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Should I quit my job?

Photo by Jim Dyson/Getty Images

If anything can be surmised from the fact that you're reading this article, it's that you've probably already entertained fantasies of saying those two magic words: I quit. However, fantasizing and doing are worlds apart, and chances are that you have other real-world obligations weighing against your desire to light out for new territory.

After a steep economic downturn and subsequently tumultuous job market, much of America's workforce is putting an emphasis on job security, making the prospect of quitting a "sure thing" more unpopular than it has been in years past. Despite the more cautious outlook, there still comes a time everyone's careers when they must ask themselves whether or not it's worth it to stay put. Quitting a job can be scary, and asking yourself, "Should I quit my job?" is a pretty big question, often with no universal or direct answer. It's much simpler to split the ultimate question into smaller, easier to digest questions before making up your mind. If your heart's desire is to hand in that letter of resignation, you'll hopefully answer yes to all of the below.

Do I have another job lined up?

Obviously, in a perfect world, you quit one job only when you have another waiting for you - or at least a sure thing to fall back on temporarily. In the real world, things are a little messier. People often quit their jobs in the heat of the moment, when emotions are running high and they haven't taken the time to seek out their next move yet. The workaround for this is to start networking and passively searching for a new job the moment you start thinking about quitting. At the very least, make sure you have some leads on your next move. It can be tough to find time to job hunt when you're already gainfully employed, but it's advisable to make it happen if you're seriously considering quitting. Even if you don't land a job out of it, looking at what is out there might help you make up your mind about whether or not to call it quits. If there are tons of jobs in your field, it's a good sign to go for it. If you can't find an opening anywhere, then perhaps you might want to wait it out at your current employer until you see signs of the market improving or have another offer.

Do I have enough in savings?

Quitting your job can be as exciting as it is scary. There's something about new possibilities that really gets the blood pumping, but as on top of the world as you might feel when you walk out of your place of work for the last time, it's important to think about how you might feel two months from then. There's always the possibility that it can take time for you to find your next job. Or, if you have a new job lined up already, there is always some uncertainty that it will work out long-term. You may also wind up having to take a pay cut or wait several weeks for your first paycheck to process. Whatever the case, it's important to make sure that you have a financial cushion to make the transition easier. A good rule of thumb is to have six months of expenses in savings for emergencies, but that's easier said than done. At a minimum, you need to make sure you're not in a paycheck to paycheck situation. If you can't afford any disruption in your cash flow, then taking a leap of faith into the unknown job market could have the kind of impact that you just can't absorb.

Am I leaving on good terms?

Even if your boss is an ogre, your coworkers are catty, and your job description involves a lot of grinning and bearing it, it's still a good idea to make sure that you leave a job on good terms. It can be tempting to tell everyone how you really feel when you finally quit, but be careful not to burn any bridges. You may wind up needing your boss or coworkers to give you a reference down the line, and at the very least you don't need someone actively unhappy with you while you're taking such a big, new step. Word of mouth travels fast, so the best thing you can do is make sure you aren't giving anyone good reason to speak out against you. Give at least two weeks of notice, if possible. Protect your good name by dating any resignation letters for the day you deliver them with a written promise to stay on until a certain date, or until they show you the door. If possible, ask your boss for a signed reference that you can use to prove you left without any bad blood, in case this gets called into question down the line.

If you answered yes to all three of the above questions, then you're in a really good position to quit your job. If not, perhaps you have some goals to set and meet before you make your intentions known. Remember not to quit in a moment of passion or anger, but rather to take a tactical approach and maintain as much control over the process as possible. Quitting your job can be done without too much grief or drama, but there is always an element of the unknown. You have to prepare yourself for anything and make preparations against any unforeseen hiccups in the plan. Making sure that you've got a plan B (having plans C, D, and E is also helpful) to fall back on, that you are financially secure, and that you're not shooting yourself in the foot in the long-run will help minimize risk and make quitting your job an exciting experience instead of a horror story.

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