Do you daydream about quitting your job? Walking out and never looking back? Tess Vigeland did. As a host of public radio’s Marketplace, Vigeland was a familiar voice to millions of listeners who tuned in each day to hear her talk about personal finance. After 11 years in the role, Vigeland decided to quit–and she didn’t have the safety net of another job waiting in the wings.
“I got to a point where two things were going on,” she says. “First, I had issues with how things were being handled in my workplace. And second, I felt tired of my subject matter. I had been covering business and economics for a long time, and I didn’t want to talk abut it anymore.”
Vigeland, who chronicles her experience in the new book Leap: Leaving a Job With No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want, wanted to explore what else the world had to offer. But quitting without having something else lined up wasn’t something she ever thought she’d do. “I’ve always had a plan–a two-year plan, a five-year plan, a 10-year plan–but I felt like I had reached a peak in my industry and my career, and I just didn’t know where to go next,” she says.
Quitting your job before you have another one can help give you clarity to decide what’s next, says Vigeland. “You need time away to sit back and look at the world around you and consider industries that might be interesting,” she says. “It’s hard to do that when you are staying in a job you hate.”
Knowing when it’s time to leave is a gut feeling, and Vigeland offers others three guidelines for measuring if you’re ready:
1. You have too much self-respect to stay. “If you feel undervalued and mistreated, it’s time to think about leaving,” Vigeland says. “Life is too short to stay in a place that doesn’t appreciate you.”
2. You are manifesting stress in a physical way. A lot of people develop ailments that are caused because their workplace is no longer a healthy place for them. For Vigeland, her hair stopped growing.
“If all of a sudden you develop back pain or migraines, your body is trying to tell you something is wrong. You need to pay attention to that,” she says.
3. You fantasize about leaving. If you’re asking yourself, “Is it time to go?” clearly something isn’t right in your current job.
“If you’re questioning whether or not to stay in a career, it’s time to make a change,” Vigeland says. “It may be time to leave the situation.”
Before you quit, Vigeland suggests sitting down and having a conversation with your family or other people you trust to make sure it’s the right move.
“If you’re a list maker, write down the pros and cons and take a look at them, she says. “Or take walks on the beach or in your neighborhood, really thinking about whether this can work for you.”
You also need to know how you’ll pay the bills. “I would never advise anyone to simply up and leave without having an idea of how to pay the mortgage,” she says. “Before you quit, you need to have a comfort level around your budget, whether you save three months’ or six months’ worth of expenses.”
After you quit your job, prepare for the feeling of euphoria, says Vigeland. “It’s ‘Oh my God, I’m free!’” she says. “Fairly quickly, though, you’ll settle into, ‘Uh oh. Who am I now that I don’t have a job?’”
Vigeland says her self-identity came from what she did for a living, and that caused a significant internal struggle and pressure to become busy.
“It can feel like you’re not supposed to take time to figure out what you want your life to look like, but more people should,” she says. “It’s also hard to ignore when others are asking what you’re doing with your days. Fight the temptation to jump at another job. You have to get used to the uncertainty, and you will.”
After she quit, Vigeland spent time networking and researching careers that sounded interesting. She also took time to enjoy hobbies and activities she never had time to do before she quit, such as photography. And for now, Vigeland has decided to stay self-employed, taking contract jobs, voiceover work, and hosting an occasional radio show.
Does she regret her decision to leave Marketplace?
“When I left, one of the biggest questions I got was, ‘What the hell are you doing?’ and there are plenty of times I miss it,” she admits. “I miss being in a newsroom. I miss the microphone and the audience. Those are the times when I beat myself about the head, but they’re becoming rarer and rarer. You have to go through the process. I feel it was absolutely the right thing to do. I used to spend a chunk of day miserable. If it’s Sunday and you never look forward to Monday, you need to make a change. Life is too short to live for Friday afternoon.”