509: Should I Quit My Job Without Another Lined Up?

3 questions to help you decide if it makes sense to quit your job without having another lined up, and alternatives to quitting that most people have never considered.


You jolt awake to your alarm clock blaring and realize it’s Monday morning. You hit snooze one (or ten) times and wish you could rewind the clock to Saturday. 

The familiar feelings of dread, burnout, and boredom fill you, and you find yourself asking “should I just quit?” 

In that moment of complete dread, it seems like everything is going to be alleviated by just quitting your job. But that’s often not true, and many factors must be considered, which makes the decision of “should I stay or should I go?” a difficult one to navigate. 

Here are 3 questions to help you weigh the pros and cons and decide if it makes sense for you to quit without having another opportunity lined up. 

Is it feasible financially? 

How much runway do you have available? How much money do you have in savings? 

Finding a new job almost always takes longer than you expect. Many of us need a decompression period and the next opportunity might not line up immediately. According to a survey done by Randstad US, finding a new job takes, on average, five months. 

How much are my monthly expenses? Can you minimize your expenses? 

Because life is uncertain, and it’s better to be safe than sorry, we strongly recommend your financial runway include a minimum of 6 months of cash, with 9+ months’ worth being closer to ideal.

If you do have the recommended financial runway, you must then decide how much of that savings you are willing to use on your time without a job. Are you comfortable spending your savings to expense your living for the next few months? 

What pressures are going to pop up along the way? 

Psychological pressure  

Achievers feel pressure to produce. You may start to become stir-crazy if you’re not always working on a job. We’ve even found from talking to thousands of people going through this process that the pressure to find a job can often feel worse than the feelings you had at the job you left, and these new feelings are self-induced.

Let’s say that you’re going from one situation where you’re thinking “I can’t tolerate this anymore, we’ve had a merger, I’m no longer working with the same people, I am so stressed I have got to get out of this” But then you go into another very stressful situation because you haven’t adjusted to not achieving, not producing. You’re essentially going from the frying pan to the fire. 

Even just discussing your situation with others can bring on a lot of psychological pressure. Think of all the conversations you’ll have with the people in your life over your months of job hunting. The simple question, “So what are you up to these days?” can lead you to feel judged and maybe even bad about yourself.

To avoid this pressure, it’s important to create a plan for the work you will be doing day to day to change careers and the answer you will give in social situations. Be sure to create a plan!

Financial pressure

Even if you’ve planned to spend your savings, once you start seeing it diminish, sometimes the reality hits that you’re actually not okay with spending your savings. Can you anticipate any emotional attachment to your savings money? A feeling of loss can easily take over. 

It’s actually been proven that loss persuades human behavior much more strongly than potential gains (here’s the study if you’re interested).

Will you be okay if 3 months down the road your savings has thousands of dollars less in it and you don’t have any solid offers on the table? What is too long before you begin lowering your standards or getting desperate?

To test if you would be okay with this loss, write down how much your savings would have left each month if you have not yet found a job, and make sure you would be okay with that number 6-9 months out. 

Are all of the people in your world that need to support this ready to support this decision? 

Who else will this decision impact? Are they on board and committed to the plan for the next 9+ months?

The first step is to figure out the people that need to be on board. Often this is a spouse, but sometimes it can include other people you don’t initially think of. 

Who relies on you financially? Is there anyone your change of schedule will affect?

It is also important to be sure you have the support of the people closest to you even if they do not rely on you financially. We have found the best outcomes of career change come from those with the strongest support system. You will need people in your corner pumping you up and reminding you why you are making this change. 

Everything will go a lot smoother if you fully get the important people in your life up to speed before you quit.

To recap, here are the 3 questions to review before you quit your job without another lined up

  1. Is it feasible financially?
  2. Am I prepared for the pressures that will pop up along the way?
  3. Who will this decision affect and are they on board with my plan?

Think outside the box: Are there other options besides completely quitting? 

Should I stay, should I go, or…? What if you had more than 2 choices? Turns out, you do! 

If you’re so stressed you feel like you can’t function normally, or you feel completely misaligned with your work, or you’re no longer able to have a social life… maybe all the above. Something does have to change! But that doesn’t always mean completely quitting your job. 

Here are some alternatives to consider: 

A day (or weeks) in the life 

Could you take 2 weeks vacation and pretend that you’ve quit to test if it’s the right decision?

Even just a day or evaluating how your day feels without a job. 

What about a leave of absence, part-time, or even a sabbatical?

Asking for one of these options could look like going to your boss and explaining, “Hey this has been going on for a while, I thought it would go away, but now I am approaching burnout. I recognize if I keep going I am going to need to quit. That won’t be good for anyone. I am asking for your help and partnership to figure out an alternative way to go. Here are some ideas I’ve come up with…”

Re-establish boundaries

If you’ve decided to leave, what do you have to lose by trying to make it more bearable day to day? Why not try to buy some time and make the day-to-day a little better? This is also a great way to practice setting boundaries so you set yourself up for success in any future roles. 

This can look like letting your team know you will no longer be coming in early, working late, or answering work-related communications outside of work. You could also talk to your team about working different hours a few days a week, possibly something that would work better for your life. One of our clients asked if she could come in at 10 one day a week so she could take her kids to an activity in the morning.  

Establishing boundaries can make your work life much more bearable while you consider what is next. If you’ve made the decision to leave, work to intentionally free up the mental energy you’ve been spending on this situation. Instead, remind yourself that this is not your long term, and you are taking the steps to make a conscious decision about what is next. Creating (or recreating) boundaries while intentionally letting go of emotional attachment can buy some time and allows you to look at the situation a little differently. 

Change how you do the work 

If approaching your boss about a break from work isn’t the route you want to take, could you talk to them about doing freelance or contract work or even going part-time? Or consider tapping into your network to see if you could do the work you’re doing now in a different capacity, for a different company. The goal should be to free up time, space, and mental energy to find the right thing, not just jump to the next thing.

Use your vacation

Many people that are burnt out are not utilizing their vacation. If you have a vacation left, how can you use it now to make your situation better? Consider taking 2 days off a week for the next few months or use it all at once to take a much-needed mental health break. 

Before you take the leap of quitting your job, make sure you’ve thought through all of the above considerations. However, there are 2 times you should quit even if you don’t have some of the above questions figured out:

  1. The job is negatively affecting your mental or physical health. (To hear about Alissa, who escaped work-stress-induced blindness and found work she loves, check out this episode of the podcast).
  2. You think something illegal is going on.

So many options can improve your situation, but if you decide to quit after reading this, at least you know you’ve done your due diligence and put a lot of thought into it!

Ask yourself: What’s the best next step I can take to take some pressure off and make my situation better?

Ready to quit but not sure what to transition into? Get a crash course to help you get clear on what you’re great at and what kind of work could fit you best in our 8-day mini-course. Sign up here!