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Perspectives on When to Call it Quits

Updated: Oct 6, 2021

Recently I was poking about the business section of a library, looking to see if it contained books by an author I just discovered. The helpful librarian came up and asked if I needed assistance in finding what I was looking for. I asked her about the author, and she wasn’t familiar with him. I thanked her and went back to browsing. Two minutes later, she was back at my side, a book in her hand, wondering if I’d be interested in checking it out.

The book was “Leap: Leaving a Job with No Plan B to Find the Career and Life You Really Want” by Tess Vigeland. Always open to new possibilities, I accepted the librarian’s offer. The book was Tess’ cathartic way of dealing with her own “leap” from the radio show she hosted for several years. In the first several chapters it became clear that Tess was writing as therapy, trying to deal with her own insecurities around leaving a lucrative, high-profile career with no plan. But in chapters 5,6, and 7, Tess starts bringing in other people’s stories in earnest, and that’s when it starts flowing, at least for me.

The second half of the book is filled with advice: network with people in industries you are interested in, network with other “leapers” so you can support each other, re-define success in your own terms, remember that your skills are transferable, gain experience in what you think you might want to do next. Ideally, you’d do some of this before quitting, but I liked the perspective that having already leapt, you are freer to take advantage of opportunities that come your way.

Not every story was a positive one. A woman named Sarah who is profiled in the book admits that it can do a number on your psyche when you leave a job without a plan and struggle to find a replacement. Many people interviewed for this book were not able to find work that paid as well as their last job, essentially trading financial security for the freedom to follow their heart. And one person (“Katherine,” not her real name) shared that what she missed most “was feeling competent.” Leaping does seem to require doing a financial audit and adjusting one’s financial needs and goals.

I think the overall tone of the book was a positive one that reassures career changers. Nat Katz, another person who shared his experience, gave this perspective:

“This is a human paradigm, that there are times in life that call us out of our comfort zones--sometimes by our choice, sometimes not by our choice--that this is part of the human experience.”

P.S. I was wryly amused by one bit in the book. Tess writes that another published “leaper,” Herminia Ibarra, cautions against “relying on career counselors” because “they follow established trajectories.” As a “leaper” myself, I take issue with that! But everyone’s entitled to their opinion!

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