When you’re stuck in a job you hate, doing work you don’t care about for a boss you can’t stand, but can’t find a new job that’s a good fit for you, it’s easy to feel completely trapped – after all, society says that leaving a job without having a new one lined up is a short-sighted move that’s likely to backfire. But when your unhappiness at work is so high that it’s affecting other areas of your life, is it worth sacrificing your self-esteem and mental health for that pay cheque? Career coach and founder of coaching practice CareerTree Sarah Archer believes that sometimes you have to leave a job to move forward with your life. Here, she outlines five scenarios in which it really is OK to quit your job without a new job offer.

You’re so stressed you can’t think straight

Is the pressure from your job and your workload so big that you feel like you don’t have the time or the headspace to make a choice about what to do next? Maybe you feel like you can’t even work out if it’s your job that’s making you unhappy or the stress that you’re carrying around. If this sounds familiar, it’s worth bearing in mind that staying in your current role is placing you at risk of burnout or being permanently stuck in that job because you’ll never have the energy to look for something else, let alone apply for it.

Action plan:

Avoid leaving the role without some sort of plan in hand. While you don’t have to have a new job lined up, make sure you have enough money saved up to cover your expenses for the next three to six months or reduce your outgoings as much as possible to reduce the financial strain you may feel between leaving your job and finding a new one.

Treat the time off as a career break and use it as an opportunity to think and recharge – maybe book a retreat. It’s important to reflect on what you really want from your career and how to avoid taking on a new job that could lead you back to the level of stress you’re currently experiencing.

You seriously hate your job and/or your boss

A 2015 study found that almost 50 percent of UK working professionals are unhappy in their jobs, so if this is you, you’re not alone. But just because it’s a common occurrence does not mean that it’s a situation you must always tolerate. When work makes you really unhappy, it can affect both your confidence and self-belief, especially if your boss is unsupportive. If you can honestly say that you’ve tried everything to make your current job or career work for you – from making more of an effort at work, to building relationships and developing new skills – but deep down you still feel like you’re in the wrong career or job, leaving may be the best thing for you.

Searching for a job while you’re carrying strong feelings of negativity about your career can spill out into any job applications you’re making, decreasing your chance of success. However, leaving your current position may allow you to channel all of the energy you’re wasting on hating your job into finding something new.

Action plan:

Before you go, make sure you secure strong referees from your current company, start letting recruiters know you’re actively looking for a job, update your LinkedIn profile accordingly and start networking.

prepare your finances before leaving a job
Got a healthy amount of money saved up and a plan for making more soon? Then quitting a bad job may not be a terrible idea

You’ve got a financial reserve and an idea

A good salary can become a golden cage, and in fact, it’s this fear of losing a steady income that often stops people from leaving a job they’re not happy in. However, if you’ve got enough money to cover your living expenses for the next three to six months, you already have the financial freedom you need to make your career change a reality.

Action plan:

Set yourself a deadline for when you’ll start your next role, keep your contacts and networks warm, and design a job search plan. Having a financial backup means that all of your focus can go into making your new direction a reality, rather than worrying about how to cover your bills for the next month.

Your job makes you ill

If your physical or mental health is being affected by the strain of your job, it’s important to do something to change your situation.  Your health is too important to risk and if you feel that your current company isn’t willing to make the changes needed to make your job less detrimental to your health, then you may have no option but to leave before it becomes worse.

Action plan:

If you feel too ill to go into the office, see your GP and take some sick leave. It’s important to keep your morale high, so even though leaving due to ill health was not part of your career plan, you should still try to focus on what you did well in the job and identify what support you need from your next role to avoid a recurrence of events. Then update your CV and plan out your job search.

You’ve got a side hustle that’s ready to grow

So, you’ve been spending your evening and weekends on your passion project. Months or years have passed, and it’s growing well. Congratulations! If your full-time job now feels like it’s getting in the way of your side hustle’s growth, it could be time to leave your current job and fly solo.

Action plan:

Make sure you’ve got a robust business plan that indicates that you’re being realistic about how much income and growth you can expect from your side project. If you’re likely to need additional money to support your side hustle, consider doing a mix of freelance or consulting work while growing your business. This could take some of the financial pressure off, while giving you the flexibility you need to get your project off the ground.

These are just five scenarios in which you shouldn’t feel bad about leaving your job without having a new one lined up; however, there are many many more. Quitting your job is a very personal decision – one that’s influenced by your values, temperament, financial situation, past experiences, etc – which means that there is no exhaustive list of when it’s OK to quit a job. The best way to determine what to do about a job that’s keeping you stuck is to listen to your gut. If you really feel like you can’t carry on in your current job or career, don’t hang around hoping things will get better on their own… they probably won’t. Instead, spend your energy on making a plan for what you’re going to do once you’ve resigned so you’re clear about how to secure a new role, make your career change a reality, and how to support yourself financially and emotionally once you’ve left.


Sarah Archer

Sarah Archer

Sarah Archer is a qualified career coach (MSc) with 20 years of HR experience. She is the founder of coaching practice CareerTree. Specialising in career change and confidence building, she is passionate about helping women find work they love. She writes for the Guardian, Total Jobs and Psychologies.co.uk.

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