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Quit Your Job This Year

If you’ve been thinking about leaving your job, do it this year. If you haven’t been thinking about quitting, but think you might be valued as an employee somewhere else or have something more to offer the world, start thinking about saying goodbye to your boss.

Every time as an adult I left one job for another — or to work for myself — it was something I regretted not doing sooner. I have few regrets in this world, but I look back on my progress, and I think I would have benefited much more if I worked up the nerve to quit earlier than I did.

No one can blame me for staying in a relatively stable situation, holding onto a paycheck and subsidized health insurance benefits. That creates a comfortable situation, and that comfort is the set of handcuffs companies use to ensure their employees don’t leave whenever the mood strikes. The media help by making every American aware of the high unemployment rate, keeping workers where they are, scared to venture out and find a working situation vastly better than the one they could be leaving.

Although what was my side business at the time had begun to generate revenue beyond what I was earning at my uninspiring, boring day job, I stuck around. My routine worked for me. I could work eight hours during the day and come home from the office, have dinner, and work another eight hours or so before going to sleep. Juggling two jobs paid off. I had my paycheck and benefits, but I had a nice source of additional cash.

Even after I decided it was time to leave my job, when my side earnings were a healthy multiple of the paychecks from my day job, I tried to take the easy way out. I still wanted the security of a corporate job, so I tried to negotiate a leave of absence. A leave of absence to work for oneself is not something the company normally grants, so it took some time for managers to have discussions with their bosses. It was taking extra time, and the outlook didn’t look good, so I have my notice. I gave my notice, and it was about three years later than I should have.

I found pretty quickly that being able to focus on my own business allowed me to grow that business much faster. Had I made this move three years prior, there’s no telling what I would have been able to accomplish.

Anyone who feels they might not be getting what they want out of their job should start putting the wheels in motion to leave. This year will likely be a good opportunity. The job market will continue to improve. The economy seems to also be favoring start-ups with great ideas. Businesses will be looking for the best talent and the most motivated people, and with some of the balance in the job market shifting back to workers, companies will be more willing to offer competitive compensation and benefits — but not for those who stay in the same job. You’ll have to look elsewhere to get what you want.

An article on Forbes pointed to the Corporate Executive Board’s five reasons employees look for when seeking a new job:

  • Stability
  • Compensation
  • Respect
  • Health benefits
  • Work-life balance

Perhaps this is true, but throughout my life, the one thing I never really felt in a job was that my skills and talents were being used to their fullest capacity. This left me feeling unfulfilled and underemployed. I did what I could to rectify that within just about every job I’ve had, shaping my roles and responsibilities to be more gratifying, but for me, it wasn’t enough. And I think that often, ideas like stability, health benefits, and work-life balance, among other things, are used as excuses to stay in a job that’s emotionally unsatisfying. “Well, at least I get paid steadily and have good benefits,” someone might admit after complaining about their job.

There’s something better out there for everyone, and resolve this year to find it. Quitting your job without a plan can be exciting, but it might not be the best way to build long-term financial success. It’s good to have a plan, if not a firm job offer or method of replacing your income, before leaving one position behind. At the same time, the lack of a steady income right off the bat can provide much-needed motivation to find something new — but beware, the pressure to replace income can force you to accept a job that’s just as bad as the one you’re leaving. It’s best to prepare.

Build up your emergency fund. A well-organized emergency fund, consisting of cash and savings, is necessary if you’re taking a job-related risk. A common rule of thumb is to grow your emergency fund to a size that will cover a number of months of your previous income, and that number should match the unemployment number. For example, if the government reports the unemployment rate at 8 percent, you should have 8 months of income stored away in a safe place.

If you’re taking a risk, you have a good reason to boost that emergency fund even higher. If, however, you already have a new job lined up before quitting, you may never need to touch your emergency fund. It’s still better to have it than not.

Discuss your plan with your family. I’ll admit, making job decisions has been easy for me — well, it should have been — because I have no one relying on my income. Without a wife or children, there is no one else besides me who needs the cash flow I generate to survive in a manner to which they would be accustomed. Having a family with financial needs is one reason people who would be better off in new working situations stay in their current jobs. Many businesses never get started because the risk is too high when there’s a family to feed.

Personal sacrifices and compromises are a part of living with a family. There are a few options to consider. One is not leaving one job until there’s a clear offer or you’ve re-created that income elsewhere. But that could take too long, and you could be wasting too much time working in an unsatisfying situation. You don’t want to make a decision that affects your entire family without your family 100 percent behind your decision, so find out what it takes to allow you to improve this aspect of your life by keeping the discussion open and honest.

Let people know of your intentions. Your friends and colleagues can be some of the best resources for helping you find a better situation. This can get tricky. You may not want to tip your boss off to the fact you’re looking for a new job and will probably quit at the first opportunity. The worst that can happen is that they’ll find a way to let you go — but that’s not always a bad thing. You’re intending to leave, anyway, and this way you’ll probably be able to at least collect unemployment benefits — a small consolation if nothing else — while moving your life in a better direction.

Admit to the world that you are open to new opportunities, and others will help you find them.

Don’t burn your bridges. Treat every relationship you’ve made over the years with class. Don’t, as a grand farewell gesture, write an opinion piece for the New York Times criticizing your job and your industry (unless you have a book deal in place, I suppose). Make yourself available to your prior job should your former bosses need your help during a transitional period. With one of my previous jobs, the company was calling me at least a year after I left, asking for my assistance, recognizing I had some skills they found difficult to replace.

There are many reasons often given for maintaining good relationships with people you may not work with in the future, and many of these reasons stem from the basic idea that they might be in a position to help you in the future, and you don’t want to miss that opportunity. This is a selfish reason to remain on good terms; do it because treating other people with class and respect is the only way to be comfortable with who you are. How you treat others — especially how you treat others who appear to have nothing to offer you — defines who you are.

Don’t hesitate longer than necessary. I shouldn’t have drawn out my process of quitting. It took two months after I let my boss know I was interested in taking a leave of absence before the point where I just quit outright. I should have quit from the outset, and I should have done it years earlier. I was already in a good enough personal situation to leave the job behind, but I hesitated. I thought my success would only be temporary — and I had a list of similar excuses. Just do it.

Don’t wait one second longer than you have to, once everything else is in place. Don’t wait for your new situation to be perfect, though. Nothing, and I can vouch to this from my own experience, is ever perfect.

Are you quitting your job this year? Have you quit recently? What were your experiences?

Photo: Flickr

Published or updated January 7, 2013.

About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of shizennougyou. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

This post spoke to me!

I’m planning a career change this year to accompany a relocation to the suburbs. We are starting a family farm, but we’ll still need our day jobs for a few more years and I want something that makes me happy. I fell into my current occupation (and was very lucky), and have gone with it the past few years rather unhappily, but I need to admit (finally) that it’s NOT what I want to do with my life! It’s time to find out what is.

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avatar 2 Luke Landes


That sounds like the start of an adventure, on several fronts. Best of luck to you as you make things happen!

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I quit my job in December 2011 to give freelancing a try. A little over a year later, my only regret is waiting so long to plan and execute my escape. I can’t stress how important an emergency fund is – just 3 months into my self-employment experience, my freelancing world got flipped upside down. The ONLY reason I survived was my emergency fund. It allowed me to pay my bills while I worked on Plan B, the web design business that is now my full-time source of income.

Not everyone is cut out for self-employment, and that’s okay. Even if you’re looking for another job working for someone else, I agree that now is the time. Don’t spend years of your life trying to force yourself to like a job that doesn’t work for you. Life is short, and we never know exactly how short. Make a plan, run it by the important people in your life to make sure it’s a good plan, and figure out how to get there.

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avatar 4 Anonymous

Over at 5by5 they started a new podcast called “Quit!” a few weeks ago that explores this topic. It’s a good listen if you are already have thoughts along these lines.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

Not burning your bridges is real important. You may return to the corporate world and the way you leave your current employer will follow you forever!

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avatar 6 Ceecee

I didn’t quit my job, it quit me two years ago. The company went out of business. Andrea is so right, you must have an emergency fund. I have tried to maintain multiple streams of small income, and often I have had to raid the fund. I am constantly looking for extra opportunities, and discipline is very important. Sometimes there are so many things that call to me when I need to do the things that bring in money.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I did the freelancing thing instead of getting a “real” job. But, lately, I’ve been re-thinking my current career path. Sometimes I wonder if I need to quit my current “job” and consider exploring other options. I’m not talking about getting a 9-5 job, but about thinking about doing something else from home. Something other than what I’m doing right now.

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avatar 8 Anonymous

My last job was in an industry where notice just isn’t done. There’s enough confidential information floating around that when you’re quitting (or heaven forbid -asked to leave) they just want your files and to see you leave.

When I knew I was quitting, I prepped a couple of weeks worth of projects. I knew who the work would likely fall to, so made it easy for them to pick up the slack and the files after I submitted my LOR. They were my friends and I didn’t want to see them hurt by my decision to leave. But it also paid off when they did me favors hooking me up with company names and references when I started my job search a couple months later.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

So I’m still working, unfortunately, but I’m trying to fix things! I think I can make a bigger impact going it alone as opposed to slogging it out in a large corporation. I’ve gotta say though, it’s really intimidating to turn down that constant check though, props for actually doing it.

I’m curious, how close to your salary did you have to get with side income before you thought it was acceptable to quit?

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avatar 10 Luke Landes

It was a moving target. Initially, I thought I’d need to match my day job income to quit. But I caught onto the volatility of the income, and figured I’d be safer with twice my salary. Then three times.

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avatar 11 Anonymous

While I waited too long to sell my business and move on, it ended up being the right time because the market ran up just before I sold, driving the valuation up around $100k higher! In every other instance, I’m in complete agreement with you: time is your #1 commodity and to wait to chase your dream is always a mistake.

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avatar 12 Anonymous

Honestly, I know that employers are handcuffing me to my job with its “stability.” With a family at home, I’m afraid of not being able to provide for them. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Yet, I know what needs to be done.

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avatar 13 lynn

In a single’s world this is good information to share. When someone has a family and responsibility, approaching the release of a steady job in this manner may be considered reckless. Even though you feel you should have done things differently, I see the aproach you took as the one of responsibility. Pleasant? No. But responsible.

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avatar 14 Anonymous

It was an unplanned decision When I quit my corporate job. Imagine our difficulty then as we do not have much savings and we have three credit cards and two bank loans to pay. It was a good thing that I came across about freelance writing and blogging, how I can earn from them, and work even at home. I studied how it works and realized that I can do it. Two years after, we have already paid off our credit card debts, will soon be paying off our last loan before March, and will be purchasing our second home and second car afterwards. I am not advising you to do the same thing as I did. I guess I was just lucky that I was able to find a client immediately after launching my blog.

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avatar 15 Anonymous

Great post and something good to kick people into gear. Currently I am working on growing the things I love to do so that someday soon I will be in the position to leave my job and go it alone full time.

I’m currently working for a smaller, private company that pays very well and I enjoy, so there is no rush, but at the same time I know that being forced to sit there for 8 hours a day and work on things that are necessary for the job (not the things I would rather be working on) is already getting mentally draining.

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avatar 16 Anonymous

Quite Interesting..!
I was thinking to leave my job but confused and worried.After reading such post I decided to leave it and will go for full time job …..thanks for writing it was helpful me. :)

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avatar 17 Anonymous

I’m a planner, list maker, number cruncher… therefore I definitely believe in having a master plan before leaving your job. Of course each circumstance is different based on goals, personal life etc. Like lynn said, a single person with no one to answer to can be more flexible, leave sooner. Someone with a family will definitely want to have money in the bank and a strategy for hitting the ground running.

Everything happens for a reason, though you may think you should have left 3 years ago.. there may be a reason it took a little longer. Congrats to you, nothing like that kind of freedom.

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avatar 18 Donna Freedman

I agree about the “don’t burn bridges.” Even if you’ve been treated shabbily, do not stoop to name-calling. You’ll not only maintain your dignity, you’ll irritate the living daylights out of your adversaries.
I haven’t had a regular job since November 2002. Even though I work a lot of hours as a freelancer, I really enjoy the flexibility of having left the 9-to-5.

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avatar 19 Anonymous

These are great tips when moving to a new chapter. It is so true that when you drag out the process, you usually end up wishing it had been a faster move. Change can be a scary thing, but there are many positives to change as well. Every time I have moved jobs or situations, I left on great terms. You never know when you might need something like a reference or a job.

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avatar 20 Anonymous

I left my job three years ago and although I had been preparing for over a year, my side income was “only” a bit more than my day job. Simplifying my life and cutting on unnecessary expenses has helped accelerate the process as I was able to live on less than half of my income. Three years later I can see many benefit, the stress and pressure are gone and I am motivated to earn money than to help someone else make money. It requires discipline and motivation and certainly is no picnic in the park but the freedom is awesome!

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avatar 21 qixx

One thing to add is be willing to admit that something did not work out. You may not be able or even want to return to your previous position or company. That does not mean you might not need to find something similar to what you left. I have tried multiple times for a total of years spent trying to work for myself. I finally determined that is not my forte. There is something better out there for me. It is just not working (solely) for myself.

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