This is the second in an essay series about making great, big, career leaps of faith without both fear and a safety net. In the first, I told personal stories of career pivots while sharing that people should not let fear limit their potential. I encouraged elective unemployment if the outcome meant living a better, richer, and fulfilled life.
I also took great care to discourage emotional decision making and shared that walking away from a paycheck is not a decision one should make lightly. Finally, I promised that in the second round, I would speak to my personal experiences while also sharing some advice.
Spoiler alert, it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Yet.
Financial preparations are a must.
Even before we were married, my husband and I rejected the notion that one of us would assume the traditional breadwinner role. If it happened organically, great, but we wouldn’t seek it out. Knowing the risks of a completely 50/50 financial household, we started a ‘rainy day’ account to cover ourselves in the event of a job loss.
I can assure you that without these funds, I would be singing an entirely different tune today. But even with funds in place, my family’s new normal is one of austerity measures and cost-cutting. Remember, unemployment benefits and severance packages don’t usually apply to voluntary resignations.
I’m not a financial advisor, nor am I a CPA, but I will tell you this: if you are considering doing what I have just done, it is essential that you have enough saved so you can search comfortably for at least six months. The more lavish your lifestyle, the more you’ll have to save. The more you need, the more time you’ll need to prepare.
And, another thing: all this news about the market being good for job seekers feels very different when you are the job seeker. Job searches take time, and time is money. When you add into the mix that money issues can result in mental and physical health issues, it is especially important to plan well.
Take care of yourself.
I’ve already told you about the sleepless nights. Since the resignation, I also take something nearly every day to settle a constantly churning stomach. Busy with the hard work of finding work, I noticed that I was often going all day without eating or drinking water. A fitness fanatic, I was too tired to exercise.
In the past couple of days, I have stopped that insanity. My dog's bathroom breaks are my reminders to make tea or have a snack. I have started to wake up between 5:30 - 6:00 am daily to hit the gym and get my workout done before my day begins and the calls, coffees, lunches, meetings, research, and cover letter writing takes over. I have become extremely careful about how much alcohol I drink and what I eat during the day. I have tried (not fully there yet) to stop checking emails and social media before bedtime.
It occurred to me that I need to treat this pivot like a runner treats a marathon: work, stretch, rest, nutrition; work, stretch, rest, nutrition; work, stretch, rest, nutrition. If I’m going to run and win this race (and I will win this race), I need to be in excellent shape. Considering the body-mind connection, health really is everything.
You will have emotions and be emotional. And that’s ok.
Candidly, as a person who takes great pride in being economically independent and has been employed year over year since the age of 14, being unemployed (who cares that it was elective) has been emotionally difficult so far. I wasn’t afraid to take my leap, but post-leap there have been bouts of imposter syndrome, a healthy dose of anxiety, and considerable self-doubt.
Almost daily someone takes great care to remind me that I might be unemployed “for a very, very long time” while others express “how sorry they are”. The most memorable conversation I have had so far was with an executive recruiter who said to me, “You will have a difficult time because of your unorthodox background.”
I would be lying if I told you these comments and remarks do not bother me. Each time feels like a punch in the gut. Hence why I strongly advise that anyone considering doing something like this needs to examine their tolerance level to recurring judgment and criticism. It’s not for everyone.
To manage my emotions, I remind myself that people project their own insecurities or often do not know what to say and just blurt stupid things out. Other times they represent obsolete mindsets or truly think less of you. I remind myself that this is temporary, that hard work pays off, that good things come to those who work hard. I have not given up, nor will I. I know my Why.
Yes, the first installment was a feel-good piece. Yes, the second installment has been less so. But given that I’m looking to inform and inspire, I would be remiss if I didn’t open the curtains and let people take a peek at what the aftermath of a voluntary resignation can look like. Albeit cliché, knowledge is success and success requires planning. Lots and lots of planning.
Next time, I talk logistics: my networking experiences, planning process, and the daily routine I have adopted to honor that looking for a job is a full-time job. In the interim, stay in touch and please share your stories.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.