Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Why I quit my job

On August 31, 2001, I quit my job. I did not realize how major a life-changing event this was until I was on the bus headed back to my apartment and realized this was the first time in my life I did not have either work or school to go to the next week day. In high school and college, I had a part-time job to bring in some money and help pay for school and incidentals. Once I attended graduate school, my research was full time and I lived on the stipend offered with the graduate position. The job I had left was the first full-time position I worked. It was heady stuff to realize that I had left a job without one lined up.

Why did I choose to leave this job? I was unfulfilled. I had asked for more responsibility and to branch out into other aspects of the lab, but not much came of my requests. I was bored at work because I could not learn additional skills and explore other interests. The final straw was not the belated annual review because our lab was losing funding. No, it was when I requested vacation time and was refused because a project I had been working on needed to be finished. Requesting I finished this project before I took time off is not unreasonable. However, I had been working at this same project for nearly a month without making headway, and I felt like I was flailing around with little guidance on how to get the project on track.

As it turns out, I finally managed to get the project done and could have gone on my vacation, but at that point I thought enough was enough. I was not encouraged to try new skills, I was refused vacation time that I had and I was plain unhappy (and my emotions were getting toxic in the workplace). I decided leaving was the better part of sanity for me.

I did not go off and just quit. I assessed my financial state and knew I had enough savings for three months of expenses. I had marketable skills and I was smart and well-educated. I did not think it would be hard to find another job. The key was I did weigh the pluses and minuses of quitting versus staying at my job and quitting won hands down. With a savings cushion and no debt, I was in a good position to move on and find something better. Plus, when I left my job, I cashed out my remaining vacation time, giving me a bit more money.

Less than two weeks after I left my position, I had a job through a temporary employment agency for a data entry position in a health clinic. The pay was not quite enough for my expenses, but it did make my savings last longer than if I had no job. While the job was not intellectually taxing, it gave me time off from my stressful lab position, and I had some time to write and that was a lovely bonus.

In fact, it was seven months after I quit my job before becoming employed at the company I am now. Since the temporary job was not enough pay, I left that position and worked for three months at another lab at the local university (pay much improved) and then left for my current company. Seven months until I found a job I was really interested in and for the time between the insane job and the exciting one, I had two jobs that paid the bills and did not drive me to too much distraction. Data entry is boring, but I was able to write fiction. My lab position was nothing exciting but was a job I could do and in a small lab that had no relation to my previous lab position.

Desire to change my circumstances coupled with a good financial state made the leap of quitting my job a lot easier than I imagined. Other than the momentary "I have no job!" thought on the bus ride home, I was confident that I made the right choice. Despite some of the dissatisfaction I have in my current position, it is nothing in the face of the anger, frustration and unhappiness I felt before I quit my lab position. I know what true unhappiness is and I know that regardless of my aimless desires, I am in a good place now and need to figure out how to improve my drive where I am.

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