I quit my job without a backup plan. Here’s what I learnt from it.

By Mel Sim

Thinking of quitting your job but not sure what to do next? You might want to read this first.

Everyone tells you that you need to have a backup first before you quit your job. Especially now when things aren’t so good on the employment front with people losing their jobs, graduates not being able to find work, salary cuts and what nots.

But what if you don’t exactly have a plan because A. you really can’t stand your current work and want to leave right now, and B. you know deep down inside that where you are right now is not the place for you so no point staying on.

Cue to a few years back… and that was me. I was working for a media company and while the job role was great (editor of a magazine) but the perks weren’t exactly cutting it for me, not with the amount of work I was putting in. Plus, I didn’t feel like I was growing in terms of my career because I was busy dealing with deadlines and nothing else. What started as a great job ended up being something that was a routine, mundane and stressful at the same time.

By the end of it, I dreaded going to work. I knew I had to do one thing: Quit.

Problem was I didn’t have any backup plan. I didn’t apply for any jobs, go for an interviews or even put it out there that I was looking for something. Nope, I just wrote my letter, served my noticed, and that was that. It felt pretty bad ass at that time, to go at it guns loaded thinking that somehow everything will fall into place.

I was going to go freelance until something else came along. Well, something did…but that lasted only for three months before I realised that the culture wasn’t right for me.

So back to square one: Nothing.

But now, I didn’t have the comfort and security of a traditional full-time job to help me with the bills. Plus, I had absolutely zero clue how I was going to go freelance with no experience doing it at all.

Looking back, going from having a job to nothing at all probably wasn’t the smartest thing. Should I have at least secured a few interviews and checked out the job market before quitting? Probably. But luckily with the right skills, I managed to maintain my freelancing business even till today. While I am not encouraging you to do the same but at the same time, if you know in your gut that you’re not in the right place (like I did), sometimes the only thing to do is quit.

The only regret I had about quitting without a backup plan is to give full-time work one more proper go. Maybe it was just a case of wrong company fit so at least giving another go would have been the right thing to do.

At the same time, taking this terrifying leap of faith was one of the most exciting – and rewarding – thing I’ve done for my career so far. Yes, it’s impulsive and made my parents worried for a long time but it opened up my eyes and mind to this thing called a career. Here’s what I learnt:

#1 That your role in a company does not define you
Sure, you can be an editor or a senior executive… but all that does not define you as a person. When I left my job to be a freelancer, I had to explain to a lot of people why I would do such a thing, especially when I was in a solid position. Some days, friends still ask if I am looking for a job! Which begs me to ask this question: Why the focus on having a title? Do I need to have a job title to give myself purpose? Am I not good enough if I don’t belong to an organisation?

After going at it solo for a long time, I’ve realised the answer to all that is no. You can earn money – and respect – in whatever you do, and it doesn’t have to be in an office setting. Some people just do it the traditional way; others like me go down a more unconventional path. The end is the same, doing something that makes you happy.

#2 Not having a backup plan is the backup plan
Why? Because you hustle like you never thought you would when there’s nothing in sight. When you don’t have a new job to rely on, you wake up every morning thinking, I better do something about my situation. Whether it is applying for a new job or like me, giving freelance work a go, knowing that you need to do something pronto before the money runs out will get you out of bed early in the morning, check out what’s out there, and think about your future all the time. Plus, it was the kick I needed to really think about what I wanted out of my future and making a decision to get there – even if it means quitting with no plan.

#3 It will teach you new skills
In my case, how to run a business, how to do sales, how to maintain good client relations as a freelancer. Most importantly, survival skills. These are all important skills that will take you far in life – and can be even something your future employer might look out for if you are planning for re-employment.

#4 It’s not that scary after all
Repeat after me: You too shall survive this. A lot of times we don’t do things (like quit a job we can’t stand) because we are worried about the uncertainties. So we stay and continue to be miserable.

While you might not have a backup plan you do have experience from your previous job and a go-getter attitude. Just this is enough to land you your next opportunity, whether it is a new job or to start something on your own. And even if it doesn’t work, there will still be other opportunities. If I didn’t quit my job, I wouldn’t have been able to work on exciting projects with big-name brands, interview some of my favourite celebs, start a side business, and travel to exotic places. Sometimes, something has to give for newer and more exciting prospects to come in.

So if you’re thinking about doing the same, maybe this will assure you that everything will be OK. If not, there will always be jobs out there… it is just a matter of whether you want it or not.

Reach out to us and share your thoughts on whether it’s right to quit your job with no backup plan.

Photo by Cam Adams on Unsplash

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