You've been working at Company "XYZ" for 6 years and you're no longer motivated, you feel like it's a dead end, the environment is toxic, Sundays make you nervous and you HATE Mondays!
Problem: You hate your job and you cannot stand to be there one more month, week, day! Okay, let's be honest, you mentally quit this hell hole months ago, but you have serious anxiety about quitting in real life.
Solution: If you don't like your job, just quit!
If only it were that easy.
There are so many things to consider when you finally decide to quit your job. Add anxiety to the mix and you might as well shoot yourself in the foot. If you have anxiety, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
Anxiety feels like being blind folded and going through a booby-trapped maze. You are literally frozen with fear!
I remember feeling like, I was serving a prison sentence, but I wondered "what if I leave this job and everything is worse than it is now?"
For many clients, fearing the unknown outcome, not knowing what lies ahead and stepping out on faith is a scary thing.
Someone with full blown anxiety knows about the "analysis paralysis", overthinking, asking the what if's, the endless negative scenarios, the fears of uncertainty and unfavorable outcomes.
Feeling out of control and not knowing what will happen next is debilitating and this is the crux of anxiety.
If you are struggling with anxiety, the best thing you can do if you are unhappy at your job and you know without a doubt it's time to leave, is to first work on your mindset, manage your anxiety symptoms and then devise an exit strategy. People with anxiety are not good at spontaneity and strongly dislike surprises. There must be a plan and a way to manage the stress of terminating employment.
My client's that experience anxiety are able to leave their jobs with more confidence because we work on creating effective coping skills, improving their mindset, managing their emotions and coming up with an achievable plan of action.
I've had clients, that not only reduced their anxiety and left their jobs, some got better jobs, or they ventured into entrepreneurship by monetizing their ideas and talents.
Expressive writing alone has improved their mindset, so they can get through the obstacles of quitting a job. They can gain insight and clarity into their thoughts and really come up with a plan that will work. The key here is actively practicing a system for processing your thoughts and emotions. Expressive writing is a researched based method of improving emotions, founded by James Pennebaker. 1
So, what thoughts worry the anxious person who wants to quit their job and feel stuck? The questions that keep them up at night, give them a headache, interrupt their sleep, make their heart beat faster, create a feeling of panic and doom.
How will I take care of myself when I quit?
What if I don't find a better job?
What if they need me?
How do I leave peacefully?
How do I conceal my plan to leave?
Will they give me a good reference?
What if they find out I am job hunting?
I'm going to share 5 steps to a solid job exit strategy, one that I have used to terminate multiple positions. I always parted ways with my employers on good terms. I successfully quit, the worst job experiences, with great references, because I was strategic and had a plan not to burn bridges.
You need to create strategies to succeed, they help you organize your thoughts, manage emotions and give you calls to action.
First you need to set an ETA, Estimated Time of Achievement. I encourage you to set a date 3 months to 6 months ahead and start working on your strategy daily.
Finance Your Exit
What will I do for money? This is a really important question. So, let's be real, you need to survive after you quit. You have bills, you must put food on the table, you need to take care of responsibilities. I know, I know, you cannot WAIT to break out and get free. But if you jump up and quit your job, you won't be getting unemployment. You need to have 3-6 months of living expenses saved, and an emergency savings fund for mishaps like a car breaking down or another unexpected expense.
Develop Additional Income Streams
If your only income stream is this job you are leaving, then you need to find a better job, a part time job (a bridge job), or start a side hustle. The bridge job doesn't have to be in your field, it's something to hold you over until you find something better. Don't get comfortable in your bridge job, it's temporary. Brainstorm ALL the things you can do to bring in income (not just a job). This is anything that someone will pay you to do, something that they don't want to do themselves. When I first relocated, I needed income, so I found a part-time bridge job and I started updating people's resumes. I found clients on online. Can you do hair? Can you bake cakes? Can you babysit? Can you drive kids to school? Cook for an elderly person? the list goes on and on.
Reclaim Your Time
Yes, Auntie Maxine Waters said it best. "I am reclaiming my time". Take off your super hero cape and stop trying to be everything to everyone. If you don't plan on being at this job for much longer, stop trying to do the most. This means not taking on any new projects, not volunteering for assignments, not creating more work. If you can start delegating tasks, do that. If you can avoid bringing work home, do that. If you can get someone else to cover you, ask for that help.
Spring Cleaning Your Work Space
Do you remember seeing those movies, where the person is carrying a huge box of stuff on the last day of work. If you deal with anxiety, you do not want this to be you. Can you imagine, feeling anxious on the last day, and dragging out your whole life in a big ole box?!
Have you been uploading, downloading, sharing things on your work computer, that you don't want your boss to see? Clean up your computer, empty papers from your desk, start taking things home from your desk or office. I never really accumulate too many things in my work space anyway. I remember taking things home daily, I'd carry a big bag to work, so it wasn't noticeable. On your last day of work, you should be walking out with both of your hands swinging.
The Goodbye Letter
This is not a breakup, please, please I beg of you, leave your emotions out of your resignation letter. Think of it as a formality for ending your employment contract. You will not turn in the letter when you are emotional, you will thoughtfully provide a physical typed letter on the date you planned (2 weeks prior to leaving). In your resignation letter, you express that you had a productive experience and you will be resigning from your duties in two weeks. You can offer to complete projects, sign off on assignments to make the transition easier. Even the worst job is a productive experience, I am sure you learned something, one thing, either it's what to do or what not to do.
Keep it simple, short and sweet. Whatever concerns, complaints or suggestions you had, save them for the exit interview (if they have one).
Reminder, you may want references and depending on how small your field is, it's possible you may cross paths again. Your reputation can make or break your career, so be the bigger person.
Hopefully, this is enough to get you on the track to quitting your horrible job despite feeling anxious, but if you need additional support to get through the process you may need to work with a counselor or coach. Sometimes, the support and accountability are necessary to keep you from psyching yourself out and staying another year at your job. The worst feeling is being stuck somewhere you don't belong. Start creating a strategy now, you can be in a better job in as little as three months.
Your Journal Prompt (Pen, Paper, 5 minutes)
What makes you nervous about quitting your job? Why do you need to leave? How will you feel if you don't quit?
Set your ETA, Estimated Time of Achievement and Create your exit strategy.
I'd love to hear about your experience writing this journal prompt! Let's connect by email firstname.lastname@example.org.