Before you jump ship and quit your job, here are three things you simply must do. Think of them as good ol’ hygiene for any job transition. If done properly, these will ensure that you maintain:

  • Your sanity
  • Your professional reputation
  • Your options

However, if you don’t do any of the following steps, you run the risk of not only missing golden opportunities, but you may inadvertently find yourself out of work for a very VERY long time.

Without further adieu, here’s the list:

1. Let your boss know what you need – If you haven’t expressed to your boss that you are unhappy (whether it’s the role, the pay, the hours, etc…) it is your personal and professional responsibility to have that conversation. I feel so strongly about this step that if you are thinking about dropping me a note asking for advice, don’t bother if you haven’t done this step first. Things you want to cover in that conversation with your boss are the following:

  • Expressing your happiness working for your current employer (even if it’s a stretch… you won’t get anywhere being seen as a complainer. Open positively)
  • State what hasn’t been working and what you need
  • Express your understanding that your boss is under a lot of pressure and there are constraints (likely your boss won’t be able to meet your needs overnight)
  • Discuss possible solutions and identify a day / time to follow-up on the conversation
  • Talk about when a change is likely to happen and follow-up

2. Let others inside the organization know that you are looking for more – I’m all about hedging bets. While you absolutely need to discuss your needs / interests with your boss, don’t stop there. Network within the organization and see if there are other roles you could transfer into. Consider dropping a few hints to H.R. that you are unhappy and you are looking for something else within the organization to bring the happiness back (different role, more pay, better hours, etc…). Have lunch with colleagues or senior leaders in other departments and ask them if they might have an opportunity in their group that is a good fit. This step is particularly important if your boss is the problem (that’s usually the case about 50% of the time). I find this approach to be incredibly effective so don’t overlook it!

3. Consider your outside options before you jump – While you may be miserable, before you do something drastic, consider what nets may be in place to catch you. Consider the following:

  • Your role – is your current role marketable outside your organzation? Consider both the industry and the function. Just like music, roles and industries can fall out of favor. If your role isn’t “cool” anymore, you may be looking for a long time.
  • Your salary – is your current salary above market averages? If you are getting paid better than most in a comparable position, don’t kid yourself. It’s probably not because you are so wonderful. More likely it’s because the organization is out of touch with current market rates for roles similar to yours. And in the case it is because of your amazing shine, will you have a hard time convincing future employers that you are “all that and a bag of chips?”
  • Your story – dust off your resume and ask yourself, “what’s the story here?” Usually, this isn’t a problem but consider two extremes. Extreme number one, you’ve been with the same organization for over 15 years. My friends in executive search say that can be the kiss of death. Potential employers may view you as “set in your ways” and only know how to do things the way you did it in your current organization. On the flip side lies extreme number two – do you have a history of job-hopping? If that is that story, know that future employers may not want to be the next notch in your proverbial career bedpost.
  • Your network – do you have a solid network of personal and professional acquaintances that can help you land your next gig or are you starting from scratch? Never ever build a network when you need it. You build your network when you don’t need it and use it when you do. Another common trap that out of work exec’s have realized the hard way
  • Your age, health, etc… – this is not a time for political correctness. Are there things that future employers may discriminate against in the hiring process? Are you of an age that future employers may not want to give you a chance or do you have health issues that might preclude them from wanting to put you on their insurance plan or payroll knowing that you could cost them time and money? Be honest with yourself and consider those real obstacles before you move too quickly.

No excuses. Don’t even consider quitting until you’ve done the three steps above. Once you are comfortable you weighed all of your options and had all the conversations you needed to, then you can start to pack your bags. But until then, you may be jumping out of a plane without a parachute. None of us want that.

Sticking with the George Costanza theme, here’s George considering his options AFTER he quits is job. Not good…