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'Don't quit your job until you have a new one' is common career advice, but is this actually good advice?

What is the rationale for it?

Is there any evidence that people who quit their job before having a new one lined up have trouble finding a new job?

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When you leave a job before finding another, you risk spending more time on the sidelines than you originally bargained for.

For most jobs worth having, you must go through an interview process. Even if you acquire a verbal job offer within a day, it typically takes the HR department the balance of a week to finalize your paperwork. All in all, that amounts to at least an additional week on the sidelines (and therefore an additional week of lost income) for you if you're not working.

Furthermore, being employed improves your bargaining position when you acquire a job offer because you have an alternative (BATNA): if you're not satisfied with the job offer, you can retain your current job. On the other hand, if you're unemployed, you're more desperate, and therefore more willing to take a suboptimal offer because you need to take "something".


Overall, employed candidates are generally more desirable than unemployed candidates for two reasons:

  1. Retaining a job implies commitment and a work ethic. Employers do not want to hire candidates who will flee or quit when things become difficult.
  2. Being employed implies competence. Although one could argue that being employed doesn't actually attest to a candidate's competence, an unemployed candidate often must supply legitimate reasons for his/her resume gap, whereas an employed candidate does not.

People typically acquire and retain jobs for at least one of the following reasons:

  1. They need to earn an income.
  2. They want/need to stay busy.
  3. They want to achieve professional/career goals.

In most cases, sitting on the sidelines without a job will impair your ability to achieve these goals.

4

You asked two questions. So first:

Is there any evidence that people who quit their job before having a new one lined up have trouble finding a new job?

I have not seen any clear evidence that this is the case. I would like to see it if it is available.

The second question:

What is the rationale for 'Don't quit your job until you have a new one'?

Pros:

  1. In any negotiation, including finding a new job, you get the best terms when you are not forced to "sell" what you have. If you are employed, you pick if the new terms are better or you can keep what you have. There can be a disadvantage negotiating with a new employer when you don't already have a "better offer" - a different job offer or your current employment. Unemployment is usually not a better offer.

  2. If you quit you likely will lose the opportunity for your current job or employer to change something that would make your current employment more suitable for you or to negotiate with your current employer for a better job.

  3. It may be harder to secure your next position than you anticipate. So you may find yourself spending more time/money than you expect after quitting, which can lead to financial problems and/or having to explain a gap in employment that you would not otherwise have.

  4. Seeking a job while unemployed can lead to desperation, wherein you compromise what you want in a job/employer.

  5. Seeking a new job while collecting a paycheck can be less stressful than the alternative in general, leading to a better new job than if you were stressed about being unemployed.

Cons:

  1. Without a job, you also may find a new job faster because you can focus more effort on finding the right job. You can schedule interviews, meetings and network without restriction.

  2. If your current job is a really bad fit, then you can end up feeling desperate to "escape" leading to a selecting a new job that will satisfy you. After all, the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, but you may have clouded judgement while dealing with a very bad employer/job.

  3. While employed and seeking new employment you are not fully dedicated to your current job. Your job performance may deteriorate, you may lose future references, your performance does not represent your full potential, you may even get demoted or even be fired due to the distraction of seeking new employment.

  4. Employers are usually aware of dissatisfaction, lack of dedication or lack of professional progression. This will likely make their efforts to support you diminish, making things even worse in your current job.

  5. You may find after leaving your current job, you enhance your ability to seek a job you will truly enjoy or have always wanted to do. The distraction of your daily tasks and assignments for which you currently get paid to do can make similar jobs more enticing than if you leave and come to realize just how bad things were after having time to reflect.

Recruiters exist because seeking and securing a new job can be a full-time effort by itself. So the advice 'Don't quit your job until you have a new one' is not always applicable, but I think these points highlight why that is favored.

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If you quit now, then you'll have no income for a while. I don't think that's something you like to happen even if you can afford a few months.

Even if you're able to survive without income for a while, you'll have to answer that gap to your prospective employers. You can get away with it if you're a mother, as I've been told.

In one of my previous jobs, I did seek other positions before I decided to quit, but I quit before I found out I did not get any of them. So, my advice to you, first hand, is don't quit until that job you applied for already took you in. Once you find out you got it, then put in your 2-weeks notice.

So, I was lucky enough that an acquaintance was very desperate since one of their office workers suddenly quit. They knew of my skills and that my current job just didn't work out for me, so they were just so kind enough to take me in and give me training for something totally outside my field of study. I still advise you not to quit, because there is no guarantee that even an associate of yours will be desperate to fill a position at the same time you're thinking of quitting.

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