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.
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?