“Winners never quit and quitters never win.” Maybe you’ve heard this line before. I disagree. Sometimes winners are the ones who walk away.
Thinking of leaving a program, course, job or career? Here are some ways to frame the decision.
(1) Are you a misfit?
Example: Carly Fiorina quit law school for a secretarial job and never regretted the move. She was a misfit for law but found her niche in business, ultimately becoming CEO of Hewlett-Packard.
(2) You know the ax is going to fall. Are there gains from resigning in lieu of waiting to be fired?
Some experts say no. Carly Fiorina refused to let H-P soften the description of her departure. “The Board fired me,” she announced.
Sometimes you really can create a positive impression by resigning. But you may lose severance and benefits by leaving voluntarily, so consultations with a lawyer and/or accountant may be appropriate. And often everyone can read between the lines anyway.
(3) Do you need an extra burst of energy to reach the finish line?
Often success comes just past the point when we’re ready to toss in the towel.
For example: You’ve completed all the requirements for a degree except the dissertation. You’re no longer interested in your topic. Quitting can make sense if you’ve got a great job that fills all your time. Quitting makes even more sense if you’ve chosen a school with a so-so reputation.
But a graduate degree can open doors to teaching, writing a book and certain types of consulting, so I wouldn’t bolt too soon. I’d negotiate for a new, more relevant dissertation topic.
(4) Will quitting actually help your resume?
My acquaintance Lionel accepted a low-paying admin job in a non-profit organization. He quit six weeks later: “If I leave now, I can just omit this job from my resume,” he reasoned.
Frankly, I was horrified. Lionel’s savings were dwindling and he had no prospects for future jobs.
Lionel was right. A few weeks later he had moved to a part-time job where he could display his talents. Six months later he was on the payroll of a company with upward potential, as a full-time, satisfied employee with benefits.
(5) Can you wait too long to quit?
Following a scary bout of unemployment, Nancy accepted a low-level clerical position with a stodgy financial institution. The move was supposed to be temporary but she got comfortable. Five years passed.
Nancy needs to find a way to quit. If she stays, she’s vulnerable to layoffs, takeovers and bad bosses, because she’s no longer marketable. Nancy’s first step is to construct a safety net so she can take a big leap while she still can.
Bottom Line: Each decision is a judgment call. No responsible career consultant will advise you to quit. My rule is, “If you need to ask, the answer is no.”
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