The number of people quitting their jobs reached a record high of 4.4 million in September 2021. Dubbed the Great Resignation, this mass exodus of workers from their positions is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to some experts.
“Everybody put their career plans on hold for the better part of a year of two,” says Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO, a company providing human resources outsourcing solutions to small and medium-sized businesses.
Now that many companies are returning to pre-pandemic operations, workers may feel this is the time to pursue new opportunities. What’s more, after working remotely for more than a year, many people are looking for greater flexibility going forward.
“The pandemic has made people take stock and decide: Is this what I want to do for the rest of my life?” says Greg Selker, managing director and North American technology practice leader for executive search firm Stanton Chase.
However, before you decide to say goodbye to your current job, be sure to do these things first:
Understand why you want to resign.
“Before quitting, it’s worth reflecting on the reasons driving that decision,” says Kim Fulton, employee experience principal with global management consulting firm Kearney.
If you want to pursue a different line of work, changing jobs may be the only way to do that. However, if you are largely satisfied with your current job but would like more flexibility or higher compensation, that may be possible without switching employers.
Talk to Your Current Employer
Once you know why you want to leave, talk to your boss about your reasons. You don’t necessarily have to say you’re thinking about quitting to sit down and discuss whether there may be opportunities for remote work, higher compensation or a promotion at your current organization.
“Employers are really flexible right now because they want to retain their talent,” says Meredith Graham, chief people officer at Ensono, which provides managed services and solutions for businesses.
Have a Career Path in Mind
If you decide it’s in your best interest to change jobs, keep the big picture in mind as you plot your next move.
“It’s not enough to have another job lined up,” says Brandon Ashton, director of retirement security at Cornerstone Financial Services in Southfield, Michigan. “I think (workers) should have a career plan.”
That means thinking not just about your next job but also the ones that may come after that. As you begin your employment search, keep an eye on how a new job will move you in the direction of meeting your larger career goals.
Build Up Your Savings
Demand for employees is strong right now, but if you resign without another job lined up, don’t assume you’ll immediately be able to find a new position. “Realistically, it’ll be a few months, not a few weeks,” Ashton says.
Even if you have a new job lined up before resigning, there could be a gap before paychecks start arriving. Either way, make sure you have enough money in savings to cover a few months of expenses if needed.
Evaluate Compensation and Benefits
Before resigning, compare both your current compensation and benefits to what is being offered by other employers.
It’s a mistake to make employment decisions based on income alone, Graham says. There are many value-added benefits – from health care to retirement fund contributions – that could make it more beneficial to stay in a current position rather than seek out a new one.
Consider Company Culture
Company culture should also factor into a decision to resign. “The experience we have at work goes so far beyond the compensation,” Fulton says.
For instance, some businesses are built on the ideal of collaborative work while others may focus on empowering employees to pursue individual projects. Flexibility, communication and ownership are other examples of principles that may be promoted in the workplace.
Finding an employer with a company culture that aligns with your values can be key to job satisfaction. If your current company’s culture is already a good match for you, that may be reason enough to reconsider resigning.
Some employers will pay workers for unused personal time or sick days when they leave a job. However, these policies may have caps on how much is paid, and not every firm offers this perk.
If you have paid time off accrued, be sure to use it up before resigning, Ashton suggests. There is no reason to leave money behind when quitting a job.
Find a New Job
It’s always best to have another job lined up before quitting. “Don’t resign and then begin your job search,” Selker says. “Resign when you have an offer in hand.”
Having a job offer lined up also gives you one last chance to do a final comparison between firms to determine which will be the best fit for you, your career and your life goals. Again, look beyond compensation and consider factors such as flexibility, benefits and company culture.
Give Appropriate Notice
Once you’ve decided it’s time to resign, end your employment on a high note by providing verbal and written notice to your direct manager at least two weeks in advance of your anticipated end date.
“There’s nothing an employer hates more than a letter of resignation that says I’m leaving tomorrow,” Starkman says. While you may think you have nothing to lose by simply walking out the door, Starkman reminds people, “Your reputation is irreplaceable, (and) everybody talks.”
You don’t want a negative departure from a company to affect your ability to get a job or reference in the future.