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What’s next? Experts say it’s best to have a plan before you quit your job

Thinking about quitting your job? You’re not alone. Half of Canadian workers plan to look for a new job within the first six months of 2023, according to a poll by business consulting firm Robert Half.
Half of Canadian workers plan to look for a new job within the first six months of 2023, according to a poll by business consulting firm Robert Half. | Rob Kruyt, BIV

Thinking about quitting your job? You’re not alone. 

Half of Canadian workers plan to look for a new job within the first six months of 2023, according to a poll by business consulting firm Robert Half.

Those most likely to make a career move include generation Z and millennial Canadians, tech workers, employees who have been with a company for two to four years and working parents, the survey of more than 1,100 professionals in Canada found. 

A higher salary, better benefits and perks, more advancement opportunities and greater flexibility to choose when and where one works were among the top reasons that respondents said they would be looking for a new job.   

However, while hitting send on a resignation letter can feel liberating and give you a sense of instant gratification, experts say it’s best to have a plan before quitting your job. 

“I would say the big thing people need to figure out before they leave is, what's next?” said Sarah Vermunt, a Toronto-based career coach and founder of Careergasm. 

You should plan what your next chapter will entail — by researching requirements and salary ranges for new positions — so that you aren’t quitting “in a panic” and taking whatever job you land next without considering what would actually be a good fit for you, she said.

If you do take the plunge without moving to another job soon after, Vermunt said it’s helpful to consider how a gap in your resume could look to future employers. 

“If you're someone who is making a radical career change, it's totally fine to have on your resume that you just took a sabbatical to get some training to move in a new career direction. That tracks and it makes sense,” she explained.

“But if you just sort of quit a job and have an empty spot on your resume, that is something that you'll have to speak to.”

Having a budget or emergency fund to keep you afloat during your career transition period is also beneficial, Vermuntpointed out. 

“If you know how long you can cover your expenses and if you have at least a general sense of what you want to move to next, you're going to have way less anxiety about quitting your job,” she said. 

“And it's going to feel more possible because you know what you have to do to get to that next thing.”  

Kadine Cooper, a career and life transition coach, echoed those remarks. Unless you’re in a “very toxic or unhealthy” work environment, she similarly suggests lining up your next chapter before taking a leap. 

“Definitely come up with a plan before you decide to just walk away from what you currently have,” she said. 

Cooper recommends networking within your current workplace and externally to explore available opportunities. 

“Internally, maybe you can do a stretch assignment or job shadow another function before deciding that you're going to exit the organization,” she said. 

A former career coach in residence at the Toronto Public Library, Cooper also recommends consulting with a career coach or mentor to get a second opinion on whatever career move you plan to make. Some places like TPL offer career coaching services for free, she noted.

Quitting on a good note is crucial, Cooper added. This, in addition to continuing to foster and build relationships with your colleagues and employer, could land you a reference down the line.

“Your network is your net worth,” she said. 

“The world is such a small place — you just never know when you're going to cross bridges with someone again, so you never want to burn a bridge with anyone.” 

Gina Marie, 37, quit her job as a therapist at a mental health program in Toronto in September 2022.

Before leaving the company, where she said she was attached to the benefits and job security, Marie made sure to have a financial cushion to cover her rent for several months in case things didn’t go according to plan.

She also considered whether she had enough training and skills to jumpstart her sex and intimacy coach business and pursue her dreams as an eventual psychedelic psychotherapist. 

Getting into a psychedelic assisted therapy training program and having a career coach gave Marie the confidence she needed to trust in herself and her abilities, she said. 

The decision to quit her job was not easy, she stressed, but it allowed her to realize her dreams, prioritize her health and work with greater flexibility to suit her desired lifestyle — she recently worked on her laptop from a jungle home just minutes away from a beach in Costa Rica. 

“I was so scared of it for so long. I was like, ‘Oh my God, how am I gonna make this work?’” said Marie, who is also currently working as a private psychotherapist.  

“But I did it, and it was a little bit hard of (an) adjustment at first while I was still studying, but then, come December time, I was kind of killing it.”

Her advice to other Canadians looking to quit their jobs is to be patient and to speak to others who have made a career transition that interests them. 

“(This) also really, really helped me with, instead of it ... being like a dream, it started to become so much more real because I saw other people doing it and I got their tips and I did it on my own time and now I honestly couldn't be happier.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 14, 2023.

Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press