Career Transition

10 Questions to Ask Before You Quit


A couple of friends of mine recently quit their jobs. The circumstances in each case were different—different industries, different levels—but the final straw was the same: an unappreciative and difficult boss.

Those few cases are hardly unusual. It is said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers, and that’s often true. My friends’ bosses were so bad that they split before they even had new jobs lined up.

Most of us can’t do that. But the majority of Americans aren’t happy at work, and many fantasize about storming into their manager’s office and saying “I quit,”–or something less G-rated.

That’s never a good idea, of course. Instead of imagining that scenario, spend some time planning a more professional exit. It may lack the drama of your imagined quitting scene, but ultimately it will be more satisfying to leave your job with your head held high. Quitting a job might feel good in the moment, but it can actually be emotionally draining, and have a long-tail impact on your career. You don’t want to burn bridges. And you don’t want to get burned.

Creating an exit strategy can help you make the transition as smoothly as possible. But even before you do that, you need to be absolutely sure that leaving your job is the right choice right now.

Are you exiting because this job is the problem, or would any job be a problem? If you are in a bad frame of mind for reasons from your personal life to your financial life, you might have difficulties wherever you go. You’ll just lug your baggage to the next gig. For some people, the dissatisfaction they feel about a job comes from not being on the right career path for them or from denying what they really wish they were doing. If you are a lawyer when you wanted to be a musician or a writer, for example, you might be dragging around some negativity that you will bring to any law firm.

Take some time to really dig into the reasons you are leaving. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before you submit your resignation.

  • Is my job the biggest problem in my life right now, or are other things going on in my personal life that might be affecting my attitude?
  • What were the reasons I accepted this job in the first place? Are any of them still valid?
  • If I make a list the positives and the negatives about this job, are there more positives than negatives?
  • Have I tried to get a promotion, a transfer, or change my job in another way that would improve things?
  • If commuting or long hours are a problem, have I asked for flexible hours or a part-time arrangement?
  • Have I sat with my boss and made a plan for addressing aspects of the job that bother me?
  • Have I fallen into the habit of complaining to my colleagues, and therefore making the problem worse?
  • Is there anything left to learn at this job?
  • Will leaving now potentially have a negative impact on my career?
  • Can I afford to quit without another job?

If you are still sure you want to go, then amp up your networking, start your job search, and when you do exit, make it a graceful one. You can do your happy dance once you get home.

About the Author

Susan Price has been writing about careers, entrepreneurs and personal finance for more than a decade. She’s been an editor at BusinessWeek, Money, and, among others.