A Before-You-Quit-Your-Job Checklist.
My father told me not to quit my job until I had another one lined up. And by lined up, he meant offer made, accepted, and signed on the dotted line. And that’s great advice. Except when the real world has other ideas for you. So there I was, ready to take a break from my job, and I didn’t want to have to keep making up excuses to be missing work so I could go on interviews. I had a dentist appointment. The super had to get into my apartment to fix a leaky pipe. My dog needed to go to the vet… How many sore throats can one person have?
So even though there was no offer, no acceptance, and no ink on the dotted line, I wanted to take the plunge. And I did. However (and this is a BIG however). . . there are always unexpected things that can pop up, and it’s easy to forget the benefits and perks that your employer provides for you. So before you have that exit interview and go out drinking with your office mates to celebrate your new freedom, here’s a checklist of things to think about:
- Do you have health-care coverage? In the ideal world, you shouldn’t even have one day without coverage between leaving your job and starting with new insurance.
- COBRA (continuing group health benefits—that you pay for monthly—for a limited amount of time) is not the only option. There are other coverage alternatives, such as Obamacare/Affordable Healthcare Act, other private insurance plans, Medicaid, medical exchanges, affinity groups (such as freelance service collectives that pool together to offer group rates), etc.
- Were you laid off or did you quit? What were the circumstances of your departure?
- Depending on the state you worked in, this may change the dynamic in terms of eligibility for unemployment insurance. Check your state law before going crazy panda and breaking computer screens. Sometimes the temporary pain of your job outweighs the long-term consequences of quitting.
- Can you cover your monthly necessities without a regular paycheck? If so, how long can you afford to be without a salary? Think about the true costs of these items and anything else that may be unique to your personal financial situation:
- Rent/Mortgage: You have to keep that roof over your head.
- Health Insurance: It’s vitally important. Don’t risk your health and your wallet by going without.
- Cell Phone: Non-negotiable…you need one to find a new job.
- Internet: You’re not faxing in your resume, and jobs boards don’t live on paper.
- Utilities: You have to keep those lights on, have a shower before that interview, etc.
- Food: You will have more time to cook and go shopping, which is good, but don’t think you’re all-of-a-sudden going to become a frugalista if you weren’t one before…You’re not going to want to be eating Ramen noodles 24/7, so plan around that.
- Gym: If you live on endorphins to keep you in a good place, either find a cheaper gym or run/walk on the street and ditch the gym altogether. You can get just as much of a workout running on the pavement for free than you can on that treadmill with the built-in TV screen (although that’s far more comfortable in winter).
- Car? I live in NYC, so this one is N/A for me. But if you need a car to get around or to get to those interviews, make sure you include your car payments, car insurance, gas, and parking in your new salary-less budget.
- Homeowner’s or renter’s insurance? Don’t let those lapse.
- Run the numbers and see if you can afford to quit without another job lined up yet. Ask yourself for how many months you can afford to be unemployed. If you don’t have at least 6-9+ months of expenses in savings, don’t quit yet. Even if you have multiple offers looming. Talk is cheap. Get that offer in writing first. And 6-9+ months is just an estimate. Know your industry, your city, and your marketability. If it is likely to take longer to get that next great job, then you’ll need more money in savings first. Be honest with yourself about this. It’s too important to get it wrong.
- Factor in how you’ll feel about possibly depleting all your savings. Being laid off is beyond your control, but quitting is not (unless your working conditions are that bad—which is a whole other story).
- Keep in mind your reputational risk. You’ll probably need your former employer as a reference, so leave on good terms and don’t burn bridges. I maintain a scorched-earth policy in my personal relationships—just don’t do that with your job. You’ll need to make money to live on, and you don’t need a scarlet letter.
- Final Advice:
- Don’t get trapped in something you hate.
- You may hate living on a shoe-string budget too, so figure that into the bigger picture. Can you stay employed and search for a new position at the same time? See if you can make that work. If not, at least know what you’d be getting yourself into financially if you quit without a new job lined up. Be prepared so that there are no surprises.
- Think about talking with your boss or other people in the company. They may find a better fit for you in another department or job function. If you like the new spot, then it’s a win/win. If not, you’ve bought more time for your job hunt.
- Think about whether the problem is the job or the people. If it’s the job, then you’ll need to do more soul-searching to figure out your next move.
- The workforce today is very mobile. People switch jobs often for a multitude of reasons. Everyone’s path is different, and there’s not one right way to do it. Don’t make decisions just to look good on your resume. Lots of very successful people have nontraditional resumes. Don’t live by other people’s expectations of what you should be doing, where you should be doing it, or how long you should be here or there. You’re the one who has to get up every morning and go to work. Your happiness counts or what’s the point? So figure out those dollars and cents, follow the path that keeps you learning, growing, and engaged in your work, and it will work out.