I’ve quit a few jobs post-college. The first time was terrifying—I returned to the Twin Cities with no job lined up, just with the money I’d saved working as a motel clerk in my tiny hometown. The next one was embarrassing—I quit a part-time job one week in because a full-time offer came my way. After that, an uplifting experience—after over a year of rejections, I finally got a “you’re hired,” and it was from an organization I was wildly passionate about.
Now, I’m quitting. I’m quitting the job I love at the organization I love for a completely different job that I’m sure I’ll love, too. Still, if it wouldn’t draw attention, I would be doing this in my cubicle right now:
Not an exaggeration.
I know this is a natural part of most people’s working lives. People don’tonly leave their jobs once they’ve come to dislike them. They move across the country, they trade up to better wages, they shift career tracks. But knowing that everyone’s first break-up is hard won’t make yours any easier, and that goes for the professional kind too.
After getting the new job offer, I waited around for a while for an organic “eureka” that didn’t come. My first pass at weighing pros and cons didn’t get me anywhere. Eventually, I did what any mature, motivated, independent professional would do. I tried to get someone else to make the decision for me.
I told my boss I was sitting on another offer. We had just wrapped up my annual review days before, and I wasn’t keen on wading through another discussion about raises. But a peer had encouraged me to come clean, and my boss was glad I did. The salary they countered with was comparable to one Job 2 was offering. I was simultaneously thrilled that my organization was trying to keep me and disappointed that I couldn’t let the money decide.
I consulted with anyone I was comfortable telling about the situation. I spent most of these conversations with my head in my arms groaning, “I don’t know”—again, just like any mature, motivated, independent professional would do. One oddly encouraging part of this process was how one mentor-pal seemed to be on the same roller coaster. At first, they would lean one way. Then 12 hours later, they’d text me that they’d changed their minds. Sure, they weren’t helping me make my decision, but at least they made me feel validated in my indecision.
It was a little After School Special, but ultimately I was able to figure out what I wanted all on my own. (I didn’t even have to Google “should I quit my job?” first.) You’re probably not looking for inspiration from me, the human manifestation of uncertainty, but here’s what I did: I asked myself what my dream job was, outside my current experience and economic reality. I stopped thinking about the individual elements of Job 1 and Job 2 and all the places they diverged. Instead, I looked at where I wanted to be and found it was somewhere not even on the table.
Since dreams are personal and special and embarrassing when they aren’t achieved, I won’t tell you where I envision myself. But I will tell you that I realized Job 2 got me closer to that place than Job 1 did. With a smidgen of the wild hope that went into choosing a liberal arts major, I accepted Job 2 and submitted my resignation at Job 1. And I told my special secret dream to some people—just so they can keep me on track.