Quitting Work Without A Plan: The Highs and Lows

21/09/2016 13:23

At 34 years of age, with just three months to go before my second child was due to be born, I quit my job without a backup plan. I quit because I was unhappy. Simple as that. Being miserable no longer felt like an inevitable outcome of being a responsible adult: I became convinced there was another way.

For the first time in my life, I missed the fake doctor's appointments, the darting out of the office clutching my mobile, the hushed calls with recruiters in the corridor. I just acted on my gut, jumping without a parachute, with the faith I would figure out a plan before I hit the ground.

Fifteen years spent in the digital and marketing industry and just like that, a blank canvas. No new sparkly job to go to, just my two months notice to figure out my next move.

Over the weeks following my resignation I wrote about my 'reset' and have shared some of my key milestones along the way. Here is a collection of some of them, which may help others in similar a position to me.

Embracing the fear (Week 2)

Initially, I was riding high on the euphoria of pulling the plug. It was a week of pats on the back, scheduling coffees and receiving congratulations for taking the plunge. I am a bloody hero!

Then the euphoria began to fade and a sense of fear and uncertainty crept in. What happens if all the chats, coffees and lunches come to nothing? Reality hit.

Yet I realised that the worst thing I can do is to be a passenger on this journey and wait for something, anything, to come my way. This opportunity is a gift and I am determined to use the fear to challenge myself and realise my ambitions. In fact, fear sharpens my thinking and clarifies my motivations.

Learning to act (Week 4)

For the first time I feel like the fog is passing and a clear path is beginning to emerge. I decide to stop waiting for the perfect plan and for the right circumstances to present themselves - but to seize the moment and act.

I don't know what I expect to happen. Perhaps, with hindsight I'll learn I have made some sound decisions, whilst others may turn out to be wildly misguided. However, as I begin to realise ideas that only moments ago were thoughts in my head, ambitions that had long been shelved seem achievable once again.

Returning to the beginning (Week 7)

I'm experiencing an unceasing desire to repeat patterns of behaviour, regardless of the known consequences of doing so. When I get scared, panicked, worried about my future, old patterns of behaviour have a habit of presenting themselves to me.

So I recall the moment I pressed 'send' on my resignation email, and remember the desire to find meaning in my work that was at the forefront of my mind. Now, when I'm faced with a fork in the road, I refer back to that moment and reconnect with that motivation. To work as I try to live: with honesty, integrity and purpose.

Pitching and pinching myself (Week 10)

So here it is. Ten weeks on from doing what has been described as "reckless", "mental" and "plain stupid" - and I am doing what I love, on my own terms and with much greater purpose than ever before. I arrived at three core principles to keep me on the straight and narrow:

  • Happy people - Seek workplaces that celebrate the individual.
  • Working with meaning - Do work that I care about, that has a positive impact.
  • Sustainable growth - Aim for growth that is achievable is the long term, without compromising on the first two principles.

Do what you're good at

I consult as a commercial director for hire, helping digital agencies achieve sustainable growth without compromising on their vision, purpose or culture.

Make time for the things you love

I reduced my working week to four days and Friday is now the day I use to pursue things I love. I'm currently mentoring a social enterprise and building flat pack for my newborn son's bedroom.

Dream big

I set up After School Club, a space where freelancers in the creative, digital and technology sector can feel part of something greater than themselves. Here they can receive support, develop their skills and gain access to workplace benefits - all whilst retaining their autonomy. The club is launching later this year and is my biggest ambition realised!

I also partnered with a three others and set up The Future Strategy Club. Working in digital strategy for the last ten years, I hadn't yet come across a dedicated space for strategists. So we set up a club for strategists to call home, to network with one another and inform the future of their discipline.

Was it all worth it?

Acting on my gut was risky, but it really paid off. I've realised a happiness and peace of mind I thought was no longer achievable. I've made space in my life to act on my ambitions and do what I love. The last ten weeks have been transformative - yet something tells me this is just the beginning.