I did an interview with a writer from Yahoo! last week about knowing when was the best time for someone to quit their job. You can read that article over on Yahoo! Finance. I found this whole situation to be synchronistic, because the job I left before coming to Workopolis was as the front page editor of Yahoo! Canada.

Anyway, the piece of advice that I offered was that the best time to quit your job is after you’re already lined up your next one.

Sometimes you really do have to leave your job. If you’re not making enough money to survive, your company is doomed, or your job is making you so miserable that you dread getting out of bed in the morning, it’s time to move on. But it’s safer and smarter to find a new job before quitting your current one.

    You’ll have a better chance being hired while you’re working. Some employers view candidates with jobs as being more valuable than unemployed job seekers. There is always the chance that unemployed candidates are out of work through some failing in their skills, work-ethic, or personality. (Now this is not a fair assumption, and it’s usually not the case, especially in a tight job market like this one, but it is something that crosses the minds of some hiring managers.)

    Also employers prefer candidates who have a passion to work for them specifically. Candidates who are interested in just that role at their company – and this is their motivation. Employers may assume that unemployed candidates just really need a job and are motivated to take any gig they can land. This might make them seem like less valuable employees.

    While you’re currently employed, someone out there is already willing to pay you for what you do. It’s an unspoken recommendation from one employer to another. (Rather like that old saying about men being more attractive to women when they’re already in a relationship. It’s a validation that someone can put up with you. If you’re single, there’s always the chance that it’s because you’re a creep.)

    Also, you’ll be in a position to make a smarter move. If you’re currently in a job that you don’t like, you’ll be motivated to seek out new opportunities, but you’ll also still have a paycheque coming in. Once you’ve quit your job, the financial pressures can force you to take anything that comes along, rather than making a strategic move.

    There’s no point in leaving one dead-end situation for another. So hanging on to the job that you want to leave long enough to replace it gives you the luxury of choice. It also puts you in a better negotiating position with future employers. They know it can cost more to woo a currently employed worker away from another company than they might have to offer someone who was unemployed.

    Just don’t fall into the trap. Looking for jobs is sometimes a drag. Not hearing back from applications, or being turned down after interviews can take their toll on your confidence. The trap is to give up and to stay in the unhealthy or unhappy situation too long just because of the safety of that paycheque.

I think I have told this story before, but I am often reminded of a guy I worked with while I was in university. It was in Quebec’s Eastern Townships, and work was scarce. I took a full-time job on an assembly line in a glove factory overnight (while attending classes by day.) This was incredibly dull, routine, monotonous work. The guy on the line next to me could see that I was a little dismayed at the boredom of these eight hour shifts. To offer some encouragement, he said, “Don’t worry. I’ve been here twelve years, and they pass by fast.”

I said, “But that’s your life that’s passing fast.”

That’s the trap. Just getting through the long dull work shifts unfulfilled, while watching the years fly by.

Your career is too important to your quality of life to choose passivity over passion. So if you’re not in a job that you can feel proud of, where you can grow and expand your skills, and be appreciated for your contributions, it’s time to start looking.

Just hang on to your current position while you do.

See also:

Warning signs that you’re about to lose your job
What to do if you lose your job
Signs that the job is going to suck worse than being unemployed

Peter Harris

Peter Harris on Twitter