Let me start by telling you a little bit about my upbringing.
I was raised in a stable low-middle-class household in a small town in Tennessee. Lower when I was younger, middle to upper-middle as a teen.
I am fortunate enough to have never wondered where my next meal was coming from. My medical needs – which were many – were always tended to. And I have never felt alone in this world.
Stability, self-sufficiency and sustainability were to be my life’s primary objectives.
In my household, it was assumed I’d go to college, but only the cheapest schools possible – on stacked scholarships of course – to avoid student debt.
It was also assumed if I studied hard, I would be lucky enough to support myself with a decent job. And ideally, I’d remain in that job until I was ready to retire and collect my pension.
That was the plan.
And it was a good plan. More than most of us could ever hope for.
After all, risk-taking is a privileged matter.
When you already have what you need, should you really want more?
But what happens when you start to feel like “the plan” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?
What if you want to throw that plan out the window?
Is it OK to quit your job without a plan?
You probably happened upon this editorial today because you are thinking about quitting your job without a plan. And perhaps you’re wondering if it’s a financially or socially acceptable thing to do.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, I suspect I am probably a decent authority on the topic. And as such, I would like to offer my thoughts.
After all, I am someone who quit her job without a plan and lived to tell the tale.
And I did it years before the Great Resignation made the act more commonplace.
What can I say? I’m a trendsetter.
So how would I answer this question?
Here’s the good news: Yes, it can be OK to quit your job.
But you better be ready to hustle afterward, as results may vary.
My story at a glance
Long story short, in 2017 I found myself in a full-time job that I had grown to hate. I was making good money at the time – $75,000 per year – but I was also miserable.
What was once my dream job, had turned into a nightmare.
I was working unpredictable hours and overnights. My alarm clock usually went off around 3 am every morning. I had to be in bed by 5 or 6 pm every night.
It wasn’t unusual to work seven or eight days straight without a day off. And I was expected to work almost every weekend and almost every holiday.
And vacation days – or scheduled time off – were only allowed during the “slow” season. For instance, I wasn’t allowed to take a few days off around Christmas to travel and see family because it was considered to be a busy sales week.
It was also a high-stress job.
We were expected to hit specific sales targets each day. Personal performance metrics were broadcasted company-wide to my superiors as well as dozens of co-workers on a daily basis.
The pressure was immense.
I was physically, and emotionally drained. My mental health had taken a nosedive. I was at my breaking point.
I knew that quitting was in my future and that a career change was on the horizon.
But what I didn’t expect, was just how abruptly I’d cut the cord.
The day I rage quit
It started out like any other normal day.
I was on day seven of what was meant to be a nine-day work week. It was the day after Easter Sunday – which I had also worked, once again missing out on family festivities.
I remember feeling on edge that day – I was tired and in desperate need of a day off.
As I walked into a previously scheduled performance review with my boss, I was hoping for an olive branch. I needed a sign that things would get better. Or that someone cared.
Spoiler alert: No one did.
“I’m sorry,” my boss said after I had just finished an emotional recap of my week. “I just don’t have any sympathy.”
She then began to open up a manilla folder and said she wanted to discuss an “improvement plan” that included spending even more time at the office.
At that moment, I knew that anything would be better than continuing to endure the stress of that job.
I stopped her before she could even finish laying the folder flat on the table.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “My heart just isn’t in this anymore.”
And just like that – my performance review meeting became an exit interview with no new job, no backup plan and no plan B in place.
What I did next
Luckily, I had a general idea of what I wanted my next move to be.
And it would be a major career change.
I wanted to work for myself. I wanted to be my own boss.
And freelancing seemed like the quickest path to sustainable self-employment.
Plus, I had some prior experience freelancing as a side-gig.
I gave myself a three-month runway.
I swore that if I couldn’t bring in a comparable income to my old job by that deadline – or at least enough money to pay the bills – then I’d start applying for full-time jobs and begrudgingly return to corporate life.
And so, I put it out into the universe.
I reached out to every contact in my digital Rolodex and let them know I was looking for work. I also joined every online freelance marketplace I could find.
I’m not going to lie … It took a lot of work, a lot of patience, and nerves of steel.
But eventually, the gamble paid off.
By the time my self-imposed three-month deadline hit, I was already making more money than I did at that $75,000 per year salaried job.
It turned out to be the best move I ever made.
Fast forward to today and I make more than double what I did before.
But even more importantly, I regained my sanity.
How much money should you save before quitting your job?
For those of you out there who prefer to plan ahead instead of rage-quitting like I did, you may want to save a bit of money ahead of time as a safety net.
But how much money do you need?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average duration of unemployment is usually less than 14 weeks for active job seekers.
So, while there is no perfect equation or calculating exactly how much money you will need between jobs, ideally, you should have at least 14 weeks – or a little over three months’ worth – of expenses saved up in your bank account.
Preferably more, if you are able.
Or if you are like me, and you want to take some time off in between – whether it be to take a break or try to start your own venture – calculate the amount of time you need off and add three months to that number to estimate how many weeks of expenses you will need to cover.
I also want to note, that it is not advisable to blow your entire life savings here.
Ideally, those 14-weeks of expenses would be squirreled away in a rainy day account and earmarked for such an occasion.
What to do when you hate your job but can’t afford to quit?
I realize that not everyone can afford to “rage quit” as I did.
I wasn’t rich by any means. But as a young, married, educated woman with no children and decent savings, I also knew I’d probably be OK on the other side no matter what happened – at least for a few months.
I had more to gain than I had to lose.
But that doesn’t mean that if you aren’t in a stable place financially, you should stay in an awful job for the rest of your life. You just need a plan.
Life is too short to sell your soul to a terrible employer or suffer a toxic work environment.
With that in mind, here are a few low-risk options:
Apply for a new role at the same company
Consider whether or not it’s the current employer that you hate or just your current role at the company.
It may be a good idea to explore a new role or a new position within the same company before completely cutting the cord.
Who knows what new opportunities might be hiding right under your nose?
Begin the new job hunt before you quit
If you feel like you absolutely need to quit but you just can’t afford to do so, the lowest risk move is to begin the new job search while you still have the old one.
At the very worst, scheduling job interviews might become tricky around your work schedule. But you can always call in “sick” if needed.
And if the issue in your current job is something that can be easily resolved financially, consider using any job offer that rolls in as a bargaining chip.
You might be able to negotiate your way into a raise and end up staying.
The worst thing they can say is “no” which doesn’t matter to you – you already have the next job lined up anyway!
Get a second job or a side hustle
Alternatively, if you’re like me and wish to try your hand at freelancing or starting your own business then consider working up to it instead of going all-in at once.
I freelanced in my spare time for years before quitting my job. It’s part of the reason I had a small nest egg saved up in the first place.
And it’s never been easier to find remote work than it is right now.
If you don’t want to freelance but need some extra cash on the side consider picking up odd gig-based jobs – like driving for Uber – or get a part-time job to supplement.
Taking on extra work is not only a great way to make money, it’s the best way to add additional skills and work experience to your resume.
And who knows, you might even make some valuable connections networking with people outside of your day job during the transition period.
Do you have to put in a two weeks notice before you quit?
When you’re finally ready to quit, draft a resignation letter with a two weeks notice.
There is no state or federal law in the United States that requires a two weeks notice. However, it is generally advised to do so.
And you want to do your best to leave on good terms with your professional reputation intact.
My parting words of wisdom
Finally, before I wrap this up, I want to end with a few words of wisdom.
The important thing to remember is that while quitting your job without a plan might sound like an adrenaline rush – which it is – it’s also an inherently risky move.
It’s really the last thing you want to do and it’s unfeasible for a lot of people.
My success was a mixture of two parts hustle, one part luck.
So before you follow in my footsteps, ask yourself if it might be safer to take your time and make a plan.
Be sure that quitting abruptly is really the right decision for you and your current situation.
And when you’re ready to take that leap of faith – whether it be today or sometime in the near future – just know that you’re not alone.
Are you thinking about quitting your job without a plan? Or have you recently quit and are trying to make a plan? Let me know in the comments below!