A reader writes:
Is it over ok to just quit your job but without another job lined up because your current job is seriously awful? Or is it ever okay to quit a job over a terrible commute? I’d give notice, but are these red flags for future employers that you will not be able to overcome?
As someone who’s currently in graduate school, I’m wondering if I can “get away” with quitting (in this economy) without another job or if I would find myself jobless forever.
Well, there are two issues you want to consider here: how long it will take you to find another job, and whether it’s going to be a red flag for employers in the future.
In general, I strongly urge people not to quit a job without another one lined up, because finding another one can take a long time — a lot longer than people expect it to. In this job market, it’s not that unusual for a job search to take a year or more. But that’s not the only problem; there’s also this: Even if your finances allow you to go without work for that long, simply being unemployed — especially for that amount of time — may make it harder to find your next job, because employers tend to prefer to hire people who are already employed.
As for whether it’s going to be a red flag for employers in the future, it probably will be for some. Rightly or wrongly, employers tend to assume that people don’t quit jobs without another lined up unless (a) they were about to be fired, (b) they actually were fired and are just saying that they quit, or (c) they’re potentially someone who walks when things are frustrating, which is worrisome because of course every job will be have frustrations at one point or another.
Now, of course hiring managers do know in theory that some jobs (or bosses) truly are so terrible that a reasonable person might quit with nothing else lined up. But it can be hard to tell from the outside if a situation truly rose to that level, or whether the person’s bar for frustration is low. Hence the red flag.
To be clear, it’s not a deal-breaker by any means — but it’s going to raise questions for some employers, and potentially make your job search harder.
That all said, because you’re in grad school, you might simply be able to say that you wanted to focus more on school for X period of time. (Of course, that only works if you’re not job-searching immediately after quitting.)
Overall, though, as long as you’re not being harassed or abused or asked to do anything illegal, unethical, or unsafe, you’re far better off job-searching while you’re still employed.