Deciding to quit a job is not easy. It requires going against the norm, facing the scrutiny of your peers, and then having enough faith to believe things will turn out okay.
Many people entertain the idea of leaving their job, much like the distant dream of winning the lottery. However, the closer you get to making it a reality, the more that your fears and doubts will begin to surface.
Your fear is an indication that something about the path strikes a chord with you. Fears are sometimes hard to articulate, but bringing them to light can help you face them. Here are some the thoughts I had when I was leaving my corporate 9-5 banking job to take a year off.
- Losing the security of a good steady income. Not only would I be spending my savings, I’d be giving up the professional salary I would have been making during my year off. That’s a lot of money if you think about it.
- Hurting future job prospects and a gap in my resume. Would a future employer want to hire someone who just finished taking off a a year from their last job? Would my old boss still give me a good recommendation if they’re called for a reference in the future? How would I explain my reasons for taking time off to future hiring managers? Taking a year off seemed like a huge taboo.
- Deferring financial goals. Building wealth and accummulating assets like a home and a retirement fund were goals I had started working towards. I was at the crossroad between continuing to work and putting a downpayment on a home, or using a substantial amount of savings to fund my extended time off. Indeed, just about everyone I talked to told me buying a home was a more sound investment.
- Feeling like alone in my journey. It was difficult to talk about my unsettled feelings towards my career and what the options were, particulary since others around me continued to assure me that it was normal to not fully love your job or that it’s common to wake up on mornings wishing you didn’t have to work. Deep inside I knew it would eventually come down to me leaving my job, but taking a direction different from everyone else raised a lot of self-doubt.
- Uncertainty about what I’d do when my year off was over. Would I have to return to a similar job as before, thus ending up where I started? Would my year off have been in vain with tens of thousands of dollars down the drain? The worse case was disturbing, but I didn’t know what the best case scenario was either. Would it be finding a job that paid just as well but where I could wear jeans, a totally different job that I loved but was getting paid less, or would I want to try freelancing? I had no idea.
- Telling people my decision. I’d have to explain my seemingly-crazy choice to my boss and colleagues. Friends would also eventually find out, along with people who I suspect secretly liked to compete with me in the race for better job titles and salaries.
- Articulating my plans (or lack of) when people ask what I’ll do with my time off. The idea of having to explain my plans to potential critics was intimidating. I imagined all the unconstructive feedback I would get (which I did get a bit of), but I also knew I had an internal critic to face as well.
- Taking an active stance and going against convention. I was scared about going against the norm for my job, but if I had the power to take control and go against the norm for my job, what does that mean for other areas of my life? The idea that I had the control to also follow an unconventional path in other areas in my life also opens the door to possibilities that scared me.
- Facing the truth that I wasn’t fulfilled where I was. I have almost always felt that there was something slightly off about the 9-5 lifestyle that I couldn’t put my finger on. It took me a long time to recognize and acknowledge it, but the scariest was facing the idea that I could take action and couldn’t play the victim role anymore.
These were all big fears to face – big enough that they may cause you to cry in frustration or secretly wish you could be a ‘regular’ person who accepted their 9-5 fate without so much question.
If you feel alone, know there are many people going through the same experience as you and the further you continue on your journey, the more people you’ll meet who are going through the same process.
If taking the leap is right for you, and when you’re ready, you’ll find that courage will magically appear by your side to help face your fears and do what’s right for you.
Before you know it, you’ll find yourself happier, lighter and seeing more incredible things flow in your life than you would’ve imagined before.
>> What scares you the most about leaving your day job? Or, if you’ve already quit your job, what tips do you have for people preparing to leave?
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