Should I quit my job tomorrow?
November 9, 2006 6:26 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to quit my job tomorrow... and I'm nervous. Is it the right decision? Or too rash?

Yes, there are lots of similar threads, but I need specific (and quick) advice. I'm 23 and have worked in publishing for one year. It's time to move on -- but everyone says don't quit until you've got another job locked down.

The good news: I just got a great freelance writing gig that will start after Thanksgiving. It has the potential to turn into an assignment every month, and pays more than my current 9-5 does. It will be exciting and satisfying work. Still, it's freelance, and I'm mindful of the pitfalls.

So yesterday I applied for a job in a bookshop. It pays very little but would be a steady check to support my writing. I'd be happy there. BUT there are no guarantees I'll get the job.

As for finances: I've got a few K in the bank and live pretty frugally (and could live frugally-er if necessary). So I have a cushion.

Reasons for quitting TOMORROW:

* My yearly review will probably be next week. That would be awkward--I'd be forced to tell my boss right then that I'm leaving. I'd rather do it on my own terms, before the review.
* If I give notice tomorrow, my last day will be right before Thanksgiving. That's a logical end date. Also: if I don't leave before Thanksgiving, I don't think I'll be able to take the writing gig.
* Daily work has become miserable. I am frustrated and stressed and not sleeping well. I've got to get OUT.

What do you think? Should I quit tomorrow? Or keep applying to bookshops (and other places) until I get something locked down, and THEN quit? Your advice, anecdotes, etc are appreciated.
posted by quarked to Work & Money (24 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like you have thought out this process and have some good justification for leaving. I'd be a little concerned that you don't have a long-er term plan for what happens after the initial freelance gig, but at 23 years old, you are in a great place to take a professional risk here. If you were older and married with children, I'd say differently because of security and welfare for your family. However, you have a financial cushion and a good prospect for career growth and plenty of years and time to recover if this doesn't prove to be lucrative. Some of the best business decisions involve calculated risk and taking a chance, which is what you are doing. I say go for it!
posted by galimatias at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2006

I vote quit. You're young and you can afford to give freelancing a shot, and you sound responsible enough not to put yourself in too deep a hole if it doesn't work out. Good luck!
posted by Succa at 6:34 PM on November 9, 2006

logical end date, awkward review, have to get out...

I think you're making rationalizations, but this will be a really useful learning experience. Under the same circumstances, I would probably give it another 3-6 months while I looked for other work, but having recently done that, I know it's truly difficult to stay in a job you detest.

Good luck with freelance - much more fun but also much more risk.

But, seriously, do it now, while you can, while you have the courage, and the risk-taking ability and least responsibilities.
posted by b33j at 6:39 PM on November 9, 2006

Based on what you've shared with us, the only reason I can think of to NOT quit would be what a potential future employer would think about you not having a job. But, the freelance gig would qualify as a job were I interviewing you.

That said, I say quit. I don't know what you would do at a bookshop; I am assuming sales. If that's the case, it's the Holiday season. ANYone would hire you tomorrow! Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Tiffany's, Crate & Barrel...

Just another few words, if you don't mind: You are 23. Be 23! Enjoy it. You will never be 23 again.
posted by davidinmanhattan at 6:43 PM on November 9, 2006

Agreed, you're young and can probably handle it. But as an editor who works with a lot of freelancers, I would NEVER encourage any of them to quit their fulltime job based on one monthly assignment from me. My needs as an editor, the company's needs, my budget could change at any time and I'd be pulling the income rug out from under them.

If you do quit, get a lot of other regular freelance gigs lined up fairly quickly, so you're not counting on this one to last forever.
posted by GaelFC at 6:44 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

ditto Succa. You're young, you have no dependents (AFAICT).

From the information you've given, it sounds to me like:
1) This freelance gig is a pretty rare opportunity
2) You will likely never in your life be in a better position to accept such a gig than you are right now.
posted by winston at 6:45 PM on November 9, 2006

I quit my job as a chemist to work as a freelance writer, with no experience.

I loved it. I felt very alive, and had a blast writing about all kinds of things that interested me. And got paid. There is something very focusing in waking up every morning wondering how you're going to make the rent.

To make it over the long run strictly freelance takes a lot of work, though. A lot more than you think. Before I quit (and I was scared too) I sat down and wrote out one hundred solid (solid!) story ideas.
posted by atchafalaya at 6:49 PM on November 9, 2006 [1 favorite]

Sure, do it. Some bosses, just so you know, will have you clean out your desk immediately after you quit, so don't be surprized by this if it happens.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:50 PM on November 9, 2006

Quit, but after your review.

Unless they are going to say stuff that is really going to stuff you up, you should find out what they think and use the info to improve yourself.
posted by sien at 6:58 PM on November 9, 2006

Get the review first, especially if it's the first review you have had at that company. Make sure you have a hard copy (you can always throw it away later). Even though you are unhappy you can bear another few days.

The reason to get the review in hand is to be able to document how you were perceived. If the perceptions were good, they can't be denied after you leave when you have a hard copy; if not, you have a chance to clear them up.

Then go. Make sure you have the -offer- from the book shop before you do, since when you have a job you look hotter to whomever's going to hire you.
posted by jet_silver at 7:05 PM on November 9, 2006

Go, and if I may suggest A Beginner's Guide to Freelancing.
posted by furtive at 7:24 PM on November 9, 2006 [2 favorites]

Go ahead and get the hell outta there; had the same problem earlier this year and my only regret is that I didn't leave sooner! Good luck man
posted by uncballzer at 7:29 PM on November 9, 2006

I totally understand the nervousness. I just gave my notice yesterday afternoon, after wanting to do it and looking forward to it for a long time. I thought I'd feel light and ecstatic. Instead I felt scared and halfway to basket-casehood — the reality that this transition is going to mean the beginning of some hard work and a period of risk, rather than simply a happy ending, is just too hard to avoid. It's definitely sobering.

But I still say: you should probably quit. Daily misery and frustration and sleep loss are generally only something to endure when you're working for something that's a sufficiently worthwhile endeavor to overbalances those negatives.

However, there's only one thing that suggests to me that your timing really has to be *now*:

"Also: if I don't leave before Thanksgiving, I don't think I'll be able to take the writing gig."

You don't have to tell your boss anything you don't want to at your review -- while you should be ethical and kind with your employer, you have every right to change your mind about your status with them every day. And as others have said, the review could be beneficial for you. And as for the day-to-day stress, you could probably mitigate it or push through it on a short-term basis.

But if your new opportunity has a window and it's something you really want to pursue (or even if it's just the brightest ray of light you can see at the moment), jump and grab it. You don't know when it will come again.
posted by weston at 7:36 PM on November 9, 2006

Does your current job provide any end-of-year holidays? If so, leaving when they are about to start happening is costly. You've earned them, and they have a specific monetary value you can calculate.

Aren't you at least a little curious about the review? At your age, you are probably making assumptions and getting some feedback to calibrate your self-perceptions might be pretty useful. Maybe you are doing a lousy job? Maybe you walk on water? How will you tell? Guessing is not as effective as listening.

During your review, you can also present your own observations on your compatibility and whether or not you are happy. Also, you can present what it would take to MAKE you happy and stay, presuming they want you to. It's a good opportunity to practice skills that you may find useful later. What's the downside? How many chances will you have to diplomatically speak your mind and not worry about being canned, since you are planning to quit anyway.

I see many reasons to stay for just a little longer. Lots of people temporarily hate their jobs, intermittently. How much stamina do you have? If you quit EVERY time you feel you HAVE to get out, you're in for a lot more job changes.

Regardless, good luck!
posted by FauxScot at 7:37 PM on November 9, 2006

Is there a real reason you'd have to tell your boss that you're leaving during the review? Because usually you can go through the review, not hint at leaving then, and then say a month later give them the two weeks' notice, which is all that's standard. That's usually office politics. If your one freelance gig pays more than the 9-5 then your job can't be so important to them that they'd need more than the two weeks notice or they'd hate you forever.

On the other hand, yeah, if your job's going to interfere with the promising gig, go ahead and jump ship, I think.
posted by furiousthought at 7:55 PM on November 9, 2006

I agree that you should quit tomorrow. I waited too long to quit my last job before I moved on to my current one and I missed that wonderful inbetween jobs no responsibility period. If you have a savings cushion and a new source of income lined up, I say go for it.
posted by elvissa at 7:55 PM on November 9, 2006

Quarked, I'm unclear whether you're quitting on the spot tomorrow, or giving notice tomorrow. The first is not good, you'd be leaving on a very sour note. The second is just fine, as long as you're giving 2 weeks notice. Anything less is increasingly less good, depending on how much you give. If you meant you're giving 2 weeks notice tomorrow, go for it.

Also, I just recently stopped working in a bookstore. I'm not sure whether you've applied at a chain or an indie, but be prepared for craziness either way. If you have questions about working in a bookstore, my email's in my profile. I worked at a large chain bookstore beginning with B. :)
posted by booksherpa at 9:05 PM on November 9, 2006

Go for it. But get a side job to keep cash flow coming in, so that you can build up an even bigger cushion. Apply for disability insurance, too. And work really hard at getting more clients. One client isn't really enough for you to risk your day job, but you're in a good place in your life and you should be okay as long as you have a side job. Over time, you can ditch the side job. Or you can always pick another one up -- it's nice to have recent customer service experience, though, so you can keep doing that.

Disclaimer: I quit my job when I was 23 and became a freelance writer. Almost 10 years later, I'm a marketing consultant who still does some freelance writing.
posted by acoutu at 9:14 PM on November 9, 2006

Quit. Be gracious, not because you'll need to go back, but because it's a small world. So just give the reason that you have a great new opportunity. If you want the review, ask your boss to sit down with you and do it before you go.
posted by theora55 at 9:31 PM on November 9, 2006

If you're near a university that has a Follett bookstore, consider applying there ASAP. In my six months of experience working at one, I've had almost nothing but good experiences. I don't think it's just my store—Follett seems to be a company that really takes care of its own. And if you decide in a year you want to move, you can take the job with you—they're really good about helping you find somewhere to transfer to within the company.

Further, university bookstores are used to working around students' crazy schedules, so it may be more flexible.

(I'm 22, soon to be 23, and I work at a college bookstore around 25 hours a week to support my freelance copy editing, writing, and comix drawing. It's a crazy life, but it sure as hell isn't boring.)
posted by limeonaire at 10:07 PM on November 9, 2006

(And by the way, yes, go ahead and put in your notice. It's not worth staying with a job you loathe, esp. if you have some savings. Just be prepared to do a job search at the same time as you're kicking off your freelance writing career, 'cause sometimes job prospects fall through...)
posted by limeonaire at 10:10 PM on November 9, 2006

It seems like you've got a decent plan for quitting:

1) You have some cash saved up to cover you if you don't get the bookshop job. You can always hunt down another part time gig ANYWHERE if you need to
2) You've got the freelancing thing lined up for now, and it seems like it'll be satisfying work
3) You hate your current job

Go for it! You're young, you only live once!
posted by antifuse at 3:21 AM on November 10, 2006

Wow. Thanks, everyone. These are wonderful and helpful responses. I think I'm going to do it!

FauxScott, to answer your questions: Does your current job provide any end-of-year holidays?

Nope. If anything, the coming months will be more hectic, require longer hours, etc. I am not afraid of hard work, and don't intend to shirk responsibilities, which is why I've stayed this long. But the situation has remained the same for many months, no matter my effort or attitude, and there's no sign of improvement.

Lots of people temporarily hate their jobs, intermittently. How much stamina do you have? If you quit EVERY time you feel you HAVE to get out, you're in for a lot more job changes.

This is true, and I've given it a lot of thought. Over the summer a close friend was fired out of the blue, and it made me reevaluate my work ethic, my character, etc. So I pushed myself beyond my limits, at first out of pride, then as a moral decision. And I'm very glad I did ... but it doesn't make sense to sustain that level of intensity for a job I don't want.

During your review, you can also present your own observations on your compatibility and whether or not you are happy. Also, you can present what it would take to MAKE you happy and stay, presuming they want you to.

Really, there's no career path in this company or this industry that I want to pursue. I do not want a corporate career at all. It feels wrong to say that -- in my family, success means moving up the ladder to a respected position, with a good title and good pay. But my ambitions are creative/personal/intellectual, not corporate or financial. Although I don't want to be irresponsible and pipe-dreamy, either.

And yet everyone has reminded me I'm 23. What better time?

Booksherpa, I'm very interested in hearing about working in a bookstore. I'll drop you an email, thanks.
posted by quarked at 4:33 AM on November 10, 2006

FWIW, I think you've reasoned it out very well and have a good plan. My questions were "Devil's advocate". I like your answers.

Good luck with the new career!
posted by FauxScot at 4:47 AM on November 10, 2006

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