When and How to Quit

Yesterday’s Washington Post featured an advice article on the appropriate reasons to quit a job and the associated benefits of doing so.


For many people, however, one vitally important facet of the decision to quit was overlooked – namely the need for a narrative that explains the reasons for quitting to a future potential employer.


Broadly speaking there are two narrative themes that cover most circumstances: career-related and life-related.


Examples of career-related narratives include seeking new challenges/opportunities for growth; learning new skills/acquiring additional education or training; exiting an organization that has been acquired by another entity with a resulting major culture change, and switching career paths.


Life-related narratives could deal with such themes as geographic relocation triggered by a spouse’s reassignment, changing family obligations (e.g. new child or caring for aging parents), or health issues (though these need to be handled gingerly).


The old rule of thumb was “Don’t quit your job until you have another one lined up,” and relatedly “It’s much easier to find and land a job when you have one than when you don’t.” These rules are such less true today than they used to be, as workforce mobility has increased dramatically in the 21st century.

But while quitting a job may be a more acceptable and less risky option than it used to be, it’s essential to do so with an eye not just on present circumstances but on future ones as well, so be smart about the process and have a good story to tell your next employer.