You’ve Decided to Quit Your Job to Pursue Your Passion. Now What?

01/25/2017 04:35 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2017

I’m a huge advocate for pursuing your passion in life – even if that means ultimately leaving a safe and stable job. Last year, I wrote a piece about listening to your inner voice and following your true career path. Since then, I’m proud to say that I’ve made another major jump.

A few months ago, I resigned from my full-time corporate job so that I could continue to pursue my career in entertainment. But what if you’ve already decided to quit your day job? What should you do next in preparation for announcing your big jump?

1. Build Your Cushion

Regardless of if you have a job offer lined up or not, building a cushion for yourself is crucial. A cushion allows you the flexibility and mental freedom to actually pursue whatever it is that you quit your job for in the first place.

As a child of a single mom, I learned to be a saver by nature but it’s never too late to start. It may require getting really lean and cutting out those weekend trips to the bar with friends, miscellaneous shopping, expensive dinners out and your daily $6 Starbucks venti-chai-latte-something-or-other.

By my last day of work, I had 6+ months of living expenses saved. That means that I could cover my rent and basic expenses without having to worry or borrow money. Everyone has their own threshold and comfort level. For most, three months of basic living expenses covered is sufficient. I recommend having no less than two months saved in advance of resigning.

Basic living expenses are things like rent, groceries, student loans and insurance. It’s not glamorous, but lean living means temporarily giving up a lot of extras for the greater good of investing in your career and protecting yourself from today’s unstable job market.

2. Keep Working That Side Hustle

Leaving a stable and secure job for the insecurity of pursuing your passion full-time is daunting. Now is the time to prepare to make that transition easier for yourself.

The time to slow down (briefly) is after your last day, when I advocate that you take 1-2 weeks off to recharge, but until then, the hustle should continue. Start scheduling meetings, gigs and informational interviews beginning a week or two after your last day at work so you can hit the ground running.

3. Give as Much Notice as You are Comfortable With

Every situation is different but I have generally found that bosses appreciate as much notice as possible. If you have a good relationship with your boss and feel confident that you will not be penalized for giving early notice (e.g. your boss or HR pushing you out of the door exactly two weeks from your resignation, which they can legally do), then it may be possible to give a month or two of notice.

I did this and it was a win-win all around: my boss was able to conduct a thorough, unhurried search for my replacement and I was able to continue working and earning money while having increased flexibility with my time, which is one of the most valuable things you can have while job hunting or working your side hustle. Some companies may even offer you higher compensation or a final bonus if you assist in hiring and training your replacement.

4. Stay Classy and be Professional – Always.

Your resignation letter is not the place to air dirty laundry, even if you have issues with your position or your boss. Plus, that document is basically written in HR stone once you hand it over. Do you really want to be remembered as that person who inappropriately vented via resignation letter?

When in doubt, use the KISS principle: Keep It Simple Stupid. Start by announcing your resignation and stating your last day (at least two weeks from the date you plan to give notice). Then move into thanking your employer for the opportunity to work in your position – briefly highlighting one of your favorite things about the position or a specific thing that you learned is a great touch. Finally, close with an offer to do everything possible to wrap up your duties and assist in transitioning your role by your last day.

What if you have stuff that you need to get off your chest or you want to provide feedback to make the environment better for the next person? Most companies will have some type of exit evaluation, which will allow you to tactfully share your feedback. If not, then schedule some one-on-one time with your boss or HR to share your thoughts.

5. Work Hard Until the Bitter End

This one may seem obvious but it’s hard to resist that senioritis kicking in during your last two weeks.

This is a reputational issue. Let’s say you’ve been working at a company for two years, doing great work. Why let your last two weeks blur what an awesome employee you are?

People tend to remember what came first and what came last. In Neuroscience, we call this the primacy and recency effects, respectively. Maybe you had a few missteps during your employment (who doesn’t?) but if you can finish strong then you will likely be remembered that way. This will make it a lot easier if you ever need to go back to your boss or company for a reference letter or networking connections.

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