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Quitting: 9 women who quit their jobs on the biggest lessons they learned in the process

In need of some quitspiration? Here, 9 women share the biggest lessons they learned from walking away from their jobs.

If you’ve been thinking of quitting your job recently, you’re definitely not alone. We’re in the middle of what many have been calling ‘the great resignation’ – a moment when workers all over the world have been reconsidering what they want from their jobs post-pandemic.

Indeed, according to a new survey from the recruitment firm Randstad UK, almost a quarter of workers are actively planning to change employers over the next few months – citing reasons including burnout and unhappiness at work for their motivation to change.

Of course, these numbers aren’t indicative of the many more people who may be thinking about quitting their jobs – especially if many of their colleagues are also in the process of leaving.  

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If that’s you, chances are you’re taking some time to mull things over before you make any big decisions. Taking the plunge and quitting your job can be really scary: not only are you leaving behind something familiar, but the logistics of handing in your notice and finding a new source of income can be really intimidating. But that doesn’t mean quitting isn’t worth it – especially if your job is taking its toll on your mental and/or physical health.

With this in mind, and to give you some inspiration to take the plunge, we spoke to nine women who quit their jobs about the biggest lessons they learnt in the process. From the importance of being selfish to realising they knew more than they thought, here’s what they had to say. 

Being selfish isn’t always a bad thing

“The biggest lesson I learned from quitting my job was learning to be selfish. I was settling for being a cog in the wheel year after year when my gut was telling me that I could achieve something bigger. Being selfish meant putting myself first and venturing through the murky waters of entrepreneurship, even if this meant that I would receive no salary, no weekly compliments from a line manager, and instead settle for lonely nights tapping away at a computer.

“The process of quitting was far from easy – I spent hours hovering over the send button and doubting myself throughout (I even started applying for jobs again two days after giving in my notice). But ultimately I stood my ground and started working on my diversity and inclusion business, Lila, full-time, which has enabled me to pursue my goal of helping 1 million people live in discrimination-free environments at work and navigate D&I confidently.

“I would never have been able to create a positive social impact on an international scale if it wasn’t for being selfish.”

Shana, 25 

Shana Gujral
Shana Gujral learned the importance of being selfish after she left her job to set up her own company (photo by Shweta Shukla).

Don’t feel guilty about doing what’s right for you

“The biggest lesson I learned from quitting my job was not to be scared to do what is best for me – I was so nervous to hand my notice in, but afterwards it was worth it because I realised my job pays me to work and I didn’t want to work there anymore.

“It’s really important to remember that all you are to any company is a rented brain, and in this instance, my tenancy was up – so don’t feel guilty or scared to hand your notice in. Always put yourself and your mental health first.”

Robyn, 24 

You’re never “too old” to learn new things

“In August 2020 I quit my role and went on to gain new qualifications in order to set up my own company.

“One of the most important lessons I learnt was that I’m not too old to study and gain new qualifications. The confidence that undertaking these new qualifications gave me, my abilities and my future has been incredible.”

Kat, 40

Working for yourself can be incredibly freeing

“The biggest lesson I learnt from quitting my job was that I can’t see myself working for someone else again. My terms, my boundaries, my wellbeing and work-life balance is a priority. I find myself more motivated and inspired than ever before because of it.”

Luana, 33 

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Trust your gut

“I am terrible for romanticising workplaces – telling myself it will get better, it is just teething pain, other people are enjoying it so you will too soon etc – and this was particularly true for one of the most recent places I quit, as it is a workplace which is popular and coveted by others in the industry.

“I worried that if I quit, I would miss out on the next big thing and it would affect my career: the workplace was bad for me and I was burnt out, but hundreds of other people wanted to work there so I felt like I needed to make it work. However, working there continued to take its toll – it was detrimental to my self-worth and mental health, and I ended up with severe imposter syndrome which I find difficult to shake even to this day.

“So, the biggest lesson I learned (because hindsight is a beautiful thing) is to quit when you know something isn’t right – you spend a huge chunk of your life at work, you should at least be happy.”

Gemma, 29 

Don’t underestimate how important it is to put your health and wellbeing first

“The biggest lesson I learned from quitting my job was my health and wellbeing is so important. I quit nursing after 20 years as the stress I put on myself became too much. I am so much happier now.”

Sian, 41 

You know more than you think

“The biggest lesson I learned from quitting my job and setting up my own DEI brand was that, even though I was engulfed with imposter syndrome, I knew a lot more than I thought.

“Before then, I had tunnel vision for so long that when it was time for me to start doing my thing, I thought all my knowledge would vanish due to being scared of failure. But I kept surprising myself with some of the awesome clients I was winning and the cultures I was helping to build.

“I honestly wished I had the tenacity a few ago, but I’m here now and there’s no going back.” 

Abi, 35

Abi Adamson
Abi Adamson realised she knew more than she thought after quitting her job.

Giving yourself permission to make big decisions allows you to grow

“I quit my job as a social media manager at an agency to set up my own successful digital marketing agency earlier this year. In the process, I learned how to make executive decisions for my life and for my business.

“Quitting my job was the first big decision I made, so I really had to advocate for myself and empower myself to embrace the consequences whether they were positive or negative. This ability to give myself permission to make big decisions in my life and in business was the most important lesson I learned because it’s contributed greatly to my rapid growth.”

Nicole, 25 

Even when you feel stuck, nothing is permanent

“Weeks before the pandemic struck, I quit my ‘dream’ job at one of the world’s most famous media agencies. I’d realised that, despite having amazing friends there and feeling desperate to make it work, it wasn’t quite right for me and I knew that I’d become unhappy if I stayed. I had lined up a year-long work placement in New York to start a month after my notice period came to an end, but the pandemic wiped out that opportunity – which was really devastating.

“I had no job and most companies had put hiring freezes in place, but luckily I was able to secure two long term freelance gigs to see out the year and then managed to land myself the best job I’ve ever had, where I feel much more settled and happy. I suppose my biggest learning from that time is that even when you feel totally stuck, nothing is ever permanent, and sometimes you have to take the plunge and let whatever is going to happen, happen – most things turn out alright in the end!”

Madaleine, 26 

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Main Image: Getty

Other Images: Shweta Shukla & Abi Adamson