Don’t Quit Your Day Job: Advice From a Famous(ish) Quitter

Marina Shirfin | LinkedIn

Have you ever walked into a crowded cafeteria only for it to grow silent because every one was staring at you? I have. It’s weird. Before I could bask in the undivided attention, I had to take care of one quick thing first.

I walked over to one of the plastic tables I would share with coworkers as we caught up on company gossip. He’s having an affair with someone on the third floor. She’s applying to a job in Beijing. The salacious stories would bounce back and forth until we knew we had been away from our desks too long. But I wasn’t heading to those plastic tables to share one of those stories, I was heading there to become one of them.

My boss glided into the cafeteria and slumped into the seat across from me. We looked at each other’s faces for 10 years. I studied the freckles near his temple, the squareness of his nose and the subtle lines branching from the corners of his eyes. I directed my glare to the table but not before catching a glimpse of that damned eyebrow he’d raise when he was about to say something mischievous or condescending. I knew this was the last time I’d be sitting across from him for a long time. When the staring contest was over, he delicately placed a contract in front of me. The word “resignation” was printed all over the pristine white paper. My eyes welled up with tears. I was free.

Hours before this meeting, I was pivoting back and forth in my apartment – a tiny studio in the heart of Taipei constructed for a minuscule Asian lady named Sue. I hadn’t slept in days. My body was shaking with adrenaline from an unbelievable stressful week culminating in my decision to quit. I finished pivoting and sat down in front of my computer. The screen teased me: You can’t quit, you dweeb. I pulled up the YouTube video I’d posted strictly for the eyes of friends and family and made it public. I shut my computer and stared at the wall. I had just quit my job via YouTube.

Yes, hi! It’s me, the “I quit girl.” On September 28, 2013, I posted a funny video of myself dancing around my empty office and at the end I tell my boss, “I quit. I’m gone.” It’s over a year and 19 million views later and I am still getting emails asking for advice on quitting. Although I don’t advise that anyone reach out to a 20-something for any kind of advice, especially one they’ve never met, I’ll still give you mine as part of this LinkedIn series on quitting.

Below I’ve compiled some common questions I’ve received and answered them based on what I think is the right thing to say.

I really hate my boss, and I want to quit in an epic way. How should I do it?

My answer is: Don’t do it. Don’t quit in an epic way. Work at your job as long possible, save up as much money as possible, and apply to as many jobs as possible. Then, when you find a better gig, write a really nice resignation letter and give the appropriate amount of notice.

One thing many people don’t know from watching my video is that I called my boss’ boss and gave him one month’s notice before posting the resignation. I chose to tell my direct boss via YouTube because I worked for a company that edited together controversial content to grab the attention of the Internet via YouTube – another fact that many people overlook in this story. The way I resigned was a snarky and twisted nod to the snarky and twisted company at which I worked.

I got an email from the Commercial Director, my boss’ boss, after the video went viral and it said, the move was “brilliant” among some other kind words. I doubt any other company on this planet would have responded in that manner. But mine did. Because they are creative, progressive and also understand how the media can twist a simple story for the sake of page views.

So don’t quit in an epic way unless you work for an epic Taiwanese animation company that can turn a profit out of the viral attention.

I really want to quit my job to become a(n) ______________, but I am scared to quit in this economy.

I’d never advise someone to leave a job without having another one lined up. In fact, before you line up a job, line up a career  it’ll be easier to figure out where to start when you know where you want to go. Before I quit, I lined up my career: Comedy. Stable? No, not really. But I was in a “do or die” mindset, “do” being the more appetizing choice. I figured out what I needed to do and made a plan: write every day, move to Hollywood and get a manager. Four months later I got a manager, moved to Hollywood and began to write every day.

All this to say, you will not get your dream career by using the economy as an excuse for why you haven’t made moves yet. You get your dream career by working harder than the people to the left and right of you. You get your dream career by being talented and audacious  not by coming up with creative excuses.

Finally, I get asked if I have any regrets leaving the way I did.

The short answer is no. Leaving my job was a meticulously calculated career choice that opened metaphorical doors, windows, and garages for me. It was a big risk that paid off in management, development opportunities, and creative job offers. I knew if I were able to pull of such a big prank on the internet, I’d be rewarded (in the comedy world). I was ready for it. I’d been quietly working on my writing, stand up, and confidence until I got to a place where I knew I didn’t have to settle in my professional career. So, in a sense, I’d been planning to quit before I even started working at that Taiwanese company.

Whenever someone writes to me saying they want to quit. I always tell them: Don’t do it. Don’t quit your job. It’s scary and it’s difficult. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night, soaked in pools of your own self-doubt. You’ll wonder where your next paycheck is going to come from, or if you’ll ever be able to afford insurance.But if you’ve been spending every free moment practicing, studying and getting ready for the career you really want, then there is a very small chance your passion may lead to success in that field.

So if you decide to ignore my warnings and quit anyway because you have a desire so strong you’re ready to turn your life upside for it, then let me be the first to congratulate you. Let me also welcome you to the crazy club of dreamers, thinkers, movers, and shakers who refuse to accept life at face value and who end up more fulfilled because of it.

If you found this article helpful you might also want to check out, “The Truth Always Comes Out and It Almost Never Works Out Well” 

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