5 Lessons I Learned From Quitting My Job without a Backup Plan


A few months back, I was working in a job I had grown to hate, due to the unhealthy, toxic environment and the way employees were treated. Feeling myself sink into a funk as a result, I decided to change my situation – after all, only you are responsible for your own happiness, and only you have the power to change your circumstances.

After receiving a particularly degrading, gaslight-type response from my boss (after I had enthusiastically told her that yes, I could complete a requested project earlier and with no clear direction or assistance on her part), my head swiveled to the right as I eyed my desk calendar. “Yep,” I thought, “January 29th looks like a great last day.”

So, I did it. I quit my job.

Granted, I took a long lunch that day and thought it through, but knowing I was not emotional and had valid reasoning behind my decision told me that I knew I had to do it. This feeling had built up for months, and was more than your average “Woe is me, I hate my job” story. I want great things, and knew I was not going to find it there, not that day, or the next, and my time is precious. My boss did ask me to stay, but I explained to her that I refuse to allow anyone to speak down, disrespect, or bully me, especially in a professional environment (and particularly when there weren’t even issues with the work I was producing). Her expression was priceless.

It was New Year’s Eve the day that I gave my notice; I was ready to start 2016 with a fresh slate. New year, new me, right? Ha.

On my last day, my boss said to me, “Make sure you don’t delete me on Facebook. For some reason, everyone seems to leave and immediately deletes me – I don’t understand it.”

I’m pretty sure my reaction must have matched hers from when I gave her my speech.

So, I left, and it felt amazing. The only catch with this whole thing was that I did not have a backup plan in place; I had not secured another position. I had given a month’s notice, figuring that I was not only being generous to my then-employer, but it would allow me some time to figure things out, and hopefully have another job in place (though I was luckily prepared financially if that wasn’t the case). I also had interviewed with a publication and was poised to move into a full time editor/writer role, which boosted my confidence that much more; they were consistently following up with me, and I was receiving tons of positive feedback. I was sure I had it in the bag. I was pumped, and ready to take my career – and my life – to the next level.

Then the communication slowed, and follow-ups went unanswered. My excitement turned to confusion, and a little annoyance. What had happened?

The company was fairly young, and they ended up going through a corporate shift, as well as a complete brand redesign. Budgets and circumstances changed, and my potential position had disappeared.

Well, that didn’t quite work out as I had hoped.

At the time, it was something of a blow. I had thought the stars were aligning just right, and my dream was about to be realized. Then, poof – up in smoke. How deflating.

I had prepared financially when I quit my job, but not necessarily emotionally. Being unemployed for 2 months taught me a lot about myself, what I really want out of not just my career, but my life; and especially about my job search strategy, skills, and confidence in the process. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.

I imagine that many others have found themselves in the same position that I was, and so, I’d like to share some of the invaluable lessons I learned along the way.

I had the time and the opportunity to define what I wanted to happen next in my life.

This, of course, is a wonderful thing, but can also be extremely daunting. I started writing each day, just for myself; these pages weren’t shared with anyone else, and were free-flowing in form and content. I created a general guideline of the things I knew I wanted to accomplish, what kind of job I wanted to obtain, and other ‘extras’ that seemed interesting to me, if time allowed. I included all aspects I considered important – salary, experience I hoped to gain, fulfillment, perks, culture, etc. as well as how this new job would flow into and affect my personal life (I created goals on that level, too). Then, I assigned a preferred timeline to accomplish each goal, with interim check in points along the way. For me, breaking up larger goals into how I am planning to make it happen, step-by-step, was not only helpful, but made it less overwhelming.

In considering what I really wanted, I discovered that my dreams were different than I initially thought – and that’s okay!

People change their minds all the time on what they want, and this is no different when it comes to career choices. When I gave my notice, I was excited about that other job opportunity; I was ready to be a writer and was certain that is what I wanted to do full-time. Even once I was unemployed, I told myself I would spend each day not only job hunting, but writing, as well. I soon realized that I enjoyed writing – but on my terms. I would still love to work at a publication, but more likely in a role where I could collaborate with others on topics, edit content, encourage other writers, and yes, also write myself; but not necessarily in an environment where I would be required to produce 5-7 articles per day. I also pinpointed that I wanted to delve more into digital marketing, as I already have a background in sales and marketing; and that I love to help others. My game plan changed once I identified what my most important values were, and my dreams shifted as a result.

 I discovered that I am a lot smarter and resourceful than I sometimes give myself credit for.

This is something we are surely all guilty of at one time or another; well, my self-doubt train has come to the final stop. In researching best practices, suggested interview methods and tips, etc. I discovered that I was already implementing a majority of the tips and advice from leading experts and career coaches, before ever having read any of these articles. I will confess, I did not use LinkedIn very much until I started my new search, and while I would peruse certain articles, it was not previously my focus. This discovery gave me a lot of confidence in myself, as well as my abilities. Sometimes, all you need is a little common sense and life experience; don’t let your lack of credentials or educational background deter you from seeing yourself as the smart, competent professional that you are.

I learned to use fear to my advantage, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.    

I have a number of things that I hope to accomplish, and a lot of them scare me. I now see this as exciting, and motivational, whereas before I used to just worry about the possibility of failure. I now know that I am not progressing if I don’t fail; failure is a necessary step in learning and growth. I know that even if I fail, I will get up and try again until I succeed.

Most of all?

I found my power in being strong enough to walk away from a situation that wasn’t right for me, and I really respect myself more for having done so. 

Nothing is more empowering that a sense of healthy self-respect. After all, if you don’t set boundaries for how others treat you, no one else will. You’re always worth it!

What lessons did you learn after quitting your job or leaving a toxic work environment? I’d love to hear from you.

Disclaimer: I would never suggest haphazardly quitting your job; in this case, it was necessary for my health and well-being. Evaluate your personal and professional situation, and plan accordingly. Good luck! 

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