It’s Okay to Quit Your Job
I am a young, 20-something living in Chicago. My life is stretched before me and my expectations are high. Like most of my peers, graduating from college just a couple years ago was jarring. Suddenly we were thrust into the real world, diplomas in hand, over-eager resumes waving in the faces of anyone who would notice. And like most of my peers, I realized that success is harder than my supportive upbringing would have me believe.
I was one of the lucky ones. I got my foot in the door with a (paid) internship in my chosen industry: publishing. I was ready to give it my all and prove that I could be a hire-worthy employee. I was blinded by the desire to have a salaried position. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t actually creating or editing written content, as I had dreamed. I was thrown into the much more tech-y ebook world, but my job description contained the word “book,” so I was happy. A few months later, I was offered that salary position and I could finally stop holding my breath and widen my focus to something other than securing the job.
My peers acquired jobs as well, the first ones they were offered. We had spent the last four years building up our qualifying degrees, and many of us were eager to start paying off our student loans and prove that we could function as independent adults. It didn’t matter at this point that the real world was not quite as organized or functional or put-together as we had envisioned. These were mere flaws that could be overlooked, especially since they were probably just case-specific instances. So we sprung to our desks, clicked away at our computers, and began to soak in this “real world” we had been so excited to enter.
It didn’t take long before I started to realize that I was unhappy, and it wasn’t just me. It seemed that all of my friends who had not immediately continued onto graduate school were unhappy as well. It wasn’t that we missed college or that we weren’t able to do fun and interesting things in our homework-free time. We slowly began to realize that perhaps our jobs that we had been so excited to secure were not what we had wanted. But almost as soon as the thought occurred to us, we suppressed it. We knew we were not experienced enough in this “real world” to be able to expect complete happiness. We told ourselves we had to start from the bottom and earn it, do the time, then maybe in a year or two we could revamp our resumes (this time leaving out the perfume-scented pink paper), and try again. With this refreshed mentality, we returned to work on Monday. Another day, another dollar, and so our mantra began. We sat at our desks, clicked away at our computers, and began to accept this “real world” we had been so excited to enter.
We learned the ins and outs of our departments. We pushed ourselves to reach our positions’ potential. We answered clients’ inquiries, attended department meetings, and constantly searched for ways to improve. And then there was a point when we stopped learning and became affected by those “real world” flaws again. This time, they weren’t as easy to brush off because we were no longer newbies who didn’t fully understand how our companies functioned. We noticed when our ideas and solutions were overlooked, when inter-department spats held up projects, and when policy didn’t make sense and instead actually made working difficult. But we had bills to pay and we knew that the working world was filled with frustration. We slumped to our desks, typed at our computers, and endured this “real world” we had been so excited to enter.
But the unhappiness continued to gnaw. We stopped smiling and twittering about how much we loved our jobs whenever anyone asked. This unhappiness with our jobs began to follow us home and seep its way into our personal lives. We began to doubt ourselves and our abilities. Maybe this was just how life is; maybe job satisfaction was (is) a myth. We came to accept the ceiling we had reached and could not break and carried on with our daily tasks. Sometimes after a particularly infuriating day, we would return home to do some new job searching, but quickly lose steam as we convinced ourselves that we were unqualified for any other job. Besides, we had made friends at our jobs now, and we didn’t know exactly what else we wanted to do.
But this is the exact wrong mentality. If you’re at your job for the majority of your waking life, it can’t make you unhappy. Sure, there will always be days, no matter where you are, that are frustrating. But things got to a point with me where I was so unhappy where I was that I couldn’t think of anything else. I allowed my unhappiness to grow slowly over almost a full year before I finally quit. This was my last week at my job, and I am elated. This is not to bash my company, I had simply realized that I needed to grow in new directions. During the two years I was at my company I realized that my interests reached beyond what I originally thought I wanted to do, and I needed to pursue new dreams. I put off seriously pursuing other jobs because I doubted my qualifications, I felt guilty for abandoning my friends at work, and I felt there was a unsaid rule that it was too early for me to leave a position I had acquired less than a year beforehand. But I realized that any excuse I could make for remaining in a position in which I was constantly unhappy was not enough to keep me there. Ultimately, not only is it unhealthy for you to be unhappy at your job, it’s not doing your company any favors either.
I think the problem with people at this point in their lives is that there have been few instances in which they have quit anything. Quitting, in our eyes, equals failure. However, if you’re quitting something because it makes you unhappy or because it is having a negative impact on your life, then quitting equals freedom, strength, and self-respect. Evaluate your sources of unhappiness. Is it management, workflow, or miscommunication that is making you unhappy? Try to find solutions to fix it. Make sure you are expressing your needs in a respectful way. If you are still unhappy after your attempts to make things better, or if it’s the actual position that’s making you unenthusiastic about coming to work each day, then maybe it’s time to quit. Experimenting with your career is normal when you’re young. Don’t be afraid to jump into something that doesn’t perfectly match up with your vision for the future. Interests change, passions develop, and you may find that what you’re meant to do is something completely different than what you originally thought. Experience is what shapes you, and having a variety of it makes you more marketable. As long as you are leaving on a positive note and maintaining positive relationships, change is good and can help you determine what you really want out of life. Don’t be held down by the major you chose at 19 years old, don’t be afraid to grow, and don’t let yourself be trapped by guilt. Be bold. Experimenting with a couple different jobs will ultimately help you find what you’re looking for, and quitting a job that makes you unhappy is the first step toward a more fulfilling life.