How do I tell people I quit my job and don't have another lined up?
December 8, 2005 11:12 AM   Subscribe

So. I quit my job. What do I tell people?

I have a job that has put me in a fairly high profile in my industry. I've made a lot of contacts and a lot of friends. And I quit my job because the company is run very poorly -- paychecks are late, health insurance not paid. All sorts of stuff.

So I gave my notice and now I'm out. I'm now telling people that I am leaving, and they are asking "where are you going?"

I don't want to say "Nowhere. I don't have any job lined up. I quit because my boss is an idiot and I'm tired of covering his ass" because, you know, burning bridges is a bad thing, and also because the people I am telling are still going to be working with the company I am leaving.

I have been given permission to let people know I am leaving (I am letting people know who my replacement is). And I have been telling people "I am pursuing other opportunities." But there are A LOT of the people that I am telling this to who I would actually like to work for.

So, I guess my question is this: How do I tell people that I am leaving, and I don't have another job lined up, and I'd love to work with them if they have something available, in a way that doesn't right out say "I quit this job because they're batshitinsane here" because I don't want it to seem like I am slamming this company on my way out the door?

Once I'm officially out the door here I'll be able to follow up in comments with my regular user name, but I'll get a sock puppet if you guys need more info.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How about contacting the people you are interested in working for on your own? Instead of waiting for them to ask you, call them up, mention you're leaving your job, and are interesting in hearing about what openings their company has. If you wait for THEM to ask YOU about your job status before mentioning your interest, you'll come off lazy and your interest in their company will seem like an afterthought.
posted by apple scruff at 11:21 AM on December 8, 2005

Why can't you say "I left because I felt I was no longer serving the needs and goals of this company, and vice-versa; I'm looking for opportunities to apply my knowledge in a more challenging and rewarding atmosphere."?

It's the truth, and it shows that you were personally disatisfied (but does not really insult the company) and also that you're currently looking for work in the same field.
posted by muddgirl at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2005

You could simply say "I'm taking some time off while I look for the right opportunity."
posted by bac at 11:24 AM on December 8, 2005

I'd try to come up with a diplomatic version of the honest answer-- "I decided that while it was a great job, the corporate culture wasn't right for me" or something similiar.

BTW, if I pretend you're the same anonymous as the previous three posters, it makes for an amusing scenario.
posted by justkevin at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2005

"I'm taking time off to (travel|study|relax|expand my horizons)" oughta be sufficient. You don't really *have* to tell anyone why you quit. It's often none of their business.

Failing that, do you have any sick relatives that you can blame it on? ;)
posted by drstein at 11:25 AM on December 8, 2005

I would say you are leaving for personal reasons. People will imagine a best case scenario. Definitely let the people you want to work for know that you will shortly be looking for opportunities.

Then go on vacation. Come back, and call them.
posted by xammerboy at 11:38 AM on December 8, 2005

Some version of "it was time to make a break and explore what other opportunities are out there"? I think in these circumstances it best to be as vague as possible.

Are you planning on going freelance/consultant? Are these people you are going to talk to coworkers? If so, I would just approach people and say that you've always valued working with them and ask if they will consider you for future projects. Once you're officially gone, follow up with a more direct sell of your abilities.

If you're talking about colleagues and contacts outside of your company, I would start sniffing out leads now.

My husband is doing this--talking to contacts about work before he leaves his current job. It's really not that weird a situation to be in. Just don't give off any red flags by saying stuff about how it was a bad fit or your boss was incompetent in your conversations. Instead, you're "looking for new challenges," admire their company and feel you could contribute meaningfully to it.
posted by Sully6 at 11:39 AM on December 8, 2005

I just did this as well for sounds like much the same reasons.
The friends make a joke about it being a retirement, but i like to call it break.
Also "I was tired of hearing myself whine about my job so decided to do something about it"
posted by stuartmm at 11:42 AM on December 8, 2005

The old "i'm taking off to do [insert xzy, spend time with family, expand horizons]" could be misconstrued as "s/he's a slacker"...

My advice would be, if it's possible in the sector/industry you're working in, to say you're "going freelance". All the independence you need, with the additional benefit of leaving the door open to potential future partnerships / work contracts.
posted by slater at 11:44 AM on December 8, 2005

If anonymous is prominent in hir industry the odds of being percieved as a slacker seem unlikely. I think all the "I decided the position was no longer a good fit for me and am going to finish out my responsibilities here before I turn my focus to another position."

It's not going to fool anyone - nobody leaves without a replacement lined up if they're happy. But it's classy and honest.
posted by phearlez at 12:13 PM on December 8, 2005

When I quit for similar reasons, I told people I was going to be doing some private consulting work while looking at some other opportunites. I ended up starting a consulting business, only to find that that seemed to make even more people want to hire me full-time. Even if you aren't employed you can still call yourself a "consultant" and say you've got some projects "in the works".
posted by blue_beetle at 12:26 PM on December 8, 2005


I felt like it was time for a change.

It's ubiquitous enough that no one should perceive any negativity about your current company. It's also passive in that people do not necessarily assume that you have something else lined-up.
posted by purephase at 1:14 PM on December 8, 2005

I resigned from the management of a company just last week for the exact same reasons you cite. I've been getting a lot of calls from shareholders as to what the circumstances were and what is now going to happen to the company. I don't want to badmouth the CEO, nor the company so I've been telling everyone that "it wasn't the right fit for me". Everyone has told me they understand and many if not most have asked me to keep them in mind for my next deal. Needless to say, this is a huge ego stroke for me, but I don't think it would have happened if I misled them during my time with the company. The bottom line is that honesty (but not the brutal, unfiltered, agressive kind) really is the best policy.

This question reminds me of something I was taught in a film class: tell people who ask that you have "several projects in various stages of development", although looking back on that it seems kind of misleading. Now I'd probably tell people that "I'm actively looking for interesting opportunities and now have the time to explore different positions." This gives people the idea that you are "hireable", but it's not a direct hard sell to the person you are telling.
posted by marc1919 at 1:27 PM on December 8, 2005

I'm with slater and blue beetle. If you want a line, tell people you're consulting. Indeed, you could stumble into a short-term assignment while not fully employed, et voila! you're a consultant. I'd be careful of the "personal reasons" and "time for a change" explanations as some people might negatively assume you got fired.

Say it truthfully but gently: "I'm doing a little consulting and thinking about my next full-time opportunity. Actually, I'm doing some networking while I'm at it, so if you know of anyone in my space that's hiring, I'd love to be put in touch with them...."
posted by werty at 1:59 PM on December 8, 2005

I've been through this.

The best thing to do is soft step the question (as others have said, honestly), but offer to discuss it later. You absolutely have to cement relationships with your coworkers now, before you leave. Here is what I've said, having been through this a couple times: "This was a tough decision, and there are a bunch of reasons, both personal and professional. You know, I've really enjoyed working with you, and I'd love to keep in touch, maybe we could go have lunch before I leave?"

First, you'll be shocked what kind of information people will want to share with you, since your leaving and "safe". And lots of people will start offering you up contacts, and job leads, even if you don't explicitly ask. Then you can follow up with them later, after you've left, and start networking like mad.
posted by sgarst at 2:05 PM on December 8, 2005

a possible tack: "while i learned a lot and enjoyed doing my job well, i felt in order to grow and find new challenges, it was time to move on."
posted by o2b at 2:26 PM on December 8, 2005

It's ok mathowie, we've all been there.

I too quit without having anything lined up, though I didn't really care about burning bridges because I'd never go back and there was a great job market. Instead I didn't talk about it because I find bitching about an ex-company to be a really ugly personality trait. I wasn't refraining for better job prospects.

So usually I'd say something like "I resigned, and I can't go into the details but no one ever leaves a job they were happy with".

If you're worried about looking foolish for not lining something up just say you have offers but you're still looking. From there it's easy to introduce the topic of working for them.

Since I left people ask me about it and so long as I remember that it was my fault for taking it for so long I wouldn't launch into a bitter tirade.

(after reading all the other answers in this thread -- their phrasings, I'm convinced that Oprah-speech is more pervasive by the day)
posted by holloway at 3:18 PM on December 8, 2005

they are asking "where are you going?"

"Where", not "why". So stop worrying, and answer the question they're actually posing. You can even answer exactly the way you wanted to: "Actually, I'd love to work with you if you have something available." Or if someone asks why you're still available to be hired, "I'm evaluating offers, but the truth is I'd love the opportunity to work with you..."

If someone does ask why you left, focus on the positive: ready to move up, find new challenges, felt like the right time to make a bold change, blah blah.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:07 PM on December 8, 2005

A lot of good advice has already been said. I will just emphasize that you want to communicate in the most diplomatic way that they are the problem and you know better - call me. As for the exact phrasing, things like "the corporate culture wasn't a good fit" or "philosophical differences" are all universally understood to mean what they actually mean. Don't talk bad about the company though - refraint makes you look like a savvy and possible employers will be more willing to trust you.
posted by BigBrownBear at 3:27 AM on December 9, 2005

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