Dream jobs don’t just fall into your lap; you have to go out and grab them. Sometimes, that means making bold moves, like quitting your job without knowing exactly where you’re going next, or starting your own business. But bold doesn’t mean foolhardy. To make a big change and see positive results, you need to prepare before you take the leap.
As you might’ve guessed, the first step is financial.
“The larger the emergency fund you can build up, the lower the possibility that you’ll have to make drastic changes to your lifestyle before you start your next job,” says Michelle Herd, a Certified Financial Planner and senior client advisor at TFC Financial Management, an investment advisory firm in Boston.
Herd says that they recommend keeping an emergency fund with six months of expenses, even when you’re employed. The number goes up when you’re planning on changing jobs.
“The gap between jobs can be unpredictable and you may incur additional expenses in your search for a new job,” Herd says. “To avoid having to drastically alter your lifestyle between jobs, you should try and set aside as much in your emergency fund for the immediate term as you can.”
Path No. 1: Save Up as Much as You Can… and Then Quit
Maybe you meant to travel after graduation, but never pulled it together. Maybe you want to train for something new, but you don’t think you can handle coding boot camp or a certificate program and your present job at the same time. Or maybe you just need to get out of your current gig before you start pelting your boss with office supplies.
Regardless of why you want to quit, if you’re not going straight to another job, you’ll need to build up that emergency fund – and budget for the fact that you won’t have another job lined up the moment you decide to go back to work.
How do you do that? In part, by being extremely frugal.
“In the months leading up to a potential job transition, it’s advisable to keep a particularly close eye on your expenses and cut out or delay as many unnecessary items as possible,” says Herd. “You’ll need to continue to pay your routine expenses like rent or mortgage payments and utility bills, but delay large purchases and avoid taking on additional liabilities that you’ll have to add to your expenses.”
If there’s not a lot of wiggle room in your budget – and let’s face it, that’s the case for most of us – you’ll need to make more radical changes. Get a roommate. Become a single-car family. Take on a part-time job. Do whatever you can to cut expenses and add income.
Path No. 2: Make Yourself Into a Super-Candidate… and Then Fly Away
It’s almost always easier to get hired when you have a job. Why? Because many hiring managers still have a bias against candidates who are unemployed. It’s not fair, but it’s reality.
Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, writes that she’s talked to many HR folks who claim not to like the practice, but still hold onto it as a “fast way to screen people out.”
“If employers are looking for fast, arbitrary ways to screen out applicants, I can think of 20 ways that are just as effective as screening out job-seekers who aren’t working,” she writes at LinkedIn. “They could interview only the candidates whose last names start with K, or screen out everyone whose application arrives on Monday or Wednesday.”
Of course, the downside to looking for a job when you have a job is that it’s also harder to get motivated to find the time to job search when you’re employed. If you’re in that spot, give yourself a deadline.
Start by thinking about what’s stopping you from getting hired for your dream job right now. If it’s a matter of skills, you can acquire those. If it’s a matter of opportunity, you can build the connections that will put you on the fast track to hearing about job openings before they’re advertised.
Give yourself six months to close any personal skills gaps or make connections in your industry. Then use the second half of the year to start applying for jobs. (Your new connections should be helpful here!)
Path No. 3: Start a Side Hustle… and Then Turn It Into a Full-Time Career
Everyone could use some extra money, and a side gig is a great way to make it happen. Pick the right side hustle, and you could eventually turn your quest for extra cash into a brand-new career.
The key is choosing a side business, and to set a deadline for making it your full-time job. Start pondering possibilities today, and then get serious about making your dreams into reality. (This step-by-step plan is a good place to start building your blueprint.)
Again, deadlines are important. Make your calendar, and let that be the day on which you assess your accomplishments and decide whether to make the leap… or stay put.