Quitting your job in this kind of dismal hiring environment seems like a horrible career move at best and as an irresponsible financial move at worst. Nevertheless, about a month ago, just before the worst of the financial meltdown hit the fan, my wife and I decided that it was time for her to do just that, and without having a back-up job offer on the table either. Why would we ever do such a thing?
We had multiple reasons, but the biggest of these was that my wife was simply unhappy with the long hours she needed to work. We have three boys, and I am an executive in a technology company and my job too requires me to work long hours. This meant that to get her job done, my wife had to fire up her computer every night after the kids went to sleep and had to regularly work several hours every weekend, just to get by. After working about 60 hours a week, my wife's boss had nothing but complaints about the fact that my wife wasn't working enough. While the company my wife worked for has amazing prospects and is bound for greatness (once the economy turns around), they demand 100% of their employees' time. Here's an interesting example: once a month my wife was required to join an internal sales call which started at 5:00 AM pacific - the goal was to allow the East Coast sales folks a full day of work. A worthy goal, but an example of the single minded focus on work hours and productivity at this company.
The way we saw it there were really only two options: (i) work even longer hours, jeopardizing my ability to do my job, sacrificing more time with the kids and continuing to be exhausted and unhappy; or (ii) quitting. In my opinion keeping the status quo was not an option. My estimate is that the 60 hour work week was not sufficient to allow my wife to keep her job, and ultimately she would have been let go.
If you realize that you will not be able to excel in your position and attain your life goals at the same time, you must accept the logical conclusion that the position is not for you. At that point it is time to think about a graceful exit strategy.
The end of the story (or at least the story so far) has been better than expected. When my wife resigned, she gave the company an open ended advance notice, telling them that she will be glad to stay until they found a replacement. The company decided that a three week advance notice would be sufficient to find a replacement and my wife's final day at work was set for October 7th. However, when that day arrived, the company asked to extend her employment until the end of the week, and when that new date arrived, my wife agreed with her boss that she will remain at the company as a part time consultant, indefinitely.
What does this mean? About half the pay for about half the work, but with no benefits and no stock options. All in all, this is a fine arrangement for us for now. In this current economic environment finding another job is not a simple thing to do and it is likely to take many months. With this part time consulting, my wife has more time to be with the kids. She is also much more relaxed and happier, and now that her work is paid on an hourly basis, her relationship with her boss, and her boss's expectations have improved dramatically. All in all, this has probably been the right thing for us to do, and my wife's happiness is more important to me than anything else.
This has certainly been a difficult, and somewhat scary decision, but it was the right decision to make. In the long run, I am guessing that my wife's position is not secure. It is entirely possible that she would lose her consulting gig upon a day's notice. But for now, this gives us more economic flexibility and at least a little more security.