Wide open future

How to Successfully Quit Your Job and Change Careers

It’s amazing how far a year can take us! I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, as I’ve been doing a lot of contemplating about how 2012 panned out and how I want to shape 2013 for myself. In the midst of all of that self-reflection, I recently surpassed the one year anniversary of me doing something that was incredibly huge for me on both a personal and professional level: I quit a job that was a terrible fit for me in a town that equally not right for me.

Want to know a dirty little secret? Quitting my job was probably one of the best decisions that I’ve made in my adult life. I’ve regretted my decision exactly zero times. In removing myself from that job, I was able to do a few very awesome things: I was able to move closer to my friends and family, I was able to switch into a career path that more closely aligned with my long term goals, and I was able to severely reduce the amount of stress in my daily life.

Want to know another dirty little secret? I didn’t have a full-time job lined up before I quit. However, I did secure myself a part-time freelance position in my new field and I was armed with the knowledge and confidence that this path would be better for me in the long-run.

My decision to leave my job was not one that was made hastily. It was made after months of thought and research and planning. I couldn’t have successfully pulled it off if I hadn’t done the following things.

1. Research, research, research!


It didn’t take me long to realize that the position that I had taken at my previous employer was not the one for me. While that didn’t take me very long to figure out, it did take me a while longer to figure out what direction that I really did want to pursue.

In the months leading up to my departure, I would spend a lot of my evening and weekend time researching my different career options and contemplating where I wanted to go next. I researched job postings, I researched cities, I researched potential employers, I looked into the cost of moving, I compared cost of living versus my projected income in various cities, I attended a conference that had overlap between my old and new career paths, I read books about my new field, I talked to people in my new field. Basically, I armed myself with as much knowledge as I could in order to decide how to move forward.

2. Have a plan


Quitting my job and switching careers was not an isolated event that had no thought behind it. I had a clear plan in place. I had initially given myself an end date at which I would leave my job without having secured full-time employment. By that end date, I would have been applying to jobs on the East Coast (with me in Missouri) for nearly 5 months. By the two month mark, I had submitted a bunch of job applications, had a handful of phone interviews and had been to two in person interviews in New York.

I was firm in my decision to move back to New York to be closer to family and friends and I was able to secure myself a part-time freelance gig at the beginning of the year. That’s when it clicked and I decided to push up my quit date. Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be able to work freelance remotely and move back in with my father until I figured out the rest of the details. Moving back in with a parent is rarely the ideal plan, but a plan it was.

3. Know why you’re doing it

Wide open future

There are a lot of great things about my old profession, just as there are a lot of great things about my new profession. While the entry-level positions in each field can look similar in many different ways, I knew that the career path forward in my new field was a better choice for me. I will not wax poetic here about the nuances of why I think shifting career paths was the choice for me, but just know that I could speak at length about why it is.

After a lot of research and self-reflection, I know that this is the better option for my interests, personal fulfillment and skill set. My hunch is that if you can’t exactly answer why, it might not be time yet or you may find yourself in a similar position shortly down the road.

4. Realize the importance of location

New York City Skyline in Fog from Hoboken

It takes a lot of guts to move cross-country by yourself. That’s the sentiment that a lot of people expressed when I told them that I was moving to rural Missouri. I never thought of myself as being particularly brave for doing so, but I did find that it’s not as easy as it looks. (Alternatively, maybe it doesn’t look easy at all and I was just being daft).While I loved renting a 3 bedroom house with a yard and a garage for literally half of what I pay in rent now for a 1 bedroom third floor walk-up, there are things here on the East Coast that just weren’t in rural Missouri. For example, my family and friends and ample job opportunities. It’s exciting picking up and moving somewhere new for a job! However, the next time I move, it’s going to be for more than just a job. It’s going to be for what that location affords me and how that fits into my plans and goals. After all, a job is only part of your life. You live the rest of it in the city or town you’re in.

Have you ever switched careers? How did you prepare? What did you learn?


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