I Quit My Job With Nothing Lined Up
Before we get started, just a heads up that I also did a podcast on this subject, which you can find below. But still read the post. 'Cause it's a good one.
Issa did it on Insecure.
Violet did it on Nappily Ever After.
I did it in real life.
Life is imitating art.
After nearly a year in my last PR job at a huge hospitality company, I upped and quit! Unlike the fictional examples I mentioned above I didn't just say I quit and walk out the same day (lol), but I did announce my resignation and three weeks later I was gone.
There are so SO many reasons why I left. Many of them started with thoughts and feelings I was having long before I ever got to the gig that I actually left.
I'm blessed to have never been unemployed since age 17, when I started college. All through college I worked multiple jobs, both on-campus and off-campus, just to keep some spending money. I had a full scholarship to school, and my parents gave me money when I needed, but I never wanted to be lacking the coin! And, for better or for worse, I didn't want to be held accountable for my spending. Fast forward to graduation, after four straight years of working, I had a job offer at a major news network ready and waiting for me. I asked for my start date to be a month after graduation so for the first time since 2006 I could take a break. But they called and said, "No girl, we need you NOW." So I graduated from college on May 15, 2010, and I started my new job on May 17, 2010.
On that job, I worked my entire ass off. I was scheduled for 40 hours, but I easily spent 60-80 hours in that building on a weekly basis. I was eligible for overtime, so part of it was again me wanting that extra cash, but also me grinding to get promoted after one year, something that did not come easy for people who joined the company in my position. I was only making $25K a year! I needed a promotion!
So after 13 months of grinding like crazy I got the promotion. I added $15K to my salary, but I was still not chillin'. I was still eligible for overtime so I happily worked for other people so they could go on vacation, or pulled double shifts if needed. It didn't help that the person who made our schedules lived in my building so she knew when I was home and available to go in to the newsroom to work overtime for a breaking story -_- I was working like crazy in that job for nearly three years, with no promotion, not even a title change (can a girl get a "Senior" added?! I mean damn), not even a real raise. So while I liked the gig, I knew I had to move on or else I'd get stuck. I came to find out that five years later some of my former colleagues were still in the same role, same title, same bad pay. Couldn't have been me!
I started putting my feelers out for a new gig, this was in 2013. At that point I was open to many options. I was cool to leave Atlanta. Cool to leave the industry. Cool to start my own business which I attempted to do briefly. Cool to basically start over. So I made myself some business cards and put some ads on Craigslist for services like video editing, writing, even tutoring, and I started getting clients. It was struggly but I was generating business. I also worked my connects and got an interview for something related but very different from the industry I was previously in, more focused on social and digital media. I didn't get that job because they said I didn't have quite enough experience, but they liked me so much that they offered me another more junior contract gig that would've lasted for six months, after which time they would have probably found a permanent place for me. At the same time, another connect hooked me up with a part time gig managing a home page for a news website so I could build up my digital chops. I was cobbling together a career shift -- a contract job at a digital news site, a part time gig at another news website, some entrepreneurial freelance work on the side -- all in hopes of finding my new path. I even started studying for the GRE thinking I might go back to school. At this point the possibilities were wide open.
Then I got a call from New York City. In the process of reaching out to my network and trying to get things moving, I had shared my resume with one of my big sisters who had moved to New York City to work for this startup news network called Al Jazeera America (AJAM). I'm going to say the name of the company because they're out of business now so who cares, right?! Just kidding but not really. Anyways, I was familiar with Al Jazeera English and knew they were trying to make waves in the U.S. news market, so I said sure why not. Barely two weeks later, AJAM was calling offering to fly me out to NYC for an interview. If I got the gig it would come with relocation funds, a hefty salary, and a corporate apartment for a month. I said well shit, o-kay! So I flew out there. Less than two weeks later, they made me an offer. I swiftly quit my little part time web gig, rejected the news site contract offer, and stopped taking clients.
For better or for worse, I picked the path of least resistance and biggest immediate payoff.
I was at AJAM for about two months before I was ready to quit. I was told I'd have many opportunities to do different types of storytelling, only to find that the folks who made me that promise headed back to Doha (where Al Jazeera English is based) with their promises in tow. That left me with the new management, who were a collection of folks from other news networks who like me came to AJAM looking for a new start. Except they brought their old systems and outdated customs with them. It didn't take long before AJAM was just like the last gig -- thankless work, no opportunities to advance, no chance to do anything truly interesting and inspiring. But I stayed for a year because my dad made me promise him I would. He passed away while I worked there. I kept my promise to him.
During my time at AJAM I also became a real estate agent and attempted that for about six months because I was (and still am) obsessed with the show Million Dollar Listing: New York. The show is glamorous and amazing; my experience however was not. The details on that will have to be a-whole-nother post.
Exactly one year after I started, having quit my real estate dreams and given up hope on AJAM, I set forth on yet another job search. This time I said I am definitely starting over. No more news. No more stress. I asked around to friends and family about what they thought I'd be good at. I landed on public relations. I knew very little about PR, but what I did know included the fact that PR people work for brands and pitch stories to reporters. I used to be the news, so of course I can pitch the news, right? So I applied to a few places, and eventually landed at a large PR agency.
The agency was an awesome place to work. Definitely one of my favorite jobs so far. In the first 18 of the total 36 months I spent there, I learned so much and had fun tackling new challenges. But soon I figured out that the type of PR I was doing (media relations), was just an extension of what I had been doing previously. It felt new at first, but it got old after a pretty short time. Channeling my attempts from years prior, I tried again to slide into more social-digital-focused roles within the company, but was shut down at every turn because I had developed a pretty good niche for myself as a media relations expert. People saw it for me, so I rode the wave.
That is until I was passed over for a promotion after working my ass off like a crazy person. Nights in the office until 9 and 10 pm, working weekends, taking work trips at the drop of a dime when the clients needed me, bending myself to make everyone else's life easier -- I was killing myself (and almost got a ulcer). So once they didn't promote me I said byyyye Felicia. Which led me to the job I just left.
In the moment it answered a lot of my needs. It was less stressful, more money, more perks (or so it seemed), and more opportunities to dig in and do really cool work. But it was still media relations. I had applied for some social and digital jobs before I took this one, but I didn't want to take a demotion, so I passed on those opportunities. I'd hoped the perks and the money would make up for the fact that I was staying in an industry I'd long been trying to leave.
In my career I've always gone down the path that seemed like the easiest and most obvious, at the expense of my true passions and desires.
If you've noticed any patterns at all by this point you can probably guess what happens next. The role was nothing like what I was promised. All the opportunities to dig in and do cool work? Never happened. The perks and work trips I thought I'd be taking all over the world? Barely. Just me, in a cubicle most of the day, struggling to find a reason to be in the building. I had brief moments of excitement where I got to do cool stuff (I was blessed to be able to attend Beychella as a work trip!), but that was only when other people didn't feel like doing it, and only lasted for a brief burst of time before I was back to the cubicle, doing a job I didn't want to do, with no real perks or silver lining to make me say, "I might be able to stick this out for a while longer."
So this time I ignored my dad's previous advice (sorry, daddy). He didn't want me to leave AJAM in less than a year so I didn't. But this time, once I hit 10 or so months, I said I can't take it anymore, and I left.
If you managed to make it this far in my post, first of all thank you. Second, you may have noticed a few trends. First among them, I never took time off between gigs. Ever. I ended jobs on Wednesday and went back to work on Monday. You may have also noticed that I never just did my job and went home. I usually went above and beyond, worked multiple gigs at the same time, and tried to start new careers before finishing old ones. This is a recipe for burnout. I am only 29 years old, but I've been working nonstop since I was 17 with no breaks. Twelve years of work before my hit my thirtieth birthday. Damn near half of my life.
You may also have noticed that at several points along my journey I attempted new things -- starting businesses, maybe going back to school, switching industries -- but I always took the path of least resistance because those other things were harder than I expected, and frankly more than I felt like dealing with when I knew I could easily just get another job with a paycheck every two weeks and some pretty good benefits.
After all of these stops and starts, I realize I need to stop and give myself space and time to figure out what I want, and not just stay on a path because it's easy or because it pays well. As hard-working as I've considered myself to be, I realize I never really took on a challenge from a career perspective. I went with the flow, which in some ways is a good thing, but has also ultimately left me feeling unfulfilled.
My goal during time of funemployment is to truly reflect on what I want and what my next steps should be. I am constantly fighting the temptation to just apply for a job I know I could get, which will pay the bills but probably leave me sad and frustrated again in a few months. Should I even be applying for jobs at all? Maybe it's time to give entrepreneurship another go, which is my ultimate goal. But I am afraid I'm not prepared for all the challenges that come with running one's own business. I want the flexibility and freedom, but the hassles of not getting paid consistently and constantly grinding to find work are pretty intimidating.
I don't have a real conclusion for this post because this process is happening currently. I am interviewing for a job that I think would be a good departure from what I've been doing. I pray that if I get it I won't be dissatisfied within six months. If I don't get it, maybe it's a sign that I need to invest in working for myself. I'll report back once I figure it out.