Similarly, if you’re so depleted that you’re burnt out and struggling to function in other areas of your life, that’s a situation in which powering through is harmful. Gavin recognizes that quitting a job immediately often isn’t possible from a financial perspective, but she encourages folks who are enduring abuse at work to seek local support services to lean on while exiting the job.
If you don’t like the job but the job isn’t abusive, Gavin says, there can be some merit in staying in the role until you have something else lined up. But again, that’s a personal call.
Particularly during the first professional chapter in your life — the first three to five years of your career — it’s about finding yourself, Gavin explains: “It’s important for you to take that time to explore and learn and try new things.” In that case, jumping around may make sense, and it’s a natural thing to bring up in the actual interview. Rather than asking whether it’s okay to quit a job after a year or less, Gavin suggests reframing the question as, “What are the consequences of leaving a job after a year?” And then, “Am I okay with that?”
What about a résumé gap?
Despite the plethora of reasons one might not be in the paid workforce (which shouldn’t have to be justified), this question remains.
“There’s this argument that, no matter how bad it is, you have to endure work long enough — a year, 18 months, three years — to have it ‘count’ on your résumé before you’re allowed to do the next thing,” says Johnathan Nightingale, Melissa’s husband and a cofounder and partner at Raw Signal Group. In most entry-level jobs, he notes, there’s a learning curve, and it’s tough to stay motivated. If that’s the case, you can consider sticking around long enough to see if you settle in. But there’s no stick-to-itiveness worth enduring a toxic culture or an abusive boss if you have the option to leave.
If you do happen to have a time gap between a job you quit and your next job, Gavin says, you can use that strategically. “You can talk about that in an interview,” she points out. “You can say, ‘I left this position, it wasn’t the best fit for me, and I learned some really important things about what I’d like, where I want to go in my career.'” Gavin continues, “‘I spent the six months between that job and this conversation working on developing my skills,’” and she cites examples of independent projects, learning new software, or otherwise advancing your work in some way.
How do I quit?
“When you think you’re going to quit, your attention inevitably goes to the act: Where will I do it, when, how will I do it?” Johnathan tells me. But the anxiety and anticipation of that can be overwhelming for a lot of people (Hi, it’s me!). “Instead, start from where you want to end up. What do you want to be true the day after, a week after, a year after you quit?” Is it a new job? Recovering? Changing job sectors? Think about that in order to establish clarity. Melissa suggests, “Get clear on what you’re running toward (even if it’s just a long nap) so that your attention isn’t focused only on what you’re running from.”