Life 101: How to Quit
Life 101 is a new monthly series delving into real-world topics with the help of Endicott College faculty expertise. This is the second in the series.
As a kid, you may have been taught to never give up or quit, or to just keep trying until you reached a goal. Those might be good lessons, but the reality is that life is complex and, at some point, you’re inevitably going to need to quit an internship or job.
Whether it’s for mental health reasons, to move cities for a relationship, to care for a family member, or to pursue a different dream with a higher salary—quitting occasionally is unavoidable and nothing to feel shame about.
You’ll be in good company, too. A record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November of 2021, and according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, those rates have stayed consistent throughout 2022 as well.
How to Resign
Helen Eaton, Endicott’s Associate Director of Career Services, saw this phenomenon firsthand in her role advising students and alumni on their professional journeys. COVID caused people to reevaluate how much, where, and in what capacity they wanted to work. Over and over, Eaton heard people say, “Life is too short, and I don’t want to spend it this way. My values have changed, and this company doesn’t match them.”
Eaton says that if you’ve decided to quit your job, it’s critical to have a forthcoming conversation with your supervisor, ideally in-person, with Zoom as a second choice for giving notice. Never text or email your resignation as it can come across as unprofessional and permanently burn bridges if you want to obtain future references.
How to Explain Why You Quit to Future Employers
When you do apply for a subsequent position, Eaton’s colleague, Kate Chroust, Senior Director of Career Services, says the key is to craft a narrative that anticipates a recruiter’s questions about any gaps on your resume.
“If you can explain what was happening during that time in a professional manner, then you’re going to be golden,” she says. “You need to be able to talk about what you gained from the experience and briefly mention that it wasn’t a good fit.” Then move on to the next subject.
Chroust cautions that when quitting appears to be a “pattern” for someone, that’s when it may raise eyebrows with potential employers.
Is Quiet Quitting a Bad Thing?
One term that’s gotten a lot of heat in the news lately and that many potential employers deplore is “quiet quitting.” Is quiet quitting just resigning in slow motion?
The TikTok-famous 2022 trend describes those professionals (up to 50% of them according to one Gallup poll) who take it easy at work rather than cranking out productivity 24/7 as demanded by management.
Thomas Kushner, Dean of the Curtis L. Gerrish School of Business, doesn’t think that the term is quite accurate: “People are doing their jobs and what they are expected to do, but they aren’t going above and beyond.”
That’s not the problem in Kushner’s mind. The hustle culture of companies expecting the American worker to constantly push the limits without promising loyalty to employees in return is what’s wrong right now.
He points to the monthly report on productivity released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and how national output peaked more than it had in decades from 2019-2021—the years coinciding with COVID when people worked around the clock, often from home, and without any semblance of work-life balance or self-care added into the mix.
Naturally, what came next was national burnout followed by “the great resignation.” Kushner suspects, “Maybe one of the people who quit is going to be the next amazing entrepreneur.”
It’s How You Brush Yourself Off Next That Matters
Even if you aren’t the next Steve Jobs and didn’t quit to venture into deep startup mode, you might have learned a shareable lesson about handling pressure, speaking up about workplace ethics, or which skills are your best on the job.
Kushner, who worked on Wall Street for decades, says that talking about resignation, or even failure in a future job interview, can ultimately bolster your application. These topics offer a potential employer insight into how you pick yourself up after adversity or recover from a mistake.
“I don’t think that anyone is ever going to count how many times you fell off the horse. They will, however, want to know how many times you got back up on the horse.”
And what you learned when you did.
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