As COVID cases continue to recede, people are leaving their current jobs in search of higher salaries, more flexibility, and more life. Many professionals are rethinking how they want to spend their time and are realizing that working in a 9-to-5 job, glued to a computer screen no longer suits their needs and happiness. It’s these realizations that have led to the “Great Resignation,” a dramatic increase in turnover—roughly 47.4 million people voluntarily left their jobs in the past year, many without another job lined up.
The truth is, mass remote work, overwork at home and on the job, high stress, and strained dynamics between companies and employees have permanently changed the way we want to work. We’re tired, we’re burnt out, and we’re craving flexible schedules and greater work-life balance. We’re taking a hard look at what motivates us and what we really want out of life. Maybe you’ve decided to start your own business, focus on your family, take time to travel, or simply leave a toxic job that sucked all of the energy out of you. No matter your personal reason, quitting without a job lined up is an acceptable career move if you’ve taken the time to weigh your options and pros and cons beforehand.
If you’re considering making the move, you’re not alone. The U.S. Labor Department reports that the percentage of people quitting who don’t have a new role lined up might be as high as 28 percent right now. Before you quit, read below to make sure you have all of the information you need in order to have a smooth leave.
If you’re planning to quit without a job lined up…
How much money should you set aside?
Before you quit your job cold turkey, it’s incredibly important to consider how much money you need to have saved up. Without a steady income, paying for life can add up and strain your bank account very quickly.
In addition to your income, it’s important to consider how any lost benefits, 401K contributions, and stock options will impact your finances. Often, people forget about these invisible costs that add up on top of losing an income. For example, when you quit without another job lined up, you might be giving up company-sponsored health insurance. If you choose to find your own health insurance coverage in the time before a new job, it can cost an average of $495 per month or more, depending on where you live and the number of dependents you have on your plan.
In order to figure out how much money you need to have saved up before quitting your job, you need to think about your unique living expenses (rent or mortgage, transportation, insurance, food, student loan repayments, fitness memberships, etc.) and how much you spend to maintain your lifestyle each month. Mandi Woodruff-Santos, a wealth-building expert, advises having up to 12 months of funds saved up.
“For me, that number made sense because I’m a mom, so my lifestyle is expensive with those major responsibilities on my plate,” she says. “If you’re young and have fewer responsibilities on your plate, and you’re only looking out for yourself, you may feel comfortable with saving up less. But you’ll never regret having too much of a cash cushion…”
Read more: Two Weeks' Notice Templates To Use
How long can you expect to be unemployed?
Pre-pandemic, it took around six months for the average person to find a new job, but this unprecedented time is causing longer employment gaps. Let’s take a look at the bigger picture of the hiring market right now to understand why this is happening.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 8.4 million workers who are unemployed, yet there are 10.9 million jobs open. The rate at which unemployed people are getting jobs is lower than it was pre-pandemic, it’s taking longer to hire people, and job seekers say that employers are unresponsive. Plus, while the number of remote jobs has definitely risen, they still only represent 16 percent of job listings on LinkedIn, and the ability to work remotely is a huge benefit that workers are looking for.
So, what to do?
If you’re looking for a new job, be wary of the language you’re using on your resume and cover letter. “People are applying to job postings thinking a human being is going to look at their submission, but they rarely get through if they have a gap in their job history or don’t have the exact right keywords,” said Joseph Fuller, a management professor at Harvard Business School and lead author of a recent study that found more than 90 percent of major employers now use automated screening of job applications.
Make sure that your resume and cover letter contain keywords from the job description you’re applying to, and list any desired or required skills that employers are looking for. Consider your non-negotiables in your next job—the more open-minded you are, the more likely you’ll be able to find a job you’re interested in. However, being open-minded doesn’t have to mean compromising on your worth and accepting a job that you know isn’t what you deserve. Finally, taking up a side-hustle or part-time job while you look for longer-term, higher-paying jobs could be beneficial just so you can make a little extra cash.
Read more: 20 of the Best Jobs to Have Now
How should you go about resigning?
Once you’re sure you want to quit, you’ll need to give a two-weeks notice. Just the thought of resigning and telling your boss you’re quitting can be anxiety-inducing, but with the right tips, your departure can be professional and drama-free.
Career and leadership coach Kathy Caprino says the first step is to “Do your best to obtain some letters of recommendation from mentors and others at the organization who can speak highly of you. Secure some LinkedIn recommendations as well, from respected individuals who are happy to endorse you and your work publicly.” Positive references can go a long way when looking for your next opportunity.
If you’re able, it’s usually best to resign in person (or over video chat if you work remotely). That way, you get to respectfully tell your manager face-to-face, and you don’t have to worry about whether your resignation email hit the right tone or erroneously ended up in their spam folder. If you choose to resign over email, use these templates to go about quitting in the best way possible.
In terms of giving a reason for quitting, you absolutely don’t have to disclose why, unless you want to. If you’re super close with your manager, they might understand your reasoning and cheer you on, but if you aren’t close, you can keep your resignation straight to the point without in-depth context.
“If you’re leaving on bad terms, it doesn’t behoove you to air your grievances at the time of resignation,” Caprino says. “There are appropriate forums to do that, perhaps at the exit interview. But even during those interviews, you need to be very cautious and prudent about what makes the most sense for you and your future, in terms of what you reveal about why you wish to leave.”
Read more: How to Quit a Job You Just Started
How do you talk about an employment gap in interviews?
If you have an employment gap longer than six months in your resume and work history, you’ll most likely have to have a conversation about it at some point with prospective employers and interviewers. You’ll need to provide general context of the gap, but you don’t need to go into deep detail about personal information. Instead, try focusing on how the time and experiences during could translate well into your next position. If you worked in any capacity while you were on a break, (volunteering, freelancing, caring for a family member, etc.) talk about what you learned.
Lauree Ostrofsky, founder of business-coaching enterprise Simply Leap, which focuses on guiding women business owners to take the leap into more meaningful careers and lives, says it’s all about framing your gap in a positive way and explaining what you gained from the time.
“If you want them to see you as an effective leader, how does your time away serve as proof that you are a good leader? Maybe you ensured the team was efficient before leaving so everything would be seamless for the remaining staff. Maybe once home you managed your household (including caring for aging parents or a new addition to the family) using your project management skills and can illustrate how you’ll use them in this new organization now.”
It’s important to remember that our career paths are rarely linear, and the pandemic has thrown a huge spanner in the works in terms of our careers and personal lives. Career gaps and breaks in professional experience are slowly but surely becoming more normalized, and there’s no reason to feel like you need to lie to employers about them. In interviews, frame your situation by adding a little more context, highlighting your relevant skills, and showing your passion and desire to develop professionally.
Read more: How Long Is Too Long of an Employment Gap?
7 things to reflect on when an employee quits without a job lined up
As an employer, it might be a good time to look in the mirror if your employees are quitting without another opportunity lined up. Your behavior, policies, or work environment have a huge impact on how happy your employees are, and it’s worth thinking about what you could’ve done differently to retain top talent.
“If someone is quitting without another job, the manager should do some serious self-reflection on what role they have played in this employee leaving,” says Mita Mallick, head of inclusion, equity, and impact at Carta. “How you treat someone on the way out the door is something they will never forget.”
Here are a few questions to consider when your employee quits without a job lined up:
Am I contributing to an inclusive workplace where every individual’s ideas and opinions are valued and heard?
Am I going above and beyond to support women and BIPOC employees? Do I offer them enough support and resources in order to perform their jobs while feeling a sense of belonging?
Am I offering enough growth opportunities to my employees or am I accidentally keeping them in dead-end jobs?
Am I paying my employees fairly? Do their salaries align with the average compensation for their position?
Am I promoting a healthy work-life balance or am I unconsciously promoting hustle culture?
Am I building a culture of trust where employees feel safe to offer constructive feedback?
Do I have the formal and informal feedback from employees that I need to answer these questions honestly?