I quit two jobs within the course of one year. It’s not something to brag about, but you always learn one thing or two after every decision you make in life, be it devouring donuts for breakfast instead of eating healthy oatmeal, or naming your cat ‘Jerry’ instead of calling him ‘Fat’.
Here’s my little story of jumping jobs.
I interned a year ago for a holding company in the luxury industry. If you are wondering what in the world is a holding company, well, it owns other companies’ outstanding stock, which allows the owner to minimize the risk because it does not produce the products or services itself. It can be a sneaky business with lots of brands with fancy names created just for the look of it, while it’s actually empty and rotten. One hardly knows whether a pretty house stinks until one steps inside.
The internship was a requirement for my undergraduate curriculum. I hated it, and I believe everyone who was working there felt that pain. We were on the same boat. Choices were: suck it up for four months and graduate, or quit and find something better, but keep in mind that there is a risk of delaying the graduation date, or worse, failing the program.
I left the job after three weeks. Should have left after three days.
After graduation and a few months of travelling avoiding the responsibility of a grown-up, I started a full-time position for an early-stage startup. I loved the team. They treated me nothing like a fresh graduate who runs around making coffee and clipping papers. My voice was heard and my work was appreciated. I was able to learn, get exposed to different things up to a point when I intentionally began to drift away.
This week I decided to leave.
Why did I do what I did? Am I trying to ruin a promising career? Am I too picky with jobs? Was I too scared that I wouldn’t make it through so I quit in order to avoid seeing a disappointing result? Am I selling myself short or am I setting my standard too high? What kind of shit am I willing to face for the sake of a successful career?
What do I want?
Frankly, I haven’t been able to answer this fundamental question, but here are a few things I learned from quitting my jobs.
Hard choices aren’t that hard
It took me days to make that pros and cons list about ‘leaving’ and ‘staying’. Staying is better in one way. Leaving is better in another way. But neither is better than the other, nor they are equally good. After all we shouldn’t give only three possibilities ‘>, = , <’ when it comes to valuing hard choices. Ruth Chang gave a great talk on this.
Personally, when things get too complicated and when all choices seem equally hard, I would go for the choice with greater doubt. Flip a coin, and a fraction of second before the coin touches the surface, you’ll already know the answer. We, and not other people, create the reasons for making hard choices, and by doing that we become the authors of our own lives.
Don’t beat yourself up. Follow your instinct. Or better, your heart.
Make fear your friend
Fear of failing. Fear of rejection. Fear of embarrassment. Fear of social judgement. Fear of unhappiness. Fear of ‘maybe-not-doing-the-right-thing’. Fear of not being able to say that I am fearful.
I was surrounded by fears and inability to open myself up to others. But it’s all about perception. A problem is only a problem when you start thinking of it as a problem. Talk to people, be friendly with fear (nothing can go wrong with friendly people), even have a conversation with it (face your shadow on the wall and put your feelings into words), and accept that everything going on in head is just thoughts created by your fears, not reality.
Trust me, having fear as a friend is an incredible feeling.
A job is not just a job, it’s a marriage
What is an ideal marriage? Why do people get into it in the first place? ‘For better, for worse, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part’, correct?
A job is a marriage. And a marriage to a startup is a big commitment, because of the small size of the team, limited budget and the extra amount of work one has to put into. A given condition is you have to believe in the founder’s vision. It’s hard work, long hours, lots of loop-holes, and a zillion of many unexpected things can happen. But if you have faith in that startup, everything else will follow through.
I started to lose faith in the business over time. The more I worked on it, the faster my belief began to fade, until it was completely gone. It’s unfair to stay in a marriage with someone you no longer love or trust.
I neither beat myself over it, nor try to find my enthusiasm for the business again asking it for a second chance. Things like this happen. Couples divorce and they move on. But next time, make sure you won’t make the same mistake again.
It is better to be wrong before marriage than to be wrong after marriage.
When you start thinking of moving on, then it will happen (more than it won’t)
I remember talking to a friend a few months back then and asking him opinion on moving on. His words have stuck with me ever since, and they explained the very act of moving on in the easiest and most natural sense. Yes, you start moving on when you are unconsciously looking for something better, and if you want it bad enough, you are more likely to make it happen. Because I was searching for something else, I shifted my focus from my current job to another unknown territory. Slowly and quietly like water, I flowed from river into ocean believing that the current would bring me to a new and exciting adventure.
To jump, or not to jump: that is the question. I can only tell you that the brief moment your body flying in the air is what it means to be alive.