Congratulations, you're unemployed.
Whenever people tell me they just quit their job, I congratulate them. And I mean it. Quitting a job is a very difficult and brave thing to do. It means you are willing to give up financial and career security and take a cut to your ego and pride, in a society and generation so defined by our careers.
Having been in this state of career limbo, I know that it's rare to receive positive feedback. People don't want you to quit. After all, they hate their jobs too and they didn't quit, so why should you get to? People love projecting their own fears of uncertainty on to you.
What is it you really want?
Quitting Without a Gameplan (#qwg) is also easily viewed as the entitled millenial thing to do. Because, heaven forbid not wanting to spend most of your waking hours doing something you hate, and taking a period of reflection before committing those waking hours (aka your life) elsewhere.
(To be clear, I'm not just talking to the 1 percenters in the 'what are bills when I have trust fund lol' club. If you have the option, use some of your emergency fund, live as frugally as you can, and get some part-time work — even if it's far below your 'career potential'.)
So maybe you want a new job, or you want to switch industries, or you want to start your own company, or you want to go back to school, or you want to freelance. It takes a whole lot of time to figure out a good next move, and it's important to not limit that time because it feels like you're doing nothing, or you're ruining your career prospects, or you're failing. If you are taking time to focus on how to live a better life, you are not failing. Failing yourself would be staying at the job that makes you unhappy, and remaining unhappy every day.
Take your time.
Time in between full-time jobs is indescribably valuable. As kids, we had summers off, and defined, major milestones in between elementary and middle and high school and college. As adults, we need to make an effort to purposefully define and redefine ourselves, to reflect, to graduate from one life phase to the next, to grow and change.
Hopping from one job to the next is like breaking up with your partner only once you’ve lined up a new one. You’re likely to repeat all of the same mistakes, because you haven’t yet had a chance to reflect. You know you didn’t like your old job, but you’re not quite sure why.
If you are taking time to focus on how to live a better life, you are not failing.
It could be the work life balance, or ten million things about your manager (she micro-managed you, he didn’t manage you enough, she never celebrated your wins, he took credit for your wins), or that you’re in the wrong industry, or that you want a smaller or larger company … the list goes on.
Plus, there are the tactical considerations — job hunting is a full-time job, and it’s difficult to have to take 10 ‘sick’ days in order to line up job interviews. You’re not as likely to line up the most optimal offers with so little time to prepare applications and attend interviews.
What are you doing with your life?
After leaving my startup last year, I decided within days that I definitely should apply to business school. Or law school. Or maybe get a PhD? Before applications were due, I was able to call my own bluff. I wasn't really sure that I wanted to go to grad school — I just wanted a clear cut answer to the dark and stormy 'What Are You Doing With Your Life' cloud.
If you just quit your job and are already applying to grad school, really take some time (if you haven't already) to make sure you aren't just applying because advanced degrees are the most 'acceptable' way to take time off. Remember: full-time grad school is often financially equivalent to being unemployed and also going $50,000 or $100,000 into debt. So this route ends up being a hell of a lot more expensive than taking a few months off to self reflect.
So, here's to everyone who came back from vacation this year and quit their jobs without a plan. You may get judgey eyes from your mom, but know that I'm out here, supporting you.