My fiance told me not to do it, my friends told me not to do it, my mentors told me not to do it, my family told me not to do it. And yet, against the wishes and advice of quite literally everybody I knew, I found myself sending out my resume and pursuing new job opportunities five months after accepting a role at my dream job.
But I’m getting a little ahead of myself here, let’s rewind a bit…
The Downfall Of A Dream
I remember sitting in dimly lit lecture halls in college, studying the greats of the advertising industry. I quickly fell in love with the creativity and culture of advertising and felt excited over the constant evolution of it’s methods and resources. I idolized the industry’s leaders like they were members of a boyband and kept up with agency news like I was watching a sports team. I knew that I was destined to work for one of the “greats”, the legacy agencies with seemingly unlimited budgets, household name clients, and endless agency perks. I wanted to be great, and I wanted to take part in something great as well.
Fast forward two jobs at small, unknown companies later, and I finally did it. I remember the day I received that call – I had been waiting by my phone for days. My heart raced as I giddily told the recruiter that I would absolutely love to accept the position. I was so excited, in fact, that I completely blanked on negotiating salary or benefits. But I didn’t care. This was it. This was my first step into what I was destined to be.
But the funny thing about our dreams is sometimes they don’t wind up being quite as we imagine them.
While I was educated by industry leaders and treated with respect by a majority of my supervisors and coworkers, I quickly realized I wasn’t flourishing.
It quickly became clear that I was having a hard time fitting in. My day-to-day transported me back to my high school days, letting my loneliness and revived status as a loner eat me up inside.
As an independent worker who thrives in small, family environments, I found myself facing difficulty conforming to my new world of a cog in the wheel mentality and felt as though I wasn’t making a difference. My voice wasn’t heard, and more importantly, my voice didn’t matter. I felt as though I was there to do as I was told and perform the tasks assigned to me – no more, no less.
Throughout every month that slowly crept by, I felt myself losing my passion for an industry that I had once been so in love with. I knew that I needed to leave for the sake of my sanity, but my only issue was that I had quite literally just started my role and I believed it was too soon to leave.
And I wasn’t the only one who thought this. When I reached out for advice, nearly all of my mentors told me the same thing, “You are halfway there! Just stick it out for a year and you will have your pick of any job. If you leave there’s a chance you will get blacklisted.” Of course I wanted to listen to this Devil Wears Prada mentality, but as the panic attacks increased and the feeling of dread hit me as soon as I woke up in the morning every single day, I knew that I had to do something about it. And so against the wishes of quite literally every person I knew, I sent out my resume.
Today, I write this while I am employed at my actual dream agency. There I found that my opinion is valued, my voice is heard, and that I am always welcomed with open arms by all of my coworkers. Granted, we aren’t a household name with oodles of Fortune 500 clients, but there is nowhere else I would rather be.
While things did not initially work as planned, this experience taught me so much more than I could have ever imagined. Here are the lessons I learned from quitting my dream job after five months.
You Can’t Predict The Future
The structure of my new job was as close to as opposite of my previous company as possible. While my previous company was small and exuded an “anything goes” attitude, my new company was large and well known for a more structured environment. I had never worked at a large company before, so I jumped at this opportunity to experience something new.
On my first day in, I was completely convinced that the agency would have to pry my cold, lifeless body out of my desk chair. I admired the company more than I could have ever imagined; the clients were huge and well-respected, my co-workers were some of the most brilliant individuals in the industry, the networking opportunities were top notch, and I had access to some of the most coveted and elusive resources in the industry. This was a dream come true.
But like all things in life, there will always be cons to associate with your pros. I quickly found that the rigid structure that promoted organization made me feel trapped and claustrophobic, the large number of workers made me feel overly self-aware and the unique layout of the company made me feel isolated from my team. While there are hundreds of individuals who absolutely loved this environment, I realized that this kind of structure just wasn’t for me. Sometimes even the best companies may just not be a right fit for you, and that is completely OK.
The thing is, you can interview a million times to look for red flags and get countless tours of the office. You can read through every single Glassdoor review and scroll through every company culture article on their website. At the end of the day, you will never be able to tell how you truly will fit within a company until you are actually working there. You should never feel guilty for starting a job and realizing that you are not a good fit. Bad fits happen, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to wait it out just because your crystal ball may have been on the fritz.
Your Health Comes First
I have always been fortunate enough to never suffer from severe anxiety, which always made it difficult to empathize with individuals who suffered from the condition.
However, one afternoon after a month or so into my job I simply heard the notification ding of my email and a feeling of complete, indescribable dread washed over me. Fast forward a few minutes later and I found myself hidden away in the bathroom, hyperventilating and blinking back tears. I had officially experienced my first anxiety attack and it was something I will never forget.
Despite the tips and advice that was given to me to manage this issue, these anxiety attacks soon became a near-daily reality throughout my work week. Even though I wasn’t in trouble, nobody was belittling me, and I didn’t miss a deadline, the smallest things like an email, a phone call or a simple request seemed to trigger this issue. I lived in constant paranoia, feeling as though my work was wrong as soon as I submitted it, misreading emails in a disappointed or angry tone, and feeling extremely self-conscious of where I stood socially amongst my hundreds of coworkers. I began to close myself off. I stopped trying to go above and beyond in fear that my ideas would be turned down and avoided any social situation opting to sit with my headphones in far away from my coworkers.
My lack of energy and overwhelming anxiety bled past my workplace and began affecting my romantic and personal relationships. I felt tired, unhappy, and in a constant state of dread. I began to feel as though I was losing myself.
Staying in a position that is compromising your health, even if it is for absolutely no tangible reason at all, will cause nothing but hurt in the end. There is absolutely no incentive in the world that makes it worthwhile to stay in a position that triggers anxiety, depression or feelings of dread in your soul. I was only at this job for five months, and the toll these feelings took on me, both mentally and physically, was long-standing and took quite some time to recover from. At the end of the day, you need to make sure you put yourself first no matter how long you have been in a position.
Ignore The Scare Tactics
I lost count of how many people gave me the well-intentioned advice to stick it out for a year. I was warned by other professionals and confidants in the industry that leaving a famous company in such a short amount of time may make me look sketchy and impact future job opportunities. So for a bit after hearing this, I tried to plant down my roots and stick it out.
But life has an interesting way of working, and one day I found myself sitting in an interview with a smaller agency that I had admired from afar for quite some time. We were chatting casually, and then the question came up.
My interviewer looked down at my resume and looked back up at me.
“I see you’ve been at your current company for… four months? What is the story there?” she asked.
I felt my heart drop and my mind flashed back to all of the warnings I was given and felt convinced that I was going to blow this because of my impatience – but what happened next shocked me.
I explained my situation clearly and honestly, how the company may have been educational and successful, but that I didn’t personally feel like the best fit. I wanted to pursue work for a company that best fit my needs and that I didn’t want to wait to do so.
Then she surprised me by smiling and telling me, “That is great! I always admire when individuals are willing to take their careers into their own hands. I think it is ridiculous to wait around somewhere if you aren’t happy.” That same exact sentiment was expressed across all four of my interviewers.
Don’t listen to those old school “you’ll never work in this town again” statements or convince yourself that you will be blacklisted from your industry if you decide to move on early (of course, try not to burn your bridges). Sure, maybe some larger agencies may shy away from hiring me after seeing my quick leap; However, keep in mind that the perfect company for you will value the skills you are able to provide and how your personality fits with the rest of the team, not your timeline at your last job.
Life Is Too Short To Wait It Out
I truly hate the saying “good things come to those who wait.”
No, you know what happens to those who wait? Nothing.
Sometimes I think about where I would be if I had listened to what everybody said and tried to wait it out. I imagine still dealing with the Sunday night panic attacks, crying to my parents and Kevin on my drive home, stressing over whether or not my work and presence met their strict standards and sitting in my cubicle without conversation all day, only leaving my desk to sit quietly in the corner during a meeting.
If I waited it out like I was told to do, I would have lived in misery for many more months on end, completely unaware that the perfect job for me actually existed and was hiring for my exact role just five minutes down the road from my apartment. If I would have waited, while I hid in the bathroom stall dealing with anxiety attacks, the role at my actual ideal job would have been filled and I would lose the opportunity to work with them for quite some time, if not forever. If I had waited, while I sacrificed my mental health, somebody else would have thrived and prospered in a role that was perfect for me.
What I am trying to say is this – you can sit around in a negative environment and let yourself wait it out, but as a result not only will you be offering up months to even years of your happiness and well-being, you will also be sacrificing so many positive and exciting opportunities that were practically made for you.
If you aren’t happy where you are, don’t wait it out, don’t make up excuses, and don’t listen to what others think. Trust your gut, listen to your own wants and needs and approach the possibility of other opportunities with a painfully optimistic outlook. Happiness and fulfillment don’t come to those who wait, it comes to those who pursue.
Have you ever dealt with a similar situation leaving a job? I want to hear your story! Share below in the comments!