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Money Minute: Knowing when to quit a job

With 17,000 former Target employees flooding the job market and Stats Canada reporting a loss of 4,300 jobs in Canada in December alone, climbing that career ladder is looking a little glum at the moment.

But the big picture for career seekers tells a different story says Peter Harris, Chief Editor at Workopolis.

“If you look at the Statscan labour numbers we’ve seen two steps forward one steps back in monthly reports of job losses and job gains,” he says. “But the losses have always been smaller than the gains – ever since the recession ended it’s been a jagged but upwards line of increased employment.”

While the country’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.6 per cent in December, Harris advises the greater labour and hiring cycles may be a part of the job search equation but certainly aren’t the be all, end all.

“I would advise candidates not to try to game the system that way, not to quit your job based on thinking, ‘hey, it’s spring, hiring picks up so my chances are better’,” says Harris.

Instead, focus on finding a job before you pull the plug.

“Often, for some reason – though it’s not fair for many employers – employed candidates do happen to look a little more valuable than unemployed candidates,” says Harris. “It’s that unspoken but undeniable recognition that someone is willing to pay you for what you do, therefore you can do it, you’re valuable and worth the money.”

Being between jobs may look to some employers like it was your fault, he adds.

But you may not even have to quit in order to advance your career. Many managers will respect an employees drive to grow, that ambition to take on more responsibilities and advance their careers.

Harris recommends sitting down and outlining your goals.

“If you’re willing to leave anyways then you’re in a pretty good bargaining position,” he says. “I’m not saying give an ultimatum, but you really don’t have that much to lose by striking up that conversation and saying ‘look, I would like to earn this much money, what can I take on, what skills could I acquire, what projects could I work on that would allow me to work towards that and make me more valuable?’”

It won’t always work. A recent survey by Workopolis found that 88 per cent of people have to switch companies in order to get a job with more responsibility. But it’s worth having the conversation.

Harris is quick to disregard using a dirty tactic like going out, getting a job offer from another company and bringing it back to barter for more money.

“It’s not a good way to advance plus it’s not really fair to the employer who interviewed you and made you an offer to have you turn it down because really you just used it as leverage,” he says.

Especially in today’s highly connected world of LinkedIn and social media where a move like that can hurt your professional reputation.

“You need to protect your career currency and some of the most important assets you’re going to have in your career is the network of people you’ve worked with,” says Harris. “You never know when you’re going to be working with people again so it’s really important to be up front with people at every step of the way.”

Thinking it’s time for a change? In this week’s Money Minute, Yahoo Canada Finance’s Ashleigh Patterson chats with David King, Canadian Director of staffing agency Robert Half International about knowing when to walk away.

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