We’re not supposed to quit.
If you’re a millennial woman in pursuit of a challenging, fulfilling career, you’re simply not supposed to quit your job without another offer lined up. No matter how tired, stressed and frustrated your job makes you, the golden rule is: “Stick with it. It’ll be worth it in the end”.
In July of last year, I quit my job with no idea what I was going to do next. I’d only been in the role a few months, and when I’d started, I’d been so excited for a new challenge. After two years with my previous team, I’d accepted that there was little room for progression, so I was hungry for change.
But the new job wasn’t what I’d expected. My commute had me on a train for over four hours a day, and my new colleagues, though kind and welcoming, were extremely close-knit and I found it hard to settle in. It was an incredibly difficult decision, but when I found myself crying on the subway and thinking “I would rather climb out of my own skin than keep doing this”, I knew something had to give.
Once I’d handed in my notice, any relief I felt was overpowered by a nagging sense of panic. Around me, friends were progressing in their careers – getting promoted, taking on managerial roles – and there I was, starting again, throwing myself back into the deep end of the job-hunting pool. We all know how stressful it is, looking for a job. You trawl recruitment sites, fill out endless application forms, constantly refresh your email and jump every time the phone rings. It’s lonely, and the process can make even the most confident people doubt themselves.
When I almost managed to get my dream role at my dream organisation but lost out at the late stages of the hiring process, I took it badly. I was in Paris with my boyfriend when I got the “unfortunately you’ve not been successful” email and I’ll at least say this: Paris is as good a place as any to receive bad news. A lot of French wine and an evening stroll around Montmartre really help to soothe the soul.
In addition to discovering that wine can do wonders in easing disappointment, I also learned a lot about myself throughout my job search last summer. For example, I can get stuff done. Prone to worrying excessively and imagining worst-case scenarios, I dreaded running out of money and pictured myself moving back in with my parents. This did not happen. I was unemployed for a grand total of seven working days before I found a temporary office admin job. That kept me going for a while, and in December, a company I’d interviewed with previously contacted me to ask if I was still available, as I was their first choice for a new role. “I think we’ve learned one thing about you this year,” said a friend. “You’re definitely employable”.
Starting over takes time, and work, and you might occasionally find yourself wishing you’d stayed in your miserable but familiar routine. A year of moving jobs took its toll on my mental health; I can’t pretend otherwise. As the winter of 2016 arrived, I experienced a period of anxiety so extreme I required medication and therapy. I wish I hadn’t gone through that, of course – it was draining not only for me but for the people closest to me – yet there is a certain strength that comes from surviving such a crisis. You come out the other side better equipped for whatever life throws at you next.
So if you’re stuck in a job you hate and it’s eating away at you, making you sad and sucking the colour out of life, you can quit. The world will not end. Of course, you need to have savings (we all know how important it is to have an escape fund), and you need a detailed, specific plan. But what you don’t need is to stay miserable because you’re worried about what your boss/parents/friends will think. Take their well-intentioned advice with a healthy pinch of salt – because ultimately, the only person who’s got to show up to your job, and your life, every day, is you.