A few years back, I was at a job that not only made me unhappy, but was also making me physically sick. I had grown to hate getting up every morning and got the "sunday scaries" every week. Feeling myself sink deeper and deeper into a funk, 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.
So, I did it. I quit my job.
It felt amazing. The only catch was that I did not have a backup plan in place. I had given a month's notice, figuring that I was not only being generous to my then-employer but that the time would allow me time to figure things out. Hopefully, I would have another job in place. I interviewed with a publication and was poised to move into a full-time editor/writer role, but in a twist of fate — 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 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. I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
I imagine that many others have found themselves in the same position that I was, 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.
This, of course, is a wonderful thing but can also be extremely daunting. I started writing each day, just for myself, and created a general guideline of the things I wanted to accomplish, what kind of job I wanted to obtain and other 'extras' that seemed interesting to me. I included all aspects I considered important — salary, experience, fulfillment, perks, culture, etc. as well as how this new job would flow into my personal life. Then, I assigned a preferred timeline to accomplish each goal, with interim check in points along the way. Breaking up larger goals into how to make it happen, step-by-step, was not only helpful, but made it less overwhelming.
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 only on my terms. I would still love to work at a publication, but more likely in a role where I could collaborate with others and edit content. I also pinpointed that I wanted to delve more into 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. In researching best practices, suggested interview methods, etc. I discovered that I was already implementing a majority of these before ever having read any of these articles. 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.
But 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 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.
As a 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!
Karen Schneider works for bareMinerals in Global Packaging + Creative Services and has worked in a variety of industries over the span of her career, including digital media, fashion & apparel, and wine & spirits. She is currently a contributor to The Muse and Career Contessa and has been featured on Business Insider and Harvard Business Review for her career advice. She's obsessed with learning, life, and career/self-improvement.
An earlier version of this article appeared on EliteDaily.com.