Frustrated female office worker in a cubicle pulls her hairWith some jobs, you just know. You know that you will never receive the respect, autonomy, resources, or sense of fulfillment that you need in order to become a productive member of the team. And once you know, it is all-too-easy to focus on the fact that your current job is just a temporary stop in your career – and you simply do not want to waste another moment of your time or energy.

That’s when you start to feel resentful: Why am I here? Where should I go next? And most importantly, when can I jump ship?

Before you quit with a dramatic Jerry Maguire-like speech, or stomp into your boss’s office to render your two-weeks’ notice, take a moment to assess your options. Take a breath. Think about how to proceed in a way that will make your day-to-day better, and not worse.

“I’m thinking seriously about quitting my job.”

If you know that your current job is not the right fit for you, but you’re not sure whether you are ready to leave, there are two things that you must do before you take any action:

1. Don’t quit right away. This is especially true if you don’t have another source of steady, reliable income – not including an emergency fund. Today, even qualified and seasoned professionals may remain unemployed for as long as one year while seeking a new position. If you quit your job and run out of savings, you’ll be forced to take another mediocre job that may make you feel even more discouraged than your current position.

Quitting prematurely often requires compromises with respect to financial security, position, or company; in time, you may be more likely to take a lower salary or a stop-gap job to pay the bills. So if you think that your current job is not your dream job, start building a reserve of money in addition to your emergency fund to provide you with more freedom when you make the decision to quit.

2. Decide on the job that you want. While you may be certain that you don’t like the job you have now, spend some time examining what type of job you will like in the future – as well as what is necessary for you to get it. Make a list of everything you like and do not like about your current job. Parts of this list can be tricky if you genuinely hate your job, so look at things you may be taking for granted. Do you have flexible hours? Is their free parking particularly close by? Do you have casual Fridays? Compare to the list you’ve built on your current position to make sure that you are not jumping from one bad situation to another, and to help pinpoint the ideal job for you.

“I am definitely quitting.”

For those who cannot spend another moment in their current employment situation, here are two important questions to ask yourself before quit day:

1. How long do I have to stay? The length of time you stay in your current job will depend on several factors. Most career experts recommend at least a year even if it’s downright unbearable. However, for more advanced positions, three years may be even better. It is interesting to note, however, that some career experts believe staying at a job for more than four years will hinder your growth. Just remember that whenever you decide to leave, the goal is to move up the corporate ladder – not down or straight across.

2. What can do I to make it better? Let’s say that you’ve decided you are going to stay at your job until the three-year mark; what can you do to make it better? Try taking on additional duties in an area of interest that is currently outside your purview. If you joined the company to be a marketing strategist, but are still an administrative assistant, consider volunteering to help with tasks in the marketing department or asking to shadow a more senior co-worker. Make sure to obtain the consent of your supervisor, and stress that the added duties will be completed in addition to, not instead of, your current duties.

When you do finally quit, try to give as much notice as possible. Consider giving a month if it is difficult to find candidates for your position, or if they are difficult to train. Discuss closing out your current duties with your supervisor, thank them for the opportunity, request a well-written reference letter, and leave on good terms.

Still unsure when to quit? Check out the Harvard Business Review’s recent career case studies of individuals in this situation.

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