Quitting, Even In Tough Times

New opportunities allow you to take control of your career

by Jerry Brong

Quitting is tough. But controlling your career is your responsibility, and quitting a job can be a tactic that allows you to take control.

Even in these uncertain economic times, the quality field offers job opportunities. Positions for compliance checkers, regulators, enforcers and technicians continue to exist, and there are increasing opportunities for managers, problem solvers, executive decision makers and agents of change. These new positions call for creativity, change facilitation and delivery of world-class performance.

In good times, quitting a job is a powerful career strategy, but in difficult times quitting may be even more powerful. During tough times, employers can hire the best people because they have choices. Be out there as their first choice. Change jobs and employers because you want to, not because you have to.

Reasons for not quitting are many. Fear of change and the unknown are strong obstacles. Insecurity causes discomfort. The path to a better job may force temporary unemployment. If you quit, you'll also have to take a look at your strengths and limitations. Controlling your career by quitting a current job takes courage.

Quality of life and professional growth issues may force you to seek new employment. Perhaps you're at a failing organization, one managed by people with poor ethics or one that's preventing you from achieving successes. Long commutes, poor job location, overly long working hours, conflicts with personal life, poor reputation of employer and increasing costs to hold a job are now often listed as reasons for quitting. Maybe you've just gotten lost down inside your organization. Like shoes that don't fit, a poor job fit causes pain. In time, poor fitting jobs, just like poor fitting shoes, cause lasting harm.

How to do it

Quality specialists do research, think logically, solve problems and establish plans of action. Similarly, taking control of your career requires research, high level thinking, strategic planning and assessment of opportunities. When examining a possible job, look at more than just work assignment, salary, benefits and employer stability. Confirm the job fits your plans for your personal alternative futures.

Quitting a job requires preparation, planning and action. In the July 2002 "Career Corner" column, I suggested the plan-do-study-act (PDSA) cycle as a strategy for dealing with a career crisis. Quitting your job may create such a crisis. The PDSA cycle can be your secret career management and success building tool, showing you how to take charge and do something rather than having something done to you.

If you've just gotten lost at your present job, don't sell yourself short. Create a résumé listing what you can do, not what you have done. Think in the present and future tense as career options are considered. Look forward into the opportunity filled world as you consider what it is you do that adds value.

Once you decide to quit, do it correctly. Deliver your resignation orally and in writing. Explain to your boss why you are leaving. Don't try to justify your action--just state facts. Express appreciation for opportunities received, and close your conversation on an upbeat note, ensuring positive and lasting impressions. You'll need this employer for references and recommendations as you prospect for new employment.

Then tell your co-workers. Don't display a short-timer's attitude, and don't bad-mouth your employer. Don't feel guilty about leaving, and if your current employer tries to keep you by offering a new position or raise, don't accept it. Know what you will do related to the employer provided insurance and earned retirement benefits. Be ready to face the "Why are you doing this?" question. And, be ready to move forward, full speed ahead, to find a new job.


Previous "Career Corner" columns have explored job search techniques, strategies for creating job opportunities and issues related to making necessary career decisions. For ASQ members, all these articles are on the Quality Progress part of the Society's website at www.asqnet.org. There's more information on the career portion of the site.

It's your life, and the big career decisions are yours to make. Set goals, work to attain them, benchmark progress, develop capabilities and enjoy a quality life. But remember, "no pain, no gain." Change is usually uncomfortable, but you may have to quit your present job to find the one that fits best. New opportunities are out there. It's your responsibility to find them.

GERALD BRONG is education chair of the ASQ Seattle Section. He has a doctorate in education from Washington State University, with a specialization in applied educational technology, and is a former private pilot. Brong is now self-employed as a teacher, speaker and curriculum developer. He recently developed a course, Defining, Planning & Delivering Quality, and he offers the Learning Centered Schools--Breakthroughs to Confirmed Excellence workshop.

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