So You Want to QUIT? Here’s Some Career (Break) Advice

Highs, lows, and what I’ve learned 6 months after I left Google

So You Want to QUIT? Here’s Some Career (Break) Advice
Photo by Victor Rodriguez / Unsplash

At some point in your working life, you may have fantasized about taking a career break and dedicating yourself to that passion you’ve been neglecting for far too long. Spending more quality time with your family. Perhaps finally taking that long vacation. Fully clearing the decks for a while to rest, recharge and do things that matter to you — achieve your own personal goals, not a company’s ones.

For how idyllic a “rebooting time” may sound, it doesn’t always come easy to fully detach yourself from your work persona.

Living in a society where money, job status and performance define who we are and where we sit on the social pyramid, taking a career break may often come with stigma and a few unexpected challenges.

I quit my tech job 6 months ago, after a long period of mistreatment ending in burnout and medical leave. I wasn’t alone by the way — according to Chartr “almost 3% of the American workforce, around 4.3 million people, said ‘I quit’ in August [alone] — a record high.”

That sounds like a straightforward decision, but it actually took months of introspection and therapy to find the courage to drag myself out of that miserable situation. To set aside my pride and the status that came with the job (with the company, really) and step away from an environment that had become toxic and permeated all aspects of my life and health.

But that’s just the first step in a long process of self-acceptance and adapting to a new way of thinking and acting. You can say it’s been a rollercoaster of highs and lows and only now — 6 months in — I’m starting to get used to my new “jobless status” and enjoy the benefits that come with it.

In case you’re thinking about taking a similar path now or in the future, I wanted to share three tips about what I’ve learned from this very liberating (but challenging) time.

1) Doing vs Being — Rediscover what defines you

Issue: For years you’ve been wired to view your self-worth and purpose as merely belonging to the professional world, leading you to think that you are what you’re doing.

💦 Challenge: If your profession defines you, who are you when you’re out of a job but you’re not retired? If it’s not the peers, the promotion, the salary increase…what’s validating you? This to me was the biggest challenge.

Especially here in the US, everyone seems obsessed with WHAT you do, and not with WHO you are as a whole. Think about the last time you went to the dentist and they tried to do some small talk while you waited…they probably asked you at some point: “and what do you do?” or “are you still working from home?”

Total strangers ALWAYS ask me those questions, and these days I found myself unable to give a meaningful answer, and I get really ashamed to admit I’m currently not DOING anything. Am I “unemployed”? Am I “taking a break” / “on sabbatical”? Am I “freelancing”? More “freestyling” really! None of these terms apply, I don’t feel they are appropriate. And so, if I’m not working, what’s my purpose? What am I doing with my life?

☔️ Advice: Don’t waste the opportunity by feeling inadequate or ashamed. You worked hard and f*****g earned a break — it’s yours to enjoy! Personally, I’m using this time to try to DO less and BE more — as a life coach once told me. Be more in touch with myself. Allow myself to be happier, more carefree than I’ve ever been. Or simply just be (meaning learning to get comfortable with sitting still, without doing anything — a concept that’s still a bit alien to me). And when I’m “doing”, I only do the things that give me joy by allowing myself space to reconnect with myself, without judgement (more on that later), and be more like a kid.

Like building a house, you can’t start a new one on the ruins of the old. You must first clear the site, remove the debris, and prepare the new foundations. It’s a sort of “detox process”, and I’m starting by removing all existing obstacles to my self-confidence. If I can’t be proud of who I am, how am I supposed to be proud of what I do?

2) Be present, patient and kind to yourself — It takes time to decompress

Issue: For years you’ve been trained to always perform at the highest standard, and work hard to achieve someone else’s goals, in order to progress up that narrow and artificial ladder.

💦 Challenge: The pressure to figure out as soon as possible what your next move should be is strong, and will distract you from embracing (and enjoying) your break. If you don’t jump right back in and immediately find the “next big thing”, you are made to feel like a loser, or at least will confound people. You feel the burden of expectation from your former peers and LinkedIn buddies to prove that your next career move makes sense, that is an advancement in your “career journey”, that after leaving your previous company you fell right on your feet and came out winning.

But that’s not the point of a career break, is it? The point is to enjoy some breathing space after years of hassle, take life day by day for a while, without worrying about the future for once.

I know, easier said than done! When I’m not in the present, this is what my thoughts sound like: “What’s next for me? What do others expect of me? What will be good enough to top the previous role / company? Will that career move make sense?” or “Do I want to be an entrepreneur and build my own thing or just jump into the next tech / corporate job?” And just like a new parent who’s taking time to bond with their baby, I find myself pondering “how long is too long? Should I head back to the “society-contributing workforce” as soon as possible? What will a one year gap on my resume look like? How about a two year gap? And if I wait too long, if my freelance projects don’t eventually work out, will I still be employable? How soon will the halo effect of having Google on my CV fade away?”

It’s paralyzing.

The closest analogy is that feeling at the end of high school, when you’re confronted with the important choice of picking what’s going to be your academic future. And you’re convinced that if you make the wrong decision, the rest of your life will go off course.

☔️ Advice: Breathe (meditation helps too)! The reality is that it’s mostly internal pressure — a voice in your head that’s been put there to remind you that you must be successful, and the only way is through a new, better job. That voice is called ‘shame’ and it’s really hard to keep quiet — it takes strength to admit you desperately needed a break instead of another push on the accelerator. And it takes even more self-compassion to bring yourself to enjoy the break, especially when you were expected to be performing all the time.

In the last 6 months, I turned down opportunities because I was still too burned out to move on to the next thing. It wouldn’t have been fair to my next employer. Imagine starting a new role at a new company when you’re still feeling completely sucked dry by your previous one. But — most importantly — it wouldn’t have been fair to me, and it certainly wouldn’t have set me up for success.

My ego had been fluffed (mostly patronized, really) by Google managers for nearly a decade. Then it eventually got crushed. And now that I’m on the other side of it — free, healing, and clear-thinking — it’s up to me to step up and regain that self-confidence, based around my own values this time. That’s my mission and number one priority right now.

It takes time, balance and kindness to build the ‘new you’. Don’t give up too soon, even when it’s most tempting.

During this process, it’s important you surround yourself with caring people who enable you to recover, with no pressure or judgement. I was lucky enough to receive immense support from my loving and understanding husband who has encouraged me every step of the way — without ever dropping any guilt, shame or impatience on me, not once. And when I was impatient and unkind to myself, he’s always called me out, gave me perspective and reminded me of what we — as a family — went through because of a stupid job. So, breathe in, you got this now. And you’ve earned this time. Try your best to make the most of it.

3) Get off LinkedIn — This is not a competition!

Issue: For years you’ve been compared to (and competed against) your peers and measured around arbitrary “attributes” and “level expectations”.

💦 Challenge: When I’m feeling anxious about my career break or simply a bit purposeless, I usually make the mistake of opening LinkedIn…which is basically like an alcoholic trying to quit drinking and then walking into a bar. The algorithm of the “jobs” section is so simplistic it only recommends comparable positions to my previous ones (because it’s well known that if you’re born a <insert job title here> you will die a <insert same job title here>). Where is the <I’m-having-a-third-of-life-crisis-and-need-a-radical-career-change-but-I’m-feeling-entirely-lost-please-help> button? Then you move to the feed and see all your previous peers doing phenomenal things, showing off the latest product launches or updating their employer from YouTube to TikTok (or Instagram, Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Amazon, or similar). Wow, how original! And then, after a few “drinks”, you leave the “bar” feeling sick and remembering why you were trying to quit “drinking” in the first place. But also that perhaps you’ve been comparing yourself to the wrong peers your entire life. Where is my tribe?

☔️ Advice: Get off LinkedIn (seriously!) This is your life and your personal journey — it doesn’t need to make sense to anyone else other than you. And when the time is right, you will find another job that makes sense to you. Or maybe not — maybe you’ll pave a completely unexpected future for yourself.

Isn’t it exciting to not know what’s going to happen, but trusting that when you reach your best self, you’ll attract exactly what you need?

A fellow ex-colleague recently told me: “The dots will connect in unexpected ways… Just follow resonance” — I have it on Post-it by my desk and it always gives me hope and strength (thank you M.)

So, at least for now:

  1. learn how to enjoy being on a break (and be present);
  2. practice self-compassion;
  3. forget about peer pressure (the only pressure is the one you decide to put on yourself!)

It’s time to embrace your decision and own your narrative. You got this!

My sabbatical HIGHS — So, how has it been going so far?

A lot has happened in the last 6 months. During this precious time, I’ve mostly been investing in my well-being. I spent a whole month and a half back in Europe visiting family and friends in different countries (simply unthinkable to take that much time off if I were still employed). I finally started to focus on fitness and getting my body — not just my mind — back on track. I traveled and explored a bit more of this North American continent that is still so new to me. I scribbled a lot and picked up a few new books (not just self-help or career coaching manuals — real books, for the old pleasure of reading). I spent endless quality time with my husband and home-cooked healthy (and delicious) Cal-Italian meals together.

I went to a funeral and to a wedding. I went to the theater, a few museums and art galleries, and the odd parade and street party. I went tanning in Sicily with my parents, sailing on the Mediterranean, rollerblading in Los Angeles, cactus-spotting in Arizona, dancing in Mexico City, wandering the streets of Lisbon, and drinking Guinness in Dublin (not in this exact order).

I did some work too — advised a major social media company on how to improve their creators’ experience on the platform; was a guest in a podcast; recorded a few videos and started planning my own content strategy and how to revamp my YouTube channel.

I also decided to get life-transformative laser eye surgery and got rid of my thick glasses after 30 years. My never-ending orthodontic treatment (aka braces) is soon coming to an end. And — obviously — I got vaccinated, and that enabled me to finally get to dance and party again — outdoors at least (the picture below represents a moment of freedom, personal recovery and gratitude, I recently had the pleasure to experience).

A moment of freedom, personal recovery and gratitude, I recently had the pleasure to experience

But most importantly…I’ve been catching up on sleep! I’m finally able to sleep 7+ uninterrupted hours without insomnia, racing thoughts, anxiety, or grinding my teeth. And being able to sleep properly does miracles for your body and mind. Now I get to start the day refreshed and ask myself: what do I want to do today? Do I need to achieve something? Yes? Let’s do it! No? Let’s just go with it and enjoy whatever today will bring.

Thinking about the bottomless black hole I found myself in by this time last year…wow, what tremendous progress, and what a tremendous difference a few months can make. I couldn’t recommend it more!

So, what’s my current occupation you ask?

It’s the most rewarding role of my life: I’m rebuilding myself from the ground up, at the most important firm on the globe — ME! I’m allowing myself space to heal and to grow. How often in life one has the opportunity to do that? It doesn’t come easy and it can be a rather lonely process at times — but one that will certainly pay dividends for many years to come, as the most important personal investment I could ever make.

You should give it a try if you can.


If you had the opportunity to hit “pause” for a little while, what would you like to do? What’s the one thing you’ve always postponed and that would make you happy? That one hobby or passion you’d like to dedicate more time to?

I’m serious, if you’d like to share, I need inspiration please 🙏

👉 More from my ‘Google Trilogy’

The Devil Wears Patagonia Swag [Main Story]

Untying the Google Knot (It’s not me. It’s you!) [Prequel]

Resonating. The Voice of a Thousand Googlers [Sequel]

LIFE after Google [Q&A Video Series]

🤙 Let’s connect!

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