Should you quit your job before lining up another?

Are people taking more risks now than in the past?

What you need to know before you jump ship.

Most people, at some point in their working lives, have contemplated walking out the door and not looking back – even without the security of a new job to fall back on. According to Andrew Morris, a director at recruitment firm Robert Half, workers are now acting on this impulse more than ever.

“People are willing to take more risks now than in the past,” Morris says. “There were a lot more jobs than there were people [in the last three to five years].” But in the last 18 months to two years, Morris says, the job-to-people ratio has tightened up in Australia.

Is this carefree attitude to job-seeking a generational trait? Morris doesn’t think so.

“[It comes down to] your financial obligations,” Morris says. “If you have a family at a younger age or you have mortgage obligations, you’re not going to jump ship because you have an obligation to yourself, your family, and the debts.”

Those with no financial commitments, on the other hand, are more likely to be cavalier about coming and going.

Australian Human Resources Institute chairman Peter Wilson FCPA agrees, but also argues that the freedom of youth plays a part in this footloose trend.

“Often the things that tie people down are commitments, such as saving to reduce debt or get established. That’s very hard [to do] now in your early 20s, and a lot of [young] people have more independence – they’re not getting married or committing to relationships. I think it’s been said by Bernard Salt that the age of adolescence now goes to 31.

“A lot of people really are at their peak productive years in their early 40s, 10 years after the age of 31.” So you can afford to fit a lot of things in between now and then and I think that younger people realise that.”

According to the Reserve Bank of Australia, 68 per cent of all job separations in 2012 were voluntary, with more than half of those being people who left their jobs in search of a better job situation.

Why do people walk?

What causes this arguably reckless approach to job-seeking? “About 90 per cent of the reasons people leave businesses is because of people, and issues with those people,” Morris says.

Wilson says there are three statements those with a good job should be able to say:

  1. I understand my job, what is expected of my job and I enjoy it
  2. I understand what my team and group are trying to achieve
  3. I understand where the organisation is headed and I’m aligned to it

“If you’ve got those three things you are not going to move,” Wilson says. But, he adds, if one of these statements is false, a person will consider moving. All that considered, Wilson adds, “The one reason people stay or leave a job is an empathetic boss, someone they respect. If you take that away then that’s the dominant reason why people move.”

While enduring a difficult workplace is not high on anyone’s agenda, choosing to leave without having another job to go to is a leap of faith and one that both Wilson and Morris advise should not be taken lightly.

"I’m an economist. I know we’re looking forward to low growth and higher unemployment. So don’t walk." – Peter Wilson FCPA

“You really need to evaluate why you’re leaving the business,” Morris says. “Is it because of issues with your manager? Is it because you’re feeling stale in your job? One of the things to do is, if you’re happy with the environment in your company, go and talk to your boss and iron over any issues because the grass is not always greener.

“I would advise candidates not to resign without having a job because you can leverage off the skills you’re currently in against a future employer. At the end of the day, human nature suggests that people always want what someone else has got so that puts you in a more powerful position when you have a job.”

While acknowledging that sometimes there’s no alternative but to leave, Wilson advises exercising caution. “A few years ago there would always be a job out there with comparable form,” he says. “Now I’m not so sure. Think about whether you’re really being a bit precious about your job. I’d [advise people to] wait a year,” he says, encouraging potential quitters to use that time to reassess the situation, rather than packing everything in while Australia endures an arguably unpredictable economy.

“I’m an economist,” Wilson says. “I know we’re looking forward to low economic growth and higher unemployment next year. So don’t walk.”

The latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics have Australia’s unemployment rate at 5.8 per cent for the month of August. While this rate is not as high as those presently found in parts of Europe, for example, the rate has climbed for the past 10 months, a fact that certainly warrants caution.

Will a walker get hired?

The economy aside, it is worth considering what employers think of a “walker”.

“Employers can be sceptical about individuals who just resign without having a job,” Morris says. “The pitfalls with doing that is the employer may think that when the going gets tough, that person gets going.” Morris suggests that an employer will often question whether a walker is able to handle stress and pressure, as well as whether they are capable of being loyal to a company.

“It raises questions about that person’s cultural or personality traits,” Morris says. “Whether that’s fair or unfair, that’s what a person will think.”

Wilson agrees, cautioning serial walkers to think before they jump. “I’ve seen thousands of CVs,” he says. “And the one with the strip of one to two-year jobs and moves, you automatically think, ‘Whoa, this person has psychological issues about commitment’.” Issues, Wilson says, that can affect work and relationships. With competition for jobs rife, these candidates are lucky to make a shortlist.

“Sure, in a 10- to 15-year period you expect one or two ‘mini jumps’,” Wilson says. “But if your whole career looks like that, then you’re beating yourself over the head and you don’t realise it. You should, because somebody else – an objective reader – will.”

Morris advises job seekers to explain any gaps in their CV. “When you’re not honest or transparent, you’ll find that those sorts of things will come back to cause you more issues. If people don’t know what exactly has happened, they tend to make up things in their own minds, whether they’re right or wrong. It’s better to explain to an [employer] so they know exactly what happened to stop that perception occurring.”

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December/January 2022
December/January 2022

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