The holiday season can make having a bad job seem even worse. The happiness of people around you can magnify your own misery and make quitting seem like a good idea.
It's even easy to use the season as a justification for walking away from a lousy work situation. Who wants to be miserable during the holiday season when everyone else seems to be enjoying it?
The problem is that even if you plan to be off for the month of December, quitting your job now could leave you out of work longer. That's because hiring cycles slow down toward the end of the year before ramping back up in the first quarter.
Here's how hiring works
Obviously, some professions have seasonal demand. Teachers, for example, largely get hired in the summer for the next school year. In many fields, however, demand is rolling, but filling open positions tends to happen at certain times.
"Hiring seems to be done by consensus more than any other decision," Scott Testa, COO of Mindbridge Software, told Monster.com. "So most hiring decisions have to be made when people are in the office."
It's not that there's no need to fill jobs in December, but vacations, days off, and the general holiday business put most permanent hires off into the new year. In addition, many companies are reluctant to hire at a time of year when there are lots of days off and people on vacation making onboarding more of a challenge.
"The big months for hiring are January and February, and late September and October," said Testa. "Job seekers who make contact right at the start of these cycles have the best chance of being hired."
What should you do?
If you are unhappy at work, take solace in the fact that you are not alone. About 52% of Americans are unhappy at work, according to a report by the Conference Board, a nonprofit research group. That's a huge increase from 1987, the first year the survey was conducted, when only 39% were dissatisfied with their jobs.
But being unhappy does not mean you should quit your job. Instead, use the month of December to get yourself ready for a January job hunt. Use any time off you have coming, whether it be holidays or vacation days, to get your resume in order, line up references, prepare your job search tools, and get your network ready to be activated.
Unless money is not an object to you, it's better to put up with a few more weeks of misery than it is to go without a paycheck for an uncertain length of time.
When should you quit?
If your job is unpleasant, but not truly miserable, don't quit. Put effort into a job search every day, but keep working in order to pay the bills while you look.
If you find your current situation untenable, quit after Jan. 1 and give a proper two weeks' notice. It's important to do that, even if you don't want to, because you never know who at a past employer may cross your path in the future.
What should your plan be?
Whether you have a job or are unemployed, it's important to have a plan for your job search. It's never too early to start looking. Even though hiring may not kick in until January, many employers collect resumes during December.
Start your job search as soon as you decide you want to move on. Apply for advertised jobs, but also work your network, and make it known you're on the market. Since you plan to quit anyway (or already have) you can be bolder than in a situation where you're worried about losing your existing job.