how to quit your job – 5 steps

If you want to quit your job, you are like a staggering number of people in America today. CBS News recently reported that only 45% of US workers find their jobs satisfying. And that’s lowest rate ever recorded in the 22 years they’ve been studying the issue.

If you aren’t happy at your job, why not take the plunge? Yes, there are risks. Yes, it can be scary. But quitting your job to pursue something that makes you happier and more fulfilled is never riskier and scarier than the alternative: remaining stuck a mindless cycle of dreading every day and complaining over a tub of ice cream or a bottle of wine every night.

I quit my job and lived to tell the tale. I worked as a grouchy office assistant for many boring years and it made me want to commit mass murder. I was the ugliest version of myself when I worked at that job. I was dismissive, short-tempered, difficult and I loved rolling my eyes behind people’s backs. (Okay, I still do that.)

Now, 7 months after quitting, I’m happier and more hopeful than I’ve been in years. I might even be a little smarter too. I’m not an expert, I’m just someone who’s been through it and come out thriving on the other side.

The list I’m about to share might seem simple. That’s on purpose. No matter what we may have been led to believe by maybe our parents, our culture, or our bank accounts, quitting your job is simple.

Scary? Risky? Non-traditional? Maybe.

Rocket science? Absolutely not.

Here’s how I did it:

1. Decide WHY. I knew I felt unhappy at my job, but I had to determine exactly why, or I wouldn’t know what I was aiming to fix.

Start by asking yourself why you don’t like the work you do. Is it the people? The atmosphere? The work itself? Is it you? Are you making the situation worse than it is?

Be honest and specific. Make sure you truly know why you want to quit.

2. Decide WHAT. What next? New office? Home office? New career entirely? New city? Decide what you want out of your new lifestyle. If you already know what you want to do – great! You’re well on your way.

For some people, deciding what’s next is the hardest part. Just remember, it doesn’t have to happen right away. Spend some time paying attention to details about yourself that you might not always consider. Like, do you like walking to work? Do you mind commuting? Do you want to work with people, or by yourself? Ask friends and family to tell you where they think your strengths lie. There’s information in those details. Take the time to figure it out.

I didn’t know what I wanted to do next when I set out to quit. I knew I wanted to work for myself, have more control over my own schedule, feel creative, productive and active. It took me about a year to mold that into a career direction. Once I quit my job, I ended up opening an online bakery, becoming a freelance writer and focusing more on my comedy career. And I’m still growing and changing all the time.

3. Decide WHEN. Give yourself a goal date. This helped me tremendously. When I was 27 years old I promised myself that I would quit my desk job by the time I turned 29. When that date rolled around a year and a half later, I briefly considered NOT quitting yet – maybe I could save more money, maybe it wasn’t the right time?

Ultimately, though, I knew I owed it to myself meet the deadline I’d set. When I really thought about it, a new reality was already within reach…so why not go for it? It was the right move. It got me out of a job that I could have stayed in my whole life.

What will it take to get to the next step? Classes? Networking with a new group of people? Delving deeper into a hobby to discover how you might be paid to do what you love? Determine what smaller steps you’ll need to take between now and then. Then set a deadline and commit to it.

4. Save money. From the moment you decide you want to quit your job – in fact, even if it’s just an inkling in the back of your mind – start saving money. Check out my article “10 ways to save for a desk job escape,” which I wrote a few weeks before I quit. Cut corners when you can and trust that you are building an essential nest egg to help fuel your journey outta the doldrums.

My savings was account one of the best things I did for myself. I was able to pull in new income shortly after my desk job ended, but I needed that savings to float me through a few tough months later on and to make ends meet along the way. I was really amazed at how far it took me.

5. Commit to yourself. This is the most important piece of advice I can give you. If you want to quit your job, only your commitment to doing so will make it possible. People who decide to change their lives actively change them, they don’t sit around waiting for it to happen. Lay the traps, write the plans, shake off the fear, bide your time – yes. But after that time is up, take action. There will definitely be days when it feels like a big mistake, the wrong decision, the path of most resistance. On those days, return to the WHY and the WHAT to strengthen your resolve.

You’ll never know what can be if you don’t follow your bliss. Go for it.

12 thoughts on “how to quit your job – 5 steps

  1. Jen, thank you so much for this post! It comes at quite an interesting time for me. I’ve been following your blog for months, and you’ve been so inspiring. (No more details than that for now!)

    Also, I love the new theme and layout! So pretty and fresh.

  2. Wow..discovered your blog through Julie Cook’s blog and read her interview. So I decided to puruse your blog and I can’t believe I am sitting here, having made the decision a couple months ago to quit my job as a union organizer, which I have been doing for five years. This job has run me ragged, moved me from Los Angeles, to Portland Or, to NYC and then to Spokane, WA. Never feeling a sense of home or anything else. I discussed it with my boyfriend and we have decided to move to Seattle and find jobs there. Doing what we want! It’s crazy because I am giving my notice one Monday and I find you, another kindred spirit. You inspire me and reconfrimed that I am making the right decision. Oh btw do you ship any of your amazing sweets around the U.S. yet?

    • Hi Wendy! Thanks so much for your comment. I’m so happy for you that you and your boyfriend took the plunge to do what makes you feel happier. Continue to trust your instincts – they’ll never lead you astray! (The bakery is on summer hiatus. I’ll have announcement on the blog when that changes. Thanks for asking!)

  3. Hey Jen, I came across your blog after some sort of google frenzy, mixing searches like “quit your job” “blog” and “do what you want” haha…

    I quit my job four months ago and bought a one way flight to Beijing (have since traveled all over) intent on finally pursuing my desire to write. Its terrifying and amazing and so so good to find other people who are like minded. The scariest thing for me is thinking about when the money completely runs out and I have to go back… I’m afraid to get re-caught up in another “good job” that revolves entirely around a desk… so your blog is an encouragement, I will definitely be hanging around!


    • Hi Lauren. Your comment really made me think. I definitely know that feeling of being worried that a day will come when the money runs out. I quit my job over 10 months ago and I still have that concern on a daily basis. I went through my savings within the first 6 months, but somehow I’ve been able to survive ever since. It hasn’t always been easy and there are definitely days when I don’t have enough cash flow to stop at Starbucks or go out to dinner, but the best thing I did was tell myself going back to another job I hated was not an option. I would allow myself to earn money any other way – just not by “selling out” so to speak, and returning to the environment I hated and railed against for so long.

      See what ELSE you can do when the money runs out, so to speak, to earn more of it. There are a billion ways to earn an income. If you’re enjoying writing, see what else you can do with that career. You get the idea.

      Best of luck to you. And your one-way ticket to Beijing thing is so inspiring. You are braver than I am!

  4. hi Jen

    i found your website after googling my unhappiness.

    it is really inspiring to know i am not the first to feel completely frustrated with a job and rather lost with it. further still you offer means of solving this frustration.

    while i lack the bravery at this time to completely set myself free from the mundane life i lead, i am making the first steps: setting myself personal goals, applying for new jobs and most importantly, giving myself hope for the future which brings back the spark to life.

    i have your website bookmarked, for me it is a fantastic resource. thankyou very much. sj

  5. Hi Jen,

    Actually found your blog while looking for cheap yoga studios in Manhattan. Your info still holds up.
    Curious about your blog and how you like blogging. I’m looking to start my own and wondered how you handle the day-to-day of it and if you make any money off of it?

  6. I hope to god the end of my desk job is sooner rather than later. The worst part about corporate hell is that after a few years, they brainwash you to think your life would fall apart without that Job. The steady paycheck (as meager as it is… I make jack shit), the retirement, the benefits – where would you be without corporate stringing all the parts of your life together? I constantly find myself jealous of waitresses, bartenders, people who work in gas stations, ditch diggers… they don’t have to deal with the 8-5 cubicle hell. They’re not stuck on the hamster wheel. I’ve worn the same headset for 5 years and I swear to god there is a tumor growing in my brain in the shape of the earpiece muff.

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