Is It Smart to Quit a Job in a Recession? For Me It Was the Right Move — Here's Why

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Megan Hamilton729
Speaking, Visibility and Confidence Expert
May 21, 2024 at 9:28AM UTC

In July of 2020, I quit my safe corporate job after nearly 11 years. That was the longest job I’d held, and it provided for me while I was pursuing a music career, through the birth of my child, while my husband went back to school and while we saved for and subsequently bought our first house.

In short, I couldn’t be where I am today without having had that job. And for that I am grateful.

But it was never what I’d wanted to do. It was only supposed to be a year (I’d taken over somebody else’s maternity leave, and she’d decided not to return). And the longer I stayed, the tighter the golden handcuffs became.

I’m a speaking, visibility and confidence coach for women and nonbinary folks. I used my classical theatre training and 25+ years as a performer to create a 4 part speaking system that is the basis of all of the coaching that I do.

Around 2018, I knew I was going to start to work toward entrepreneurship, but, like the rest of us, I had no idea the gigantic hurdle that would present itself.

I signed up for a very expensive business course in mid 2019 (that would begin in Feb of 2020). I was offered a teaching position at the local college, which I took (with permission from my Boss at the time, to use vacation time). By March 2020, I was on track to quit my job in April and move into full time coaching.

And then we all know what happened. I panicked. I changed my plan. I thought “no smart person would quit their job right now with so much uncertainty.” As the weeks went by, as we passed April, I knew that my original plan had to go.

It was so disheartening – the years of prep, the money spent on business programs, the accumulation of tools and assets, my website, my client testimonials. But again – no smart person would quit. Right?

One day I got a call from my boss (while I was at home, of course – we were all at home) and she wanted to talk to me about a shift in my position. The pandemic had made my work a bit redundant, and she was letting me know that I’d be taking on new duties with a new direct report.

But here was the problem: I’d already complained about the person who would suddenly be my boss.

In fact, I couldn’t even fathom having to report to him. There was no way my strong will and even stronger personality was going to gel with this guy.

So after much agonizing, and discussion with my husband, I quit. And I never looked back. And here’s why you should, too. (With a whole load of caveats.)

1. You were not put here to do work that you don’t adore.

We spent more time with our work colleagues than we do with our own families. We become beholden to other peoples’ ideas, to bureaucracy, to being stifled, to having to do what we’re told. If you don’t leave work feeling fulfilled, it might be time to look into what could fulfill you.

2. Money isn’t everything.

OK, so, money is still important, though. We have to feed our kids, and we need to feel safe and not constantly stressed about money. Money stress robs us of our ability to relax and feel joy.

But it ain’t everything. Did I take a pretty big pay cut the first two years I was in business for myself? I did. Could I have done it without a husband who had benefits and a full time job and lots of savings? I could not.

But did we figure it out? We sure did.

3. Give yourself permission to leave if you need to.

One of my favourite exercises to do with my clients is the following: when you’re looking down the barrel of a highly stressful situation (giving a talk to a room full of adversaries, having to defend decisions you’ve made if you’ve been reprimanded, being micromanaged or treated like a child at work), give yourself the opportunity to say “I quit” if it infringes on your humanity.

Again, we are not always in positions to be able to do this, but just remember that your dignity is worth more than showing up for a job where you’re not valued, or worse, where you’re belittled.

4. You’re worth it.

Do you believe that? Do you believe that you are worth more than the difficult situations you face at work? Do you believe that your joy supersedes our cultural framework of “being a person employed at a company”? Do you believe that you can do great things? Or at least, better things than whatever you’re doing now that’s making you miserable?

So here we are on the cusp of another “big moment”, i.e. a recession. Unlike the pandemic, we can see it coming. We feel the tightness of grocery bills, or filling up our cars with gas, of people raising their prices because they’re feeling it, too. Is it smart to quit your job?

Financial planners might disagree with me. Your dad would probably disagree with me. But if you are facing misery at work; if you are being spoken down to or constantly face discrimination; if you are burning out, or feeling like you’re in a dead end… leave.

Again, aside from dependents and other obligations, you will probably be able to figure it out. It will likely be difficult, but if you have the courage and the tenacity to believe in yourself, leave.

Your life might just depend on it.

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This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

Megan Hamilton is a speaking, visibility and confidence coach, a musician, and a soon-to-be author. She lives in Kingston, Ontario with her husband and daughter and their dog and cat. You can join her Speaking, Visibility and Confidence Strategies group on Fairygodboss, and learn more about her at www.ubuskills.com.

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