked versions of it so often that there’s clearly a lot of confusion about it out there.

You resign your current job only after you have received and accepted a job offer.

You do not resign when you get an interview, because you might not be hired. An interview is not a promise to hire you. It is a conversation, nothing more, and it’s a conversation that they are probably having with other candidates as well.

You don’t even resign once you get an offer, because you might not be able to come to terms with the employer (on salary, hours, start date, or other factors).

You resign only once you have an official offer that you’ve accepted. Preferably in writing.

As for your other question, yes, connections are a plus. Having people who can vouch for your work ethic, sanity, intelligence, and general fit is a good thing. Not a promise though — so very much not a promise.

Don’t do any resigning until you’ve received and accepted a formal job offer.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimberlee, Esq.

    Wait, am I reading this correctly, that the OP is considering resigning their current job *before* they’ve been called to an interview?

    Oh, man, I hope you get this job, OP, because you are going to have one hell of a time conducting a real job search after college!

    No matter how good your connections are, no matter how great the fit, it behooves you to remember that, especially for a position like that, you’re probably competing against HUNDREDS of other applicants, AND you’re competing against applicants who attended the school, who will have some leg up over you as a result. You might not even get called for an interview! You are soooo far from having this in the bag that resigning your current job should be far from your mind!

    It’s also worth looking into, if you haven’t already, if you have to work a certain amount of your time in your current job for them to cover your masters. It might well be that even if they’ve paid part, if you don’t stay on long enough, they might expect you to pay back what you’ve put in. Not saying that’s the case, but you want to be 100% sure that its not before you take the plunge.

    1. Anonymous

      Strongly seconding the idea to check into the requirements of your masters program. There is often a formal or informal requirement that you will not take external jobs while working on your degree, because the expectation is that part-time job+degree program=full-time busyness. This is particularly likely to be true if they are covering your tuition.

  2. Kimberlee, Esq.

    As for connections, it’s important that they can help and hurt you. If you apply and have a friend who works there vouch for you, you are essentailly attaching your brand to theirs. However that person is perceived in the office will now be associated with how your application is percieved.

    So, it’s often good… they got hired, after all. But there are people in every workplace who are disliked, or not trusted, or annoying, or too peppy, or whatever for any given person’s taste. If you’re friend happens to be that person, it could well work against you, even if you’re not like them at all. So don’t ask for someone to vouch for you unless you have some measure of confidence in their reputation. If you like them but personally find them annoying or flaky, that’s probably something their co-workers have noticed too!

  3. Anonymous

    Hey, I find it better that the OP asks an “obvious” question rather than not seek the advice at all. I think that’s why this blog exists.

    1. Josh S

      Or even worse–the OP fails to ask the ‘obvious’ question up front and then writes in with a different question:
      “Hi, I just had this interview at Company A. It went really well, and my friend gave me a good word. I’m pretty sure I have the job in the bag, so I just gave my resignation at Old Job. Is there anything I can do to make sure my manager at Old Job gives me a good referral when they do reference checks at Company A?”

      And you know that if things went that way, OP (or someone like him) would be writing in with that very question.

  4. Anonymous

    Do not resign when you apply. Do not resign when you get an interview. Do not resign when you receive a glowing response to your thank you note. Do not resign when they ask for references. Do not resign when your connections say things look good. Do not resign when they say we want you but now here are the terms. You resign with two weeks notice when you and the company agree to everything.

    1. Brett

      IN WRITING! Not to be obnoxious with the caps, but seriously until you have an offer letter and have _replied_ with your acceptance you do not have a job.

  5. Spelling Police

    AAM, you do know that your response has a typo, correct?

    “You resign only once you have an offical offer that you’ve accepted. ”

    I believe you meant official. ;)

    (Cannot believe I caught a typo, I feel honored).

      1. K.

        Ditto. It sort of reminds me of “You don’t go to the hardware store for butter,” but they mean different things.

  6. Monique C.

    Never, ever quit before you have a job offer in writing and you have given proper notice to your employer, especially if you hope to get a reference from your current job.

  7. fposte

    I dunno, OP; our tuition waivers are only good for the semesters that you’re actually working as an assistant, so you’d lose your waiver here by doing this, and I’d be pretty surprised if it wouldn’t lose you yours. And if you leave mid-term, it could leave a bad taste in people’s mouths that could affect things like future references.

    Not to say you shouldn’t find a different job, but your job is deeply intertwined with something else, and I think it’s important to make sure your decision about the job doesn’t muck up the “something else.”

  8. EveClemrick

    It sounds like the OP has a graduate assistantship, in which case they need to consult the agreement they signed to find out how/when to resign. Sometimes assistantships are engaging and relate to the field of study and sometimes they aren’t. That is the price you pay for having your tuition covered.

    Also, does the OP have the financial wherewithal to cover tuition for this coming year? And what kind of damage will be left behind at the current institution? Will you be able to get any good references if you just dump the assistantship this late – after all, classes are about ready to start and whatever department OP is working in is counting on her/him to show up. They may not be able to get a replacement. And depending on how close the work department is to OP’s degree program , the negativity may spill over into the program and the OP won’t be getting any reference letters from his/her adviser – very, very bad if OP wants to stay in academia.

  9. Blue Dog

    And, to answer your next question, when your current employer makes you a counter offer after you give notice, you NEVER accept it. Never, never, never accept the counter.

  10. valentinoBenito

    You must remember that all accepted job offers are contingent upon you passing a drug screen and background checks which are initiated by an employer once you accept their job offer. Everything you claim on your official signed job application will be verified. If you claim a college degree(s); work experience(s); base salary; etc.—all of that will be verified by the majority of employers – who also check with law enforcement, DMV and creditors (with some) as they deem necessary.

    Job offers are quickly withdrawn for false employment application claims and failed background checks. BTW some employers have been known to “discover” (missed initially) a falsification on a job application months…years later (re: college football coaches in the news who were fired for claiming college degrees) resulting in termination.

    I recommend that job candidates never give notice to your current employer until your drug screen & background checks come back clean and you are given an officially confirmed start date in writing – giving you a “green light” to give your employer notice of resignation which is typically two weeks.

    It does happen, unfortunately, that some job candidates will give notice upon receiving and accepting a job offer only to discover that the job offer is retracted based on failing a drug test and or a background check related issue.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Just one slight modification to this: Some job offers are contingent upon you passing a drug screen and background check. The majority of employers don’t use drug testing at all and do their background/reference check before extending an offer … but there are some who will do it after an offer is made and accepted. So this is something to be aware of as a possibility, but not to assume will happen across the board.

      1. Anony Mouse

        And if you know you will pass the drug screen, there is no reason not to accept. Several employers have sent me for the drug screen the first day, and I am happy to do it on their time instead of mine.

        1. anon-2

          Just ensure that the drug test is being adminstered professionally and not by some clown horsing around with a ten-buck “drug-examine your teens” kit.

      2. valentinoBenito

        The majority of major employers do require a passed drug test prior to establishing an official job offer and start date.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I don’t know how you’re defining “major employers,” but no, the majority of employers (of all sizes) do not require drug testing. And that’s a good thing, given that what employees do on the weekends, on their own time, in the privacy of their own homes is not an employer’s business.

      3. Mike C.

        My current job did this. They also said DO NOT GIVE NOTICE UNTIL THE RESULTS OF YOUR BACKGROUND CHECK HAVE COME THROUGH AND WE HAVE PASSED YOU several times. I’m not thrilled about the process, but they were very honest and upfront about the whole thing.

  11. Anonymous

    I second the people who say that you need to review the terms of your graduate studies. You don’t want to suddenly find yourself on the hook for the cost of your credits. Make sure you know the process to remove yourself from your studies. Make sure you know all your relevant enrollment dates.

    Also, since you say you’re in a masters program, I need to ask a separate and less-than-polite question. What exactly are you thinking?! Master’s programs usually only take 2 years. If you’re only 3 months into your program and you know it isn’t for you, that’s fine, go pursue your passion.

    But if you are not far from getting the degree, it’s paid for, and you’re just getting cold feet at the thought of going through some test or writing a dissertation, then I strongly encourage you to man (or woman) up. Master’s degrees are a significant credential boost for a rather modest time investment. There aren’t a lot of fields where it’s worthwhile to ditch a master’s degree to start work – make sure you’ve really considered the costs and benefits and talked to people in your field about this. “This is boring” is not a good excuse to ditch a degree program, as I assure you that the “real world” will be boring as well.

      1. EM

        As I mentioned in my post below, I think the current job is tied to the funding for her masters (You work a potentially crappy lab or teaching job and we cover your tuition in exchange- they’re usually called assistantships). Maybe she thinks she’ll still have to work it after she graduates??? It is generally understood that when one graduates, they no longer work whatever job they had for their assistantship.

  12. EM

    “I am a graduate student and have a part-time position where my masters is mostly covered and I receive an additional stipend. ”

    I’m a bit confused by this. It sounds like getting funding for your masters is conditional on working the (crappy) part-time job. I would find that out for starters before you look for other jobs. How far along are you in your degree? If you’re going into your second year, why not just tough it out for one more year? Just based on what is written here, it sounds like you don’t understand how the system works in academia. (Apologies if I’m misinterpreting things.)

    I have a masters degree that was fully paid for by a departmental assistantship. In exchange for getting my tuition covered and a small stipend, I taught a couple of lab sections each semester. If I had resigned my position teaching the lab sections saying I had another opportunity at another university where I hoped to pursue another degree (Ph.D., I assume in your case), I would have been on the hook for $50,000 a semester, and they may have removed me from the program.

    Honestly, coming from an academic background, this situation really doesn’t make much sense. Can you clarify if the part-time job is part of your degree funding, or is it just an on-campus job you took?

    1. EngineerGirl

      I always understood it as “we’ll waive part of your tuition if you will do this awful job that none of us wants to do.” I mean, that is what an asistantship is. I’m kind of concerned that the OP just doesn’t get it. It isn’t a scholarship (which has its own rules) it is a tuition waiver. They aren’t going to give it to you for free.

      1. fposte

        I will say that our assistantships are pretty cool jobs and they actually provide good professional preparation, but other than that, I agree with you.

    2. Laura L

      Yes, this is how I interpreted the letter as well. I agree, it doesn’t make much sense.

      I had a relatively boring internship during grad school, but it paid for part of my tuition so I stuck it out. It worked out, too, because it’s a major reason I got my current job.

  13. Rana

    Speaking as a former academic and veteran of grad school, OP, I think you’re expecting more from your job than is perhaps reasonable. The sort of part-time job you’re describing is generally considered a form of financial assistance, not career training, and as such, yeah, they can often be pretty dull. Just about every job I did – or any of my colleagues did – as part of our degree program’s financial support had its “repetitious” and “boring” moments (grading 80 near-identical student essays, oog), and – I have to be honest with you here – even if you go into higher education, you will *still* have boring and repetitive parts to your job.

    I would be hesitant to hire someone who doesn’t understand this, let alone for a position where the job is advising students. In fact, you’re coming across as a bit entitled (even if that is not your intent). I can tell you that this is a large turn-off for a lot of folks in higher ed, who, after all, performed similarly boring work in the course of getting *their* degrees.

    I’m not saying that you’re wrong to long for more interesting work, but rather that you’re jumping the gun a bit. Put in your dues, find ways to get so efficient at your job that you can carve out a bit of free time for your studies, and be grateful that you’re not doing a highly stressful and time-consuming job that makes it hard for you to do your course work. When you’ve finished your program, you’ll be a better candidate for the more rewarding jobs.

  14. Eggs and bacon

    The other thing about assistanships (and in more general terms working in academia while a student) is that usually those places understand and are lenient and flexible about giving (unpaid) time off during mid-terms and exams and other important school deadlines for the student. Outside academia is usually not so flexible, which from my experience both as a student and as someone who hires students is a really nice perk (granted we pay very little).

  15. Another Job Seeker

    I have a couple of points you may wish to consider. If you leave your job now, how will the department be impacted? A significant portion of the requirements associated with completing a Master’s Degree are subjective in nature. There are essays, a thesis, and a thesis defense. If you leave your job now, will people (your advisor, your committee and others tasked with making subjective decisions about you) be impacted negatively? Might they retaliate in the future by making it difficult for you to graduate (not approving your thesis, unfairly marking you down on your thesis, etc)?

    My other point is this – maybe you actually would benefit from having a boring, repetitive job for now. Your “job” right now is to learn all you can from your master’s program. That often means a lot of reading, teaching yourself quite a bit of new material, working in study groups (some good groups, some bad groups) and demonstrating your knowledge of the material. With all of that going on, it’s probably good to have a job that does not require a lot of thought (or any overtime). You will do plenty of thinking – and work – as you complete your degree. You may want to consider all of the responses to this post – and ask yourself if leaving your current position is a wise choice.

    Once you graduate, you definitely do not want a boring, repetitive job. My response above was about your job while you are in school.

  16. AA

    Absolutely wait. Few months ago I interviewed for a position in higher education that a friend of mine had recommended (he works as a department director there). I had three rounds of interviews and was asked to provide my references but that was the last I heard from them. When I followed up with them I was told that they decided to reopen the interviewing process (they never contacted my references). Knowing people helps but doesn’t guarantee you the job. Hope you get the job!

  17. This is your life.

    I have a graduate assistantship tied to my master’s degree. I teach freshman composition. We can trade, OP.

    It sounds like the OP really doesn’t have any clue about what having a graduate assistantship is about. You’re free labor for the university. Hello!

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