Career & Work · Inspiration · Latest Articles · Step Out of Your Comfort Zone

When ‘Quitting’ is not a dirty word

Last month I quit my job.

Even writing that, it sounds like I’m talking about someone else. Quitting is simply not in my vocabulary. I pride myself on being bold, authentic and resilient. I’ve lived abroad and travelled to more than 60 countries. I’m sensible and practical. I get stuff done.

When I found myself in a meeting with my Director and Boss giving notice without a shiny new job to go to straight away, I was terrified and excited. My hands shook, the words didn’t come easily. Especially when my workplace had given me some of the best experiences in my career. I know a lot of people who’d give anything to travel internationally with an NGO. Yet, it was the right decision.

I made the decision like I make many important life decisions, by heading down the coast to my family beach house. It’s not fancy, but it’s where I go to relax, enjoy nature, watch the sun set. It’s also my anchor and where I’m truly me. When I lived overseas, I’d have vivid dreams that I was there. The outdoor shower beside the hills hoist, the wardrobe full of wetsuits on metal hangers, the humming refrigerator and stacks of board games on the old bookshelf. I could almost feel the sand in my shoes, hear the waves in the distance and coastal wind buffeting the window.

Down time in my place, away from the noise of daily life helped me answer a few big questions. What’s my purpose? What’s my passion? What do I believe in? What are the non-negotiables? My passion for issues like conflict and peace and social enterprise remained strong, but I was ready for new challenges and personal development. I was ready to take my skills and experience to new places, to learn and grow and expand my resume outside of the organisation. I ran the numbers and knew I had enough money saved to get by for a few months. It was a tough call, but it was time to leave my job.

The advantages to quitting without having a new job to start immediately are numerous. Personally I wanted to be extremely purposeful about my next move. It’s given me time to respectively exit my former employer on a good note and with their blessing, meet up with interesting contacts and explore opportunities and business ideas. I’ve been to networking nights, worked out of an incredible co-working space Inspire 9 and participated in Trampoline Day – an un-conference full of fantastic personalities and contacts. This month I head to Myanmar on a holiday.

Reactions from friends and family have been overwhelmingly positive. Very few have responded with pity or concern. Many speak fondly of similar experiences, a time when they gave themselves the gift of space and time between jobs. Others have shared their contacts, forwarded on opportunities or invited me to participate in events.

Personally, I’m energised and excited by this new chapter. Quitting has given me a rare chance to reassess my values and life goals before stepping into a new opportunity. Quitting is not a dirty word. For what it’s worth, I feel like I’m winning.

Ellen is a marketer, strategist, storyteller and global development professional with international expertise in the corporate and NGO sectors. She’s passionate about connecting people, social enterprise and peace-building. Ellen’s also a finalist for the 2016 Rotary International Peace Fellowship at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. She tweets @ellenclairem.

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