I’ve quit my job without having another job first, but that’s not the right way to think about it. The right way to think about it is that you do have a full-time job: finding another job.
If you’re in a semi-liquid job economy and your skills are somewhat unique and in demand, you should be thinking about getting your next job like you’d be thinking about marrying someone. And you should take the same amount of time and consideration you would before making that kind of a commitment.
Looking for a job while you’re working full-time, just as looking for someone to marry while you’re currently married, is sub-optimal at best. It’s one thing if you happen to get recruited by something that feels intuitively like a dream job, but it’s quite another to go through the exhaustive and comprehensive search for an opportunity that’s your perfect fit while you’re distracted.
My experience is that most people don’t spend enough time looking for the right job. They jump at early indicators and suffer from lots of confirmation bias rather than explore non-obvious factors that are likely to determine how happy they might be down the road. Looking for a job in a mad dash once you’ve decided you’re not happy with the one you have is like looking for someone to date after you’ve gotten in a fight with your spouse. That is the road to regret.
Here’s what I’d do if I just quit my job but didn’t have another:
Immediately build my network from my last company by going all-in on LinkedIn and in email. Write a bunch of recommendations and hope to pick up the reciprocals. Send a bunch of personal, sincere, thank you emails to employees you worked with. You probably wouldn’t have done this prior, or maybe you did it verbally or casually, but doing this explicitly will make it so when they’re called for a blind reference, you’re getting a much better shot of someone choosing to say something positive rather than defer or stay closer to neutral.
Go have lunch with everybody you know who works at a company which might have even a remote chance of having an opening you’d be a fit for. This not only gets you in the door to check out the work environment and culture in a familiar, non-stressful way before interviewing, but gives you a chance (and an excuse) to light a fire under your local network by letting them know you’re now on the market, and ask about positions at their company that may be coming online but haven’t been publicized yet. Many good companies never actually post their jobs, they source through networks before ever getting the chance. You can’t find out about them unless you’re in the network. Go work your network.
Invest time in getting your resume together and spend a lot of time working on your interview. Work on it with all of your friends and relatives, and work on it constantly. It’s the most important part of your search process. Be very vocal about the kinds of jobs and companies you’d prefer, and give people a chance to give you their feedback on how to tailor your resume and interview narrative to be more inline with what those kinds of jobs and companies might be looking for.
Look high and low, look comprehensively, not passively. Don’t be satisfied with email alerts; check all the websites every day. Do non-traditional fuzzy searches in case inexperienced managers or HR people are posting your kind of job with the wrong title or metadata. Go directly to the company websites and dont be afraid to call in and ask to make sure web listings are up to date.
Looking for a job is a full time job. Until you get one, that’s your job. Because you don’t have another job competing with your time, take the opportunity to look for something fulfilling, challenging, and as lucrative as possible.
This question originally appeared on Quora: What would you advise someone who quit her job without another job in hand?