You feel the tension at work rising; the writing is on the wall that your days are numbered and you’re ready to move on to the next opportunity. The decision to quit or be let go can feel a bit like a game of chicken, but it’s essential that you feel in control of your exit strategy.
So which is better: To quit or to be fired?
The downsides to being fired
The two most significant issues with being let go are 1) explaining the situation to a potential employer, and 2) struggling to get a useful reference from your employer.
Explaining why you were fired can feel embarrassing. And even with a thoughtful, well-rehearsed answer about why you left that organization, fear can set in about how a hiring manager might receive that information. As a former hiring manager, I will tell you that it was always an orange flag for me, even with a reasonable explanation.
For this reason, it’s essential to assure the interviewer that the situation was a unique instance that will not happen again. Explain, without bashing the other company, a little of what happened and why they don’t need to be concerned about it happening again.
I’m not proud of the way I conducted myself at Williams Partners, but I learned my lesson the hard way. I should have sought coaching earlier, asked for extra direction and feedback. I’m far more aware of my weaknesses now, and I see that as a really good thing.
When future employers call for a reference, the mention that you were fired could leave a bad taste in a prospective employer’s mouth if it didn’t already come up in the interview. Your former coworkers are also more likely to give you a positive reference if you quit vs. fired.
The benefits of being fired
Sometimes being fired can show that you took a stand on something regardless of the fallout. For instance, I had a client who was fired for speaking out about racism at a company. When she shared that story in interviews, they didn’t see her as a troublemaker, they saw her as an advocate who was willing to stand up for what’s right.
Getting fired can foster professional growth, making you a stronger candidate. Seventy-eight percent of executives who have been fired go on to become CEO. You can share in an interview how this has been a learning experience for you. If they can sense sincerity, it may assure them that you’re willing to go the extra mile not to make the same mistakes again.
The downsides of quitting
Depending on the circumstances of your departure, burning bridges could cause trouble in your job search. It could potentially hurt you in getting good references, especially if the timing made your company feel as though you left them high and dry. Because of this, be very mindful of the timing and how you exit so you can keep yourself in the right people’s good graces.
Read more: Quitting Without Notice...Is It Ever Okay?
If you leave a job before accepting a job offer elsewhere, you may find yourself panicked if you don’t secure something quickly. It could take months to find something new, so without good leads, you may accept a position because you need a job, not because you want this job. In other words, settling. This can lead to resentment towards your next employer.
The benefits of quitting your job
It’s empowering to take control of your professional destiny. When you put in your notice, you are choosing yourself, whether you have accepted a new position or simply walked away for your wellbeing.
When you decide to quit, you’re also choosing to say what you are and are not willing to accept from an employer. This can help you feel more confident when asking questions in an interview or when handling a negotiation.
When you explain why you left your previous position, you’re presenting this from the driver’s seat. You chose this next step. One tactic that works well is explaining why the last position no longer served you and how you realized what you needed—which is what this new company has to offer.
I liked the work I was doing when I was first hired for the role, but the environment has changed so drastically that my job is unrecognizable just two years later. Sadly, it’s set me back in my career and I see no opportunities for growth. That’s what I hope to bring to my next role. I’m ready to take on new, challenging work that will push me forward in my career.
Whether you’re fired or quit, it’s important to weigh what is the best fit for you and make sure you can use that experience as the catalyst for the opportunity that lights you up.