What to Do Immediately After Quitting Your Job

Earlier this week I wrote a post called “6 Questions You Must Answer Before Quitting Your Job“.  The response was really positive, so I wanted to continue that topic and look at the most important things you should do after leaving your job.

October 20th, 2009 was my last day at my real job.

Upon getting home at around 10 in the morning, I promptly walked through the door, slumped down in a chair and cried.

It’s somewhat hard to admit that, but the reality is, after spending the vast majority of my time with the same 4 people for the better part of 3 years, the reality of leaving was difficult.  It wasn’t the perfect time for me (it rarely is).  I figured I’d be able to ride it out for another 6 to 12 months before I set off to have a new set of adventures.

When I’d walked into my office that morning I had no idea it would be my final day there.  Things didn’t go down in the way I thought they would, and it left me with a tremendous sense of uncertainty.

With all of that said, I learned some very important lessons over the coming days and weeks of what you should (and should not) do immediately after quitting or leaving your job.

The First 24 Hours

The first 24 hours are going to be somewhat difficult no matter how happy you are to leave. It’s an adjustment, and you’ll be in the process of recovering from uncomfortable decisions, while also preparing to make new ones.

I’m pretty sure even this guy had some rough moments after quitting.

Hopefully you’ve had a plan in place, but I also know (as with my own experience) that you may not always have a choice in the matter.  Maybe you were laid off, fired, or simply weren’t given the terms you’d hoped to have upon your departure.

However it went down, there are some key things to think about during the first few hours of your new life.

Most importantly:

Take the Day Off

You just had a major life change, don’t go out and start making a bunch of other important decisions.

Decisions that DO NOT need to made within 24 hours of leaving your job:

  • Should I clear out my 401k and move to Tahiti?
  • Anything regarding a relationship of any sort
  • Should I empty my savings and go live on a boat for the next 12 months

Don’t worry about work, don’t be afraid to cry, feel free to sit around doing nothing but eating cheetos and watching reruns of Golden Girls. Whatever you want to do, do it.  Well, you know, except for make any of the aforementioned important, life altering decisions – give it a few days on those.  The boat will still be there next week.

Do Something Nice for Yourself

Dude, you just quit your job. Hell yeah!

Give yourself a pat on the back, and do something to make yourself feel good.  Is there a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try? Go there.  Want to play some golf? Tee up for 18.  Go do something to congratulate yourself on being one step closer to your dream life.

The 7 Days Following Your Exit

After you’ve taken a day to feel sorry for yourself, party your ass off, or whatever your personal reaction was to the event, it’s time to get organized.

First thing’s first:

Write Down EXACTLY What Happened

Depending on the nature of your departure, you may be eligible for unemployment.  Any ego issues aside, if you qualify for it, you might as well take advantage, after all that’s what it’s there for.

This is especially important if the terms of your exit are in question (as it was with mine).  The unemployment department for your state will get the stories of both parties and then make a decision on your eligibility.  I encourage you to do this the day after you leave, because you’ll probably be somewhat emotional on the actual day.

As soon as you’re of sound mind make sure you write down the following in as much detail as possible, while doing whatever you can to remain impartial and unbiased towards the situation:

  • Did you quit, get laid off, or get fired?
  • If you were laid off or fired, were you given a reason for it? What was it?
  • Why did you leave? Was it a negative working environment?
  • Did your employer break promises that they’d made to you in a contract?
  • In detail describe exactly what happened on your last day.
  • If given the choice, would you still be employed?

This is obviously most important in situations where you didn’t have a choice, but even if you chose to quit, there are still situations where you can be eligible for unemployment, so make sure you understand why the breakup happened, and what your rights are.

Create a List of Goals and Timelines

We touched on this idea in Monday’s Post about preparing to leave your job, but it’s absolutely vital.  If you’re going to quit your job, you need to have a solid plan and idea of what you’re going to do when you begin working for yourself.

Didn’t have a choice in the matter?  Then it’s even more important to get a plan together as quickly as possible.

It’s way too easy to fall into a black hole of un-productivity when you aren’t working – especially when the state is sending you a nice little check in the mail every week.

So how do you combat that? With a solid plan of how to move forward:

  • Where do you want to be in 1 month? 3 months? 6 months? 12 months? Be as specific as possible
  • Do you already have a business or project you’re working on? What are your new working hours?
  • Looking for a new job? Have you signed up on Monster? Is your Linkedin profile up to date? Have you scoped out Craigslist? Who can you have lunch with that could rekindle old relationships?
  • Who is going to hold you accountable? How are they going to do it?
  • What is your monthly budget? Have you set your baseline expenses?

I know many of these questions were covered in Monday’s post, but it’s worth reviewing and making sure that you do have a solid plan in place, and have answers to each of these before moving forward.

It Doesn’t Have to be All Business

Spent the last five years working at a job that you weren’t thrilled about?  Then despite any difficult emotions you’ve got, you should also take time to enjoy the fact that you’ve just made a really positive change, regardless of how scary it may be.

What have you been wanting to do that you haven’t made time for? Where would you like to go, but could never get the vacation time?

Before you get too crazy and jump back into super-productive mode, take a little bit of time to enjoy the freedom of not being tied down.

After my tears subsided on my last day, I spent the day walking around Portland and going to a couple food carts I’d never been to.  I then went and saw a movie with Tate.  While I was still emotional, being able to traipse around the city on a Tuesday was a pretty cool feeling, and one that even to this day, I don’t take for granted.

Don’t Be Afraid to Deal with the Issues

It doesn’t matter what happened or is about to happen, leaving a job is going to be different for every single person, every single time.  You may experience no emotion at all, or you could be a complete wreck.  Chances are you’re going to be somewhere in the middle.

I was really disappointed with what happened in my case. While I look back on that day and realize that everything that happened was for the best, at the time it wasn’t easy.  There were some hurt feelings and bad blood, which was the last thing I ever wanted.

To this day, I still wonder if I could or should have handled it differently.

If you have unresolved feelings or issues with the way things went down after leaving – deal with them.  Talk to your boss, a confidant, close friend, or whoever.  The most important thing is to deal with an extraneous emotions as quickly as possible, so that you can move forward without regret and with the best attitude possible.

After all, this should be a good experience regardless of how difficult it was, because it will get you closer to the real, long term goals you’ve set for yourself.

Don’t take this as gospel, these are just some things that I found worked for me after I left my job.  The most important thing piece of wisdom I can impart on you is this:

Don’t panic.  The worse case scenario almost never happens, and the chances are, you’ll be better off in the end

Have you quit your job or gotten laid off recently? How did you deal with it?

neale @ living in Thailand March 22, 2012 at 7:12 am

I would be careful on the “1st 24hrs concept” of begin good to yourself, 24hrs is ok. for me 24hrs became 18 months, I would suggest going at it from day one, then later, winding back and enjoying the freedom. It’s all too easy to enjoy the freedom and live off of savings.

If I could do it over, I would have stashed savings in a place I could not have touched them for a year or so, leaving myself just a month or so of safety then headed off. My experience’s have shown me that when I’m taking cold showers each day I get real motivated to increase income so I dont have to live in the types of places cold showers are the norm. With savings and a “be good to myself attitude” savings get depleted and earnings dont grow too quick..

Sometimes one has to be hard on one’s self to move forward.. “just for me ” :-)

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Chas March 22, 2012 at 9:04 am

My j.o.b. left me around the same time, but, the outcome for me hasn’t been quite the same as yours- it echos more like that of many who found that pink slip in the out box. Although I haven’t found favorable Trade Winds and it hasn’t been smooth sailing, I have secured the jib sail to the headstay, battened down the hatches and am staying the course.

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Vivek Mayasandra March 22, 2012 at 10:32 am

Sean, so this post comes at an unbelievable time in my own life. Today, March 22, is literally my last day at my day job. It’s been a long time coming, as you know, and I’ve been able to plan a lot out.

That said, a few huge points for me
- I kind of figured out what I wanted to do BEFORE leaving my job. I have one freelance-ish client, and working on several other projects
- The goals + timelines thing Sean mentioned is an excellent tool to hold yourself accountable
- You can never have too much money saved up. But as you said in your previous post, if the pain of staying > pain of leaving, then leave. Yes, it’ll be hard, but you’ll figure out money
- Be practical about specific goals, but dreamy about life goals
- Minimize any possible regrets about your job. Just be 150% honest about everything you say and do – so deal with the uncomfortable things swiftly, efficiently and honestly.

That’s just my 0.02 from being in these job-quitting shoes at this very moment :)

Vivek

Life is an adventure, treat it like one and live it like one!

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Sean March 22, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Congrats man – I knew there was a reason I posted this today! Good luck and keep me posted on the progress!

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Jeffrey March 22, 2012 at 11:29 am

I like how this deals with the first week of quitting. I haven’t really thought about what I’ll do yet, but it does make sense to take at least a few days off and figure things out.

I definitely second the point about not making any big decisions when you’re emotional after leaving a job. I’ve made that mistake before during other emotional times in my life, like graduating college, and I ended up regretting them a few days later.

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Oli Lewington March 23, 2012 at 2:13 am

Hey Sean,

I really loved this post; I read the 6 things to do before quitting your job post just after I’d essentially been laid off on health grounds, not the best time to read what I should have done! Now, as I face adapting my life to something my health will be able to cope with, this post as slid in and made a load of sense of the mess.

I don’t usually pimp myself on other people’s sites, but I wrote this piece on Coping With Unexpected Change on my SmileThroughIt blog and I thought you might like it and it may be of use to your readers, too. http://smilethroughit.com/change-strategy/

If you don’t like links in your comments, please feel free to edit this comment and just leave the first paragraph in, because above all else I do want to say a huge thank you for helping focus my mind.

Be well.

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Financial Samurai March 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

Sean,

Thanks for sharing more about the emotional side of things. It must have been hard. Do you mind clarifying this sentence for us,

“When I’d walked into my office that morning I had no idea it would be my final day there. Things didn’t go down in the way I thought they would, and it left me with a tremendous sense of uncertainty.”

Did you not anticipate quitting? Or did you get laid off? I’d love to learn more about a severance package if any if you were laid off. This is an important safety net many folks forget about during this important time of transition.

“I was really disappointed with what happened in my case.”

What did happen in your case? 2009 was a brutal year for the economy, and nobody should fault anybody for having a rough go, particular then. That was one of those ridiculous black swan events that I hope will ever return!

I really enjoyed this post.

Thanks,

Sam

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Joe Hughes March 23, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I gave my 3-month notice at my job 3 weeks ago and it feels very liberating. A little different from your situation because I have a phase out period, but I do plan to do something special for a couple days after my last day. But then immediately get back to the hustle of building my business!

One really cool thing I read that I am going to do is buy myself a nice wall clock to represent taking control of my time.

Thanks for the continuous inspiration!

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Financial Samurai March 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm

Joe, let me know what industry you are in that allows a 3 month notice! That rocks!

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Adam March 24, 2012 at 7:38 pm

In the UK 2 or 3 month notice is a requirement. One company I used to work for in the UK had a US office and found it very funny that Brits had to give 8 or 12 weeks notice whereas in America it’s more like two weeks, right?

Rob M March 26, 2012 at 12:42 am

Three months! My leaving notice here in the UK is 2 weeks! I am a contractor and not a direct employee though.

Joe Hughes March 26, 2012 at 1:29 pm

Small family business in a specialty industry where each person wears a bunch of hats and it takes time to find and train a replacement! It’s depends which way you look at it – could be a blessing or a curse ;-)

Emma Brooke March 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm

So true! I worked for my parents in the fruit trade for five years. I learnt so much and when got to live in Italy for eight months. Amazing experience but it was a huge wrench for all concerned when I left.

Everything you do brings you to the point you are now and the person you are now. That’s never a bad thing. :-)

Brett April 4, 2012 at 10:08 am

I’m on 3 months notice as well. It’s pretty standard in many industries. Each month I just bank the pay checks while building a war chest to finance my idea of moving to Asia.

I have no fear of quitting my job now. I lost my job twice (!) in the dot com crash of 2001, and out of that came my first online business.

Adam March 24, 2012 at 7:41 pm

A very timely post for me as well, thanks Sean.

I did a mixture of being good to myself and getting down to it – I stayed in bed for my first morning after, and somehow (fluke?) managed to earn a day’s pay by the end of my first day of self-employment.

Now I just have to keep it up in the coming months….as ever, you’re an inspiration.

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Rob M March 26, 2012 at 12:40 am

This really is a great post. I am thinking of leaving my job and travelling/volunteering/starting a business and this gives me an insight into what plans need to be in place. Especially writing down why i quit in the first place! i think thit is important to look back on if there are doubts in the future. Cheers Sean.

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Lucas Tucker March 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

I loved this post. Waiting until the day I can pull the trigger and use it. Do something for yourself- great advice.

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Emma Brooke March 26, 2012 at 1:43 pm

I really resonate with the idea of giving yourself time. I tend to jump straight from one thing in to another but this time want to do things properly and hopefully go to India for a month or so at some point this year to continue my yoga journey.

That being said, I’ve held myself accountable with set goals on my blog for the end of the year and aim to keep them. I’ve also hired a business coach to help me focus and get my plan in place so when I do quit (hopefully within the next month – I have 1 month’s notice in the UK) I am more focused and determined to make it work (not least because I’ve made an investment with the coach to get things started!).

Thanks for the advice Sean – I’m obviously new to this whole scene but you seem to have a pretty cool little community going in this corner of the blogosphere!

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Andrew March 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm

Great post Sean…also uncanny timing. I am at a 6-month internship (my fourth internship now in the same industry) and am tired of playing the “Things will change when I reach X position” game with myself. I may go ahead and finish the last 3-months (even though every day erodes my soul a little more) because I believe in seeing short-term things through to fruition, but in the meantime I am devouring all of the information I can on your site and all of the other great sites you link to in order to get a jump start on whatever I go on to do next.

Looking forward to reading and commenting more, keep up the inspiring work.

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Rich Ryan March 26, 2012 at 9:31 pm

Great food for thought. I’m just embarking on my planning and developing alternate revenue streams so that I can ditch the 8-5 in the office for more freedom and fresh air. My goal is to kick the office life by June 2013. Hopefully that is enough time to develop a good plan and transition into it.

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Tiffany March 27, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Great post as I just put in my notice on Monday after thinking about it for a long time. No plans as of yet, but I know it’s all for the best.

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Linda March 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm

Would love to know what happened as well with your job Sean! I was under the impression you quit, but from reading what you wrote here, it seems like you got fired or laid off?

Let us know. Thank you honey!

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Sean March 30, 2012 at 2:46 pm

It was a little bit of both. After submitting the remote proposal, they told me they were “accepting that as my resignation”. From there we went back and forth, and I had the chance to stay, but ultimately I realized it was time to leave. So there was a lot of gray area haha.

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Kristoph Matthews March 31, 2012 at 7:06 pm

Lol, I love this part:

“Decisions that DO NOT need to made within 24 hours of leaving your job:

Should I clear out my 401k and move to Tahiti?
Anything regarding a relationship of any sort
Should I empty my savings and go live on a boat for the next 12 months”

I ‘ll make sure to watch reruns of Big Bang Theory rather than Golden girls though. :)

In all seriousness: I would do something to congratulate myself for making the difficult decision, then I would spend some time with my closest friends, because work often prevented me from doing that. Finally, after coming back from my visits, I would take the first steps I’ve outlined from the plan I made while getting ready to quit.

Kristoph

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Elisa April 8, 2012 at 5:39 am

The first day of owning my own life (Sept 1st 2010) it was almost 100 degrees and so humid in Maine that I got heat stroke because I was home all day and didn’t know enough about how to not be in air conditioning! Life has turned around a lot since then, and my room here in Bali has AC. ;)

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Ready to Be Liberated! April 12, 2012 at 7:54 am

Sean,

Thanks for this post! Especially since I have came to the conclusion that I need to quit. I jsut have 1 question and am completely open to any suggestions/advice,

What suggestions/advice would you give some one such as myself who is a young professional with debt and not much saved up yet? I finally came to the conclusion after being with ym company for almost 2 years that its time to go. I have been put through an emotional rollercoaster with my two managers and coworkers who talk behind eachothers backs. Ive been literally pushing myself to come to work each day as I do not have the means to just quit yet. But i find myself pulling my hair out by the end of the week and getting harder and harder each morning to come in.

Any advice? HELP, I want out of this place!

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Oli Lewington April 13, 2012 at 1:06 am

I’d suggest checking out the previous post: as much as you want to just jack it all in and get away, it’s really quite sensible to prepare yourself.

http://www.seanogle.com/entrepreneurship/quitting-your-job-questions

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Yasmine Khater April 16, 2012 at 6:05 am

Hi I felt the same thing, after I launched my social enterprise http://www.gonecyclin.com I realized that my 9-9 job didnt appeal to me. So I got a scholarship and went to grad school for a year. It was a good year to think on what I want to do next.

I started to offer Life and Business Start Up coaching services, and now its evolved to offer consultancy as well, Its been exciting, and now waiting to get a good model in place to be able to grow it.

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Daniele April 18, 2012 at 9:14 am

My last day will be in 7 days.
One of the things I’ll have to work on is self-discipline, to establish some routines & rituals to avoid wasting all day long online checking my Adsense account! :)

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Tiffany April 18, 2012 at 9:39 am

Three more days! Then I can concentrate on other projects, like writing children’s books and food blogging!

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Rejina Sincic February 25, 2013 at 6:18 pm

Thanks for posting this article as I recently gave my notice and my last day is coming up. I did have a little panic moment today thinking if I made the right decision. I do think I did but just feeling a little weird. I do feel better reading your article. Thanks a lot.

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Kristina April 26, 2013 at 7:03 am

I am humbled by so many who are brave enough to set aside the 8-5 yoke and make a living that encompasses their dreams. I have been with the same company for 15 years. In that time I have obtained a handful of college degrees and a mountain of debt but I have never been brave enough to put in my notice and pursue my dreams. Things have gotten so bad this year I have spent two stints in the mental health center. I am tired and drained but have no other support resources so I am working just to live day to day. Things have to change but I am not sure when or how.

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Julie June 30, 2013 at 7:39 pm

I recently quit a job due to a crazy boss and took a new job for same salary that I thought was going to launch my career. What happened? My new boss was worse than the one I was running from. This could only happen to me.

The new boss was a bully. I stuck it out 6 weeks until I couldn’t take it and resigned/walked out. Panic set in and a week later I took the first job I was offered a week later just to have money. This job was a clerical job that I knew I wouldn’t stay at long.
5 weeks later my headhunter found me the right job but it was temp to hire. I interviewed with the company and got the job. I resigned to take this job and then myworld crumbled.

My recruiter called next day saying the job fell thru. I had just resigned and was rwady to start the RIGHT job my recruiter found for me but the comoany decided last minute they wanted to wait on filling that position.

So now I feel like a fool. Had all these jobs and now have nothing. Im terrified. I can live ok for about 4-5 mos. but that is with draining my savings.

I literally committed career suicide. I regret quitting my original job as I learned the hard way – the grass is NOT greener. I had a second interview on Friday with a job that would work out – less money than all previous jobs but 5 min. from my home. Problem is they wont make a decision until week after next. I need a job now.

I have learned a major lesson and will appreciate the next job I have and wont quit. I would give anything to be working for a bully boss than be unemployed. I know my stoey sounds nuts but it happened to me and I am freaking out and beating myself upnfor it. Stupid mistakes – major leson learned.

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Velo July 16, 2013 at 3:40 am

I am quitting my job next week and this article with the comments do give hope. Can we also share simple business opportunities that you guys know of?

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K.B. October 9, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Well, my story is a little different than the above. I worked for a company for 5 years and had gotten promoted to a low management position after 2 months of employment. I prospered during my employment and became one of the best employees they had. Then things became difficult as there were problems starting to happen between me and upper management and I had gotten to the point that I could not handle it anymore. My health was coming into play and I was losing hours. I eventually just walked out and did not even give my two week notice.

I know that was probably the worst thing I could have done but on the other hand it was the best thing I could have done. After all that I am going back to school for Veterinary Assistant. The only thing that is a problem is that it has been difficult finding a new job because I caused bad blood between me and my previous employeers. I am fearful that I will never be able to find work due to this event. If anyone has any advice or anything that could help please send me some.

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Charu August 4, 2014 at 10:03 am

It is nice to read how people cope with this phase…..
I just quit my first job because I had all these ideas of finding what I want to do.
Funny how all those ideas leave you , the moment you leave a job you think you hated.
I guess I got institutionalized, right now I am second week into the joblessness phase and I am still not sure what I am going to do…. but I guess it will start bit by bit , it always does in my case. I am a slow learner and coper…
maybe I will come back with a nice story and pen it down in this blog

In all probabilities I know I will! :-)

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