When To Move On In An Unstable Job Market

When To Move On In An Unstable Job Market

CEO at Lensa, Inc. Passionate advocate for recruiting and human resources technology that puts people first.

In one sense, a job is like a marriage between an employee and a company: There’s a mutual give-and-take, and the relationship is hard work, but it can pay big rewards over the long term. However, the analogy has its limitations because there’s at least one way in which a job is nothing like wedlock: There is no “till death do us part.”

While there’s no “right time” to move on to new career challenges, it’s especially tricky to navigate an exit now. Even as people have gone back to work, the job market is unstable and will continue to be for the next few months.

If You Go, There May Be Trouble

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Why would anyone leave their job in this economy?” Yet it doesn’t take much imagination to conceive why someone might do exactly that. The coronavirus effect has not only caused some jobs to disappear entirely, but it has also given us time and reason to reflect on the meaning of our lives. A change in careers is surely not the most dramatic potential outcome of such self-reflection.

Most decisively, the pandemic has brought more instability and uncertainty to an already disrupted workforce. With the future of some industries in doubt, it’s hard to predict where the economy will be in six months, much less where — or if — you will be employed.

What does that mean for your decision on whether to keep your job or move on? It gives you an opportunity to step back, examine the big picture and do what’s necessary to survive. If the industry you work in faces a bleak prognosis, prepare to shift to a new one. If not, you might consider waiting out the situation. This might not be the time to act rashly.

Some workers may have realized that the career they’re pursuing isn’t something they want. Covid-19 has forced us all to take a hard look at life and reflect on who we want to be and what we want to do.

For others, quitting may come out of a necessity to prioritize other things. Many workers have been struggling to juggle their job responsibilities and parenting duties in the middle of the pandemic.

If You Stay, It Could Be Double

For many people, working from home is a luxury. In fact, leaving a job isn’t an option at all. However, many lower-income families cannot afford to stay at home and not work and are left with fewer opportunities in this economy.

Similarly, taking a break could (but may not) negatively impact your wage-negotiating power when you enter a new role. If your goal is to increase your earnings, you should keep this in mind and plan accordingly by making headway toward a new, better-paying position before you tender your resignation from your current role.

As a rule of thumb, the more proactive you can be in addressing possible outcomes of leaving your job, the better.

You Want To Leave — Now What?

If you’ve made up your mind about leaving your job, remember that leaving and moving on to a new job can be tricky, especially during a crisis, recession or other time of instability. Nevertheless, these are the steps you have to consider:

1. Gather information. Make an earnest evaluation of your current situation. What’s your current salary? How much are fixed expenses monthly? How much do you have in savings? No matter how ugly the truth turns out to be, you must be honest with yourself about your current financial situation before leaving your job.

2. Brainstorm. Now that you know where you’re at financially, do a brainstorming session about potential new career paths and possible positions. No matter how tempted you are to leave your current job, do not make a blind leap into an uncertain future. Unpleasant surprises could be in store.

3. Hatch a plan. Now that you’ve laid out your options, pick the best and most plausible plan for you. Having an airtight exit plan is the key to withstanding whatever uncertainties you didn’t consider when you decided to sever ties with your current employer. If, in the process of crafting this plan, you find that you lack sufficient savings to survive for at least 90 days (and ideally six months) without employment before you find your new job, you should seriously reconsider.

4. Return to step one. I’m not asking you to “rinse, lather, repeat.” Just simply return to the process of gathering information. Now that your mind is almost made up and your options are clearly sketched out, go back and gather all the additional information you can. Assess and reevaluate your current situation before making your final decision. Allow yourself as small a margin of error as possible.

Wrap-Up: If You Go, Be Careful

To sum up, in an unstable job market, is it really a wise decision to leave your job? The truth is, I can’t tell you not to quit your job if you absolutely hate it. I also can’t tell you what the economy will look like in six months. Career changes require a measured approach, and only you can know what’s best for you. You have my complete confidence!


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