My Job Didn’t Satisfy Me. So I Quit.

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Last year I started a new job. A job I thought was a great fit, at a company I thought I could really blossom at. Well, things haven’t worked out quite as well as I had hoped. After nearly 16 months, I decided to leave my position. And the kicker: I left my job without a replacement lined up.

I’m not a spontaneous person — quite the opposite, actually. I spent weeks considering this decision. I panicked about launching myself willingly into the abyss of unemployment. Was I crazy? (Perhaps.) Would my self-imposed exile make it harder to get re-hired? (Absolutely yes, if I am to believe the outrageous idea that you’re only an attractive candidate if you’re currently employed.)

I took the plunge anyway.

Yup, I Did It. I Up and Quit.

I’ve worked almost non-stop for the last seven years, beginning my first post-graduation job within a week of leaving college. I thought that was just what you did: graduate, get a job, get a new job when you’re ready to leave the previous one, and repeat. But I’m not even 30 yet — why am I already subjecting myself to this cookie-cutter lifestyle? I felt unhappy and unfulfilled in my role, to the point where the hours at work dragged by and I despised every morning except Saturdays and Sundays.

I began thinking about what it would feel like to just up and leave. To not have a next role to jump into. To just take a break. Breathe. Write. Get back to what brings me joy. And it sounded…dare I say it…exciting. In that moment I realized that I needed to get out. So I did it. I gave my notice without the security of a new job to cling to. Without a clear picture of where I wanted to go. But with crystal-clear determination about where I didn’t want to be.

Here are a few valuable lessons I learned along the way. They’re lessons I wish I had figured out earlier, and maybe they can save you an anxiety attack or two down the line.

It’s Not Me — It’s You

I won’t get into the gritty details that led me to believe my job wasn’t a good fit for me. But people definitely tried to fit me into what they needed, not what I’m skilled at. I understand the nature of business, and that it’s inevitable you’ll spend a good chunk of your time doing tasks you dislike or feel ambivalent about. But there’s a difference between working in a role with aspects you love and aspects you hate versus working in a role others have modified so dramatically it’s barely in the realm of the work you want to be doing or what you were hired to do in the first place.

I like to think I was born to write. It’s one of my greatest passions. But toward the end of my job, I was barely spending any time writing — and I hated that. I realized the problem wasn’t with my attitude or even my workload. It stemmed from the expectations of others that I focus on the tasks they felt were priorities. I didn’t feel valued for my talent. The areas where I could (and would) thrive were not areas of interest for higher-ups.

Trying to ‘Stick It Out’ Isn’t Always Worth the Pain

I’ve read quite a few articles about how to improve your job situation, and many suggest you find ways to address your issues head-on or ‘stick it out’. And you know what? I did exactly that. I adapted as my priorities and the expectations of my role changed. I raised concerns about problems and people, and tried to address them in a healthy, mature manner.

I also ‘stuck it out’ through constant condescension, fluctuating workloads and responsibilities, and lots of input from others about how I should do my job. (I was even told how to compose emails, since as a writer I’m obviously totally incompetent on that front.) I endured lazy colleagues who treated projects like they were a game of hot potato. I watched people take credit for my work or refuse to acknowledge my contributions. I persisted despite being offered a different role (billed as a promotion) that would have been a horizontal move to an unfilled position on the team.

And then I had enough. No one seemed to care how I felt or whether the work I was doing was even the right fit for me. When there’s no interest in gauging employee satisfaction or soliciting and following up on employee feedback, sometimes the best option is to opt out. So I did.

A Nice Paycheck Isn’t Everything

I know I was able to make the decision to quit from a position of privilege. I don’t have a mortgage, or a family, or massive student debt to pay off. I can afford to take a pay cut. However, my choice will affect my life and finances. I don’t come from a wealthy family. Historically I have a bad track record when it comes to saving money. (Oops.) And of course I still have bills to pay.

I thought a lot about the financial situation I would be in (and lack of stability I would have) if I were to leave. I chose to do it anyway, because getting back on a path that feels right to me is more important than the the money I was making. My priority became ditching the negative headspace I was stuck in. My paycheck didn’t make my job more tolerable or more like the work I actually wanted to be doing.

Who Knows What the Future Holds

I still have no idea where I’m headed. Maybe I’ll jump back into the startup world after taking a summer break. Maybe I’ll have an epiphany and pivot to a different industry or consider a new career path. The only thing I know for sure is that I made the best decision for me. I wasn’t growing, I didn’t feel challenged, and it wasn’t a good fit. Leaving was the only option for me to move forward.

You don’t have to agree with my choices. In fact, maybe you think my decision was idiotic. But I wanted to share this experience because we face insurmountable pressure about schooling, careers, and personal milestones. I think all of that pressure is absolutely absurd — and to the detriment of our well-being. So I decided to say f*ck pressure and expectations. I’m putting myself and my well-being first. I choose me.

- k