By Allison Sanchez
A few years ago, I was working at a job I wasn’t particularly excited about. It was, in a word, boring. And on top of that, it had an insanely long commute. I knew I couldn’t do it forever. But even so, I kept trying to convince myself that it wasn’t so bad. I liked my coworkers, was making steady income, and besides, you have to work somewhere, right?
But one day, after an accident on the highway stopped me in traffic for two hours, I broke down crying in the parking lot. We’re talking can’t-catch-your-breath kind of sobs. Just a waterfall out of my eyeballs. And the thing was, it wasn’t just because of the long drive. It was because, even after two hours stuck in the car, I realized I wanted even less to get out and go into the office.
At that moment, I knew. I had to quit my job.
We all want to love the work we do. But if you’re like the average American—who will change jobs 12 times before they’re 52—chances are you might end up at a job you hate at some point. A recent Gallup poll found that 66 percent of Americans aren’t fully engaged or enthusiastic about their jobs. That’s a lot of people just “working for the weekend”. And hating a job can reverberate through much more than just the hours of 9 to 5. When we’re unhappy in our work, it can affect every aspect of our lives from getting sick more frequently to losing sleep to depression and anxiety.
So if you hate your job, it may be time to quit. And while, sure, it can be stressful to leave, it doesn’t have to be. We have five tips to make the job transition as easy and stress-free as possible. Because truly, life is too short to spend our days crying in a parking lot when we could be doing a job we love.
1. Figure out exactly what you hate
Okay, so the first step is not to go all Office Space and smash all the printers or anything (to be clear—that’s none of the steps), but to slow down and figure out why you’re unhappy.
Do you like the work but dislike your manager’s style? Or feel like you’re not being valued? Do you need more flexible hours for family commitments? Or is this totally not the career for you? Knowing why it’s time to leave your job will help direct you to the next one.
Read More: How to Find a Job You Love (No, Really)
2. Make a financial exit strategy
Once you’ve made the decision to quit, you’ll want to make sure that you’re prepared financially. Money coach Megan Lathrop recommends you have at least three to six months of your fixed living expenses saved up before quitting a job without a new one. That way, you’ll have enough cushion in the bank to look for the job of your dreams without the added stress of money woes.
3. Make the most of your remaining time
Are there any higher-ups you admire whose brains you can pick? Is there a skill that might translate to a new job that you haven’t mastered yet? This wasn’t the right job, but that doesn’t mean it has to be wasted time in your professional development.
Think of it this way: You now can relax knowing you won’t be at this job forever—so what can you learn before you go?
4. Leave gracefully, but be honest
Leaving a job you hate can feel awkward, but you absolutely can do so without burning any bridges. First, make sure to give as much notice as you can—two weeks is considered standard. Then, take the time to thank any mentors for what you learned and opportunities you were given.
For great coworkers, exchange information. They might be good future contacts. And do your best to set everyone up for success in your absence.
But also, don’t shy away from constructive feedback in your exit interview. Were deadlines unclear or was your workload causing you to work late into the night? Make sure to express why you’re leaving if it’s something a company can improve on in the future.
Read More: How to give your two weeks notice
5. Be brave
Remember: Transitions can be scary, but the average American spends over 90,000 hours at their job over a lifetime. You deserve to spend that time doing something that fuels your bank account and your soul.