Last year I did something I didn’t think I’d do again – I quit my job without having another role lined up.
It was a bold move. It has taken me a while to process everything that led to that point. To distill the lessons learned. It’s one of those scenarios that are hell to go through, I hope never happen again and yet wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Only two months down the track that I’m starting to feel that way. Definitely not an overnight sensation.
Without getting into the nitty, gritty, you know it’s a bad scene when your best friend’s reaction to the standard rant is ‘how’s the job hunt going?’. Time to go.
We’ve all put up with less than ideal situations – jobs, relationships, flats – longer than we should. In hindsight, this was one of those deals. And that hindsight has given me some insight into how I got from tolerating my job to taking the leap to leave.
What’s the Worst Case Scenario?
“I’ll book a flight on my credit card, move back to New Zealand and start over.”
Bit of a road bump but that’s not exactly an irreversible catastrophe is it? I’m not ready to head home but could certainly end up in worse places. I wasn’t going to end up homeless or any other major disaster. Being that broke would suck but I would recover.
Asking myself (actually my best friend asked me but you can ask yourself) how bad it would feasibly get, really put in perspective the risk, or lack thereof, I was taking.
Sigh of relief.
Maybe you will need to ask for money. Or sleep on someone’s couch. Or cancel your gym membership. Or pick up temp work. Or fly home early. Or someone will say no to you. You’ll eat a little humble pie but the world won’t end.
What Options Do I Have?
Leading on from the worst case scenario planning is contingency planning. I was pretty confident I could easily pick up casual work that would cover my expenses. I’ve done this before so understand how long it takes, what the pay is like, who I needed to talk to in order to make it happen. If needed, temp work would buy me time and starve off my worse case scenario from happening.
Another friend suggested I spend six months doing something completely random. I could be a teacher’s assistant or try my hand at pulling pints. I’m not beholden to a linear career path. In fact, in quitting I’d already started deviating so why not go a little crazy and round out my experience in unpredictable ways.
The point is when we’re on one path, we get blinkered. We focus on what’s in front of us. We get used to visualising our life progressing in a certain direction. We make choices based on that version of our future, like committing to a twelve-month gym membership that may not be in a convenient location anymore. Life, or ourselves, throws a curve ball. We need to proactively open our eyes and take a good look around so to speak. Find the possibilities. Get really creative. I momentarily considered moving to China to teach English.
Start with talking to trusted people. Ask them what would they do. Or what do they see you doing. Spend some time journaling, asking yourself what you want to experience more of. Get exploratory. Consider lots of options, from the plausible to the absurd. Let your imagination run wild. Counterintuitively, you’re not trying to form a plan. The success of this is recognising all of the possibilities open to you and taking confidence that there is a way forward.
What is the Plan?
Speaking of plans, it is a good idea to have one. When you’re doing something big and scary, like quitting your job, it pays to keep it fluid to account for the unknown. Having some key parameters, however, will keep you sane. At least it does for me.
Prior to quitting my job, I’d spent some time getting in control of my finances. I used my Kakeibo to track my spending, eliminated a bunch of unnecessary costs and got a good handle on what my outgoings are. I built up some savings. This was pivotal for two reasons. One, I knew how long my money would last so had a deadline for when I needed more income. Two, I knew I could stick to my budget as I’d already been cultivating the tools and habits.
The main point of my plan is that I needed to start making money in February (that’s tomorrow eeek!). January was split into two uneven parts. First, spend some downtime getting mentally back on my feet. Two, find a new job to be really excited about. Very fluid. But it provided some guiding principles to help me make decisions.
That’s all your plan really needs to be. What are the broad timeframes? Where do you need to focus on your energy and in what order? Do you have a cut-off point, when is it and what are you going to do when you get there? When you’re doing something scary, the most powerful thing I’ve learned to do is a have a deadline. If I haven’t achieved a specific outcome but this date then I’m jumping ship. The date can always move but by having it you will think about what you’re doing and make a conscious decision whether to continue. It will prevent you, and me, from throwing good time after bad. Have your milestones.
Who’s in My Corner?
Having the confidence to make big decisions isn’t a solo endeavour. I’ve already mentioned two incredible friends that have provided support. Then there are my parents that were urging me to quit for months. And the former boss providing sage advice that allowed me to make a rational decision I was comfortable with (although an emotional storming out would have been satisfying on a level).
You are not alone in this. Realising that and knowing who to turn to in various scenarios is a serious confidence booster. When I need practical, job hunting advice, I know who to turn to. When I need a sympathetic ear, I know who will listen. When I need some serious distraction, I know who will make me laugh. Before you leap into the great unknown, take a minute to think about your people and in what situation you will go to them. Prethinking about this makes it more likely you’ll do it when whatever comes up rather than drowning alone. Make your team part of your plan.
Quitting My Job
Two months ago, or just under, I did something big and scary. Consciously or not, the worse case scenario, having options and a rough plan and knowing how much support I had around me made it possible. I haven’t found that next job yet so it’s still a little nerve racking. Without a doubt though, this was the best decision for me and I can’t wait to see what comes next.
What about you? What big life changes are you considering or have done recently? If you have any further tips, share them in the comments.