The pandemic is waning here in the United States (at least for now), the job market is slowly showing signs of recovery, and millions of workers have fled their jobs in what many headlines are calling “The Great Resignation.” You might be one of those workers reckoning with what you want from work, and while it might be easy to get lost in the romance of closing the door on a chapter of your professional life — especially if you hated your job — you should consider a few things about the period between your old job and whatever is coming next.
How to transition between jobs
While it’s advisable to have another job lined up before you head for the exit, some people prefer to live more dangerously. If you’ve quit due to an oppressive boss or unrelenting demands that led to burnout, then it’s probable that you’ve made the right decision, despite missing the safety net. You’re likely jumping into the void to explore new possibilities and pursue areas of personal growth. According to career coach Nancy Leighton, you should make that apparent to whomever you wind up interviewing with in the future.
She told Lifehacker:
If you leave a job prior to having another one, you have to have a really good explanation of why you made that choice. For example, It cannot be because of your terrible boss, but it could be because you were interested in volunteering or taking classes to explore another interest and/or a possible career change.
Leighton notes, as echoed by previous Lifehacker coverage, to never quit your job without a plan. Part of that plan, she says, can involve developing new skills and pursuing areas of professional interest that you’ve long been intrigued by but haven’t had the opportunity to sink your teeth into. “Remember that the longer you take off in between jobs, the less desirable you will be as a candidate unless you are working on acquiring new skills through additional training or volunteer work.”
Be prepared, however, for your sabbatical to become longer than you anticipated, even if the job market is strong.
How long can you take a break from work?
“Don’t take too much time off,” says Marc Cenedella, the founder of the resume service Leet Resumes. “While the current market is very strong, people who opt out for more than a few months might find themselves at a disadvantage in the near future.”
Those disadvantages are both traditional — it’s easier to get a job when you have a job — and contingent upon our moment in time. “While the job market is doing really well (unemployment is back to March 2020 levels),” Leighton says, “there is also a lot of movement now and the same rules always apply in fields where there is a lot of competition.”
To that end, Cenedella recommends that an ideal break should last about two to three months, but never stretch out for longer than six months. Half a year is the threshold of time that still “doesn’t require excessive explanation” to a prospective employer.
But always plan and budget accordingly. If you’re planning on taking a three month reprieve from work, maybe allocate a budget for about six months, because, well, things happen. “Sometimes, the best laid plans don’t go as scheduled,” Leighton says. After all, if you’re leaving a job that sapped the joy from life, you’re going to want to hold out for one that you at least think you’ll enjoy.
The benefits you’re getting from a job are also a huge factor, so it’s not really advisable to quit if it means foregoing health insurance as a result. If you’re able to pay out of pocket for healthcare — which is notoriously expensive and might eat into your budget — that’s one thing, but foregoing healthcare might only be feasible for those who can sign onto a plan through their spouse after quitting.
How to recharge after quitting a job
Part of quitting a job requires an understanding that unemployment won’t just be sleeping in and going to matinees. You can certainly do that, and probably even should, but the concept of “recharging” can be best understood as a process of reorientation. Think long and hard about where you want your career to go. If you’ve quit your job and walked out into the void, you certainly owe it to yourself to ponder this big, scary and exciting question.
Learning something new, whether it’s dedicating yourself to a cause through volunteering or taking classes that might acquaint you with another profession, is certainly a way to to accomplish this. Hopefully, it’ll help you feel not only recharged, but ready to tackle whatever lies ahead.
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