I knew deep down that I wanted to travel and be running my own business, but I realized that simply knowing that wasn’t going to get me very far when it came to making one of the most difficult decisions of my life.
I spent the better part of a year in this job purgatory where I didn’t know what I truly wanted, and what the best course of action would be.
However in the summer of 2009 I started putting together the pieces that would allow me to make one of the best decisions of my life: leaving my job to become a full time entrepreneur.
So how do you go from clueless to confident when it comes to your career trajectory and employement situation? Well for starters, you have to ask yourself some difficult questions. You need to have detailed answers to them, so that you can move forward knowing that you made the right decision for you.
Today we’re going to talk about 6 questions that cannot be compromised on. You need to have solid answers to each of these if you want to be confident going into your job change. Use this as an assessment of where you’re currently at and where you want to be.
Nearly everyday I’m asked “how do I know when it’s right to leave” well if you put serious consideration into the following, you’ll know when it’s right for you.
What is your true risk tolerance?
It’s easy to say you’re going to quit your job, start a business or travel the world – actually following through with it is a whole different story. One of the biggest inhibitors to this is our propensity to seek comfort and security. Even if it’s not a conscious realization, most of us crave both of those things.
If you quit your job, there’s a good chance that for awhile both of those things will be in short supply.
In order to start my business I moved to Thailand, and while leading to 6 months of excitement and adventure, it wasn’t necessarily the most comfortable time of my life. I lived in a $200 apartment with only the basic necessities to get by, and ate $1 street food everyday.
How willing are you to sacrifice your paycheck for the unknown? What sounds more appealing right now buying a new $1,000 TV (or other big ticket item) or spending your money and savings on living expenses to help you grow your business or support you while you’re waiting for a new job offer.
Be honest with yourself here. If your true risk tolerance isn’t as high as you think it is, the stress of quitting could be more harmful than the job itself.
How much money do you need for baseline expenses over the next 6-12 months?
This is a good exercise to go through regardless of whether or not you want to leave your job. What are your baseline expenses? This means, what’s the cost of the absolute essentials you need to get by for a period of time.
Once you’ve determined your risk tolerance, you need to figure out how many months of baseline expenses you need to have saved up in order to feel confident about your decision. These expenses will vary wildly based on where in the world you live, current fixed costs, and social habits.
When I left for Thailand, I assumed I’d be able to get by on about $1,000/month. I’d hoped to have 12 months of baseline expenses covered before leaving, but I wasn’t quite there. When I left on my trip I had about $10k saved up.
When calculating baseline expenses, make sure to factor in each of the following:
- Housing Costs/Rent
- Pre-existing auto loans that you’re unwilling to get rid of
- Cell Phone
- 3 Meals a Day
- Going Out
- Travel Expenses
- Health Insurance
If you’re serious about setting a baseline and sticking to it, I highly recommend setting up detailed budgets in Mint.com. I used Mint religiously when I left my job, and it helped give me the peace of mind that I wasn’t overspending. Other options are also Adaptu, and if you’re looking to track business expenses check out Outright.
What are you going to do when you quit?
It’s amazing to me how many people don’t have an answer to this question. Yes, your job may suck, but you know what’s even worse than that? Not getting paid and having nothing productive to work on.
Sure that might be great for a week, or even two, but then reality sets in.
If you’re going to quit your job it should be to focus on something better, not something stagnant.
- Do you have a business you want to pursue full time? What are the short term goals for it?
- Do you want to start a business? Is it something you can start before quitting your job? What’s the initial investment, and does that get in the way of your baseline buffer?
- Are you looking for a new job? Can you get recommendations from your current employer? Is there a way to leave without burning bridges?
In the first few week of leaving it’s absolutely essential that you lay out healthy habits and routines. I know that World of Warcraft and Full House reruns are extremely appealing, but to say it’s a slippery slope is an understatement.
Here’s some things to consider regarding your post corporate life that you should have nailed down before you quit:
- What are your new work hours? Yes you have more flexibility, but you should have a base of rigidness to find your groove.
- When will you make time to exercise?
- Where will your primary workplace be?
- What specific actions will you be taking to find your worklife balance (ie Only golfing on the weekends, won’t have a drink before 7pm, have 2 business related lunches each week etc.)
Is your decision based on emotion or necessity?
Why do you want to leave? Knowing the answer to this question is really important, because if it isn’t for the right reasons, you may find yourself quitting, only to end up in a similar job 2 months down the road because you hadn’t really considered why you were doing it.
- Is your working environment hostile?
- Are you getting closer to the goals you’ve set for yourself in this job?
- Are your reasons for leaving superficial or more deeply rooted in unhappiness?
Do your best not to make snap judgements. Don’t quit just because you and your boss got in a fight, or because you couldn’t get the specific days off you wanted. Those are relatively superficial reasons, and if you’re acting on short term emotions, you may end up regretting the decision down the line.
That said, if you want to leave out of longer term unhappiness and necessity, then start planning accordingly and craft an exit strategy.
Do you have a support system in place?
This might be the most important consideration out of all of these. Having a support system in place is absolutely vital to making a smooth transition into the next phase of your life. Regardless of whether your goals are travel, entrepreneurship, or simply finding a new job, surround yourself and get to know both those that have been successful in doing what you’re striving for, but also those that are currently going through the same situation.
This allows you to have a group of people who can help mentor you through the transition, while also having people that can directly relate to you on a deeper level, because their experiencing the same things simultaneously.
There are all sorts of ways to find this support system.
I started a blog, and started forming my own group of people that would eventually give me the support I needed.
If you don’t want to put in the time and effort to do that, then find 3-5 blogs written by others and become a part of their community. The more active you are with comments and emails, the more you’ll get out of it.
Do you have close friends that are in a similar boat? Start a mastermind with them and chat a couple times a week about your ups and downs.
You can also check out a community like Location Rebel, where everyone involved is deeply invested in making big things happen in their lives. It’s been really inspiring to see so many people make such dramatic changes to their lives in just a matter of months.
Is the pain of staying worse than the pain of leaving?
Quite simply, whenever anyone comes to me wanting to know when the right time to leave is, I tell them simply:
When the pain of staying is worse than the pain of leaving, it’s time to make a change.
How bad is it really? How unhappy are you? Is that unhappiness in your job, manifesting itself negatively in other aspects of your life? If so, continue thinking about the other questions posed today and start planning for your release date!
Once you have solid answers to each of these questions, you should know whether or not quitting is the right move for you.