While it was once commonplace to remain at a single company for an entire career, the market has changed, and these days most of the workforce changes jobs with some frequency. This doesn’t mean it’s wise, however, to leave a position without thinking through all the possibilities. To avoid making a mistake and possibly burning a bridge, it’s important to assess your current situation thoroughly. 

To help make that assessment, ask yourself the following six questions to determine if leaving your current job is truly your best option. 

1. Do I Have a Plan for Attaining a New Job? 

Before handing in your resignation letter, take the time to create a plan for finding a new job. Will you turn to job boards like Craigslist and Monster.com, or will you consider hiring a headhunter? It’s best to have something lined up before leaving a job, but if that’s out of the question, it’s necessary to identify a plan for finding one after you quit. 

If you’re thinking of making a career switch, you may want to start building your skillset while you’re still employed at your current position. For example, you could take a continuing education class or volunteer in your chosen field. You should also think about how you will find a job. Doing so boosts your chances of future success and could shorten your time spent unemployed.

2. How Many Jobs Have I Had in the Last Few Years? 

While it’s now common to hold several positions over the course of your career, in most industries, job-hopping too frequently can raise red flags among hiring managers. If you’ve left your last few jobs after only a few months, you may want to consider staying employed until the one-year mark

A little tip: if you’re desperate to cover employment gaps or want to avoid answering questions about past job-hopping, you can edit your resume to mention only the years and not months you were employed at a given job. Be warned, however, that seasoned hiring managers may see through this and move onto another resume that includes months. 

3. Is My Personal Situation Conducive to Making a Career Change? 

While most of us have had fantasies of walking into the office and quitting our jobs, it’s not always a wise move. Before handing in your resignation, it’s a good idea to consider whether your current personal or family situations allow for a career switch. For example, factors like a sick family member or unexpected pregnancy can affect your financial situation, which you should be prepared to deal with if you can’t immediately find another job. Be honest with yourself about whether your personal life supports a career change. 

4. Have I Been Here Long Enough to Gain Valuable Work Experience? 

Before leaving your present role, you may want to assess whether you’ve garnered enough work experience from it. Even if you dislike your boss, your present job may be offering you skills and experience that will help you attain a better position in the future. If possible, stay at your job until you’ve gotten everything out of the experience before moving on to the next opportunity.  

5. How Long Can I Afford to Remain Unemployed? 

It’s a good idea to do some financial calculations and determine how long you can afford to be unemployed. Your safest bet would be to create a budget. Take your income (which, in this case, would be your savings, any severance pay, dividends, maybe your spouse’s income, etc.) and weigh that figure against your projected expenses (e.g. mortgage and car payments, utilities, food, clothes, entertainment, healthcare, etc.). Most importantly, make an expense category for unexpected emergencies and necessities, as these can do damage to a budget when unaccounted for. If you have enough cash to sustain you for at least six months, you may be in position to make a career change. 

6. Am I Partially (or Completely) Responsible for My Current Negative Situation?  

While it’s natural to dislike certain aspects of a job, many of us don’t take the time to question whether we’re partly to blame for our unhappiness in the workplace. If you’re thinking of leaving your current role, stop and ask yourself if you can do anything to improve your situation. Have you talked to your boss about your feelings? Or have you inquired about a promotion or lateral move within the organization? Explore the source of your dissatisfaction to ensure your career unhappiness doesn’t follow you to a new company. 

Most of us have had the experience of quitting a job to move on to a new position. However, not all of us went about this act in the best possible way. Ask yourself the questions above before making the decision to send in that resignation letter. If you do decide to leave, be polite and thoughtful when conveying this information to your boss. The last thing you want to do is burn a bridge that you may want to cross in the future.