Should I resign or wait to be laid off?

The forecast is pretty grim at your job. A round of company layoffs have swept in and more are looming. There’s a chance you’re next to get the pink slip.

It’s a conundrum: Do you stay and hope for a turnaround, or do you walk away and start fresh?

“You have to balance the fine line between remaining loyal to the company that hired you and covering your rear end,” says Mark Moyer, a career coach and business strategist at New York City–based Compass Points Advisors, “but that line can be blurry.”

Your trepidation can also affect your decision-making. “A lot of people fear change, so they put their head in the sand,” says Nancy Segal, owner of HR consulting firm Solutions for the Workplace. Others, meanwhile, start to freak out at the prospect of getting laid off, so they decide to pack it in and quit.

And you? Take a deep breath, step back, and assess the position you’re in by asking yourself these five questions. How you answer them will help you determine whether you should stay at your company or find another job.

1. What are my job prospects?

“It’s always easier to find a job when you have a job,” says Segal. Translation: Ideally, you should have your next job lined up before leaving your current one.

To find your next gig, start by researching your industry’s job market on Monster—specifically focusing on openings that match your skills and level of experience.

If it’s been a while since you last searched for a job, now is the time to update your resume so that it reflects your current skills and recent accomplishments. Pro tip: Use metrics to highlight your achievements, says Segal (e.g. “Oversaw an annual budget of $100,000 and cut costs by 10%”).

2. What would I gain by staying until I get laid off?

Depending on your organisation, there could be a number of financial advantages to staying at your job until you get laid off, says Lisa Adams, a Saratoga Springs, New York–based career coach. These potential benefits include:

  • Unemployment benefits
  • Severance package
  • Possible deferred compensation (stock options, pensions, retirement plans)
  • Compensation for remaining vacation days

Look at your company’s employee handbook or consult HR to see what benefits you’d be entitled to, Segal recommends, and check to see what you would need in order to qualify for unemployment benefits in the event you get laid off. (Requirements vary by state.)

All this being said, don’t wait until you’re suddenly jobless to begin a new job search. Get set up now, before the unavoidable layoff-related disappointment (and layoff-related paperwork) sets in.

3. Are my finances in good shape?

Whether you’re a manager or still at the entry level, getting a new job isn’t something that happens overnight. The hiring process is going to take time, so you need to plan your finances accordingly.

In other words, if you’re dying to quit your job, you should have freelance or consulting work set up so that you can stay financially stable while you look for your next full-time job.

4. Am I staying for the wrong reasons?

It’s easy for your judgment to become clouded at this pivotal stage, particularly if you love your job. “People get emotionally attached to their companies,” says Adams. There’s also the fear of diving back into the job market if it’s been a while since you looked for a job, she adds.

Another misguided reason some people stay when their company is sinking rather than applying for better jobs is just plain laziness. “It’s easy to put off job searching, especially if you don’t have your resume together or you haven’t done anything to keep your [professional] network active,” says Jennifer McClure, president of Unbridled Talent LLC, a leadership advisory firm.

Therefore, if you want to stay at your job, you still need to ask yourself why.

5. What’s my mental state?

If you don’t have another job offer yet, the strongest evidence that you should quit post haste is if your job is negatively affecting your mental health. Of course, there’s a difference between having a bad week and being deeply miserable because your boss is toxic, you can’t sleep, or other chronic, troubling issues.

So, if you are unhappy with your job, take a closer look at the root of your unhappiness. If you can’t stand the thought of staying at your company for another week, don’t despair: Start your job search, and look forward to hightailing it out of your company and into a satisfying new position.

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