Quitting in the Recession

"If you were that person -- the one who quit her job to make room for a colleague -- you'd be able to say to prospective employers, 'At that point in my life, I had to make a choice -- staying in the job, wondering whether or not I'd made the right decision -- or take the plunge and see what the universe had in store for me.' Of course, that's a very confident message that will impress employers," Ryan said.

While some, like Wong, will stay with what they know best, others are taking advantage of the time as an opportunity to pursue entirely different careers.

"It can be a great time to make a break like that," Ryan said. "Just, whenever you're making a change, you have to ask yourself why. It shouldn't be just to escape. Thirty percent of the people I talk to are looking to get out of what they're doing, and want to do something new."

Steven DeMaio, 38, a former associate editor at HarvardBusiness.org, quit his job in October 2008, and submitted the post "I Just Quit My Job ... Am I Crazy?" to Harvard Business Publishing, which has grown into a running account of how he's doing as the blog "I Quit -- Now What?"

DeMaio put aside his career in publishing to pursue other interests, such as studying a foreign language, teaching and writing. He seems to have accomplished his goals, and now teaches a GED program for non-English speakers in Cambridge, specializing in English and math.

Like Wong, DeMaio's jobless adventure was facilitated by his circumstances. He's a renter, he bikes everywhere (although he does own a car) and he's admittedly frugal to begin with.

His biggest challenge, he said, is paying for his own health insurance, which is especially important because Massachusetts now requires its residents to have coverage.

"I've cut fun on the outside," DeMaio said. "I'm doing what I love and I enjoy writing so it's not that hard."

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