A few months back, I was working in a job I had grown to hate. The environment there was toxic and employees were treated really badly. It made me sink into a funk, so I decided to change my situation. I knew I was the only person responsible for my own happiness, and only I had the power to change my circumstances.
After receiving a particularly degrading, gaslight-type response from my boss, my head swiveled to the right as I eyed my desk calendar. “Yep,” I thought, “January 29th looks like a great last day.”
So, I did it. I quit my job.
Granted, I took a long lunch that day and thought it through. But I knew I had to do it when I realized I felt unemotional and had plenty of valid reasons for quitting. These feelings had been building for months, and they were more than your average "woe is me, I hate my job" thoughts. My boss did ask me to stay, but I explained to her that I refuse to allow anyone to speak down, disrespect, or bully me, especially in a professional environment. Her expression was priceless.
It was New Year's Eve the day that I gave my notice; I was ready to start 2016 with a fresh slate. New year, new me, right? Ha.
On my last day, my boss said to me, "Make sure you don't delete me on Facebook. For some reason, everyone seems to leave and immediately deletes me — I don't understand it."
I didn't even know how to respond to that, so I didn't.
Anyway, I left, and it felt amazing.
The only catch was that I did not have a backup plan in place: I had not secured another position. I gave a month's notice and figured I was not only being generous to my then-employer, but also had time to figure things out and maybe even get another job offer.
At first, things were fine. I interviewed with a publication and was poised to move into a full time editor/writer role, which boosted my confidence. They were consistently following up with me, and I was receiving tons of positive feedback. I was sure I had it in the bag. I was pumped, and ready to take my career — and my life — to the next level.
Then the communication slowed, and my follow-ups went unanswered. My excitement turned to confusion, and a little annoyance. What had happened?
The company was fairly young, and they ended up going through a corporate shift, as well as a complete brand redesign. Budgets and circumstances changed, and my potential position disappeared.
Well, that didn't quite work out as I had hoped.
At the time, it was a blow. I had thought the stars were aligning just right, and my dream was about to be realized. Then, poof — it all went up in smoke.
I had prepared financially when I quit my job, but not necessarily emotionally. Being unemployed for 2 months taught me a lot about myself. I reflected a lot on what I want in life and in my career, and I learnt a lot about my job search strategy, skills, and confidence in the process. It wasn't an easy time but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
I know many others have found themselves in the same position, so I'd like to share some of the invaluable lessons I learned along the way.
I had the time and the opportunity to define what I wanted to happen next in my life.
This, of course, is a wonderful thing, but can also be extremely daunting.
I started writing each day, just for myself. I created a general guideline of the things I knew I wanted to accomplish, what kind of job I wanted to get, and other 'extras' that seemed interesting to me, if time allowed. I included all aspects I considered important: salary, experience I hoped to gain, fulfillment, perks and culture. I even included how this new job would flow into and affect my personal life. I created goals in my personal life, too.
Then, I made a timeline for accomplishing each goal, with interim check-in points along the way. For me, breaking up large goals into smaller steps was not only helpful but also made it less overwhelming.
In thinking about what I really wanted, I discovered that my dreams were different than I initially thought —and that's okay!
People change their minds all the time on what they want, and career choices are no exception to this.
When I gave my notice, I was excited about that other job opportunity. I was ready to be a writer and certain that was what I wanted to do full-time. Even once I was unemployed, I told myself I would spend each day not only job hunting, but writing, as well.
I soon realized that I enjoyed writing — but only on my own terms. I would still love to work at a publication, but more likely in a role where I could collaborate with others on topics, edit, and encourage other writers. I pinpointed that I wanted to learn more about digital marketing, as I already have a background in sales and marketing. I realized that I love to help others.
My game plan changed once I identified what my most important values were, and my dreams shifted as a result.
I discovered that I am a lot smarter and resourceful than I sometimes give myself credit for.
This is something we are all guilty of at one time or another.
In researching best practices, suggested interview methods and tips, I discovered that I was already doing a lot of the things that leading experts and career experts suggested. This discovery gave me a lot of confidence in myself and my abilities. Sometimes, all you need is a little common sense and life experience. Don't let your lack of credentials or educational background deter you from seeing yourself as the smart, competent professional that you are.
I learned to use fear to my advantage, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone.
There are many things that I hope to accomplish in life, and a lot of them scare me. Now, I see this as exciting and motivational, but before, I used to worry a lot about the possibility of failure. I now know that I am not progressing if I don't fail; failure is a necessary step in learning and growth. I know that even if I fail, I will get up and try again until I succeed.
I found power in being strong enough to walk away from a situation that wasn't right for me, and I really respect myself more for having done so.
Nothing is more empowering that a sense of healthy self-respect. After all, if you don't set boundaries for how others treat you, no one else will. You're always worth it!
Disclaimer: I would never suggest haphazardly quitting your job; in this case, it was necessary for my health and well-being. Evaluate your personal and professional situation, and plan accordingly. Good luck!