In today’s episode, Anna looks at when it’s time to quit your job and if it’s ever a good idea to quit your job without another one lined up.
The question we’re asking today is, when should you, or when might you want to, quit your job without a plan, without having that next job or business already lined up? When might that be the right decision for you? Of course, this is incredibly personal, but I hope this discussion will give you some ideas and help you to evaluate if this could be the right thing for you.
*Resources mentioned during the episode*
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When it’s time to quit your job
Hello, hello, and welcome back as we continue to look at this idea of leaving the corporate 9 to 5. Now, we’ve been looking at that eternal question of whether you should quit your job without a plan, go all in with your business on the one hand, or if you should take more the sensible option of building a so-called side hustle alongside your full-time job. Last week we looked at what that would take, what that could look like to build a business without quitting your job, and we talked about how to manage your time and focus on the right things as well as the fact that you do eventually get to the point where you do need to take that leap if that’s what you want to do in order to have the time and energy capacity to actually build your business to where you want it to be and to work with your clients and so on.
However, what if that’s not something you want to do or can do? So the question we’re asking today is, when should you, or when can you, when might you want to quit your job without a plan?
Without having that next job or in this case business or exact financial plan and business structure and everything where your client’s lined up and so on? When might that be the right decision for you? And of course, I have to start by saying this is incredibly personal, but I hope this discussion today will give you some ideas and help you to evaluate if this could be the right thing for you. So there can be both positive reasons on the one hand, I think, so I talk about pull reasons, and then negative reasons. I was writing a list and I’ll be referring to my notes, but I think the push reasons, unfortunately, can be bigger, but the pull can actually be more powerful. So that’s something to consider, but we’ll look at those negative push reasons and the positive pull reasons as well today.
But first, of course, why wouldn’t you want to quit your job without a plan? My goodness, why shouldn’t we all just quit and go off traveling and live our best lives? Well, obviously there are some very real concerns.
One of the biggest reasons I think is that there’s this general stigma and certainly belief that it’s much harder to get another job when you’re unemployed. That’s the classic recruitment, job, CV kind of scenario. Now, obviously I am here to talk about starting up on your own, working for yourself, freelancing, portfolio careers and all these things. So we’re not strictly speaking, talking about changing to another traditional career or another job, having the whole application process of working with a recruiter and having their very traditional employer look at your CV and say, “Oh my goodness, there’s this gap.”
However, nonetheless, it’s important to address that question. Is that really the case? And my belief is that that’s not really the case. I’ve certainly heard lots of anecdotal evidence from recruiters, from less traditional employers, maybe, and certainly from employees, people who have quit their jobs. In fact, there’s somebody in my book, which of course I’ve been talking about the last few weeks, who did quit his job, decided to go back to a full time job a year later, and he said in all his interviews, the interviewers were so much more interested in the year he had taken off to start up a volunteering organisation. All that work that he’d been doing was so much more interesting and relevant to the employer, the prospective employer, than any of the traditional CV stuff.
Because let’s face it, if there are 200 applicants for a job, everyone has more or less the same. They tick the boxes. What are you going to do to stand out? Well of course having something really exciting, whether it’s an entrepreneurial endeavour, even to be honest, I think, travel, really working on your health, your family, and so on, or having done some volunteering, whatever it is. I think the issue is when you have an unexplained gap, when you’ve been sitting on your bum, sitting your sofa back home and just watching Netflix. That might be a bit tricky to explain.
However, I would challenge you and think, “Okay, do I actually want to work for an employer who doesn’t respect the fact that I needed to take time off to work on my mental health or who doesn’t value entrepreneurial endeavours or volunteering or even travel and experiencing the world?” I personally would want to work somewhere where they shared my values, that they completely get that those things are important, whether it’s your health or just discovering the world and so on, and they could look past that or even ideally add that to your value proposition and see how that makes you a more interesting candidate rather than a less interesting one.
Now, again, I don’t work necessarily with people who are transitioning into another job, so this is not my focus area, but I did want to address that because I know that’s a very strong belief we have.
It’s harder to get another job when we’re already unemployed. So that’s just something to consider. Now another stigma I think is this idea that quitting is bad. We have to stick with it. Winners never quit. All this. Quitting means we’re giving up and it’s going to look bad, again, and so on. It’s a little bit related. I would argue that actually sticking with a job that is making us miserable, that is ruining our family peace and our health, whatever else those push reasons, again, might be, that is the stupid thing to do. That would be foolish.
So yes, I know, we’re many of us, people pleasers and we worry about what other people think and so on. But I think this stigma, this belief that quitting something is necessarily bad is a mistake. It’s a myth really. And as long as, again, you’re intentional about it, you understand your reasons why, quitting can be, in fact, a positive thing that you’re not just, “Oh my goodness, you gave up, you quit.” But rather, “Hey, I’m saying no to this in order to make space for that.” Another reason why you might not want to quit, and this has come up with a few clients recently, is that you might get discouraged by other people. Because even if you agree with me today, you get all inspired by my podcasting or coaching or whatever it might be, then your partner or your family or the other people around you in the office will discourage you saying, “Oh my goodness, how could you do such a thing, especially in this climate? You’re so naive,” and so on.
That’s unfortunately something that we can’t help but be affected by. And that’s where it becomes so important to have a support system around us to make sure that we, as I call it, incubate our ideas a little bit away from all that negativity and work on our mindset and really work on our path of what we want to do, without allowing ourselves to be too much dragged down by those people who probably share our insecurities and fears and are just protecting those. But those are a few reasons, I think, why we might not want to leave. And of course money is a big one, whether or not we have savings and we’ll talk about this. There comes a point when you do start worrying, “Hang on a second.” Especially mortgage, family obligations, payments, whatever it might be, to not have any income coming in is a pretty stressful position to be in. So unless we have huge amounts of savings or a partner who can support us, et cetera, et cetera, then of course the financial concern could weigh very heavily.
But we’re here to talk about the reasons why you might want to quit, not why you shouldn’t quit. So let’s start with my own experience, and I want to talk about my own experience and then also clients, because my own might be a little bit… I don’t want to say unusual, but certainly luck played a big part in it and I was in a specific situation. I quit my job in 2013. I’d been on a sabbatical across South America. I was between assignments in my role at the time. And I knew that if I came back to the next role, I would very quickly settle into my comfort zone again, because the job was good, the pay was good, I loved the area I was in. I was in Geneva in Switzerland. Beautiful place, loved all my friends. So I knew that it would be very easy to settle back down into that and to get very comfortable again.
So I wanted to keep myself out of my comfort zone and make that decision to take the leap while I was away. So that’s a little bit about the timing. However, in very practical terms, to address some of these concerns, I was single, I was renting a flat in the ghettos, I call it, not the nicest area of Geneva, and it was pretty cheap and it was relatively easy to get rid of that. I had cheap Ikea furniture. I had bought a piano, unfortunately, which I then had to ship back home to, London and put into storage, et cetera, but I didn’t have a whole house full of stuff. I didn’t have a mortgage. I didn’t have a partner. Didn’t have a dog and a Volvo and all these things. So I had no obligations. It was only for myself, and importantly, thanks to a well paid job, I had a lot of savings.
Now I hadn’t intentionally in any way been investing and saving in a sensible way, but purely from the sheer scale, I guess that’s what I wanted to say, off the salary and the fact that I wasn’t spending lots of money on big, expensive things, I suppose, I did have a nice buffer. So savings buffer, being single, no obligations, et cetera. I was also very lucky and, and where I mean I’m lucky is first of all, I was lucky to have very in demand skills. I’d been focusing on digital marketing. I came from a fantastic company, Procter & Gamble, that really opened a lot of doors, looks great on your CV and so on, and had an amazing network. So digital marketing, pretty rare still at the time. Of course in the entrepreneurial space now it seems like everybody’s a digital marketing expert, but certainly in the corporate space that was, and I think still is, quite an edge, albeit of course a growing one that’s becoming more pervasive with time. But I have to think back 10 years ago or so, thinking about how in demand those skills were.
My network was fantastic, because lots of ex P&Gers has had moved on to other companies. They recommended me. They’d often think of me. I do want to hold my hand up and disclaim? I’m struggling with words today. Announce? Proclaim? I’m not sure. The luck that I had, the privileged position I was in, thanks to the savings, the network, the experience I had had in my corporate life, which I’m sure many of you have had as well. So I’d like to think this is not a very unique situation. But just to say, that was my truth, and you have to understand your own situation. But that was for me. The pull for me was that I wanted to travel more. I had some vague idea of working for myself. I wanted to write more. I want to do something more meaningful.
The push, to be honest, wasn’t great. It was a strange situation. It wasn’t that I was burning out. I wasn’t made redundant. There wasn’t an obvious next step, there wasn’t a digital career path for me, so I was going to go back to a standard role, which felt a bit like a step back. I’d had a really interesting autonomous role within the digital team, which was fantastic for my level of seniority. But there was no really negative, toxic work culture or anything like that that pushing me out. It was more that things were okay. There was a disconnect between what I thought I wanted to be doing and what I was doing, but it was more the pull for me, actually. So that’s interesting.
Now, if I think of a few clients and their reasons, and I’ve had this with quite a few clients in the business incubator recently, so it’s quite an interesting one to look at. It’s been more the negative side to be honest. A toxic work environment, as I mentioned. If you’re feeling super anxious, but disengaged, negative, that’s not a place you want to be and that can have really serious implications over time. So if it’s not just a whim, but it really is an ongoing situation that’s been really tough for you, that’s something to consider of course, if it really is… Your values are so disconnected with that of your company, with your boss, that could be a really strong push reason that, “You know what, I can’t stay here any longer.”
If you’re nearing or have already reached burnout, that’s a physical health reason, mental health as well, that you can’t continue. You might be forced to, if not quit, then at least take a leave of absence, take that sick leave.
So that’s something, of course, which again, makes the decision for you. On the other hand, just don’t have any energy or time or mental space or emotional space to think about what you might want to do instead, that could be an opportunity to leave because, “Hey, actually I can’t possibly within this framework even begin to imagine what else I could do, let alone actually get something up and running.” If you don’t have autonomy over your schedule, if you don’t have a supportive boss or environment, you’ve tried everything too, you’ve maybe asked, or at least you know it’s not possible to go down to part time, have a more flexible schedule, take a sabbatical or whatever it might be. If you’re not able, within the confines of the current structure of the Monday to Friday and so on to create any more flexibility for yourself, then the so called extreme decision to leave might be the best option for you.
Likewise, if you can’t build your business within the job because of maybe conflict of interest, maybe you’re going to be doing something quite similar, maybe you can’t ethically continue doing your job while also managing your business, for example. That’s something as well. It’s just not possible to do it within the job. But in a nutshell, and I always say this as the clincher, I guess, it’s scary to get out of our comfort zone, it’s worrying about money, and it’s all these things. But if the pain, or rather when the pain of staying exceeds the fear of leaving, so if you get to that trigger, the pivotal point where the pain of staying is greater than the pain of the fear of leaving, that is, you know what, the decision is made for you.
So just to share two concrete examples of clients recently. In the one case, I asked a client who was facing this very decision, “With all this in mind, can we work together on getting your business up and running, validating the idea, getting that pipeline of clients and so on…” So the question was, can you stay in this job, in the environment you’re in right now, for another month, two months, three months, six months, whatever that timeline might be? And the answer was a very definite no. “No, literally I can’t. I’ve been trying for a year. I’ve tried everything possible. Taken time off, I’ve asked for this, I’ve done that. I just can’t do it anymore.” And that was a very empowering moment because in a way she’s forced into that decision, but also very clear, the decision is made for you. No. I can’t. It doesn’t matter about the fears and everything. You know what, I’ve done everything I can and it’s just not right.
Now to contrast that with another client, and they both happen to be female, but there are men as well, I’m sure, who faced these… And certainly in the programme as well. And another client actually is very lucky to have a very supportive boss and organisation that are aware of her business idea, supportive of that, and even provide her with opportunities, paid opportunities, even, to pursue that business within the company structure. She does it outside as well. And are supportive of allowing her to go down to part time. Fantastic. So not only can she continue to build her business openly, she can do whatever she wants on LinkedIn and social media. She even has networking opportunities within the company, and she can gradually, over time, as her business builds, go down to more and more part time or less and less, however you want to see it.
So those are two different scenarios. If you really cannot continue another day, no autonomy of your schedule, toxic work culture, get to that trigger point where the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving. Boom. That’s an opportunity, that’s the decision to leave and quit without everything else, all your ducks in a row or whatever the expression is. On the other hand, if you have a supportive boss, environment, and you can build it alongside, you can go down to part time, you can take some time off, you’re working from home so you can manage your calls and so on while still managing or full time job, by all means, continue to build the business until you get to the point where you can’t do that anymore and you want to leave.
Now, speaking of wanting to leave, let’s look at some positive pull reasons. And I have to say that some of these pull reasons are still a little bit negative push reasons, but let’s see. But one is that you have made all the shifts you can possibly make within the current environment. So you’ve done everything to try to improve your work life balance, to work more flexibly, shift roles within the organisation, whatever it might be, and there’s just nothing else you can do. You’ve been doing this for months, a year, and you’ve got to the point again where the only way where you can pursue something and you’re looking for that something more is to actually quit.
Maybe you’re stuck in a comfort zone and you just need a kick up the backside, so you actually need that fear.
You need that exhilarating, “Hey, I’m in survival mode. I’ve had this idea for a business maybe for years and done nothing about it. I need to push myself so that I actually have to go all in. I have no choice.” Maybe that’s you. Maybe you’ve run the numbers and you feel comfortable with the savings you have. Maybe you have the financial support from a partner, from your family, from your savings and you feel that, “Actually I can go six months, nine months, a year even, or more.” Maybe you had a redundancy package that you could fall back on, and that from a financial perspective is going to work for you.
And above all, you have a support system. Whether it’s friends who support you. Remember those people who are all around you and being really negative and saying, “Why on Earth would you do that? That’s never going to work.” Those are not the people you want in your support system. You want cheerleaders, online or offline community. I have my One Step Outside Facebook group, or you join a paid programme. You work with a coach. But you really need to have the support that you need, whether it’s business strategy and structure, whether it’s a co-founder for the business, whether it’s just the emotional cheerleader support, whatever that is, but you need that support in place.
And again, before I was saying you might want to leave if, or you probably definitely would leave if the pain of staying is greater than the pain of leaving. On the positive side, I always say that scary and exciting tend to come together. So if you get to the point where the exciting is really outweighing the scary, so you’re so much, “Oh my gosh, I’m so excited about this idea,” or the idea of travelling or taking time off or working on this, if that then exceeds the scariness, then that’s also a sign that probably you’re in the right place now. Take that opportunity. There will never be a better opportunity. There’s never the right moment. So by all means, take the leap.
However, again, if you’re just wanting to quit on a way whim, you’ve just had a bad day today, you had an argument with your boss or a colleague today, and you haven’t run the numbers, you have no idea what you’d want to do, and things aren’t absolutely awful… If you’re happy to stay for a bit longer, it’s fine. Then by all means stay. However, I would make sure then that you really… If it’s this, “I’m going to quit when…” Be super clear, give yourself a deadline, “This time next year.” Work backwards, milestones, and make sure you have an action plan and structure in order to get there because otherwise you’ll just never get there. You’ll just let it drag on and on and on.
And also, I know I say, and the whole title here is quitting without a plan, but you need some kind of plan.
You need a next step, a plan, however loose in your mind. Whether it’s, “Okay, I’m going to travel, if possible. I’m going to take some time to figure this out. I’m going to work with a career coach to work out what I want to do. I’m going to join this structured programme to get my idea up and running.” You need a structure. I cannot tell you, and I’m sure I’ve said this again and again on the podcast, how difficult it can be to have days and days after decades in this school and company structure, days and days just stretching out ahead of you, hours and hours without any kind of blocks, and you don’t know, and yes, the first few weeks and months are amazing, but even if you have savings, even if you’re enjoying that time off, over time, the fear will creep in, and with no income coming in that can get really stressful.
The last thing you then want to do is have to feel like you’re tempted back to the employment boards and you’re applying to jobs and things that you don’t really want to be doing. So really make sure, absolutely take some time off, and again, I’ve had a couple of clients in the programme, in the business incubator, who’ve taken four weeks, six weeks off recently, after quitting their job, they knew and we knew and we’ve seen that happen now, that space, that relaxation was critical for their mental physical health. It gave them a bit of fun after many years of being in the structure, again, a bit of freedom. And it actually also gave them renewed energy and inspiration for their business, which is great. So a little bit time away, as we talked about a few weeks ago as well, can really actually help your business rather than hinder it.
So again, even if you have savings, the fear can creep in, so bear that in mind. I just want to reemphasize the support system. Having nothing at all, having no plan… Now we’ll talk about some mistakes you can make next week, and one of the mistakes is to think you have to invest in some kind of formal qualification, a two year MBA or whatever it might be, and that’s not the case. However, joining something like my business incubator, or again, working with… I work one to one with clients on helping them reimagine success as it were. So even if it’s just, “Hey, I want to figure out what my next step is,” working with somebody who can really help you do that. Again, by all means, if you have a friend who can do that, a partner, if you feel you’re able to do that, it’s sometimes difficult, if not always difficult to do it with someone who’s very close to you. They’re very personally involved and involved and so on, and they can have the same concerns and insecurities as you.
But again, some loose plan, whether it’s to travel, give yourself… “Okay, first three months I’m going to be exploring and enjoying and then I need to really knuckle down and focus on this.” Give yourself a bit of a structure, because otherwise that’s where things can get out of control, and certainly for me, because I didn’t have that plan, it took quite a long time for myself to get into place, and of course over time to get to where I am now, building a business that works with my family and that I love doing and that also gives me financial security.
So there you go. Big topic, of course, as ever, but should you quit your job, when might it be right for you to quit your job without that kind of plan, without a next step lined up? Speaking of a really, really specific next step. But again, you do want to have some kind of next step in mind, even if it’s just taking some time off, exploring, imagining what things might look like afterwards. But looking forward to your thoughts on this one. As ever, you can reach me firstname.lastname@example.org with any follow up questions. Connect with me on any social channel, of course, One Step Outside or Anna Lundberg, And I look forward to hearing what you think.
But if this feels like it could be the right thing for you, then know that it’s not naive, it’s not stupid, you’ve done the due diligence, you’ve thought it through, you’ve done everything you can, and this is intuitively… It feels like the right decision for you, then I would say, go with your guts, have some courage, have that courage. I know it’s hard. It’s always going to be scary, but there is no right time, and maybe now is the time for you to make this leap. Best of luck with that and I’ll see you next week. Bye for now.
If you’re ready to start to reimagine what success could look like for you, here are some of the ways in which Anna can support you:
Get private mentoring for your business – Partnering with a business coach can help you see those blind spots and get both external accountability and expert guidance to take your business to where you want it to be. www.onestepoutside.com/freeconsultation
Get private career coaching – Individual coaching is fully tailored to your specific goals and desires so we can create the programme that works best for you, with the support that you need to move forwards. www.onestepoutside.com/claritycall
Grab a copy of Leaving the Corporate 9 to 5 – After interviewing 50 people who have left the corporate 9 to 5 to forge their own path, Anna has collected their stories in a book that will inspire you with the possibilities that are out there and reassure you that you’re not alone in looking for an alternative. www.leavingthecorporate9to5.com
Join the One Step Outside the 9 to 5 Business Incubator – This is your roadmap to transitioning from a corporate job into setting up a meaningful business that will bring you more freedom, flexibility and fulfilment outside of the corporate 9 to 5. www.onestepoutside.com/9to5
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