My posts have become a bit more sporadic, and that's always the case when my personal life becomes a bit hectic. Thanks to all of my loyal readers for still checking-in. I have some great things to share coming up, including news about my new job and a short video guide to one of my favorite villages in Cape Town.
In the last four months, I quit my full-time job (without anything to fall back on - yikes!), enjoyed the end of my time in Cape Town, and focused on my search for full-time work. I don't regret any of these decisions, and I'm incredibly thankful and feel blessed that I had the opportunity to take some time to do some soul searching (so corny), to do a bit more travel in South Africa, and to enjoy my first sabbatical since I started working around ten years ago.
Now that this time has come to a close, I wanted to come up with three key pieces of advice to share regarding the decision to take time off while it was still fresh in my mind:
Never Stop Learning
Any sudden increase in free time, whether unexpected or planned, is not an excuse to slack off. For myself, I started painting, sewing, taking courses on Code Academy, writing, taking more photos and took on freelance work whenever possible. Locally, I looked for free workshops, meet-up events (like Travel Massive and TBEX), and continuing education classes at local universities. With free online courses available on websites like Coursera, Khan Academy, iTunes University, and more... there is no excuse not to devote a large chunk of your free time towards improving yourself.
Applying for jobs is an incredibly daunting process. Expect to jump through web form hoops to create accounts, upload CVs and cover letters, and re-type your personal details over and over again (especially if you're applying for work with larger organizations). After spending at least an hour on this process and customizing your cover letter for the job description, you might not get a response from the company for weeks. In my case, I'd say 1 out of every 10 jobs I applied to sent a reply. Go on interviews and 'date' a lot of organizations, but only enter into a relationship with the one you're completely enamored with (and you feel like they return those same feelings, too). It can be a soul destroying process, but finding a job that's the right fit takes time, so it's worth putting in your best effort.
Manage Your Finances
You burn through cash quicker than you expect when you're unemployed. Not only do great opportunities both small (brunch with friends) and large (vacation) appear, you also need to keep in mind the unexpected (broken laptop, new phone, house maintenance, etc). I made sure I planned for my time off, so I met with an accountant last year to have help with handling my taxes. Laura at Malkin and Daigle was a huge help and I felt like she really cared about what my plans were for this year. Whether I was going to be self-employed or seeking new full-time employment, she made me feel like there was no wrong answer. If you're considering a gap year or a move abroad, starting your own business, or even just confused about your taxes, I really recommend working with a professional. The peace of mind that you're not making any mistakes on taxes, along with setting yourself on a path of long-term financial success, is worth the extra expense.
With any transition, reaching out to friends and family who understand what a daunting process the transition can be will carry you through the tough times. Never give up. I feel lucky to have such wonderful friends and family who have helped support me, and continue to give me many reasons to smile each and every day. D.C., Cape Town set the bar quite high, so you've got a lot to live up to...cheers to new starts in a new cities!