Leaving one’s job for the unknown isn’t easy at the best of times. If you’re considering moving on from your current employer, take a few steps to make sure you can ride out the change as smoothly as possible.
Assess your finances
Before cutting off your main source of income, you’ll want to see how much money you have. Depending on how long of a break you’re taking or how long you think it will take you to get started on something new, it can be a good idea to have several months’ worth of living expenses before quitting. If you have a 401(k) or pension fund, find out if you need to take action or if you can leave them where they are.
Read through available documentation or speak with HR to see about ex-employee benefits. You may find that you are entitled to compensation for accrued vacation days. Inquiring may feel uncomfortable, but those benefits may be exceptionally important in the near future. The key at this stage is understanding your resources at hand and how you’ll transfer them over as the next stage of your life begins.
Know your insurance options
If you’re quitting without another job in place, you may want to make sure you have continuing insurance coverage for things like health and life insurance. If you qualify, you can retain your old job’s insurance for some time after leaving under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA), but you will be responsible for the full premiums. Otherwise, you may want to research a plan that suits your needs. Premiums may seem expensive when you don’t have a job but suffering an accident or illness while uninsured can be very expensive—taking steps to stay covered can help you avoid compounding the instability of unemployment with additional risk.
Make a plan
Before quitting, figure out what you need to ease the transition into the next phase of your career. If you’re planning to go freelance, start making contacts and thinking about how you’ll build your business. Make a rough plan for how much work you want to take on and how much revenue that translates to each month as you ramp up.
If you’ll be applying for new jobs in the near future, now is a good time to document your work and experience. Note all your current responsibilities, and make sure your resumé and job board profiles are current. Exchange contact information with trusted colleagues and save some non-proprietary samples of your work. With some forethought, you can effectively leverage your experience and shorten your search for a new job when the time comes.
Don’t limit yourself
You’ve considered the risks ahead; now, think of the opportunities. Your period between jobs can be fulfilling. From traveling to working on personal projects, there are many ways you can continue to grow and self-actualize regardless of your employment status.
As you embark on the next step in your career, remember that work doesn’t need to be paid to have value. By following the steps detailed above, you can help ensure your big change isn’t a stressful one.