Yesterday marks one month from the day that I did something I have feared for the last few months. I left a new job that I started just two weeks prior, which I’m sure sounds crazy (and/or stupid), but let me explain. I just came off the heels of another position that I was in for just over a year. That job felt wrong from day 1, but I thought it was premature to pass judgment and decided that I should try to give it a year and then go from there. It never got better. In fact, it robbed me of my self esteem, my energy, and made me question my choices and abilities.
After one particularly rough week in October, I talked to my husband and said, “This is it. If I do not find something by February, I’m leaving this job.” We came up with a plan to save three months worth of living expenses and by February, I had interviewed and received an offer from a nonprofit that I have long admired and felt very connected to its mission and values. The biggest deterrent to accepting the position was that the salary was extremely low (like less than my first entry level position) in comparison to what I was currently making. Desperate to leave my current situation, I accepted the offer and figured that trading money for a more fulfilling job would be worthwhile. By the end of the first week, I knew I had made a bad choice. Not only was the role far more administrative that I had imagined, I still felt like I had no autonomy. I retraced the hiring process in my mind: what did I miss, what went wrong, what could I have done better? From what I surmised, I should have asked what their expectations were for the role within the first 90 days, which I almost always do, but did not with this position (there’s an important lesson here—desperation clouds your judgment). When I asked what those priorities were during my first week, I realized that their expectations for the position were not realistic. I also knew that the job felt like five steps back at a time when I needed to move forward.
I spoke honestly with my manager about my concerns, assumed some of the blame for not inquiring more during the hiring process, but reiterated that I felt it wasn’t a good fit. She said she understood and that she hoped there was more they could do, but the responsibilities of the job were what they were.
Driving home that day, I felt a mix of relief, anxiety and fear, but more importantly, I had felt like a weight had been lifted.
Since then it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Depending on the day, I may be feeling awesome, other days I’m questioning my life choices. I think I’ve read every career site article, Reddit thread, and Quora post about people thinking about leaving a new job, who have done it themselves, or advice for those considering it. Most of the testimonials I have found have described it as being an overall positive (although somewhat stressful and scary) experience, but none have spoken from the perspective of currently being in it. You know what they say about hindsight being 20/20…
As someone who is living with the decision right now, my number one piece of advice for anyone considering this is to think long and hard about the priority you place upon people’s opinions. If you’re of the firm belief that what others think of you doesn’t matter, try walking down the busiest street in town without pants and let me know how far you get. Because telling people you quit your job (new or old) without another one secured is going to elicit: a) similar looks of concern, b) praise or c) unsolicited scolding and criticism. And you’ve got to be ready to either accept it constructively or let it roll off your back.
I am not saying these things to discourage anyone who’s considering leaving a job because they feel beat down, used up or just miserable. I just wish I had been prepared for what I would be feeling once the initial shine wore off. And make no mistake, it was not a decision that I made lightly. I am completely aware that to some people this choice may seem immature, selfish and foolhardy. But after two years of feeling like I hadn’t listened to my gut, I couldn’t continue to ignore it anymore.
So, Where Am I Right Now?
In the last month, I’ve been on one interview and I have another lined up next week. The old me would have been stressed about those figures, but the old me also would have papered employers within a 25-mile radius with resumes. That spray-and-pray strategy led to making poor decisions before, so I’m not investing it in anymore.
I’m also focused on using this time (really, this gift) as an opportunity to reconfigure what my vision for the future looks like. This includes prioritizing professional development. I renewed my Google Analytics certificate and earned the Adwords Search certificate both in the matter of a week, since I had the time to concentrate on the study materials unfettered. I’ve also signed up for a slew of Udemy courses on topics I have long wanted to learn more about. Additionally, I’m taking this time to consider what type of work environment and organization will be the most beneficial overall (more on that in my next post). I have also volunteered to help out with a local charity run and fundraising event that my husband and his coworkers organize each year with promotion and soliciting sponsors.
And I’ve started writing again. Whenever I’ve asked myself what I really want to be doing, the answer has always come quickly and simply—write. Whether that’s a full time job or a side hustle, I don’t ever want to fall away from it again. Writing brings me to the closest state of what Hungarian psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes as “flow,” that I have experienced. So, right now I’m focused on finding that flow again and the person I felt I lost two years ago. I’m hoping that when I do, I can look back on this experience just as others have and say, “God, I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that.”
How about you? Where are you right now, or, where would you like to be?