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The 5 Stages of Leaving Your Job:

How the stages of leaving your job in essence really do mirror the stages of grieving…


In all the excitement of the “New Year, New Me, New Job” mindset, we can forget that leaving your current job can be a very difficult decision. In many ways, it’s a lot like dealing with a loss. You’re moving on from relationships and friendships that you’ve built, possibly over the course of years. As well as leaving behind an old job you might be leaving a career, a way of doing things and an identity. So it’s no surprise that the stages of leaving your job mirror the stages of grieving.



It can be quite difficult to realise that you’re in this stage, by its very nature. This is the point where we’ve first decided that we want to leave our job, but we haven’t admitted it to ourselves. Do any of the following sound familiar?

“There have been problems here for ages but they’re not that bad. I’m sure they’ll be fixed soon.”

“They’ll definitely promote me this year.”

“The work isn’t ideal but I like the people here, and I wouldn’t be able to find such a great team in another company.”

“My job is so specific, nobody else would want to hire me.”

We all invest a lot of time and energy into our jobs, so it can be difficult to accept when it isn’t working for us. The first step is to admit that you’re unhappy.



The next stage can be really unpleasant. You’ve put so much effort into your job that when you realise it isn’t working out it’s natural to be angry and to blame other people. You find yourself crying out:

“If my manager had listened to me six months ago this could all have been sorted out – now I have to find another job!” or

“I’m doing the job of two people, it’s too stressful and my work isn’t valued – this has gone on too long!”

While this is a very common reaction, it’s important that you don’t express this anger at work. Don’t shout at people or start working less hard because of your frustration. You don’t want to get sacked, and you want to get a good reference. Vent to your friends and family outside of work, but keep it to yourself during the working day.



Once you’ve got over your initial anger, you may find yourself wanting to bargain. You picture yourself marching into your manager’s office and saying “Look, I’m thinking about leaving, but I’ll stay if you can give me a 10% pay rise”. You may also find yourself in the bargaining stage after you hand in your notice and your current employer gives you a counter-offer. This feels like you’re being fair to your employer, but in reality, you’re being incredibly unfair to yourself.


All this kind of conversation does is alert them to the fact that you’re thinking about leaving. They can now start to look for your replacement in their own time. And it rarely works out – most people who accept a counter-offer have moved on anyway within 12 months. The issues that caused you to want to leave are unlikely to go away.



So, you’ve admitted you want to leave your job, got angry about it, tried to bargain your way out of it and failed… no wonder the next stage is despair. “Where will I find the time to update my CV and go for interviews?” you ask yourself. “It’s been ages since I had an interview, how will I prepare”?, or “I’ve put so much effort in, how am I going to leave?” are common thoughts. It can be tempting to give up at this stage and resigning yourself to working in this job that you dislike and isn’t fulfilling your needs for the rest of your life. But stay strong, don’t give up, because the final stage is…



This is the sweet spot. You know you’re going to leave, and you’re comfortable with it. You’re still putting in the effort at work, but you’ve got your CV updated (or maybe made a start). Now is the time to reach out to your network, get your CV onto job boards, sign up with agencies and start applying… isn’t it?


Take a moment to pause here, before you get carried away. Make a list of all the reasons you want to leave your current job. Bear them in mind as you start your new job search. If you want to earn more money you wouldn’t take a job that was paying less – that much is obvious. But it can be less obvious if your current job doesn’t have enough structure, or your manager is overbearing, or there aren’t enough opportunities for training. While you’re at it, what is it about your current job that you do like? Maybe they offer flexible working, or a free gym membership, or it’s close to home. If these are important to you, keep them in mind. Do your research before you apply, and during interviews, to make sure that your move will be worth it. There is no point jumping from one job that doesn’t give you what you need, into another that doesn’t give you what you need in a different way. You’ll be frustrated within a year.


Then, once you’re sure you want to move – why not give us a call? We might have something that’s right up your street…


Recruiting or job-hunting within professional associations or not-for-profit organisations? We’ve advised thousands of clients and candidates over the years. You’re in safe hands with I am recruiting.

We are a specialist recruitment agency for professional bodies, membership associations and NFPs. We’ve had the pleasure of working in this sector for over a decade now and have built up an outstanding reputation in our field with unrivalled sector knowledge and access to the biggest network of candidates and clients.


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