By Art Papas
“I come from a long line of quitters. My father was a quitter, my grandfather was a quitter. I was raised to fail.” – George Costanza on Seinfeld
Let’s say that you hate your job, you hate your boss, and you spend your weekends boring your friends with the details while you work up the nerve to walk in one Monday morning and quit. Should you? Everyone tells you to just do it, but those are probably the same people who dish out bad advice they would never heed themselves, like “yeah, that tattoo will look TOTALLY great on your neck!”
I’ve been there though and I actually did quit a job after just two weeks with a large financial services giant that considered Internet access a security risk. It just wasn’t a cultural fit for me (see my post on Corporate Culture: Leadership’s Petri Dish). So I speak from experience when I say the answer is no, you should not quit.
After I quit that job in 1998, even though every start up under the sun was bursting with capital and dying to hire developers, I had a tough time getting past the final interview. People kept coming back to, “why did you quit?”
Today’s employment situation could not be more different, with an economy that is in the toilet and a nose-bleed high unemployment rate hogging the headlines. These are good reasons for staying, in and of themselves. A steady income is front and center of many people’s concerns today.
However, if these concerns are not enough to keep you unhappily employed, consider that your next job at a company that actually fits is contingent on staying put until you find that dream opportunity. The reasons I’m going to give you for not walking out are the same ones I’ve heard CEOs and HR managers give for why they didn’t hire someone with a scarlet “Q” on their resume. Here they are:
1. You’ll have to give your “jerk boss” as a reference.
Your jerk boss lets you know on Friday at 5 p.m. that you’re going to be working straight through the weekend. I feel your pain. Do you really want him talking to the one person who holds the keys to your freedom? Once you quit, your jerk boss will think as little of you as you already think of him. If he’s not nice to you now, he won’t be nice when you leave. Do you want your next prospective employer calling him for a reference? If you still have the job, you pretty much guarantee that this will not happen since it breaks the unwritten rules of the interview process.
2. No one will believe you.
It doesn’t matter how convincing you are. Everyone will assume you were about to get fired so you preempted the embarrassment and “resigned” to avoid being escorted out of your office with a box of picture frames and Tupperware.
3. You’ll look like a prima donna.
Oh, come on – you were really treated THAT badly that you couldn’t hold out and skate by until you found another job? You must think you are really something.
4. If you did it once, you’ll do it again.
If you’re a parent, you’ve heard the expression that with children if you do something once, it’s a habit. Well, in HR it’s the same with employees. If someone walked out the door flipping the bird once, chances are they might do it again.
5. The longer you’re out of the game, the more tap dancing you’ll have to do.
So, if you quit and find a job within a few weeks, good for you. You and George Costanza are members of an elite club of lucky (and connected) quitters. For everyone else, the road is going to be long, especially in today’s market. And the longer it takes to find a new gig, the more explaining you’ll have to do. In every interview, you’ll need good answers to the “Why did you quit” and “Why hasn’t someone scooped you up?” questions. Chances are that you’re not getting hired because of one of the other reasons I listed above.
Finding a job you love is never easy, but don’t make it harder on yourself by being a quitter. Stick it out, start actively searching and get your name out there. That scarlet “Q” won’t help you get into any doors and will likely put your resume the circular file.