Should I Quit My Job Before I Get Fired?

Last Updated Oct 28, 2010 7:42 PM EDT

I get asked this question a lot. The short answer is no. The longer answer is about all the benefits to staying at your job.

1.You get paid to job hunt.
If you know you're going to get fired -- and plenty of people in this situation know for months that they are at risk -- you certainly don't need to worry about being a star performer. So get the minimum amount of work done that'll let you look your co-workers in the face at the weekly staff meeting and not blow the chances of recommendations. And spend the rest of your time job hunting. (Note to the weary: here are tips for job-hunting from your cubicle.)

2. Your resume looks better.
Job-hunting while you're employed is better than job-hunting without a job. You feel more confident going into an interview, and people assume -- rightly or wrongly -- that you are in higher demand. A lot of people worry that getting fired hurts your resume. But a resume is not your life story. It's a marketing document. So write it like a marketing document. You would look crazy if you wrote your shortcomings on a resume, right? The same is true of getting fired. You do not need to say you got fired on your resume. Just put the dates you worked at the job, or leave the job off completely if you time there was brief.

3. You do better in an interview.
Interviewing while you have a job makes you look stronger than quitting and interviewing. That said, if you take the gamble, and you do get fired before, you still can give a strong interview. When you're asked why you left, you don't have to say outright that you were fired. First off, many bosses will agree to let you say you left on amicable terms (reason enough not to completely abuse those final weeks or months before you've been canned). But even if that's not the case, you can truly say that you prior job wasn't good for you, and that you'd been working towards moving on for some time. Then, you simply talk about something else: how you are self-directed or what you want in your career. Put simply, getting canned doesn't have to be part of your story. Think of it like dating: You tell the new guy about the great trip you took to Africa to show him how adventurous and fun you are, leaving out that you were dragged along for the adventure by your sadistic ex.

4. Being fired is a rite of passage.
Everyone who has his or her eyes open worries about getting fired. It's important to experience the process because it helps you to know that you have resilience. It's like getting dumped. You learn about yourself. You become more creative in how you make decisions. It's difficult, of course, but it helps you grow. So be calm while it is happening: The corporate announcements, the slow-falling hatchet, and the rush of doctor's appointments before insurance runs out. These are all things you should relish as part of being a self-supporting adult. The stigma of being let go is gone.

5. You do better networking.
If you know you're going to get fired, you should solidify all the contacts you have from your current job. Not just co-workers but also a client, vendors, neighbors from the company next door -- everyone, really. These are all people you know but might not keep in touch with. While you are worrying about being fired, touch base with these people so if you do get fired, they remember why they liked you. Because your network will be the key to getting your next job.

In fact, the time when you know you're going to be fired is like a free pass. You get to be in corporate America without the typical hassles of corporate life. Deadlines become recommendations. Obnoxious co-workers suddenly become innocuous, and you become free to think about what's really right for you.

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