Over the course of last summer I slowly came to realize I had to leave what I had thought was my dream job. I had worked with the company since day one, for over four years. I’d been involved in every part of the business and loved it. I was going places with the company. It was great. Until it wasn’t.
I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say conditions became unacceptable to my career goals and I had to leave and pursue them somewhere else. I didn’t know where yet, but in August 2017 I made my strategic career move and quit. So here’s what I learned over the next six months:
I’m Not Cut Out to Be an Employee
I care too much about the work I do. I’m a perfectionistic, long-term-strategy-planning, career minded woman who finds great fulfilment in her professional accomplishments. I can’t help but take personal ownership of any project or task I’m working on, big or small. I throw myself completely into my work. It’s who I am. No matter where the work is in the spectrum of meaningful & permanent to insignificant & fleeting, it gets my full attention. “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.” And in an hourly employee situation, this is extremely more beneficial to my employer than it is to me.
Having time off to reflect on the way I work and what I want for my future, I’ve come to see that I’ll always be this way. And looking for another employment situation will only be a repetition of the past. I’ll always give more to my work than anyone really should who doesn’t have ownership in the company. I realize I have to focus on work that I own. Because seeing someone else’s name on my accomplishments is not something I want to repeat any time soon.
3-6 Months of Living Expenses Saved is a Must
I’ve always saved money as a matter of course, not really having a concrete plan on what the money is saved for. And for the past several years I’ve had enough of a buffer to know I didn’t need my paycheck each week. (Which is a great way to live under any circumstances, even when you’re not planning on quitting your day job!) Currently 78% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck. I can only begin to imagine the stress of depending on that cash flow every week or month. Feeling tied to your job, not being able to carry on without that check each week.
So when my job became unbearable, I knew I had the choice to leave without taking an immediate impact on my finances. I knew I didn’t have to have something else lined up. I could leave my job, take a trip to get away from my everyday life, and not be stressed about money or frantically searching for a new job. And that’s exactly what I did.
Having the financial freedom to walk away from a job and company that no longer suited my life and career needs was one of the most liberating and empowering experiences I’ve been through. And I’m determined to help as many others as I can create that same financial freedom: freedom to leave a terrible job; freedom to choose a new path; freedom to take a break when you need it without facing financial hardships.
It’s Okay to Figure Things Out Slowly
Did you read the part above where I’m a perfectionist/long-term-strategy/planner? Yeah. So when I say I left my job without knowing my next step…well, that was a first for me. I knew if X, Y, and Z didn’t happen, I would have to quit, but I didn’t plan and prepare for what would happen next. And that was okay. I learned to be a little more comfortable going with the flow.
I took time to allow myself to process everything that had happened and what I should pursue next. And I began to explore options that had never before crossed my mind.
Most importantly I reconnected with some big lifestyle goals I had set for myself years ago, and forgotten in the course of focusing on someone else’s business.
Diversify. Your income, your savings, your professional networks. Diversify them all. I’m a millennial. I’m online quite often, I’ve heard about the side hustle for years. Yet I always laser focused on my day job. Being senior management at a startup means you work in every part of the business. It seemed wasteful to go home after doing branding, customer service, advertising, strategic planning, accounting, etc. all day just to do more of it for another venture at night. In hindsight, that’s exactly what I should have done. Or part time freelancing. Or investing that would yield some sort of passive income.
So that’s what I’m doing now, diversifying my income strategies. I’m blogging, I’m selling an awesome software program, I’m investing money for future me, I’m setting up passive income streams. I learned my lesson, while I had a nice cushion that allowed me to leave my job and take some time off, that time was finite. There was $0 coming in until I lined up something else.
The Little Things
Shifting gears and starting a business in a totally different field opened my eyes to all the little things I was missing out on over the years. Before, I’d worked in the service industry for eight years. For those of you “nine to fivers”, that means: always working weekends, always working evenings, if you or someone else needs a sick day, it’s an absolute emergency getting it covered. A day off doesn’t just mean some work gets postponed till later, it means customers don’t get their services, schedules must be rearranged, and nobody gets paid. It’s a really big deal and stresses everyone out.
So for the first time in over eight years, I’ve had weekends to do things I want to do. To spend time with the people I want to spend time with. I took a two week trip to the West Coast (which included TWO weekends, in a row!) I hang out at the kiddos’ sporting events. And I actually have Friday nights free to spend with friends.
The past half year has been a wild ride. And I’ve landed in a place I never imagined before now. I’m thankful for the journey and hopeful for the future!