You know you want to. For years you've been daydreaming about telling your boss and the rush you'll get when you walk out the door for the last time. But despite your fantasies of finally quitting your job and radically changing career direction, something has always stopped you.
Let me guess what that might be.
You, like everyone else, have heard that it's crazy to give up a solid job when you don't have another one lined up. So you've been waiting around for the right opportunity to fall in your lap before you finally call it quits on your mediocre, old gig.
That sounds sensible, but it's actually bonkers, according to a recent article on Quartz by entrepreneur and author Tess Vigeland. For most folks, the only way you are going to really change your life, she argues, is if you just quit. Having done it herself, Vigeland offers a great step-by-step guide to making the leap without a safety net.
The logistics of quitting
Her advice totally goes against conventional wisdom, Vigeland admits, and following it is likely to be terrifying, but nonetheless she urges "everyone who's ever dreamed of setting fire to expense reports or tossing a uniform in the dumpster to take a flying leap in the year ahead."
She isn't totally crazy, though. Vigeland mixes her full-throated call for a brave dive into the unknown with advice on how to manage both the psychological challenges and practical realities of just quitting your job. For example, save some money first, she sensibly suggests, and also run the idea by your family to get their buy-in.
Then "decide what your worst-case scenario is, and how far down the road toward that worst-case scenario you are willing to go," she writes. "What kind of income loss are you willing to accept, and for how long?"
The emotions of quitting
The more fascinating part of her article, however, deals with emotions, not budgets. Career is so central to many of our identities that giving up your job can be deeply unsettling. People will look at you a little funny, Vigeland warns readers, so prepare yourself to be able to withstand subtle pressure to get back to work at a job--no matter how ill fitting--ASAP.
"Even meeting someone new at a dinner party can throw you off. Their first question will probably be, 'Hey, what do you do?'" she points out. "So come up with an answer to that infernal question in advance. What's your elevator pitch as to why you're making this career leap and how you're managing it?" She suggests something like: "I've given myself a sabbatical from my long career as a lawyer/teacher/professional skydiver to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life."
But it's not just external pressure that will be driving you toward aimless productivity before you've figured out what you really want to do. "You're probably going to have to get through some really tough, agonizing personal growth before you can settle into a new career," Vigeland notes. "Especially at first, you'll feel a constant pressure to be productive and be Doing Something to get a job."
Resist that urge. "You don't want to be sitting on the couch eating bonbons and getting depressed, but take some time to enjoy life while you're figuring out what comes next," Vigeland suggests. It's fine to meander a bit on the road to a new career, stopping to smell the roses as you do, but make sure you make some progress.
"Be sure to network," Vigeland concludes. "Make lists of the things you loved about your last job and what you didn't love. Figure out what your priorities are for a new workplace. But don't panic and take the first offer you get just because you feel like you have to be productive."