5 Things I learned from quitting

Paris, September 2015. I quit my part-time job as a therapist and decided to travel. 

I once quit after working a day as a receptionist at a law firm.

I spent the day scanning documents and feeling weird that my boss decided to move his entire office into the conference room (with glass walls) right behind me. Coincidence?

At the end of the day, a woman from the office came over and told me to wear heels instead of flats moving forward because that’s what our male boss preferred. That definitely tipped me over the edge.

I met up with Vadim at the end of my first, and what would be my last day. I was crying in the train station. This is a rite of passage for every New Yorker, I believe. I tried to explain to him why I didn’t want to continue working there. He tried to be encouraging, and kept reminding me that it was just a summer job. But I didn’t listen.

I made over $100 from my first day and had no regrets about quitting. This leads me to thing #1.

1) Listen to your gut, listen to your feelings.

When you’re in pain, it’s universally understood. Feelings are a bit more tricky. They’re obviously subjective. And they’re not always logical. So it seems.

In Vadim’s perspective, I was making decent money for a summer job. Feeling like I couldn’t stay, after just one day probably looked like I was jumping to conclusions. I didn’t really give this place a chance. I get this perspective. It’s logical, practical, and safe.

But my feelings were telling me something I couldn’t ignore. I mean, I was crying in the middle of a crowded train station.  I couldn’t ignore my feelings even if I wanted to.

Did I want to feel uncomfortable at work with my boss literally sitting in the room right behind me? Did I want to wear uncomfortable clothes and heels for a part-time job, where I wasn’t even interested in forming a career in the slightest? No.

So I said to hell with that and spent the rest of my summer working as a writing tutor. I was about to head into my last year of grad school so I was still full of hope for what was to come.

But then, things took a turn for the worse after grad school.

Ironically, I had the hardest time looking for a job when I felt like I was the most qualified I have ever been in my life.

I kept a google sheet of all the jobs I applied for. Eventually, I found myself highlighting every rejection with the color red. My google sheet was red all over like a Macy’s holiday window display.

At one point during my vacation (when Vadim and I got engaged), a good friend of mine reached out and told me that the clinic she was working at was looking for one more therapist to join the team. This was my first prospect in what seemed like forever. I was so grateful and so desperate.

When we got back to NYC, Vadim drove me to the interview. The train commute would have been about two hours long one-way. That should have been my first sign, which leads me to thing #2.

2) When I feel desperate, I’m not honest with myself.

I let the convenience of Vadim driving me there and the excitement of potentially getting a job, overpower my judgment. I wasn’t honest with myself. I didn’t confront the reality that I would be commuting a total of about four hours a day, if I got the job.

The interview went really well. All I could talk about on the drive back was how I was going to make this work.

Not long after, I got the green light to start.

My first time commuting to the office was for my orientation. That’s when it finally hit me like a ton of bricks that this was going to be a hell of a commute.

I was drained when I got off the train. I started asking myself questions I should have considered in the first place. How was I supposed to have the energy and patience to work with clients? What about when I got home? Would I have the time or energy to take care of myself? 

I felt so guilty and weak for thinking this way. So I tried to silence my concerns by reminding myself to just be grateful.

But I didn’t feel okay. My heart was racing and my stomach was turning.

I was so relieved when I finally got to go on a break.

I walked to Starbucks, got myself a coffee, and called Vadim. I told him that I didn’t feel good, that something about this situation wasn’t sitting well with me.

Just be honest with them about the long commute, he said.

I couldn’t just be honest. I was afraid being honest would make me seem irresponsible for taking on this opportunity in the first place. Which leads me to thing #3.

3) Sometimes a fear becomes a reality, and that’s okay.

At the end of that day, I sent an email with my resignation. I asked my friend for her blessing beforehand. I definitely didn’t want this to be a reflection of her in any way.

The email that I got back was less than understanding. My character and my professionalism was judged. This was what I was afraid of. I couldn’t just be honest.

I was surprised, but a part of me felt like I deserved the judgment. I told myself that they were right about me. I should have just sucked it up and followed through. It would have caused less of a stir and everyone else would still be happy with me.

Except, I wouldn’t be happy with me. I wouldn’t be happy at all.

The thing with fear is that it holds us back from doing the very things that will help us see that there is either a) nothing to be afraid of or b) that we can overcome the worst case scenario.

And without this experience, I wouldn’t have learned that I could bounce back from something like this. It was not the end of the world. This leads me to thing #4.

4) A negative opinion does not define you.

I allowed myself to wallow in that negative self-talk for a moment. But only for a moment because I had to go back to applying for jobs.

I reflected on the amazing people who could vouch for me and my character and that one negative judgment of me became less and less true.

If I really was unprofessional and irresponsible, I wouldn’t have gotten this job and all my other jobs in the past. I certainly wouldn’t have finished the hardest educational experience of my life aka grad school, at the top of my class.

One person’s negative opinion is all that is, an opinion.

I didn’t regret my decision then and I don’t regret it now.

Quitting doesn’t get easier though.

I recently quit an unpaid internship at a small fashion company. I was so excited to finally start doing something in the fashion world, which has always been a dream of mine.

I was asked to come on because they liked my ideas. Instead of being paid, I would gain valuable fashion experience. At the time that was a fair trade off. I could hustle for three days a week for four months with no income. No big deal.

Without going too much into it, I resigned after three weeks. Things didn’t feel right to me when they asked me to write a paid job description for something I could certainly do. I wasn’t even considered for it. I was also coming home everyday drained and uninspired to work on my blog. So in the end, I decided to go with what I was feeling.

Even though I had made up my mind, it was still really difficult for me to resign. Which finally leads me to thing #5.

5) Value yourself: Inexperience doesn’t mean unqualified. 

Venturing into a completely new field left me feeling completely unqualified. I have no fashion experience therefore, I would be so lucky if anyone even glanced at my resumé.

So quitting this opportunity made me feel crazy. For every thought I had of quitting, I kept telling myself I need this experienceI won’t find this opportunity again. No other opportunity will crop up ever again. I’m doomed. 

With this kind of negative self-talk, no wonder I was so hesitant to quit.

But this belief simply isn’t true. Every time in the past, I was able to find another opportunity. I second guessed myself when I really shouldn’t have. My lack of experience didn’t matter even for this internship because they liked how passionate I came across in my cover letter. They also liked my ideas.

It’s important to take some time to consider what you bring to the table. Maybe you have awesome ideas. Or a serious passion for the field. Or you’re a fast learner. Reflect on your experiences, what you have accomplished up until this point in your life, and everything you have overcome. These all reveal your strengths. Don’t downplay them, let them have their moment in the spotlight. After all, you’ve gotten yourself this far.

Have you ever quit a job? Did you learn anything from the experience? I would love to know!

I hope this post was helpful in some way.

Thanks for stopping by and I will see you in my next post.

Sophie 🙂

  • Nina Thomas

    Very interesting blog post. I struggle to quit. Usually I’ll try to finish something for however the minimum commitment is. (That is if there is one) Like, I would have probably suffered through that summer job you quit, although I’m unsure. One time I did quit, and I’m so glad I did, was the summer of my junior year of college. I got an internship in Marking Communications for a athletic wear company and was totally drawn in by the “perks”. We were promised that we could go to Yoga classes for free daily, given expensive yoga clothing and randomly had coffee given to us or lunch if we were lucky. I was able to go for Yoga classes, but they had a coupon book for “first visit” classes that cost around $100 that we were using. We were only allowed to go and wear the clothing to promote it and ask studio owners if they wanted to buy the merchandise.

    I needed an internship so badly so I wanted to stick it out. The following fall, I needed to satisfy an internship class credit. The internship drove me mad for the 2 days I went in. The company was unorganized and the work was so boring. We worked in a storage garage, were paid nothing and I was spending $20 on transportation a day coming from Long Island along with money for food during the day. I was miserable and was never so happy to quit. My boss emailed me saying she still expected me to hand in a video file I was supposed to edit and publish- I ignored her email and next semester landed an internship that satisfied my course requirements and paid me 20+ an hour as a student.

    Needless to say, sometimes it’s a really good idea to quit.

    • Thanks, Nina!

      Quitting is really challenging. Can’t help it but we always reflect on what it means about us. Even though we probably quit or stay depending on our circumstances.

      It sounded like the athletic wear company you interned at was just trying to get free sales associates-so not cool. I listened to a podcast episode (Girl Boss) where they were talking about how all internships should be paid because it’s impossible for interns to be getting more from the experience than the employer potentially would considering it is still free labor after all. I guess this could be debatable but compensation is so important especially when we have to commute and pay for food and all the expenses that go into making it there and back.

      So glad you ignored that other person-you definitely didn’t owe them anything-that’s the biggest thing I learned. Ending that terrible experience led to one that was so much better. I mean 20+ dollars an hour as a student, that’s incredible!

      I’m with you on that. If you don’t quit, then you won’t look for/find something even better 🙂

  • Vincent

    Super relatable- Quitting a job is difficult on many fronts and sometimes the only one who can understand why you are doing it is you… and that’s okay. I feel that I often let one negative opinion or the possibility of a negative opinion hold me back from doing something. But like you said, it’s important to look back on your experiences and reflect on the people who can vouch for you because you’re worth more than just a negative opinion!

    • Thanks, bro! I would vouch for you in a heartbeat. I think it’s inevitable to let negativity in and make us question us a little-especially when we are uncertain. It’s equally important to know how to work through that negativity too, and the only way is really to reflect and look at how far you have come.

  • Good post, and ack that attorney was real, real gross. I’m probably overly primed to interpret things in the worst light, in part because of current events and in part because that’s what lawyers do, but it screams red flag for potential sexual harassment to me. Any experience remotely like yours would cause me to immediately cross off a firm from my list if I was interviewing. Sadly, in the context of bad stuff showing up after a job starts, I’m not sure most young attorneys have that option, given student loans. People I know have quit without something lined up for various reasons, but it’s pretty rare, and only in the most extreme instances. Most people with creepy fellow attorney stories don’t find themselves able to quit, alas, though our companies are big enough that we can avoid another attorney if there’s a problem.

    I’ve never needed to quit a job (in part because of being lucky), though I have had a situation where I spent an extra year in a job before law school where I wasn’t growing and didn’t particularly enjoy it, which was a waste. I saved a good amount of money relative to my pretty low income then, and it probably didn’t make a significant difference to my post-law school prospects, but it wasn’t a great use of my time.

    • Thanks! Yea it was definitely a red flag for me too. It really is so unfortunate that this is so common. I think we have such a long way to go in our society and culture where it’s built to protect the men that prey on people who haven’t yet established themselves in the field. Saving money to protect yourself and give you options in a difficult situation is always key. Thanks again for taking the time to read and share your insight 🙂

  • Hmm, is there a character limit to comments here?

    I quit my very first job (at age 14) on the first day. It was telemarketing, super sleezy, but I felt my options were so limited at my age. Then the next day I WENT BACK to the job because I realized I had no other options. Then I quit AGAIN. So, that is the start of my working career 🙂

    I totally have struggled with the ‘negative opinion’ thing, and feeling so bad about myself when I’ve quit a job. For example, I was supposed to temp at a hedge fund as a receptionist for a week (covering for a lady who was on vacation). It was horrible. The partners there would constantly compare me to their receptionist because I didn’t know how to do things exactly the way she did. I didn’t know how to make coffee. And then the owner called the temp agency to complain about why I was costing them so much money per hour. I felt pretty worthless. Why couldn’t I just be a good secretary?

    So I decided after the third day to just quit. I remember calling my old boss to ask her opinion, and she said that it wasn’t a job that was furthering my skills in any way, and it was just a bad fit. I learned that just because I wasn’t a good secretary didn’t mean that I wasn’t good at other things. I also learned that no one is going to look after you more so than you. Sometimes I see people feel obligated to stay at their jobs because of loyalty, but the reality is, if they had to lay you off, they’d do it in a second.

    Funny enough, I scrolled through the receptionist’s work emails, and she totally wrote an email to her friend that said she hated her job. Felt a little vindicated about that.

    I also hate that fashion company for making you write a job description for a job that you could do. That’s so insulting!

    It might take a while, but you’ll find your way! I didn’t until my mid-20s.

    • Thanks, Luxe! Love reading super long comments 😉

      At 14, I’m not sure I would have been so bold to go back after I quit the first time. I didn’t get my first job till I was 17, probably because I was starting to get outside of my comfort zone then.

      Comparing you to the person you were replacing is totally not cool. That’s not constructive nor does it make you want to be better. I can imagine that no one likes being a secretary or a receptionist, unless you work at a place that respects every employee (no matter their role).

      I agree so much, I often feel like I “owe” it to the people I work for to complete the job but that’s what they want you to feel. Not gonna lie though, at the fashion internship I totally finished everything I said I would (even the job descriptions).

      I’m hoping that I have a follow up post in the future where I talk about figuring it out 😉 Fingers crossed!