Like A Girl

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I quit my job with nothing lined up.

Sea Lions on a rock, one sea lion diving into the water. Credit: Natalia_Kollegova on www.pixabay.com

Yes, really.

I quit my full time job in UX without another job lined up. I decided I should write about this because so many people on Twitter wanted to talk to me about what it was like. I think there is a lot of fear (rightfully so) and stigma around leaving a job when you don’t have the next one lined up, but I don’t think it’s worth staying in a job that is affecting your mental and/or physical health or that is keeping you from what you really want to be doing. I want to share my thought processes and what I did to make this a viable option for myself in hopes that it helps someone else.

Before I start, though, I want to explicitly mention that I am married to a person with a FT job who carries our benefits. This is an enormous privilege that a single person does not have, so please keep that in mind.

Why? Why would you do that?

Without revealing too much, I was deeply unhappy at work. It wasn’t one thing that tipped the scales for me, it was many. The company in general seemed to have a problem taking products from ideation to production. Projects would get shelved, and I had a lot of bench time where I was doing nothing. When I tried to take initiative to provide value, I was shot down. Repeatedly. There were also some really toxic individuals, and I felt like I was not at all valued. Additionally, my commute was wearing on me. I also had some personal health issues in my family that required me to attend appointments, which ate up my vacation time. (The company did not provide sick time and there was no way to get unpaid time off in small chunks.) I was feeling so overwhelmed. My stress was through the roof.

I will say that I did try to find a solution within the company, but the policies were such that there was nothing that would be suitable to allow me to take some time off, paid or unpaid. I spoke with my manager, and we decided together that it’d be best if I walked away from my role.

This wasn’t my original plan!

I’d been quietly job hunting for a few months. I had interviews with really positive feedback, but no offers. Eventually, I was unable to continue to go on these multi-hour interviews that companies are requiring due to being out of PTO. If I wanted to continue to interview for roles, I would have to get rid of the biggest barrier to my search: my job.

This possibility had been on my mind for a while as I saw my PTO decrease. It wasn’t ideal. It wasn’t my first choice. I wanted to have something in place when I left, but it was looking like I couldn’t make that happen while I was still employed there, and I didn’t know how much longer I could take that environment.

How I prepared

Honestly, I didn’t do a great job preparing for this. I should have saved more. I had about 2 months of expenses in the bank, and I should have saved about 6. I poured through the company employment policies as well as I could (the HR portal was really hard to figure out). I spoke at length with my family and my therapist and a career coach. I talked to a recruiter I trusted about the market and the likelihood I could get another role relatively quickly. I also was in contact with someone who asked me if I’d be interested in subcontracting with their company.

I asked my family if this was an option. I was a grad student and an adjunct for 6 years. I survived on a very low salary (below minimum wage for high-level knowledge work) thanks to my spouse and family’s support. I asked if they could do that again if needed. My spouse encouraged me to leave this job that was so damaging to my health and well-being. We talked about how, in an at-will economy, I could be fired at any time anyway. Having a FT job was no longer a guarantee of security.

I talked to my recruiter friend about the market for someone like me. He told me that he didn’t think I’d be out of work long, but to be prepared for it to take longer than I may think it will.

I quit. Now what?

The last day at work, I felt so incredibly light as I was driving home. I felt free! That happiness quickly gave way to an, “OH SHIT. What did I do?!” spiral, though, and I admit I did a fair bit of crying that evening. My spouse reminded me over and over that I needed to do this. He needed me to do it. I was scared. There was no going back. I decided to try to relax, take a few days to recover, and then focus on the next thing.

Life’s funny sometimes.

I was chatting with my best friend the next day, and she randomly sent me a link to a Facebook post from a friend of hers. Her friend was looking for a UX freelancer available immediately to help out with a project. I responded, and she put me in contact with the creative director. We had a phone call the next morning, and within an hour, I had an offer to join their team! That’s right, I got a new job the same week I quit. It’s a remote position on a product that I really believe in. The people I am working with are amazingly smart and kind. It’s not full-time, but it will hopefully be enough for me to get by for a while. I’m still keeping my eyes open for other opportunities, but who knows where this one will lead.

Should you quit, too?

I can’t answer that for you. My situation is probably not normal. Most people don’t get a job so quickly after leaving. I can give you some advice on how to prepare yourself for leaving, though. (Note: These are also good tips for if you are laid off or fired!)

  1. Keep your LinkedIn and network up to date and tend to them regularly.
  2. Put aside money for situations like this. It’s probably a good idea to have at least 6 mos of expenses stockpiled if that’s feasible for you.
  3. Have a safety net. Talk to your loved ones about what your options are.
  4. Keep an eye on the market for your role. Know hiring trends.
  5. Know your personal tolerance for risk. Mine’s not that high, but my support system helps me deal with the uncertainty.
  6. Figure out how you can make some money if you’re between FT roles. I signed up for Upwork to do some freelance projects in my field. This doesn’t pay all that well, but it’s more money than zero dollars.
  7. Consider you may have to take a role outside of your field. I know women who have tended bar, worked retail, worked as baristas, etc. to have some income while they searched.

Once you’re unemployed

(That word feels so ugly!) Really go hard on your job search. Network. Set up coffees with people you haven’t connected with in a while. Contact recruiters. Polish your resume and portfolio. Tailor everything to every job you’re applying for. It’s almost a FT job in itself.

Do I regret it?

No. Well, sometimes I do, but 90% no. I wouldn’t have considered this remote role if I were still employed FT because it was uncertain and unlikely to be FT. Being unemployed gave me the freedom to take this risk and join a team that I am really glad to be a part of. Feeling safe, for me, is a good way to stay stagnant and never advance my career. The uncertainty has forced me to take risks I wouldn’t have, and hopefully, they will pay off in the long run.