Almost everything these days should come with a pandemic-sized asterisk. From finances to family planning, the past 18 months have thrown even the best-laid timelines into a tailspin. This is especially true of the American workforce, which has seen some seismic shifts inthe ways people work. Better yet, there’s even a more noticeable change when it comes to not working, as “a record 4 million people quit their jobs in April alone.“
It used to be that quitting a job that you’ve had for less than a year was considered poor form, but as career expert Amanda Augustine, CPCC, CPRW explains, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. “There’s a lot more forgiveness in general,” she says, adding that there’s less of a stigma around periods of unemployment gaps. “So many people are in the same boat,” she says. This is especially true for those in the restaurant, tourism, and/or hospitality industries.
“The real thing that employers will look for,” Augustine says, “is if this is a result of the pandemic, or is this indicative of a pattern that’s been going on for a long period of this person’s work history?”
Some of the more common reasons a person may leave their job after a relatively short period of time can be due to both external forces (such as a spouse getting a job across the country and your current job won’t allow you to be remote) or internal forces (like a toxic work environment you don’t see improving over time), Augustine says.
The latter feels especially prevalent in the pandemic. Being overworked or being in an unhealthy situation can lead to a job making you feel mentally and physically ill, which Augustine says is a good indication it may be time to leave. As she puts it, “Your health is more important than any job you’ll ever have.”
So what happens if you’ve just started a job and you’ve got your reason(s) for wanting to call it quits sooner than later? What steps should you take to ensure you’re all set once you’re out the door? Can you ever really leave without burning some sort of professional bridge?
Ideally, Augustine says, you should give your standard two weeks notice. During that remaining time (if they decide to keep you on), you should get all the processes you are responsible for (i.e. tasks, projects, files, passwords) in order and make them accessible for those who will be taking over your duties once you’re gone. This can make things easier for colleagues, especially if your departure will mean a bigger workload for them.
Career consultant Maggie Mistal urges clients to try and make a good impression when leaving a job. “Good endings make good beginnings,” she says. She suggests thanking those you’ve worked with during your time there, and to have the sometimes-awkward conversation about your decision process in regards to leaving. “It goes a long way, if you want to maintain relationships,” she says. Which you should since you never know when you may be working with them again. “Identify the people in the company you would like to stay in touch with and write them a note to let them know personally [about your departure],” Augustine recommends.
In addition to ensuring a smooth transition for your coworkers, you’ve got to keep yourself in mind, too. Like the organization and think there may be a better fit for you elsewhere? Mistal points out it may be easier to make that move if they already know and like you.
On the flip side, if you had an overwhelmingly negative experience at the organization, Augustine says you can use the exit interview to be constructive, rather than critical, in order to provide helpful feedback. “Let them know what your expectations were,” she says. “Smart companies will really be listening to the people who are leaving to get a better understanding of what they could be doing.”
If you don’t have another job lined up before or after leaving yours, Mistal says there are three things you’ve got to do in order to get to the next phase of your career: soul search, research, and job search.
Mistal says that no matter what your age or where you are in your career, you’ve got to ask yourself what it is you actually love to do. During the soul searching, she says, you should try and pinpoint what made you dislike the job you’re leaving, whether it was the culture, your boss, or the actual work being done. Are there similar patterns to why you left other jobs like this one? If so, it may be time for a big change.
The research phase requires some patience, Mistal says, but it allows you to gather all the information you need before making a switch. She recommends talking to someone who works at a company you’re interested in (or at least in the same industry) about what their typical day is like, what they love, and what they find challenging. “See what you’re getting into before getting in a role,” she recommends.
After you’ve researched where you want to work and what you want to do next, then it’s time to do the job search part. And, as anyone on the job search will tell you, your resume (and, heck, even your LinkedIn profile) is a pretty major part of that. So do you leave off the job you just left?
Augustine says that if you’ve been unemployed for a long time before the latest job, it’s best to leave it on, as you want to minimize your length of employment gaps. Mistal says that if the job provided you with a good experience or a short-lived project that you can highlight, it’s good to keep it on your resume, too; however, both experts say if it doesn’t leave too big of a gap on your resume or the job added nothing of value, it’s best to leave it off.
That’s because, as Augustine puts it, “Your resume and your Linkedin are a curated marketing document.” You don’t need to include every detail–you simply have to make it consistent. For instance, you don’t necessarily need to put months on your resume; you can simply put years if that raises less red flags.
Augustine also recommends having your own “brag book” as you begin your job search to have all your valuable information in one place. This can be a Google doc or Word doc where you record everything that’s worth bragging about to potential new employers, from pay raises to a great email you once received from a boss. (In fact, before you leave the job you’re quitting, she recommends you have everything you need that you’ll no longer have access to once you’re gone.)
Most importantly, if you’re considering quitting, Mistal encourages you to take some time to figure out what your ideal job is by making a list of what you’re really looking for. “Be honest with yourself,” she says. “Give yourself permission to dream big.”
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