How to Be a Successful Serial Quitter

It was 1993, a 12-year-old with wild ambitions. An awkward introvert with a dream to make something of herself. There was only one problem; I had no idea what I wanted to be. No idea what I wanted to do with my life, but I was a grafter, I wanted to work hard, and I was willing to start anywhere.

So there I was, spraying the insides of those huge restaurant pots and pans, cleaning dishes, shining cutlery and all because my ambitions had peaked too soon — I was four years too early to be a waitress.

I hated being a dishwasher. I spent my time, daydreaming out the window of the stuffy kitchen. It was hot; it was sweaty, it was dirty. It was not glamorous, and this wasn’t my dream. I was repeatedly told to ‘pick up the pace’, as the plates piled up and up around my petite 5ft almost teenage frame.

I worked 4 hours a week, from 12 pm until 2 pm on Saturdays and Sundays. It was pocket money; it was a start. It was my start.

Over the 27 years that followed, I’ve been fortunate enough to have worked in many different industries. Though for a long time, I thought this was negative, as I’ve got older, I realise all this quitting, pivoting and changing direction has given me an incredibly fantastic advantage.

I have been blessed to hold positions that have allowed me to work across multiple sectors and projects. To date, I have worked in banking, teaching, chemicals, transport, accounts, events, project management, business support, births, deaths and marriages, policy and governance, education, research, health, retail, wines and spirits, commissioning and manufacturing.

A quick tally and trawl through my memory, I think I’ve had 23 jobs between the ages of 12 and 40, but if I’m honest. I’ve probably forgotten some. I’ve had to trim down my LinkedIn profile, if only not to raise suspicion that I might just be the original Jack(quelin) of all trades! My resume, as you can imagine, is a real page-turner and not always for the right reasons!

Make that 24 jobs; I’ve just remembered the sweet factory when I was 15. I could eat as many Midget Gems as I liked. I lasted all of 3 weeks, totally in awe of the 60-year-old women who stood across from me on the production line and told me she’d been working there since the 1970s. How was that even possible?

My ‘time to quit’ record stands between a few hours and 9 years. I am proud of every single time I’ve quit.

I firmly believe our past experiences hold the clues to what we can create in the future. When we quit and start something anew, we can create a more abundant, resourceful, positive future. We can get a bit more intentional with our new focus every time — especially useful if you never knew what it was that you wanted to be doing in the first place! I still don’t — here are the life lesson’s I learnt along the way.

1. You’ll Have Highly Transferable Skills

When you’ve quit as many times as I have, you soon realise that you have amassed an arsenal of skills and experiences that can help you in any kind of battle.

First of all, you’ve worked in many different sectors, which means you are highly adaptable. Not only that, but you’ve probably worked with every personality type ever known to grace the land. You know how to communicate in different ways; you know what works and what doesn’t. From writing sales copy to creating company annual reports to marketing, reading white papers, balancing the books, and everything in between, you’ve covered it all.

2. Money Isn't Everything

We put so much emphasis on having a well-paid career. Usually, midway through our 20’s, we want to impress our old school friends, who let’s face it we haven’t seen for the best part of 5 years anyway!

We want flashy cars; we want a beautiful house only to realise during our 30s that this isn’t what’s important at all. Quitting your well-paid jobs won’t necessarily create financial ruin, but it will generate a well-being bliss. Our mental health, our sanity will always be of far more importance.

3. Other Doors Will Open For You

Between 2008 and 2014, I got stuck in one, particularly role. I was six years in this position. The job itself and the experience it gave me have continued to serve me, long after I’d left.

It was a position covering multiple sectors, I learnt a lot, and it was well paid. But for an ambitious twenty-something, the money made me feel trapped. How could I leave such a well-paid job? How would I ever find a way out?

In January 2014, I finally decided enough was enough, and I quit that job for good. I was quickly amazed at the opportunities that unfolded before me. Posts that I never thought I would ever have applied for, let alone get.

I have learnt that when one door closes — and when you have been brave enough to walk your whole body through that door and shut it firmly behind you. It is then that other doors will present themselves to you and you’ll be wondering why it ever took you so long.

4. Your Partner Will Get Over it if You Quit Tomorrow

Now you might be lucky and have a supportive partner, who will always be there for you, regardless of how ridiculously beautiful your dreams are. But sometimes, even the most supportive of spouses can make you doubt yourself.

How are we going to pay the mortgage?
What will you do?
Why now?

One of the biggest reasons why I didn’t quit one particular job for the longest of times was because I didn’t want my other half to suffer or have too much pressure on him to make ends meet and while this is very admirable I wasn’t thinking about my own needs. I was willing to suffer and spiral into the depth of depression to put someone else’s mind at ease instead.

When I finally did quit my job, you’ll be horrified to learn that there was no discussion with my significant other. Now in my defence, I didn’t know I was going to quit that morning when I woke up. But by then, my depression had taken such a hold on me that something else inside of me took charge of what was about to happen.

After I quit my job over an email (because I couldn’t face them in person) and once my resignation was accepted by an even more swiftly return email — I phoned my partner and told him what I had done.

He wasn’t happy, but I’d done it, and I felt a sense of relief that I had never experienced before.

If you’re wondering if he’s okay now, he’s fine; he’s got over it! We survived. We’ve been together since we were 16 and 18 and 24 years later he’s the longest commitment I’ve no intention of ever quitting.

5. You’ll Still Pay Your Bills

Listening to the beautiful Wayne Dyer a few years ago, he said something profound. People are too scared to quit their jobs and start their own business because they believe they would be unable to pay their bills.

And I get this because this assumption holds so much weight as a kind of unwritten universal truth. But if you ask anyone who has quit their job (whether they were successful or not), they’ll probably tell you the rewards along the way, the experience you amass, the opportunities and hopefully the achievement; will always be way more beneficial than never giving it a try at all.

There are two types of people — those who pay their bills on time and those that don’t. I’m not saying that it’s never a challenge to make ends meet — of course, it is. I’ve been there and then, there are other times when we just forget, and life gets in the way; but just because you are going to quit your job, doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose your moral compass as well.

If you have always had the intention of paying your bills, you’ll figure out a way to pay your bills. Don’t let the fear of having less; make you think it’s impossible to survive.

6. Your Mental Health is Important

Your mental health is more important than anything else. If you can’t look at yourself in the mirror every morning and say that you love what it is that you are about to do with your day. Then it’s time to quit.

As soon as you can, you’ve got to get out of there. For six whole years, I dragged my self around, dragged myself to put one foot outside the duvet on a morning. I dragged myself to make my daughter breakfast, to get dressed, to place my foot on the accelerator, to pay for my parking, to make it to my desk.

And then when I’d dragged myself to various irrelevant and useless meetings, I’d drag myself home again, only to do it all again the day after.

It’s dark, it’s horrible, but most of all, it’s not worth it. I’ve got loads out of the jobs, but when it’s run its course — get out!

7. You’ll Earn More Money in the Long Run

Despite my prior assumption that I was never going to make the same amount of money ever again and while I did have to take an initial 20% pay cut; it wasn’t long before I was heading back up the career ladder.

The employer that paid me 20% less back in 2014 has since reemployed me a further two times, both times with significant pay increases. I have quit this same employer three times in total, and they have since hired me as a business consultant through my own business.

I also have another contract where I work just 48 days a year and get paid the same amount it would have previously taken me a whole six months to achieve.

Just because you quit, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be keeping the door open with your previous employers. Leave on good terms, keep in touch, and tell them where you can add value if you see an opportunity to help them out in the future, but most of all, make sure it’s on your terms. These employers already know that you have the skills and experience, so you can, in turn, command a better price!

8. You’ll Be Super Connected

When you’ve worked for lots of companies, and when you’ve worked in different sectors and had involvement on various projects at different levels, you’ll soon realise you know people that specialise in lots of different areas.

If you’re a start-up, these connections are super valuable. Imagine how much harder it might be for your business if you had only ever had one job? Networking and creating your audience and having a tribe of champions to support you in the early days of business is worth its weight in gold.

9. You’ll Have an Attractive Set of Life Experiences

People who quit are just naturally more interesting. Never a dull moment when a quitter is in town.

“Did you hear what Beth did, she only went and quit her job!”

“What again?!”

You’ve got guts, determinations, you’ve got skills but more than that, you’ve got skills backed up with experience. You make for an exciting keynote speaker, author, writer, podcast guest. You fought through the struggles, and you made it to the other side, with your family still intact and partner still talking to you.

10. Life's an Adventure

Just because you’ve quit once or twice or even 23 times, it doesn’t make you a quitter in the negative sense. It doesn’t mean that you haven’t accomplished anything and that you can’t finish what you started. It doesn’t mean you don’t have what it takes to create success.

Quite the opposite, you have everything to create success!

In summary

However, you feel about quitting. I hope my life lessons can help you to see that there is a lot of positive accomplishments that can come with it. I hope you enjoy your quitting journey as much as I have mine.

Quitting means you know what you want, but more importantly, what you don’t want. It means you’ve got an adventure ahead of you; it means you’ve got a thirst for life and you want to experience it all.

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