Don’t Quit Your Job! Yet!


Quitting is permanently and voluntarily leaving a job, not something to do casually.

Understand that your employer may terminate you (or subject you to a very unpleasant conversation) if they know — or even suspect — that you are job hunting.

Unless you have another job lined up (written job offer in hand that you have officially accepted), quitting is not usually good career or financial move.

Exceptions exist, of course. If continuing to do your current job involves you in potentially illegal activity or if you feel your life, health, or safety are at risk, then quitting may be your only – and your best – option.

Typically quitting your existing job before landing a new one is not a smart career move.

Why Quitting Is a VERY Bad Idea

While searching for a job and scheduling interviews when you are employed can be challenging, quitting usually makes succeeding in your job search much more difficult.

Quitting before you have accepted a new job makes is a mistake for two primary reasons:

  1.   Recruiters and employers prefer “passive” (a.k.a. “employed”) job seekers.  

    NOT logical, but definitely reality!

    Many recruiters and employers believe that the world of job candidates is divided into 2 parts:

    • People looking for new jobs, also known as “active job seekers.” Why is this person unemployed? May not be a good employee.
    • Happily employed people who are not actively looking for new jobs, also known as “passive job seekers.” They must be good employee — someone is paying them to work now!

    To employers, the most desirable potential employees are those passive job seekers who are not looking for jobs.[LinkedIn is the perfect way to be visible to potential employers without obviously looking for a job.]

    The passive job seekers are happily employed because they are well-paid, successful people. This seems very similar to the “playing hard to get” dating strategy.

    This assumption is not logical or proven. Very often the unemployed candidates are very well-qualified, but human nature makes this negative assumption regardless of the candidate or the economy.

    Consequently, if you quit your job, you automatically become the less desirable active job seeker. Note that trying to hide your employment status by not adding an end date to your former job can backfire when references are checked.

    Following this somewhat twisted logic, if you are still employed, however tenuously and unhappily, the fact that you are currently employed makes you more interesting to recruiters and employers than you would be if you were not employed.

  2.   If you quit, you likely forfeit your rights to receive unemployment compensation in the U.S.A.  

    If you do quit, DO try to register for unemployment, though, just in case your employer has been tagged as unfair or there are mitigating circumstances.

So, if you can avoid it, don’t quit one job before you find the replacement.

Employed? Implement a “Stealth Job Hunt”

People do lose their jobs when their employers discovers that they are job hunting — not 100% of the time, to be sure, but often enough to make searching from home and being careful at work a very wise strategy.

These days LinkedIn makes it much easier to conduct a stealth job search, so be sure to have a 100% complete LinkedIn profile.

Even though employers prefer job seekers who are currently employed, most of them view one of their own employees who is job hunting as “disloyal” or a “risk” to the organization. They fear that customer lists or product secrets or something critical will be stolen by the departing employee and given to the new employer, possibly a competitor.

One of your current employer’s competitors could be your next employer. But, proceed cautiously when contacting and interviewing with these potential employers. It is possible that they might be interested in you only for information they could get from you about your current employer – a big risk for you.

[MORE: 5 Landmines to Avoid When Interviewing at Competitors.]

See Job-Hunt’s Guide to a Stealth Job Search for suggestions on how to keep your job search a secret from your current employer.

Oops! What If You Have Already Quit Your Job?

Time to move on. You will get a new job, and the best way — by far — is to network your way to that next job. Only 17% of jobs are filled through job boards, so use them for research (which employers are hiring for the job you want and what do they call it?)

Networking beats resume distribution, even online, much more than half the time. Develop your list of target employers, find members of your network who work there (or worked there in the past), and reach out to them.

The shortest path to a new job is typically by being referred for the job by a current employee. Thirty percent of referred job candidates are hired! Read How to Make an Employee Referral Work for You for details in getting an employee referral.

See Job-Hunt’s Guide to Job-Search Networking section for more information about networking.

The Bottom Line on Quitting Your Job

NEVER quit a job based on a verbal offer. Very risky! Get the new job offer in writing. First! [And be sure the written offer matches the one you agreed to before you sign.]

When you are ready to leave your job, see How to Quit Your Job Gracefully, and follow each important step.

More About Successful Stealth Job Search:

Susan P. JoyceAbout the author…

Online job search expert Susan P. Joyce has been observing the online job search world and teaching online job search skills since 1995. A veteran of the United States Marine Corps and a recent Visiting Scholar at the MIT Sloan School of Management, Susan is a two-time layoff “graduate” who has worked in human resources at Harvard University and in a compensation consulting firm. Since 1998, Susan has been editor and publisher of Follow Susan on Twitter at @jobhuntorg and on Facebook, LinkedIn.
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