80% of Great Resigners Now Regret It. Here's How to Quit With Confidence

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  • Not only do many survey respondents regret quitting their jobs, it took half of them three to six months to find a new position.
  • Some employers are open to re-hiring people who quit, and a few were even willing to pay more money.
  • Before you hand in your notice, make sure you have money in the bank and a plan for what you want to do next, so you'll be less likely to regret your decision.

Quitting your job isn't always the solution.

The Great Resignation was one of many work-related trends that unfolded during the pandemic. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 32.7 million Americans quit their jobs in 2021 -- up from 25.2 million in 2020 and 28 million in 2019. 

Harvard Business Review put the changes we're seeing in the job market down to five R's, "Retirement, relocation, reconsideration, reshuffling, and reluctance." For example, it says people are reconsidering their work-life balance, reshuffling their roles, and are reluctant to return to in-person work.

There may be another R we can add to HBR's workplace change list: regret. According to a recent survey by Paychex, 8 out of 10 Americans who quit their jobs in 2021 now regret their decisions. Paychex was quick to coin the phrase, the "Great Regret" for its survey findings. 

Regrets, we've had a few

Disappointment was highest for Generation Z -- 89% of whom regretted leaving their employment. Half of the respondents said it had taken them three to six months to find new positions. Another 11% found work within three months, and 18% said they'd looked for more than 10 months.

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People said they missed various things, including their co-workers, bonuses, and health insurance. So much so that 78% would like their old jobs back. The good news is that 70% of employers would be willing to rehire an employee who left during the Great Resignation. In fact, 27% said they'd already done so. Some returning employees even managed to snag a pay raise.

Quitting with confidence

Professionally and financially, it's important to get your ducks in a row before you quit your job. Here are four ways you can minimize regrets on the career front.

1. Be clear about why you're quitting

Before you hand in your notice, think carefully about why you're doing it and if it's the right solution. It might be you feel like things have stagnated and a move would help you move upwards career wise. Are you looking for a raise? Or do you want to move to a whole other career? Perhaps you aren't getting along with your manager or feel the environment is toxic. 

One of the striking things about the Paychex survey is that a lot of people left their job hoping to find better working conditions, only to discover the grass isn't always greener. There are times when a conversation with your boss or change in your working habits can make a difference. At others, switching jobs is the only option. 

2. Make a plan

If your current job feels overwhelming, the temptation to resign without a plan is understandable. The difficulty is that walking away from your job can be equally stressful if you don't know where your next paycheck might come from.

If you want to move into another career, what skills will you need? How long will it take you to get them? If it's a question of getting a formal qualification, how will you fund your living costs in the meantime? Do you have enough money in your bank account? It's one thing to dream of, say, becoming a doctor, but if that's what you want to do, you need to know how you're going to get there.

If you're planning to stay in the same industry, how are you going to go about getting a new position? Perhaps there's already an offer on the table. If not, what job sites will you use? Are there headhunters you can speak to? It may make sense to dust off your resume and reach out to former colleagues. Are there a lot of vacancies right now? Or have other companies recently made layoffs?

3. Don't leave any loose ends

No matter how bad things are at work, find a way to leave on good terms. Start by checking your contract to see how much notice you need to give and whether there are any other restrictions. Work wise, what needs to be done as you transition out of your role? At the very least, you may need to organize your files and pass on your work to someone on your team. You never know when a sloppy handover or harsh words might come back to haunt you later in your career.

4. Safeguard your finances

Given that almost 1 in 5 people in the survey took over 10 months to find a new job, it's important to be prepared for a lengthy period without a paycheck. You may be able to take on a side hustle to tide you over. Even so, an emergency fund with three to six months' worth of living expenses will make a huge difference. If you think it could take longer to find work, you might try to put a year's worth of money into a savings account.

Other financial questions to consider? If you have a 401(k) plan, will you leave it where it is or try to roll it over into a new plan? What will happen to your health insurance when you quit? There's a federal law that allows you to keep your existing plan for a certain amount of time, but this may not be the cheapest option.

Bottom line

Work can be stressful, and the last few years have been tough on many employees in a host of different ways. Sadly, though, quitting isn't always the best solution -- as highlighted by the number of people who now regret their choices. It is often worth trying to resolve some of your issues with your current employer before you jump ship. Even if you still go on to resign, it might give you experience in handling similar situations in the future and/or improve your work situation for the remainder of your time there.

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