When I was twenty-eight years old I quit my job, sold everything I owned (admission: not a lot) and bought a video camera. I then spent the next nine months travelling the world (26 countries) filming a documentary I had conceived in the shower. People (who don’t know me) are often surprised to learn about this phase in my life. They are one part intrigued by the notion of such an adventure and one part astounded that I (or anyone) had the audacity to walk away from an established job, a secure existence.
Before I go any further though, it would only be fair of me to give you the background to my decision to quit. I was in a toxic job saturated with women bullying other women, I had already gone as far as I could career-wise and the thought of doing the same thing for the next 40 years was freaking me out. And then I walked across hot coals (literally).
It was in the aftermath of those coals, while everyone else was jumping for indoctrinated joy and I was doubled over, dry retching at the realisation that I no longer had any excuses, that I made my decision. I quit the next day. No job to go to, not much in the way of savings and just a notion of what I wanted to do – work in film and television, and write. I also admit, that other than elocution lessons when I was seven and a few high-school plays / musicals, I had never acted, certainly never sung (drunken karaoke does not count) and my first and only attempt at a novel was serving the purpose of ‘doorstop’.
There was no rule book for what to do next, in fact by quitting on the spur of the moment without any sort of plan, I had pretty much committed a cardinal sin. And what followed wasn’t easy. Life took the next five years, while I wandered in the wilderness of the entertainment industry, to teach me some useful lessons. Including the most important one, that quitting my job was the best decision I had ever made.
So for those of you hating where you are and what you are doing, here are my top five tips for quitting your job. My only caveat is this – do with them what you will, at the end of the day you and only you are responsible for the decisions you make in this life.
- Be brave, be honest – Complaining about what’s not working in your life, how hard you’ve got it or how much you hate your job, is the easy path. Taking the bull by the horns and embracing the idea that life is full of endless possibilities takes courage and honesty. Also, people hate whingers – fact. If you are constantly complaining about your job, then it’s time to make a change.
- Have a plan – It doesn’t have to be rock solid with all the details fleshed out, but it helps to have an idea of where you are going, what you want to do and how you are going to fund it. Maybe it’s going to France to study language in-country for a year, maybe it’s launching an online business or going back to uni. Whatever it is, pour yourself a glass of bubbles, get out a notepad and write it all down.
- Share your plan – Once you have that plan, share it. It may surprise you how many people are out there waiting to open doors for you. No woman is an island, at no other time will be it be more important than now to seek the help and support of others. That said…
- Ignore the naysayers – There is a sub-set of humans out there who are innately threatened by anything bold and beautiful. They will, at very turn, look to tear your dreams from the sky and superimpose their own fears over your adventure landscape. They may be people you have known for years, they may even be family, and when they are picking away at the seams of your plans they will tell you that it is because they care about you, because they are worried about your future. I learnt quickly not to try and reason with this sub-set, not to justify my decisions, but simply to shut down the conversation, politely but firmly.
- Set a timeline – When I quit my ‘first’ job I gave myself a five year deadline. This was partly because I didn’t want to be heading towards 40 and living commercial to commercial (being a starving artist was not part of my plan). But I also knew that if I gave myself a deadline, I would work harder to achieve my goals. As well as providing motivation, the timeline served as a useful juncture to review my plan, make sure I was still on track and doing something I loved – rather than just being caught in another rut and afraid of what others would think if I changed direction again (see point 4).
My five years in film and television was a whirlwind of highs and lows. I loved every single one of them. And while I’m not in the industry anymore, taking that initial leap of faith led to a life full of amazing experiences and people, and eventually to a new career, which I may not have crossed paths with had I not been prepared to quit my day job.
One last bonus tip – You’re not the first to quit and you won’t be the last. People from all walks of life, both with and without kids, with and without partners. have all done it. The truth is, you can do anything you set your mind to.
So, what are you waiting for? Life is short – live large xx