We all know the rules of employment don't we? We've heard them countless times:
1. Dress for the job you want, not the one you have.
2. Showing up 15 minutes early is showing up on time.
3. Showing up "on-time" is showing up 5 minutes late.
4. Keep your resume up to date and ATS friendly.
5. Network, network, network.
6. 90% of jobs are not posted on job boards.
7. It's who you know not what you know.
8. Never quit a job without another one lined up.
These are the rules we are taught since graduating college (or at least that I had been taught.) They are the laws for which we live our lives, and manage our careers. Carefully navigating through the choppy waters of employment to reach the island of fulfillment. One must never break these rules, we're told, or we will be sure to fail.
Well, I have a confession to make.
I, Carolyn, broke the most important rule of them all. I quit my job without even the inkling of another full-time position lined up.
I know, I know, you're probably thinking "This girl is reckless, how can she be so impulsive?", "I'd never do something like that, she's sure to fail", "What was she thinking?!", and perhaps some more blunt members of my audience are thinking "What the **** is wrong with her?"
I'd like to take this time to challenge these knee-jerk reactions, and talk about why quitting my job without another one lined up was one of the best decisions I ever made - and it even helped my career.
I had always been an over-achiever, always trying to prove myself to some unseen force in my life. This driving force turned me into a "yes-woman", and naively I thought that's what it took to succeed in business. I thought that I should be grateful to have a job, any job, no matter how it made me feel. This outlook set me on a crash course into the worst year of my life, losing myself, losing my health, forgetting who I am, and ultimately finding myself again. To be fair, the position didn't just bring me negatives, I for sure learned many things, but it took far more than it gave. I was feeling trapped by it, the money was good so I had to stay right? That was what I told myself for months on end, until it finally took the one thing you can never afford to give up.
I got sick, very sick. They say stress harms your body, but what they don't tell you is that you may not even feel it until its too late. Stress was killing me, literally! I lost 20 pounds on an already small frame, I was dangerously addicted to caffeine (palpitations wouldn't even stop my consumption), I was hardly sleeping, I stopped working out, and my anxiety went through the roof. Every day felt like the worst day of my life, and the worst part is I didn't even notice something was wrong because it affected everyone else too! I thought that this was just how the working world was - miserable. I had no idea how wrong I was, or how toxic an environment I was in until my doctor told me I need to stop.
It was a wakeup call, and one I struggled with for a while. You see, I grew up the daughter of an immigrant whose parents escaped Romania after the fall of the Third Reich, so to say that my family were some strong willed people is an understatement. Along with that mentality I was raised with some very strict rules about employment that always remained in the back of my mind. The most important of which was to not quit without another job lined up, because this was a surefire way to fail in life.
This mentality kept me stuck in that environment for months longer than it should, even with my doctors urging me to leave! Until one day my body made the decision for me. I had gotten some test results back from the lab that my doctor had sent off, and when I saw what they had to say, I knew I had to make the choice to save my health before it got even worse. So, I up and resigned one day without a plan. Nothing. Nada. No job offer from another company, no interview lined up, not even a freelance gig signing a contract yet! Was it terrifying? Of course it was, but you know what? It wasn't nearly as terrifying as I thought it would be.
The Decision was made. I left my job.
The moment I sent that resignation I felt the weight of a hundred elephants lift off my shoulders, I felt joy and relief. I felt free. I could now face the next two years to work on my health and repair what had been damaged while I refocused on what was important. I could put more effort into my freelance business and have managed to make some wonderful clients out of this whom I hope to even call friends. I have learned so much more about my craft and made big changes in my life, as well as big strides in my health. Since I left that job I have been healthier and happier than I had been in my entire life up to this point. I'm just glad this happened while I am still young, because this is a lesson that is often learned too late in life:
You only get one life, and you only have your health to rely on for it. If something is stealing that from you, there is no guarantee you can get it back - so make it a priority! NO JOB is worth your health! I repeat NO JOB IS WORTH YOUR HEALTH! You are the author of your own life's story, you can make it what you want it to be. Sure, I still am looking for a full time job, but I'm also happier. I'm also healthier. I'm also living life with far less stress and have gotten back in touch with myself, my worth, what I'm willing to sacrifice and what I'm not.
I've also accomplished a lot as a designer since this time, and I'm excited for what the future holds. Yes, sometimes I get worried and scared - I am only human after all; but, I also know that I am young and this is far from the only chapter in my story. It's simply a slow one before the next big one starts.
How does this chapter in your life's story read?