Blazes of glory don’t buy you groceries two weeks later when radio programs have stopped wanting to have you on the air via telephone and your internet fame has been eclipsed by a video of a zoo animal using a Blackberry. (Remember all those babies dancing to “Single Ladies”? So 2008. Being a meme is not a career path).
It was, of course, the inflatable-slide-based departure of Steven Slater from his job as a JetBlue flight attendant that prompted this column. Opinions are mixed: is he a working-class hero or an “unstable diva”? He will certainly never work as a flight attendant again; as he’s been charged with felonies, he may have a hard time working in many industries. (See previous column: Not all publicity is good publicity). Remember the guy in Office Space? He ends up working on a construction site, which is not an option for everyone.
Need to quit your job? Obviously, it would be good to have another offer in place, or to have been maintaining a low-level entrepreneurial presence (a few freelance clients, some consulting) on the side during your stint in the straight world. (I wrote about this topic in the column How Business Is Like Dating: if you’re already unemployed, you’re simply not as desirable as if you’re someone else’s woman/employee who could conceivably be stolen away). But especially if you’re young, haven’t settled on a single career, want to see the world, etc., plenty of resume gaps are explainable, forgivable, and can be spun into something that makes you look more awesome than all the 9-to-5 drones around you. So, if you think your job just might pound the last ounce of joy out of the overkneaded bread dough of your soul, here are some ideas.
Make a plan for what you’re going to do after you quit, even if that plan involves taking a couple weeks off to drink beer at noon, absconding to Berlin, etc.
If your plan involves some odd jobs like dogwalking, offering yourself on Craigslist as an assistant, babysitting, etc., keep in mind that these, too, take planning — lots of people consider these things their primary occupation and have professional websites, referral systems, etc. in place. The economy is a bit gloomy; there are MBAs out there walking dogs with ruthless efficiency.
Much of the value of making a plan is to keep you sane during the last few weeks of your horrible job, allowing you to eke out another couple of paychecks for your Berlin fund. Apparently, it’s easy to be a broke expat in Berlin (and you don’t particularly have to speak German). Buenos Aires is also a good option for living well while stretching out a meager savings. One friend said that $2,000 and a tourist visa made him feel like a rich man in India for months. So, make a plan, any plan, and allow office politics to recede into the distance while you imagine how far today’s pay will go when you’re in Argentina or Chennai, or at Mom and Dad’s, or in a communal living situation in Bushwick.