The Life Changing Magic Of Quitting Your Job
Your bank balance is healthy, your job title is impressive and you just got moved to a bigger office. Too bad you’re miserable. What happens when you reach the top and discover you don’t like the view? Irislillian.com spoke to two women who found themselves trapped in the pinstripe prison and asked: is walking away from the money, status and long hours really worth it?
Rachel – underpaid and overworked
It was my first real job. It was a massive international commercial law firm. It had taken me from my sleepy hometown of Perth to the excitement machine that it Sydney. I was supremely loyal to the organisation, but that loyalty was taken advantage of. They screwed me out of a richly deserved promotion, they reduced my salary by $14,000 and told me it was because I was being paid ‘over the band’ for my position. Still, I didn’t leave. I was too scared.
I was told off for taking time off work to go to a friend’s funeral. I worked every weekend and public holiday. My earliest finishing time was 11pm. I did several all-nighters. I barely saw my friends for a year. When I slipped two discs in my back and spent a day in a hospital emergency department I should have taken two weeks off work – I took two days. I got promoted but I didn’t get a pay rise.
One day as my boss was leaving the office (I had hours of work ahead of me) she casually remarked: “I need to stop taking advantage of you because you don’t have children.” Well, yeah.
I learnt never, ever to let myself be treated so badly again.
Then I missed one of my closest friend’s 30th birthday. Instead, I spent the weekend in the office. On Monday morning I was yelled at for not working fast enough. That same day, my boss asked if everything was ok at home. I erupted. I spewed a tirade of abuse. It was possibly the greatest 20 minutes of my life. I swore. I called her a psychopath. I went through every-bloody-thing she’d done to me. Walking home that night I decided to resign. I’m a pretty feisty and opinionated person and yet it took all that for me to leave. I gave that job my blood, sweat and tears. It gave me bags under my eyes and my first few grey hairs.
Leaving was the best decision of my life. I had no job to go to but I didn’t care. I was free. Everyone remarked how happy I was. My personality came back. I was planning to take the rest of the year off but I got a call from another global firm towards the end of my notice period. I decided to go to the interview and found out it wasn’t really an interview – it was a sales pitch. They were desperate to have me and offered me significantly more money. I took the job. I leave the office at 6pm and I don’t work weekends. I have a wonderful female boss who champions my every move. I am respected and recognised. I actually enjoy being a lawyer again. The best part: I learnt never, ever to let myself be treated so badly again.
Sandra – Overpaid and unhappy
In my late twenties, I was working as a Marketing Manager at an international training outfit, and although I was happily overpaid, I was unhappily stagnating. So I took a long, rock-hard look at things. I asked myself, “What I would be doing right now if I wasn’t afraid of anything?” I carefully removed all the expectations I’d silently placed on myself and my future. It was unnerving. And fun! A bit like leading a hypothetical double life for a while. Except the hypothetical life started feeling more true to who I was than my actual one.
Eventually I decided to resign from my lucrative job because, deep down I just knew it didn’t line-up with who I was. Of course, the money made it difficult. I had a fantastic lifestyle at a relatively young age, but it couldn’t soothe the internal discord and dissatisfaction I felt day-to-day, which tended to come in huge, swollen, waves every Sunday afternoon.
Nevertheless, I asked myself, ‘what I would do if I wasn’t scared? What I would attempt to do, right here, right now, if I there was no time to waste?’
Eventually I decided to resign from my lucrative job because, deep down I just knew it didn’t line-up with who I was.
Six months after starting to seriously contemplate who I really was and who I really wanted to be, I walked away from my job, my long-term relationship and my life as I knew it. Instead, I walked towards a grand adventure that made me feel more alive than anything else I’ve ever done. I used my savings to go volunteering abroad. It still rates as one of the top three things I have ever done (I’ve had two children since then).
Not only do I have zero regrets about leaving that trendy warehouse office, I wish I’d leapt even further in the direction of my heart. I had to steer off course a few more times before I truly learnt to follow my gut feeling, but I eventually realised if you follow your truth, you will be supported. It’s just one very hard-core, life-sized trust exercise.
That was almost fifteen years ago. And although life didn’t continue on as one big, serendipitous adventure, and even though I found myself on an eerily familiar corporate plateau several years later, the experience of being true to myself shaped the person I am today.
To anyone standing on their own plateau: ask no one, look to nobody, just get in touch with the deepest and highest part of you and ask: what it is that you really want to be. Then get excited.
Life is precious, honour it.
*Names have been changed.