Quitting my job
(without another one to go to)
By Yasmin Ali, Chemical Engineer
“I loved working in the energy industry, but I was missing the big picture”
It looked good on paper. I was the manager of a control room for a major utility company and on the right track for progression. But it didn’t feel right. It took a few months for me to pinpoint why – and what the alternatives were.
I loved working in the energy industry, but I was missing the big picture. I needed a role that would give me an overview of the sector rather than a focus on one specific aspect. My first option was to make changes to my job in order to align it with my career goals. The second option was to use my internal network, built up over seven years with the company to look for other roles in the business. These attempts were unsuccessful.
I decided to take a risk and leave, without another job lined up. In preparation for this, I considered my finances – how long could I be out of work for? Did I need to make any changes to my lifestyle? I also made a list of activities that I wanted to complete during the time off. I knew that being idle, and not having anything to accomplish, would be demoralising.
Top of my list was securing a suitable new job. I also wanted to build a website, learn some basic coding, write, visit schools to speak about engineering careers and put more time into my voluntary roles. Armed with some concrete targets, I handed in my notice and felt an immediate sense of freedom and relief.
“There were ups and downs, and some things surprised me, like my initial loss of identity without a job”
To narrow down my job search, I chose a few options. I thought management consulting could expose me to different aspects of the energy industry. A civil service job in the government’s energy department could help me to understand and provide input for energy policy. In addition, I wanted to use my communication skills.
As my search began, I logged all the information about relevant companies, conversations I had with people, jobs I applied for and recruitment agencies I signed up with. This spreadsheet allowed me to keep track and avoid making duplicate applications or similar errors.
A few months into unemployment, a sense of exasperation struck me. I felt like I had applied for hundreds of jobs and was getting nowhere. Looking at the spreadsheet showed a different reality. I had only submitted 20 or so applications and had secured some interviews. Seeing the data in black and white was invaluable for my morale. Alongside the job applications, I was occupied and motivated by visiting a school every week, writing, and getting on with my other tasks.
After about eight months and many applications, interviews and rejections, I managed to secure a role with the engineering team in the government’s energy department, the perfect fit.
Throughout this process, I regularly discussed my thoughts and plans with careers advisors, friends, and professionals in my network.
Looking back, I am glad I made the move. There were ups and downs, and some things surprised me, like my initial loss of identity without a job. A common question when meeting people is ”what do you do”. I was used to reeling off my job title, but now I found myself lost for words and felt almost ashamed and embarrassed. It took some time to get rid of those negative feelings and find the words to confidently answer the question.
Leaving a job and taking a break can be a fantastic move. The key for me was preparation and making sure I was doing it for the right reasons. Have your finances in order, decide how you will use your time off and set some goals. This could be starting a business, studying, finding another job, or whatever the right move is for you.
Any views expressed do not represent those of the organisations I am associated with.
Yasmin Ali is a chemical engineer, working in the energy sector. She is passionate about communicating the importance of science and engineering to the public, to encourage others to follow in her footsteps.
If you have a burning question for Yasmin, please post your comments below.