You might hate your job so much that you nurse fantasies about how you’ll quit—perhaps spontaneously, standing on your desk, with a righteous speech to your manager followed by a 1980s-movie slow clap from your colleagues. As cathartic as that may seem, you shouldn’t quit without a plan, as you could lose out on benefits and severance.
Don’t impulsively quit or get fired, if you can help it
There are three ways to leave your job: getting fired, being laid off, and quitting. You want to avoid getting fired or quitting for the following reasons:
- You won’t get a severance payout.
- You might lose your rights to claim unemployment insurance.
- You may disqualify yourself from special services or training opportunities available to displaced workers.
- You may hurt your chances at getting a new job, since an employer might be less inclined to give you a reference.
- You’ll lose the income you would have made by sticking with the job.
Being fired is the worst of the two as it can be a black mark on your professional reputation and hinder your ability to find other jobs. It can also be tricky to dance around being fired in job interviews (although, to a lesser extent, this can be true for quitting, too).
You only get to keep unemployment benefits when you’re laid off by a company that no longer has work for you to do. (This doesn’t mean you should scheme to get laid off by working less hard, as that can easily backfire by harming your reputation and getting you actually fired.) Also, you may not be able to count on severance to last very long—usually 1-2 weeks for each year you’ve worked for your employer—if you are offered severance at all, so unemployment could be crucial.
The best way to leave your job
It’s much easier to get a new job when you already have one. The ideal scenario is to stick with your employer until you find something else that has benefits or salary. For many people this can be a bitter pill to swallow, but it’s better to have a plan: update your resume, check job postings, and send out a certain number of job applications per week. Think of job boards as a form of therapy: every time you have a bad meeting or deal with a difficult client, look for a new job. Having a plan will help you avoid becoming disgruntled and bitter as you try to transition out of the company.
Also, your job search can last as long as you want since you’re already employed. That might actually work in your favor if you think layoffs might be imminent. You can be a little more strategic about your timing if you think you’d be entitled to a severance, but by actively applying for jobs you’ll be giving yourself the best of all possible options.