When I wrote this article on deciding between a day job and your dream job two years ago, I was just starting a new position working as an administrative assistant at the local branch of a world-wide, industrial corporation. I took the job because I needed it, and, in trying to follow my own advice from the article above, had promised myself that I would still set time aside to follow my real passions: writing, editing, and creating.
At first, it seemed like the industrial corporation job would actually turn out to be a good fit. I was starting to contemplate writing articles like, “When your day job turns into your dream job.” But then things got really real and I realized that if I was going to be stressed out from my work, I wanted it to be in an industry I was passionate about, where the stress would at least feel productive.
That realization and the stress from the day job was leaving me exhausted and unable to pursue the side projects I wanted to complete.
So I quit. I quit my day job. I quit without finding another job first (don’t do this) and without fulling confirming with my husband that quitting was what I was going to do that day (don’t do this either as all decisions that affect both parties should always be fully discussed — but that’s a conversation for another time).
Now, after two and a half months of being unemployed, I’ve found that there are seven things that happen when you quit your day job.
1. You will question what you actually want, constantly.
While working at my old job, all I could think about was “all the projects I would do if I wasn’t working.” The second I left, I forgot all of those projects. All of them. I tried to make a list to try to recenter my brain, but I couldn’t think of any. It was a crushing blow. All of a sudden, I had no idea what I wanted.
To get through this as you apply to jobs, write down things you (I) don’t want and put in in view while you look for jobs. For example, I knew I didn’t want to do anything involving reception or in any industrial fields.
Remember, you quit your day job to follow your passions. Don’t end up in the same trap you already fell in: settling for a job just because you need it. Figure out what you don’t want, and go from there so even if you do run into financial trouble, you have some guidelines to follow.
2. You will question yourself, constantly.
You will question your sanity, your education, your experience, your life choices when you were ten — it’s a constant battle. When you feel yourself tumbling into a vicious questioning cycle, step away. Find something you can do to distract yourself: workout, journal, do the dishes. Getting out of a destructive headspace can help get your creative juices flowing and recenter your brain.
3. Money and finances are a HUGE stress.
Guess what happens when you no longer have a consistent income? That’s right! Money gets really tight, really fast. Even if you’re married or in a long-term relationship where you were both formally contributing income, when a dual-income household becomes a single-income household, tension arises in a big way.
I highly recommend setting up a budget (which everyone should do) and sticking to it. You could put a no-spend rule in place, but, unfortunately, groceries and bills cost money. And you will want to treat yourself every now and then. Sometimes Taco Bell dinners are the best dinners. Still, limit your spending as much as you can to buffer the lack of income.
Know what your unavoidable expenses are and make sure you account for them in some way. And don’t forget to support your partner if they are now the only source of income. It’s a lot of pressure to be the sole person who is bringing home the bacon.
4. Finding a job, any job, will take time.
Since I started applying to jobs three months ago, I have only had four phone interviews and three in-person interviews. So far, nothing has panned out. Expect that it will take a while to find a job you really want, or, if you’re trying to put all of your time into your personal projects, for those projects to take off and become profitable. If possible, don’t quit your day job if you don’t have a solid lead on a new position. If not possible, know that your new full-time job is finding a new job or a money-making activity.
Also remember that being hired somewhere takes time as well. Unless you’re lucky and they hire you on the spot at your first interview, it’s safe to say it takes at least a month to be hired somewhere. It might take a while for your application to be seen, interviews are often spaced at least a week apart, and, if the company runs a background check, it takes time to do so.
This process will take time. Hold strong, and, if you become desperate, I hate to say it, but you might have to look at some temporary options.
5. You will be rejected and it will hurt.
You will feel worthless. You will feel like no one will ever hire you. You will feel like you’re going to have to move back in with your parents and be a hermit. It sucks and it really hurts. You start to feel it at your core. Again, you will question yourself.
Just like before, to combat this, find things to help build your confidence. Take free online courses about things your interested in. Create something. Bake something. Write yourself a love letter. Do something productive that will make you feel productive and useful. And remember: you are not worthless and you will find a job that you love, because you deserve it.
6. You will want to beg on your knees to be rehired at your old job.
Don’t beg for your job back. It’s like breaking up with someone. You have to cut them out completely (with the exception of using them for your professional references) and make it clear to yourself that they are no longer an option. Remember the way you felt working that job and why you quit in the first place. Remind yourself that you are on a better path now and back-tracking will not help you. You left for a reason – no repeats.
7. You will find what you are passionate about.
Repeat this to yourself over and over and over and over. However, it will take more than clicking your ruby-encrusted heels together. Finding, pursuing, and landing a job or project you are passionate about takes time and a hell of a lot of work. You have to be willing to make sacrifices and dedicate every ounce of your being to doing what you really want to do. You will want to give up and settle for another soul-sucking job. You might have to if your financial situation becomes dire. But don’t let this stop you.
Also, you might find passion and inspiration in odd places. Take stock of the things in your day job that you actually liked: project management, helping people, etc. Take these elements and look for jobs that allow you to still do these things. Sometimes those fantastic jobs are hiding down unexpected avenues.
When you quit your day job, at first, you’ll feel euphoric. I felt so good and relieved the day after I quit. But, this doesn’t last. Reality sets in. But when reality sets in remember why you quit and why you’re on this new path. And always remember: you are not unhireable and you will find something that you enjoy doing, even if you find it in an unconventional way.