Quitting my job was one of the riskier moves I've done in life thus far, but it's probably the most rewarding decision I've ever made. With the year coming to an end, I’ve reflected on what this decision has meant to me and how it’s played out in my life. I want to share what I've learned, what I did right, and what mistakes I made.
I decided to quit my job because I realized I did not want to work in that field anymore. It didn’t make sense to me to spend any more time doing something that wasn’t contributing to my future, especially when I wasn’t making much money at it to begin with.
Before I quit, I searched the internet high and low for articles on how to quit your job without another lined up. Turns out, there are very few of them. Most people would advise you to only do something like that once you have 3-6 months of income in savings or a new job in sight. While prudent, that advice just wasn’t working with my time frame.
If you’re in a similar situation, I suggest you do what I call a resource audit. I did have a bit of savings, but not 3-6 months worth. So, I had to figure out what other resources I had that could help me. Here’s what I came up with:
- A good credit score
- An apartment that I could sublet
- Existing credit cards with the perk of no foreign transaction fees
- Frequent flyer miles built up from sign-up bonuses
- A debit card that reimbursed all ATM fees
- Membership to Rotary International
- A degree from a highly ranked university
- Experience and comfort traveling internationally
- Experience volunteering
Looking at this mix of resources, I knew I could travel internationally without having to pay airfare. I decided to go to a country that was less expensive to live in than my home in Manhattan (though what country isn’t?), where my small savings would carry me a lot further. I also figured that with my work and academic experience, I could begin freelancing and maybe find some work abroad (which I did, partially through Rotary International).
The list above is not meant to be a list of necessary resources to quit your job. Rather, I hope it encourages you to think creatively about what resources and advantages you might have above and beyond savings (or lack thereof) and shape your exit plan around that.
This list also gave me a new appreciation for preparing for life’s curveballs. While I did wish I had been more proactive about savings, I felt proud for having a good credit score, frequent flyer miles saved up, and my prestigious degree. It truly does pay to think ahead.
I then spent the following four months living in Southeast Asia. I was lucky enough to travel throughout 5 beautiful countries during that time. But, everywhere I went and everything I did had a reason behind it.
I volunteered at a community center to learn about international development. I freelanced to make money and build a freelance resume. I taught English and web design to make extra money. I worked on a grant proposal for an initiative against human trafficking. All of these helped me land the job I have now, working in philanthropy, which I doubt I would’ve been able to achieve directly from my previous job.
So, what did I learn?
1. High Risk= High Reward
Quitting my job was
scary terrifying. Leaving my steady income and secure job, apartment were big risks. But, I had to get real with myself and accept that I couldn't see myself happily staying in that field of work.
But quitting my job was not the sole risk. Upon quitting, I bought a one-way ticket to Cambodia to volunteer and work in Southeast Asia. Alone. Risks upon risks! In the end, I was lucky enough to land a job back in NYC in philanthropy, which was very important to me given the turbulent state of global politics. Perhaps more significantly, I was rewarded with the experience of a lifetime: living, traveling, volunteering, and working abroad by myself. I can’t imagine how I would have achieved such incredible rewards without taking the risks I did.
2. No job does not equal no plan
Everyone will tell you that you shouldn't quit your job without having another lined up. It makes sense because of the very real things called income. But, there are valuable things to spend your time on other than a job.
When I quit, I didn't have another job lined up. But, I decided to travel alone, which was on my bucket list, volunteer to learn more about international development, and build up experience freelancing, which I knew could help me for years to come. I didn't have another job lined up, I had a plan, and that's all I needed.
3. You're more capable than you think
You can handle so much more than you realize. We are all stronger than we know. Things that seem scary or bad are usually just not.
4. Think bigger than you could imagine
Don't succumb to a routine. I truly believe that the best ideas are the craziest. If you want to make a bold move such as a career change, you need to accept that some people (parents, relatives, friends, co-workers) are going to think you're being careless, reckless or irresponsible. Ignore them. Do it anyway.
5. No need to fear failure if you don't accept it as an option
The older I get, the more I am convinced that failure is usually giving up, not actually defeat.