July 24, 2009
Is quitting your job during the recession crazy?
I'm not talking about quitting for another job you've lined up or quitting to take the full-time reins of the freelance business you've built on the side. I'm talking about giving notice because you're burned out and desperate for a change of scenery, rotten economy be damned.
I'm talking about those who wanted to learn a new trade or travel awhile. Those who generously forfeited their position so a coworker didn't have to. Those who simply couldn't wait any longer for the layoffs their employer has been promising will arrive.
Walking away when so many others would gladly trade their unemployment income to be in your paycheck-collecting shoes seems like the luxury of the relatively young and responsibility-free, doesn't it?
"What I'm leaving behind is admittedly a middling (but respectable) career in publishing, but one, from the point of view of the working-class people I grew up with, you just wouldn't throw away," DeMaio wrote about his fall 2008 resignation. "My parents didn't go to college, and to them 'pissing away' a decent salary is about as stupid a move as you can make."
More than 250 days have passed since DeMaio's decision to kiss his paycheck goodbye with only a modest amount of savings under his belt. From this recent post, it sounds like he's faring well, enjoying the language studies, freelance writing work, and part-time teaching work he's picked up.
But as someone who's constantly on the hunt for new short-term, project-based work herself, I'd like to remind you that from a financial standpoint, doing what DeMaio did is no cakewalk. So before those of you untethered by mortgages and mouths to feed start mooning over the carefree freelance life and typing up your resignation e-mail, I suggest taking the following precautions:
Make a game plan. Don't just quit because you need a vacation. At least not without deciding how you'll spend the days and weeks to come (for example, pursuing other work, education, adventures, hobbies or business enterprises). Take away the structure of the workday and it's far too easy to waste months watching daytime TV or playing World of Warcraft.
Build a financial cushion. Money guru Suze Orman recommends having eight months of living expenses easily accessible. (Note: Retirement funds and credit cards don't count.) If you have no other prospects for work, I suggest saving a year's worth of living expenses. Seriously.
Maintain a health insurance plan. Don't skimp on this or you'll regret it. One big trip to the ER can obliterate several months of savings.
Offer to freelance. Is the job you're quitting something that can be done remotely? Unless you'd rather eat nails than continue to associate with your soon-to-be-ex-employer, let them know that although you're moving on, you'd love to do some consulting or freelance work for them should the need arise. Companies love farming out projects to people they already trust.
Recommend a friend. You know that friend or colleague who's been out of work for six months? If they're a close fit for your former job and you can truthfully recommend working with the company, pass your pal's resume to your manager. Besides making some lucky job seeker's day, your manager will appreciate the tip.
Readers, have you ever quit a reasonably stable staff job during tough economic times because you were miserable? What did you do to prepare?
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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