How My “Escape Plan” From The Office Looked Like
I saved up enough money to cover one year of expenses, then jumped ship when my job satisfaction levels dipped below the point of acceptability.
Although making a jump will require some preparation, I kept the execution fairly simple.
To job or not to job
Starting a new position is always exciting. What if your expectations are not met, several months in? Should you sit it out, or start preparing for a new chapter?
If the need to escape is that strong or urgent, you can always resign today.
I’ve had some side jobs in the past where the work suited me that badly, that I quit on the same day I started. One of those “managers” scolded me when I phoned them politely to let them know how I felt, and that I wasn’t going to continue as per now. Them scolding me was a confirmation that I made the right decision then and there. But that was an edge case.
If you’re unsure about the current gig, but you don’t exactly know where you want to take it next, you might as well give the current gig your very best effort. You’re here now anyway, and rent is not going to pay for itself.
In a not too recent case, I started at a new company at a function that suited me just fine. My plan was to get a foot in the door, and once inside, switch to a different department. For a better, more cognitively demanding position, a better paycheck, and overall, a better life.
Early in, I found out it wasn’t going to happen. I shared my wishes with a supervisor. My idea of where I wanted to take it, within (and especially outside of) the department. From the response I received, I could tell that I’d have to find a way on my own.
I decided to make the most out of it anyway and squeeze that lemon empty. That led me to make three decisions:
- Continue to get all I can out of the current gig
- Instead of waiting “to get noticed”, I’d apply to different positions internally
- Create a financial buffer to make a jump into the wild unknown outside of the company, just in case the above fails
Point 1: Squeeze the lemon empty
Beside continuing to put my best effort into the work, I took advantage of every single perk there was:
- I followed all possible training sessions and workshops that were available to me. All of them. It led to me getting to drive a company car in the city and taxiing colleagues to a different location for our tour.
- Does your company offer the possibility to dedicate several working days or hours to volunteering? Take advantage of that.
- In Germany, every company must have an X amount of “voluntary firemen”. Your company will offer training to become one or reimburse any costs.
- The same with first aid training. Great excuse to soak up new information and skills that might come in handy, in- and outside an office setting.
- Ask your team members where they need support. Offer your help to them, or to people outside of your team. Get sneak peeks of different types of work. Can you make spreadsheets? Great. Offer your help with that. Do you like to prepare presentations? Also a skill that’s always needed (and that plenty of people happily outsource).
Point 2: Apply to different positions within the company
Most companies prefer to hire internally. The company already knows you. HR can view your entire work history and performance at the click of a button, making it easier to determine if you’re a good match for a new position.
Even though that sounds good and all, it didn’t help me out that much. I knew less than a junior for the position I wanted and was heavily educating myself on the skills and knowledge I was missing. Knowing this, I sought out intern positions within the company. Usually you need to be a registered student to be eligible for those, but I’ve experienced companies who make exceptions if you just dare to ask. I was even willing to take a pay cut in exchange for the chance to learn.
I either applied through the official job portal, or directly talked with recruiters and HR staff via the company chat. I got the strong impression that there was little flexibility in bypassing the requirements because I kept getting rejected on the point “this position is for registered students only”.
Thanks to an insider I got to know about another employee who was more or less trying to make the same switch I was. They (to not disclose whether it’s a she or a he) already were doing an internship. The majority of the week was spent in their own department working on their core duties. One or two days per week, they’d work alongside the team members in the department they aspired to switch to.
Despite that the tasks done in the “home” department were very closely related to those in the “aspiring” department, this internship was ongoing. For two years. This struck me as odd.
Knowing this, my thoughts were, “when are they going to get hired as a full-fledged member of the new team? If they are having such a hard time, my chances at this company are even lower”.
I stopped trying to apply for internal positions after the so-manieth rejection and put my focus back on the first, and the third point.
Point 3: Save money, make a jump
Now the latter wasn’t working out that well, I had no reason to stay anymore, except for the income and being-able-to-pay-rent aspect. I decided to grant myself a sabbatical as soon as I “got out”. You know, the “live off your savings, try stuff out, and try to breathe life into a side project or two, or three”.
I wanted to have one year of expenses covered without having to work at all. That meant the buffer had to be at least 12K. With what I was earning at the time, that meant I had to consistently save. This job was my primary source of income. But, growing up with frugality as a way of life, I have no issues with cutting down on spending. Also, I had been saving money from the first month I started there. It just took around two years to reach my goal amount.
Thanks to firm saving habits I was focused on preparation and moving forward one way or another, without being terrified of eviction, or worse. I call this piece an “escape plan”, because I knew that if I couldn’t switch internally, I’d eventually want to have a go at something different. When my savings reached the amount I needed, that was the sign to resign.
I’d have a fully year to play. That is exactly what I did, but that’s a story for another time.
How your escape plan will look depends on what you want your next steps to be. If the current gig is bearable for now, but you see no future in it, you can easily stay and apply for new positions alongside your current role. In that case you probably don’t need an “escape plan”.