class notes: top five

Five tips for knowing when to give notice—and when not to

Wendy Braitman, BA ’73, Career-Change Coach

Illustration: Anna Godeassi

Interview by Jeff Klein

Work sucks, according to the tagline of the cult movie “Office Space.” It shouldn’t, of course, but sometimes it does and you just want to quit. But should you? What if the next job is just as bad? Or what if there is no next job?

Wendy Braitman can help you make that call and, if quitting is the answer, help get you to what’s next. She knows because she did it for herself. The L.A.-based Braitman was a successful film producer who lost her job and found that no one wanted to hire a film exec in her 50s. So, by the time she turned 60, she had reinvented herself as an independent career coach. She now has a nationwide client base through her website, loveyournextcareer.com.

Many of her clients are mid-career professionals dissatisfied with their job situations; she advises them against acting on impulse. “It’s a decision best made with forethought, particularly given what it means to be without a paycheck for an unknown amount of time,” she says.

We asked Braitman how to know when it’s time to formulate a job-exit strategy and what to do before activating it.

Five tips for knowing when to give notice—and when not to:

1. Beware toxic shock
Your performance is being sabotaged because of a toxic work culture. Ask yourself two questions: Is the toxicity systemic or localized? Is there anyone at the company who can set things right? If it’s systemic and there’s nowhere to turn, get ready to move on.

2. Assess the stress
You’re in a high-stress job that provides no work-life balance. Before you bolt, gauge whether you might be enabling a situation that could be rectified if you created stronger boundaries. If that’s not the case, start shopping your résumé.

3. Watch out for burnout
You’ve been in your job a long time and you’re burned out. Consider: Have you been using all your sick days? Could a beach vacation be the remedy? If time away doesn’t change your attitude, prepare to cut the cord.

4. Control job creep
You were hired for your expertise in, say, creative marketing, but your job morphs into data analysis. Before jumping ship, talk to your boss about the situation. Can duties be reshuffled within the team? Can you transfer to another team?

5. Don’t be a worker bee
You’ve stopped growing in your job and there’s no opportunity for advancement. Maybe you can coast and seek fulfillment outside of the job. But if you’re the kind of person who needs a sense of purpose at work, and you’re not getting it, it’s time to chase your dream. Career reinvention is possible at any age—I’m living proof!