If you’re wondering, “Can I quit my job before finding a new one?” the answer might surprise you.
Most people will tell you to never do this, but as a former recruiter and someone who has left past jobs with no alternative lined up (and ended up being okay), I think it makes sense in some cases.
So I’m going to share situations where you can leave your job without having another, and also some instances where it’s NOT a good idea.
Let’s get started…
Quitting your job without another one lined up comes with risks, but it’s sometimes a move that makes sense.
If you fit into any of the following scenarios, then it may be worth quitting your job without an offer from another company.
There’s more to life than just work. If you have the savings to do so and you want to pursue other interests without working for a bit, then this can be a good reason to quit your job without having another position.
Here’s an example:
Early in my career, I was stuck in a dead-end job that I disliked and where I felt unappreciated. At the same time, I had saved up quite a bit of money and wanted to travel.
So I handed in my resignation, booked a ticket to Asia, and traveled for a month before returning home to job hunt.
To my surprise, in my next job search, employers didn’t mind that I…
In fact, upon returning, one of the most common topics I was asked about in job interviews was my travels.
Hiring managers wanted to know what I had done, what I had seen, and why I had done it now.
They were genuinely interested because Asia is so far away and most people who work in the US don’t get the time to see that part of the world.
So be careful of following old-school advice like, “Never quit a job without another job lined up.” Because in the modern job market, you can get away with it if you explain it clearly and confidently to an employer.
Plus, I came back recharged and refreshed, and was better able to focus on finding a new job without the stress of my old position weighing me down.
This led to me landing my first job as a recruiter, which changed my life and career and led to everything I’ve done as a professional since.
This brings me to my next potential reason for quitting a job without another lined up.
If you’ve got the money and are feeling weighed down by your current job, you can resign to focus fully on your job search and dedicate yourself to finding the new job that will advance your career.
This is a move to make if you can handle it financially and if you know it’s time for a new job but need time to explore the market and find the right fit.
This isn’t a move to take if you are worried you’ll struggle to find a job, or if you’re unsure what type of job you want.
This is most often used and best used by job seekers who already have some experience and are confident that their skills are in high demand (by researching the market, talking to recruiters before making a decision, etc.)
They’re at a critical point in their career and need to accept the right position for their next move, not just any position. So they leave to focus on this big change and dedicate themselves to their interviews.
As a recruiter, I had a couple of experienced software engineers tell me that this was their exact reason for leaving a company without another job offer yet. They simply wanted to focus on their job search and find an amazing fit for their next role.
This didn’t phase me at all as a recruiter, and likely won’t phase employers in your interviews, either.
This was the exact reason that I left my last position as a recruiter without another job lined up.
If your ultimate goal is to be self-employed and you’ve got a plan to do it, then quitting your job and giving yourself a year or two to chase your dream is worth it.
Just make sure you have the finances to pay your living expenses, health insurance, and emergencies before quitting your job to do this.
It’s critical to have a plan and be sure you’re capable of sound money management before handing in your resignation and leaving to start a business because most startups don’t begin to make a profit until at least two or three years in.
Also, if you have enough free time and can manage it mentally, consider taking some initial steps to validate your business idea before you leave your current job.
Try to find one or two customers, for example, just to be sure your idea is reasonable and attractive.
For ideas of businesses you start in your free time without resigning from your job, read our list of the best side hustle ideas here.
Wanting a career change or more education is another good reason to quit your job without another one lined up.
For example, if you’ve wanted to learn software engineering but can’t find the time to attend a coding school while also working.
Or, if you feel you’ve hit a ceiling and need a Master’s degree to get farther in your career, yet you don’t want to juggle this with work, then you can consider leaving your job to obtain that degree.
However, if you’re simply struggling to advance your career or get the positions you want, be aware that more education often isn’t the solution.
I see a lot of people graduate with a Bachelor’s degree, struggle to find good, high-paying work, and then think that pouring more money into school and getting a Master’s degree is the solution.
It rarely is.
So I only recommend this if you’ve already had some success and experience in your career, know the exact type of role this new degree will lead to, and know that employers want it/require it.
In that case, you can quit without a job offer and go back to school if you’d rather not do it while working.
Along with the professional reasons above, it’s also okay to quit a job for personal reasons.
If you need to take care of your health (physical or mental), help a family member through health-related issues, or if you simply want to take a break in your career to remove some stress or refocus in your life, those are all valid reasons to take some time off.
Not every employer will understand these reasons as you return to the workforce, but many will, and you only need to find one job after coming back from your resignation.
It’s okay if some companies don’t “get it,” because some do.
It’s also okay to quit a job to get away from a hostile situation, bullying, or some other toxic work environment that’s harming your mental health. But if you can bear to stick it out and keep earning that paycheck while job hunting, that still may be better, depending on your financial situation.
Sometimes, just knowing you’re job hunting and working on getting out of a bad situation can ease some of the stress. But you should never stay in a toxic work situation long-term or accept it as being okay.
If you’ve become financially secure through investments, equity in companies you’ve worked for, real estate, or any other means, there’s no shame in quitting your job and living off of savings if you can afford to do so.
No rule says you need to wait until age 65 to retire.
Others might pressure you and tell you not to quit your job without another position to go to, but only you know your financial situation, so only you can decide this for yourself.
If you’re able to retire early or move to part-time or self-employed work before the traditional retirement age and you’ve considered the risks/rewards of this change, then go ahead and tell your boss that you want to quit.
If you don’t have a lot of savings or an alternate source of income to fall back on, be careful deciding whether to leave your company without a job elsewhere waiting for you.
It’s normal to want out of a position for many reasons… from not being challenged, working too many hours, having a terrible boss or low pay, mental stress, and more.
However, unless you’re confident that your skills are in high demand, resigning and then job searching while unemployed can be more challenging.
It’s also tougher mentally because there’s more pressure on you now.
For most people, I recommend keeping your current job until you sign a new job offer.
It’s just the simplest, safest way to manage your professional life.
This may not be the answer you want to hear, especially if you feel anxious and stressed and can’t stand your current company. But it’s the smart career move if you’ve got bills to pay, a family to take care of, etc.
Interviewing while you have a job will be more challenging in terms of time management, but far less challenging in terms of financial stress and pressure on you. You’ll perform better in your interviews and you’ll likely come across as more confident to employers.
It’s not risk-free to quit your job without another lined up, and it can make your next job search more challenging. However, it’s not necessarily the career-killer that some people make it out to be.
If you leave a job for a reason like personal growth, starting a business, or taking care of your health, then it’s a move that can improve your life in the long run. Just make sure you can handle it financially and plan ahead in terms of money and bills.
As mentioned earlier, I’ve left multiple jobs with nothing lined up… once to travel and escape a job and boss that I hated, and once to start an online business.
Both times ended up being successful.
The first time, I quickly found a company willing to hire me in my next job search. The second time, my online business (this blog that you’re reading now) took off and I never returned to the corporate world.
So my best advice is to analyze your financial situation and be careful with such an important decision, but trust your gut, too.
If you fit into the scenarios outlined above, then it can make sense to quit your job, take a break, and then accept your next position when you’re ready. Just plan, talk to your family, and understand the risks before making a final decision.
Biron Clark is a former executive recruiter who has worked individually with hundreds of job seekers, reviewed thousands of resumes and LinkedIn profiles, and recruited for top venture-backed startups and Fortune 500 companies. He has been advising job seekers since 2012 to think differently in their job search and land high-paying, competitive positions.
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