Ready to Quit Your Job? 5 Steps to Your Exit Strategy

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If you're like me, your daily fantasy involves throwing one good work tantrum ending in "I quit."

It would feel so good!

At least until you get home and realize you have no plan, no savings, and now, no job.

As boring as it sounds, making a huge life change -- like whether your money comes from a job or your own business -- isn't a spur-of-the-moment decision.

I know -- my journey to quitting my j-o-b was a calculated, two-year process that challenged every spontaneous bone in my body. It took commitment.

So grab a pen and a piece of paper, and follow these five steps to create your grown-up exit strategy:

Step 1: Know Your "Why"
This is the most important part of the strategy process and the one you'll come back to most often if you decide to quit. Your "why" is the calm undercurrent that carries your steadily forward when you feel like you're drowning in waves of self-doubt and worry.

Be specific:
  • What is it about this job that makes you want to leave?
  • Would a shift in your focus, role or responsibilities improve the situation?
  • If you got an entirely new job in a different company, would you still want to leave?

If quitting is still your answer, move on to step two.

Step 2: Write Out Your Vision
What do you envision doing after you quit your job? Although I highly recommend taking some time for yourself -- I took 3 years -- what comes after that? What will be your new "work"?

Get clear:
  • When will you start your new endeavor?
  • How much do you anticipate you'll make?
  • How long will it take until you begin earning?

Your vision is one of the two factors that determine how soon you can quit.

For example, if you plan to be a masseuse and massage school takes two years, then you probably need to work for two more years before you make your big move. On the other hand, if you plan to buy an existing business and you already have the needed skills and resources, you may be able to act sooner.

Step 3: Connect the Dots
Most of us have jobs to pay for things we enjoy -- a home, food, clothes for our kids, weekends at the beach, etc. When we decide to quit, we face two options -- get rid of our obligations or figure out how to provide for them otherwise.

Ask yourself:
  • What does your job currently pay for in your life?
  • What or who else depends on your job? e.g. health insurance, retirement savings, kids, etc.

Here's an example: I used to own a house. The majority of my income went to my mortgage. Once I realized I didn't want to work for someone else, I sold the house and started housesitting. No mortgage and no rent = no obligation.

I still had to figure out health insurance, car insurance, and a host of other details though.

Tip: To make sure you cover all your bases, share your strategy with a trusted relative, friend, or advisor and ask them what you overlooked.

Step 4: Do the Math
Add up all of your responsibilities from step three -- how much money do you need to live on? Don't forget to account for extras like higher insurance premiums for the self-employed, holiday gifts, and the occasional splurge.

Then figure out -- if you quit today, how long could you support yourself? This is the second key piece that determines the when you can quit.

Added bonus: Calculating how much you need and how much you have saved usually helps you appreciate everything your current job provides, which makes the wait until quitting MUCH more tolerable.

Step 5: Make a Plan
Woohoo! You made it to the final step -- scheduling your plan over a period time.
When you can quit is determined by the size of the gap between how long you can support yourself without a job (step 4) and how long it will take to be viable in your new chosen work (step 2).

If you risk running out of money within a month and it'll take you six months to be viable, then you need to stay in your job until you've either saved up more money or are further along in your next endeavor.

Likewise, if you can live for 12 months without working and it'll only take you two months to be viable, feel free to enjoy a 9-10 month holiday. You deserve it!

Final thoughts:
Don't be deterred by other people's concerns or fears or even your own moments of self-doubt.

Revisit step 1 and remember your "why."

Then get on with enjoying your life!