Quitting my job – six months on

Back in January I published a blog post about quitting my job in my thirties to find a new direction in my career. I didn’t expect much to come of it so I was shocked that it resonated with so many. I had comments from past colleagues, people I went to school with, friends of friends many of whom had had similar thoughts at one point or other. (My Carrie Bradshaw moment is coming...). It got me thinking… Are we all unhappy with our working lives? (Or just nosy?)! Making a career choice at school used to imply that you find the job that you’re meant to be doing. It was like finding ‘the one’.  But what happens when you don’t find the ‘one’ and you end up miserable, trapped in a working relationship that isn’t healthy? Looking back on careers advice now I find the whole concept rather unhelpful because I’m sure it gave many of us, myself included, unobtainable goals. With many now moving jobs every few years and doing up to five professions (according to my careers counsellor) is it even sensible to think about jobs in such black and white terms of one career suits all?
Some people have a passion or drive for a certain field that manifests at a young age. It definitely makes it easier because there’s an end goal to motivate you. However, for someone like me who has never known what I want to do it’s about finding something I like, and that doesn’t have to be one thing in particular. Being content with work is very much like a relationship, it’s a balance of a whole number of things. Certainly for a while I was just hoping to work with nice people with enough income and time to pursue my hobbies and friends and family. It sounds simple enough but it’s hard to achieve and I realised this year that I wanted more than that because we spend of our lives at this place we call work. It’s something that I’ve had a lot of time to think about over the last year and I wish I had some sage advice for anyone who feels like they haven’t got it right yet. I don’t really but I hope my experiences will help a little bit.
Back in January I handed in my notice from my previous role. Three months notice is a long time and it felt endless because it gave me a sense of impending doom that I didn’t have anything else lined up. My colleagues were lovely and supportive (but probably secretly confused and thinking that I was crazy). I don’t blame anyone who thought I was mad because part of me thought I was too. The amount of times someone asked me what my plan was and I put on my positive – it’ll-all-be-super-duper-face whilst I was panicking inside were too many to count.
Once I was off work I was difficult to be around at times. Often, I was a nightmare to live with. I oscillated between believing I’d done the right thing and feeling positive and carefree (on the surface anyway), to days where I wouldn’t leave the house and felt down. Phil and I would go to the pub regularly (we’re spoiled for choice in Kensal) and I would dress up because it would often be the only contact that I was having with the outside world that didn’t involve sitting behind a computer. I had all these grand ideas about what I’d do with my time but some days I did almost nothing. I was surprised how tired and drained emotionally and physically I was feeling despite the lack of activity. For the most part my friends and family were kind and supportive but I tried to hide my feelings of anxiety as much as possible because I didn’t want anyone to know that I was struggling.
My careers counselling left me feeling like I should have no problem finding another job in a different industry. I had strengths, qualities, transferable skills from my degree, and more importantly from my seven years experience in the working world. And yet here I was getting rejections or no response at all in droves for entry level jobs and internships. I was going up against people who hadn’t ever had a full time job but they were more attractive because they were less qualified? It didn’t really make sense but that’s the problem with trying to change direction, or career entirely. It’s so much about luck and who you know rather than common sense. Logic would have dictated that despite not having a more vocational degree (which more people choose to do these days and I see why, it went against the culture of my school which was very academic but in the long run, I’m not sure that benefited me), my experience would have made me likely to do a job just as well if not better and learn faster than someone starting out. But it didn’t work like that so my search continued.
I didn’t give myself a time limit or a point where I would start looking for roles more similar to my experience because I couldn’t bear to do that to myself, it was too much pressure. Whether that would have happened at some point, I can’t say. If it had I would have felt like I had failed, I do know that. I find it ironic that supposedly the job market is more fluid and we’re all moving round a lot more and doing multiple professions when the reality is that employers tend to be looking for people who have done the job before or someone straight at out of uni. At the grand old age of thirty one I was ten years too old and believe me, I felt it.
But before this all gets too depressing there is light at the end of the tunnel. Hoorah! If you want something enough and work hard for it then an opportunity will arise, it just can take a long time. At the end of June I was offered an internship and a few months ago I would have bulked at the money. However, I decided to grab it with open arms because it was an opening, a chance to try something new and work in an industry I’m passionate about  (the beauty industry, if you haven’t guessed)! I’d be lying if I’d said I’d found it easy, as I get older I get more frustrated with myself when I don’t feel confident with something and because I’m older I feel like I should know more than I do. But a month in and I couldn’t be happier, firstly for the opportunity that the job has given me and secondly because I’m actually really enjoying my new job. Yes, it’s early days and I don’t know where this will take me but it’s another rung on the ladder, and it just might be what I’ve been searching for.. I’ve lost nothing by trying.
So, if you’ve made it to the end my only advice is this: Don’t give up. And don’t stop believing in yourself even when it feels like circumstances are against you.  Things tend to work out some way or another and rejections can often end up showing you what you really want. I have no regrets about the past few months despite the highs and lows and so if you’re thinking about taking the plunge then do it and don’t look back 🙂
Ali xxx

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