In the summer of 2015, I quit my part-time retail job to focus on earning a TESOL certification and find work abroad as an ESL instructor. I had been aching to change my career trajectory for a while, especially after working in retail for more than half a year. I was confident that I would find a job abroad before the year was out, especially because having a TESOL certification made me more competitive.
In retrospect, clearing my schedule completely and leaving myself without any source of monetary income sans backup plan was a major mistake. Quitting my job without a backup plan is something that I have vowed never to do again. Here’s what I’ve learned as a result of that experience.
1. Being Grateful For The Little Things
I found that I became increasingly grateful for the things I already had that I would have had to pay for otherwise. The things that I was grateful for were things that some people take for granted, like having roof over my head, a hot meal at the end of the day, or having access to food, electricity, and other utilities.
I also found myself feeling grateful for things that you can’t always attach a price to. Those things included having friends who were willing to talk to me or drive me places when I needed a lift, having a supportive family, and living with a pet or other people. The sad truth is that many people around us don’t always have access to the things we take for granted.
Focusing on the things I did have instead of what I didn’t have isn’t always the easiest thing, but I can’t deny that I always feel slightly better about my situation when I do. Being grateful for the little things in life makes you realize that you are more supported than you may initially believe.
2. You Are More Resilient Than You Think
Sometimes it’s the most negative experiences that teach us the most about how strong you are.
As part of my international job search, I applied to a government-sponsored program that I had initially been rejected from the previous year. I saw no reason to refrain from applying again, especially after speaking to various successful past applicants; I saw a lot of room for improvement.
As you would expect, being rejected from the program the first time hurt. I didn’t know what I had done wrong or how I could improve my application (since the email informing me of my rejection also included a precisely worded clause that asked that I refrain from contacting the company to ask for feedback due to the volume of applicants). I had put a lot of time and effort into the application, and many people had graciously taken their time to help me or write recommendations on my behalf.
The next year, however, my reaction was different.
Like last year, I was disappointed, but I looked for things that I was grateful for, which made me feel only slightly better. For one thing, I was grateful that I had not been notified of the results by phone, since I was suffering from a nasty cold at the time.
Even after I was told no for a second time, I was able to recover enough to congratulate the people I knew who had moved forward in the application process. I was able to continue to look for additional jobs, put myself out there, and thank the people who had helped me with my application. I chose to focus on little things that I could do in order to shift my perspective and build my resilience.
Quitting your job without a backup plan is a scary thing, but going through it can make you realize that you are far more resilient than you think you are.
3. You Realize The Value of Money
The hard truth is that we all need money to survive. Without a guaranteed stream of income, you become much more mindful of spending the money you do have and where your money is going.
I have become much more conscious of whereI am spending my money. I know I need to pay my student loan installments, my cell phone bill (among other bills), and transportation costs. But do I need another pair of white distressed jeans or another necklace?
As painful as this experience has been, I have become far more appreciative of the money and things I do have at my disposal and how I use it.
4. Nothing Is Guaranteed
It’s an unfortunate fact that life will sometimes throw you curveballs. I certainly didn’t expect for my passport to take three months to be renewed. Yes, it’s important to believe in yourself, but it’s also important to be aware that not everything is a guarantee.
It has helped to constantly remind myself that just because I fit all the requirements of the job description doesn’t mean that the job will automatically fall into my lap at the end of the day. I have really had to work on refraining from getting attached to a particular outcome.
5. Beating Yourself Up Doesn’t Make a Job Come Any Faster
Without a job, it can be easy to give in to a downward emotional spiral and worry about your situation. Your worries are certainly valid, and I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t worry, but it’s also important to remember that worrying about a your lack of employment won’t get you a job any faster.
What will get you a job is if you take steps every day to create opportunities for yourself, whatever that means for you.
In my case, this means updating my master resume, getting new head shots taken, networking, and applying for jobs that I think I’d be a good fit for. This doesn’t mean that you’ll get every job you apply for, but doing something about your situation is a much better use of your time than worrying.