Should I stay — or should I go? How to know when it’s time to resign

Nov 25, 2021

Wondering whether to quit your job?

At this time of year, it’s likely you’re reflecting on your next career steps. Especially with all the discussion about people leaving their positions in droves.

If 2020 was the year of ‘pivots’ and ‘unprecedented times’, the most overused term of 2021 is surely ‘The Great Resignation’!

I’m sure you’ve seen the stats. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 40 million people in the US quit their jobs in July. Often, without another role to go to.

In Australia, 2 years of border closures have created mass talent shortages. As much of the country emerges from another extended lockdown, it’s natural people are moving jobs again. Especially with the confidence they have options!

The majority of movement is happening at the mid-career level. Which is exactly who I work with. So I wanted to explore the impact: why people are moving, the trends I’m seeing — and what you need to consider before resigning.

Here’s my take on this situation.

The employment relationship is being transformed. Employees are no longer willing to compromise on what they want at work.

Our priorities and professional goals have been reset. Individuals are seeking greater flexibility, career progression and development opportunities. They also crave recognition and want to work for an employer who values them.

People may be quitting at record levels, but I’m still seeing a lot of fear attached to changing roles. I’m often asked, ‘What if I make the wrong move — and regret it later?’. This is why I recommend having a clear strategy and plan to reduce the risk with your career transition.

So back to the main question. Should you stay — or should you go?

Follow these 7 steps to make the right career decision. You’ll walk away with clarity on your direction and a clear strategy for your next career move.

#1 — KNOW WHAT YOU WANT + WHY

It’s critical to understand who you are, what you want in your work and life — and why. Without this level of self-awareness to start with, you’ll struggle to build a fulfilling and sustainable career. Whether you choose to stay — or go.

At this point, forget your current role. Don’t even think about the next career or job you want to move into. Be specific about what you want, first.

Ask yourself: What’s most important in my work and life? Think about your priorities and personal values.

Get clear on your vision for the career and life you want to create. Depending on the season you’re in, your financial and lifestyle goals will vary.

At this stage, is your focus on family and flexibility — or making money and climbing the career ladder? Do you need the security of a steady pay cheque — or desire to create something of your own?

Understand what motivates and drives you. What impact do you want to make through your work? And what’s the ‘why’ behind what you do?

#2 — WHAT’S MISSING?

Next, weigh up your current position against what you want in your personal and professional life. What are the gaps? Identify what’s missing and the specific aspects you’re unhappy with.

Are achievement and growth important to you? Check there’s room for progression and a willingness to invest in your development. If workflow is an issue, this will explain why you don’t feel challenged.

Here’s why this is important. If you aren’t aware of what’s missing from your current role, the same issues will follow you to your next position.

#3 — TAKE RESPONSIBILITY

Workplace and business needs are changing rapidly. As organisations scramble to respond, it’s tough for them to stay on top of every individual’s needs. This is why it’s critical you take responsibility for your career planning and development too.

Even if you don’t feel recognised or valued now, a decent employer will want to invest in your development. Businesses understand the importance of retaining their best people. But YOU need to take ownership of this by clarifying your goals — and being proactive about asking for what you want.

Reverse engineer your vision into specific goals and action steps. Identify your big, long-term career goal and break it down into smaller milestones. This could look like mapping out your next few job moves to reach your ultimate career goal.

What are the gaps between where you are now — and where you want to go? Figure out your development areas and create a plan to bridge these gaps too.

#4 — ADDRESS YOUR CURRENT SITUATION

Before you quit, take steps to improve your current situation. Be proactive about addressing the things within your control.

Have a conversation with your boss about any aspects you’re unhappy with. Come prepared with some solutions so you can develop a plan together to address these issues. Then, give them the opportunity to make changes and improvements.

Talk to them about your professional goals and long-term career plans. Never assume the opportunity you want doesn’t exist! Or your employer won’t support a move into a different team or department.

Companies recognise how important it is to keep their top performers. Especially at the moment when it’s difficult to recruit — and people have more options.

I’ve seen many positive examples of employers investing in learning and development. They’re supporting ambitious individuals to upskill and progress their careers internally. And encouraging others to follow non-traditional career paths within the organisation.

Get the FULL picture before you decide to move on. Understand what opportunities and options exist. Then, assess whether your current organisation can support your career goals — or if it’s time to go.

#5 — LEAN INTO YOUR NETWORK

Well before you resign, be strategic and lean into your network. Talk to your mentors about your career goals. Get feedback and introductions to people who can connect you to new opportunities.

Speak to people doing work you’re interested in. Especially if you’re considering a career change, new industry or starting a business.

Career conversations are a great way to test and validate your career or business idea. As a bonus, you’ll remain top of mind for suitable opportunities or client referrals.

#6 — HAVE A PLAN

Even if you’re privileged enough to be able to quit without a new role, it’s critical to have a plan. Be strategic, so you don’t waste time and resources.

First, have a financial buffer in place. Particularly if you’re taking time out, having a career break or starting a business.

Second, plan out your exit strategy. Secure your next position or begin developing the skills you need for your future career. For example — further study, volunteering or board positions.

Starting your own business? To make the transition, begin with a side hustle, go part-time or consult to your current company.

In a toxic environment and desperate to get out? If you don’t have a financial buffer in place, get a bridge job. This takes the pressure off and will give you time and space to find the right, long-term position.

#7 — LEAVE ON GOOD TERMS

By following these steps, you’ll reduce the risk of making a mistake with your next career move. But the grass isn’t always greener. If you have a great boss or employer, part on positive terms and stay in touch.

You never know where you (or they) will end up in future. They could connect you to opportunities or refer clients if you’re starting your own venture. I’ve seen many former employers become clients too!

With all the talk of changing jobs and wealth of available opportunities, it’s natural to think about your next career step. But deciding whether to stay or go isn’t easy. These tips have helped my clients make the right career choices and be strategic about their moves — I hope they support you too.

Want help to clarify your career goals and a customised career plan for 2022?

Schedule a limited time Career Strategy Call for December or January! Book HERE.

Stacey Back is a Career Strategist, Leadership Coach + Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving corporate leaders and business owners at a mid-career crossroads find the work that lights them up, increase their income, impact and create a career + life on their terms.

Stacey also supports professionals to transition from their corporate job into their own consulting business. She works virtually with individuals based across the globe.