"Don't quit your job before you have something else lined up," They said.
"Most people don't love their jobs every day. You're exaggerating. Stick it out until something better comes along," They said.
"You can't quit your job in the middle of a pandemic. There's too much uncertainty, " They said.
I knew on day one I had started a job that wasn't for me. That was a little over four years ago. I also knew I was in a position that would add great experience to my resume, so while I almost immediately started looking for something else, I took advantage of the opportunity I had. My searches would spike during my slow season, when I felt I had more energy to devote to the job hunt and freedom to sneak away for interviews. A few times I headed to final rounds on and lost out to another candidate before heading back into the busy season at work. This pattern repeated annually as I became increasingly miserable in my position. A few times I wanted to jump ship but everyone said it was unwise to quit before having a new job lined up, and even when I wanted to ignore their advice, the timing never seemed right for a department of one to leave: I was in the middle of a big project with company-wide impact, it was the height of our busy season, my boss was retiring, my boss' replacement quit after only 3 months, etc.
Finally, in January of 2020, after three years of misery, I made the decision to get the company through my busy season and give notice in April. Well... 2020 did what 2020 did. Not only did the uncertainty of an unprecedented pandemic give me pause, but my role in HR made me a key responder to the COVID-19 crisis for the company. I had already felt stretched thin and unsupported as a department of one pre-pandemic, now I had a whole new job to do, and no one was stepping in to take anything off my plate. Working remotely, living alone, with no social outlet, and mounting responsibilities, I reached an end filled with dread, panic attacks, tears, and endless days in bed. While the change to virtual operations made interviewing easier and more accessible, I began to realize that my desperation, anxiety, and dislike of my current job was really affecting the tone of my interviews despite my best efforts to shine. There was only one option left: Take the risk to put myself first. I resigned in July.
It took about a month after my last day before the depression and anxiety from that job lifted, like I had shed a layer of toxic skin. My head was clear and I could finally breathe, albeit behind a mask. It had been so long since I felt like myself I'm pretty sure I looked in the mirror one day in August and said "Who the f are you?!"
By early September, some companies started revisiting roles they had put on hold. I received steady, but not very promising responses throughout the fall. Then suddenly at the end of November I was juggling interview schedules with four companies and received the best Christmas/Hanukkah present with an official offer to start a role in the New Year. My first day is tomorrow. :)
To be perfectly honest, I'm struggling to feel as excited as I want. Of course starting a new position remotely in a pandemic isn't ideal for anyone. I am very much looking forward to the day I get to commute to work, settle in to my new desk, meet my new colleagues face to face, and have some celebratory happy hour drinks. However, what's really dampening my excitement more than anything is a bit of residual dread. A "what if this job is just as bad as the last" feeling that I can't seem to shake, that I know will fade with time on the job, that I'm annoyed I even feel, but makes me so glad I finally set myself free.
I'm sharing my story for anyone else out there who feels stuck and debating whether the risk is worth it. Putting yourself first so you can be best version of you for yourself, your family, your friends, and your employer might be the most important risk you can take.
Happy new year and all the best for new opportunities and great success in 2021!