Should You Quit Your Job Without a Back-Up Plan?

A worker who quit his job

A worker who quit his job | Source: iStock

Sometimes a job gets so unbearable that you have thoughts of suddenly leaving and never coming back. But is that a wise choice if you don’t have another job lined up?

One brave soul who decided to strike out on his own is Luke Fitzpatrick, founder of startup consulting agency Ghacklabs. However, Fitzpatrick told The Cheat Sheet he doesn’t recommend making a move without some type of safety net. “I quit my job and launched a startup consulting agency. I would advise others not to quit their day job straight away until they have already created a second source of income. With Ghacklabs, my demands increased organically (via word-of-mouth) and this occurred before I even had a website. It made sense to quit my job, and work on this full-time,” said Fitzpatrick. But what if you’re truly miserable? The Cheat Sheet spoke with a few career experts to get their take on the matter.

When to quit right away

If your career is in jeopardy, you may want to think about leaving sooner rather than later. Bill Fish, founder and president of, said it’s only a good idea to jump ship without a solid plan if staying with your current employer would harm your career. Other than that, he suggests staying until a better plan is in place. “The only time you should ever quit without a backup plan is if something is taking place at the office that could cause negative repercussions with your future career. If you find out that your business is conducting in something unethical that could come back to be associated with you, it is in your best interest to get out right away. Your career should never be jeopardized by a job,” said Fish.

When you do decide to cut ties, make sure to do it with grace. Roy Cohen, career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, said it’s important to exit respectfully and with relationships intact. “Never quit a job through a very public, and perhaps, grand gesture. When an employee quits with a dramatic flourish, it is due to one of three reasons: Anger, frustration including burnout, or psychological distress. All are legitimate reasons to seek a “divorce” but the fallout may be far worse than the gesture. We live and work in a world where technology offers immediate access to information. When you quit impulsively and publicly it will always be there to haunt you … What you say now will have an afterlife that could easily be accessed by future employers and recruiters,” said Cohen.

When to stay

In some situations, you’re better off remaining with your employer until you get your next gig. Cohen advises against making a quick decision that you may regret later on. “Don’t make an impulsive decision you may regret. If there is some way — any way — to neutralize the situation, by all means try to do so. If not, don’t quit unless you have no other option and the situation is utterly unbearable. Better to be fired and receive unemployment benefits and worry about explaining why the separation occurred later. That is a bridge you cross at the right time,” said Cohen.

Create a plan now

Man at work

Man at work | iStock

Career strategy coach Leila Hock said workers should make sure they have a clear plan for what’s next. She advises against running away from one bad situation and running toward something that could be much worse: trying to survive with no job and no money. She told The Cheat Sheet it’s best to start creating a back-up plan in advance instead of waiting for a catastrophe. “Quitting with no back-up plan is one of the biggest mistakes I see — especially for young professionals. It can be tempting to quit to follow your passion — especially when you’re miserable at your current job. But, please, don’t! You don’t necessarily have to have something else lined up, but you do need to have a plan for what is next or a relatively specific idea of what it looks like. If you quit your job and are looking for a job with no clear idea of what you are looking for, you will be unsuccessful,” said Hock.

The verdict

While it’s uncomfortable to be in a bad work situation, always take your financial health into consideration. Can you afford to quit right now? Both Fish and Hock agree that your money situation needs to be top of mind. Don’t make things worse for yourself by ignoring the state of your finances. “If you are planning to quit—even with a solid plan—have at least six months of living expenses saved up. Though that may seem like a lot, you goal is to make sure you aren’t forced to make your next move out of desperation. No one makes good decisions out of desperation, and the last thing you want to do is end up in the same position in a year or two. Fish puts it best: “It is in your best interest to try to find another job while you are at your current employer. It may take longer than you would hope, but it is never good to put yourself in a financial hole.”

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