I loved the people. I loved the company. I loved the food.
Ohh, how I loved the food.
Hell, I even loved my actual job.
But my time was up. And, although I couldn’t pinpoint the reason, after 6 and a half secure years, it was time to move on.
I told the appropriate powers that be that I was leaving. After the “holy shit”s and the “is there anything we can do?”s, they hit me with the ever-dreaded, “Where are you going?”
I wish I had been more prepared.
Turns out, hearing this is much worse than hearing that you’re leaving to work for a competitor or to pursue lifelong dreams. The thing is, I didn’t want to just take the first opportunity that came along in reply to my midnight resume submittals. And I didn’t actually know what I wanted to do other than get out while I was still young(ish), stop crying at my desk, and watch more HGTV.
And I wanted my best hours of the day to be spent on figuring out what my next step was.
Some people thought I was crazy. Others thought I was lying. A couple people thought I was terminally ill. Some (fine, just one) thought I might be ready to “settle down and start a family.” Sit-on-the-couch-and-eat-bon-bons jokes abounded.
One guy told me he wasn’t surprised.
And there it was—the only response I needed to realize that I was doing the right thing. Not only was I unhappy, I was wearing it on my sleeve. That’s not good for morale—plus, that’s typically where I keep my sneezes.
I was miserable at the office and my coworkers could sense it. I was consistently bringing work home—both literally and figuratively—and that was taking its toll. Brunch was just about the only place I wasn’t bitchy.
In When You Should Quit Your Job Without Having Another One Lined Up, the Harvard Business Review suggests it’s time to pull the plug when your position “is negatively affecting your health and your life outside of work.”
Even at a good company, with owners who truly care about their employees, people wear out and morning commutes become “morning commutes.” For me, anxiety replaced the excitement I once felt on my way to work. And on the way home, belting out Meatloaf’s “You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth” at an alarmingly high volume became sobbing while trying to remind myself that life was actually pretty good.
Benefits and perks can only keep you hanging on for so long—year-end bonuses, happy hours, organized and organic events, frequent lunches and breakfasts, daily ping pong matches, giant TVs perfect for March Madness and spontaneous Just Dance competitions. For me, these short‑term happinesses competed regularly with the pressure of the job, pace of the industry, and stress of trying to keep a healthy work/life balance.
Eventually, those things won. The chips and dip finding their way to my office could no longer box them out.
So, after my notice was given and anxiety had subsided, I started panicking about my exit interview. The age-old platitude “don’t burn any bridges” followed me around for 2 weeks straight. I couldn’t shake it.
What could I say that wouldn’t offend anyone? What topics could I avoid while still initiating change? How could I hang onto potential references and keep in mind those I was leaving behind?
As most of us do in a job we’re unhappy with, I had daydreamed about an earth-shattering, Office Space-style exit. One for the record books. Alas, I wimped out. But being a wimp can pay off—it’s important to keep relationships alive.
I decided to be honest (but not brutally), compliment my employer, and thank them for the opportunity.
On my last day, before I gave my final “I’m outta here,” several coworkers approached me to tell me that they thought I was courageous and that I was doing what so many other people wished they could do.
This was a new perspective.
But, as Marie Forleo says in Should You Choose the Safe Career, or Follow Your Dreams?, “all progress starts with making a brave decision.”
My brave decision left my misery in its dust and led me to my new position here at Face First Creative. I’m excited about work again and, get this, they even feed me.