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Quitting to Seek a New Job

Dear Career Tips (Quitting to Seek a New Job)

From Career Tips, 2016 Volume 10, October 2016

After I joined my current company, I learned that this team has the highest turnover rate. Now I don't want to stay in this team either. Sometimes I really want to quit my job right away. I have been told that it will be harder to find a job if you don't have a job. So I have two questions:

  • How much will it affect my search if I don't have a job?
  • If I quit before I find a job, and have an interview, when they ask me why I quit, how should I answer?


Dear Want To Quit:


It's not necessarily true that it's harder to find a job when you don't have one.


On the one hand, you don't have to explain why you aren't working. And there may be a few people out there who assume there's something wrong if you're not working. Plus, you have income coming in.


That said, I've not found lack of employment to hold back a search, unless you let it:

  • The vast majority of my clients weren't working when they were looking, and once we worked on their messaging and confidence, they were able to impress hiring managers and land. And several of these were people who had been searching for 1-2 years when we started working together.
  • When you aren't working, you have the entire business day to be meeting with people 1-on-1, which is a huge advantage. That is prime networking and interview time.
  • When you are working, it can be very challenging to make the time (when working people are available) to do that. Even trying to make the calls to set up the few meetings you are available for can be difficult.
  • If you are in a toxic environment, that can impact your own psychology in your search, holding you back.


I'm not advocating that you up and quit, just that you carefully weigh the pros and cons without operating under an (in my view, false) assumption that looking while unemployed is a major disadvantage.


As to what you would say if you do quit, that depends on the situation there, how you left things at your employer, and what they might say in any reference check. The key is that your message needs to be forward-looking and confident, focused on what you will do for your next employer, rather than spending a lot of time and energy explaining the past. And you don't want to be seen as criticizing your last employer.


Often this is an area where I end up doing a fair amount of role play with my clients, letting them get really comfortable with how their answers come across when the questions come up in different ways and at unexpected times.


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