Sometimes a job is so bad that quitting before you’ve lined up another source of income feels like a necessity. If you’re in this boat and can afford to jump ship, I wholeheartedly endorse the decision.
What you can’t afford, however, is to venture into the abyss of unemployment without a master plan. Otherwise, six weeks of sleeping in and lunching with other underemployed pals could easily turn into six months.
To ensure you use the time off wisely, I offer the following suggestions.
Set a time frame for slacking. Hopefully you left your onerous job with your savings account or credit line in mind. And hopefully you’ve vowed to cut back on nonessential expenses until your cash flow picks up. If not, time to trim your budget.
The size of your rainy-day fund — and your willingness to burn it — will of course dictate the length of your employment hiatus. But having three to six months of living expenses in the bank won’t buy you three to six months of unfettered time off. Since finding a new position takes time, you’d be wise to jump-start your job hunt during your first month off. The last thing you want is to take a less-than-ideal job out of desperation because your financial well ran dry.
Establish a routine. Go for a morning walk. Pore over the news while sipping your midday coffee. Take your dog or kids for a late-afternoon romp. Shop for and cook dinner each evening. It doesn’t matter what you choose, so long as you pick one or two activities to anchor your day. Your outlook, motivation and sense of purpose will be better for it.
Socialize. Meet acquaintances and colleagues for a snack or tea. If you’re on a budget, take a stroll instead. Accept invites to parties, meetups, art openings, professional events and any other outings that pique your interest. Tell people you meet about the type of work you’ve done in the past and the work you hope to do in the future. This is one of the easiest, most painless ways to make new professional contacts.
Dive into pet projects. Maybe you’ve been wanting to hike the Hoh River Trail, sign up for a screenwriting class, start an Etsy store, interview your grandmother about her life story or clean out your garage. Now’s your chance. Don’t squander this bounty of free time. There’s no telling when you’ll have it again. After you’ve given yourself a week or two to unwind, set two or three beefy goals for your time off and start chipping away at them.
Take on some freelance work. If you’re antsy about not bringing home the bacon while searching for your next full-time position, try to line up a couple of freelance projects. Besides earning a little spending money, freelancing keeps your résumé fresh and your head in the employment game. If you’re unsure how to search for freelance work, here are some suggestions.
Mind your social media profiles. Trading in morning staff meetings for morning yoga isn’t license to completely let your guard down online. Publicly trashing your former employer won’t serve you well. Nor will telling the entire internet exactly how much you loathe working. Stick to more innocuous posts like photos of outings with friends and family, helpful industry articles you read and behind-the-scenes peeks at the pet projects you undertake. Remember, you’ll be trying to make a good impression on potential employers before long.