What I Learned From Quitting My Job Without Another One Lined Up
Quitting your job without another one lined up is weird – especially if it’s a 9 to 5 job job and you’ve been doing it a while. It feels like you’re shedding part of your personality, which of course, is the general idea. But that doesn’t mean dealing with the financial and emotional repercussions is easy.
Last year I decided to go for it. I wasn’t unhappy with my job. It wasn’t a toxic environment. To be embarrassingly honest, it was mostly great. I just knew that my life was heading in another direction (overseas, still haven’t got there) and I needed time and space to think (still have space, still thinking). Sounds privileged I know – but the reality hasn’t been what I’ve expected.
Whether you’ve got a vague idea, a good idea, or absolutely no idea about what’s next – sometimes taking a leap into the working netherworld is the right thing to do. Here’s what I’ve learned.
If you have a safety net, now’s the time to use it
When you quit a big job without another lined up, it helps to have some sort of financial backup plan. This could be moving back in with the folks, riding out your leave, or chipping away at your savings. For me, it’s been all of the above.
The reality is, money is on your mind, so it’s important to talk about it – with your friends, your partner, your family or anyone else who will be affected by your decision. Just don’t let it control your every move. While it’s definitely a shock to the system when your beautifully stable paycheque suddenly walks out on you, just remember you’re the one who broke things off.
If it helps, put a limit on how much cash you’re willing to burn through. This will give you an idea of how long this period can last. In the midst of crushing limbo-ness, weird nostalgia and forced isolation, having an endpoint has been a saving grace for me.
When the doubts come knocking, let them in
The emotional backlash is one of the hardest parts of quitting – especially if you’re predisposed to anxiety. Because no matter how right or positive your decision was, inevitably the doubts will catch up with you.
They’ll make little jabs at your confidence, your sense of value, your identity. My advice? Don’t push them away, but don’t let them consume you. As hard as it is to maintain perspective sometimes, just remember that you quit for a reason. There’ll definitely be dull days and deep thinking, but that’s all part of the adventure.
Don’t just focus on the long-term
Trust me, it’s too far away. It’s too complicated by ‘what if’ scenarios. While it might be important to have a vague vision of what you want to do or where you want to be, just know that it won’t happen overnight – or fall into your lap. Short-term goals are your best mates right now.
To begin with, my to-do lists were massive, broad and entirely undoable. The more dot points I made, the more overwhelmed I got, the less I accomplished. Structuring your limbo is great, but don’t go overboard on the job hunting and life planning. Set yourself a couple of prioritised daily goals and use the remaining time to enjoy yourself. Remember, it’s okay to be selfish – watching nine seasons of Peep Show in a week is really impressive.
Flexibility is as important as sticking to your gut
Committing to the in-between might be your full-time profession for now, but don’t forget about the real world. Now that you’ve got freedom on your hands, use it. You never know what kind of opportunities might come along. Small freelance gigs that lead to bigger things. Casual jobs that can support newfound passions. Pick up a new hobby, learn new skills, volunteer, read more. While you’ve got the time, it’s good to say yes to things – especially if they get you out of the house and benefit you in the short-term.
Don’t burn any bridges
Unless you were treated like actual human trash, try to leave on good terms – particularly if you still want to work in the industry at some point. Quitting is notoriously hard.
But if you’re honest and upfront, your boss will understand. So when it comes to your final weeks, don’t leave before you leave. Do all you can to make the transition easy, and if you liked the people you worked with, stay in touch. Industry contacts and glowing references will help you land another job – even if it’s in another field.
Finally, remember to embrace uncertainty
True, not having a solid idea of what’s coming next sucks. It can be distressing, boring and completely anxiety-inducing. It involves financial, emotional and social sacrifice. But at the same time, it’s exciting and formative. I’ve learned that I crave predictability, structure and approval way too much. That – cue cheese – the world is my oyster. That – cue cheese again – you never know until you try. So if you’re thinking of jumping ship, just know that it’s doable, worth it, and doesn’t have to last forever.
Doug Whyte is a freelance writer and copywriter. He’s worked in branding agencies, digital publishing and written a bunch of articles for a bunch of publications.