I’m writing this 5 days into what will be a week of unemployment. It’s not unemployment in the legal sense; I got a new job that I start in a couple days. This is the first time I’ve had this many days off in a row without my husband also being off since I started working full-time. It’s the first time I’ve essentially had the house to myself since I worked as a teller and had weekdays off regularly.
So far, aside from all the obvious stuff I’ve done like cleaning, I’ve painted my nails in a clown theme to match my new team’s Halloween theme and made a fake cotton candy hat that I can’t get to stand up straight. My new team does a group theme every year; they’ve been messaging me about it ahead of my start date so I can participate. This year’s theme is a circus. My first day will be the Friday before Halloween, so when I meet my new partner in person for the first time she’ll be dressed as a clown. This is not the new job prep I was expecting and I find it hilarious.
In some ways, getting a new job has been the biggest adult decision I’ve made. I’ve made big decisions – I’m married and own a home with my husband, and both of those were really big life changes. But they only affected me personally, and both were logical next steps from what came before. Job changes are a little fuzzier, I think. Unless you’re in a contract position, there’s never really a clear time to leave. You just have to make a judgment call.
I made my judgment call about a year ago. Honestly, I can’t even tell you what exactly changed. Before 2020, I genuinely loved my job. I was a one-person marketing department, and though it was difficult to get up to speed in the beginning since I had no previous marketing experience, by 2019 I was feeling pretty confident. I was getting into digital ads, planning events that always went smoothly, and working on a company-wide volunteer program to go along with our purported community focus.
Then 2020 happened. The pandemic hit. I worked from home for 6 weeks and in an office by myself in a separate building from my supervisor after that. I had to nix my events and volunteer program plans and turned my attention to more pure marketing stuff, like measuring ad conversions. And what I learned from having to shift like that was that I had hit a wall in what I could learn on my own, and also that I really didn’t enjoy being a team of one. So I started looking around.
It took me about a year of looking on and off to land my new position. The first round of resumes I sent out led to several interviews that showed me I needed more concrete data analytics experience, so I spent several months after that trying to fill that gap. The job market was bad when I first started sending out applications too, but it’s obviously gotten better. I am far from the only one who has spent time rethinking my job in the past year.
I’m confident leaving was the right choice. But I didn’t expect the anxiety I would feel giving notice. One of my coworkers asked me if I felt like I was letting down a parent when I told my supervisor, and honestly, I did. I liked my job and my supervisor liked me, plus, like I said, I was a team of one. I know it’s normal for businesses to lose people, but it’s the first time I’ve ever left a job without the end date having been agreed upon when I began. It was weird. I wasn’t expecting the second-guessing I did while working out my notice, and I definitely wasn’t expecting to feel as emotional as I did walking out for the last time.
As I’m getting ready to post this, I’m a little over a month into my new job, and despite the second-guesssing I did while working out my notice, leaving was definitely the right decision. I’m doing more writing and less social media, I have a supportive and smart team, and I’m being challenged. I realize I’m still brand new, but I’m confident this was a good decision both for my career goals and for my mental health.
What’s interesting though, is that when I talked to my family about my job search, most of them reacted as if it was ill-advised. Rather than, “What are you looking for?” or “How is it going?”, the questions I got were “But I thought you liked your job?” and “But wasn’t this a great opportunity?” In other words, they asked questions that came from fear and insecurity rather than confidence that I knew my job situation better than anyone.
Now, my mom is looking to make a change. She, like me in my previous job, enjoys (at least parts of) her work and got what she needed out of it. But it’s obvious it’s time to move on. She has a plan, too, so it’s not like she’s waiting until she has an offer to give her notice. But she keeps procrastinating. It makes no sense to me.
It’s made me think about the generational difference in attitudes towards jobs. I’m a young millennial and my mom is a young baby boomer. I want to enjoy my job and find some meaning in it, but I have enough other interests that work my never be my life. I am also used to people my age changing jobs regularly. I don’t mean job-hopping, although I know some people who have done that. Instead, I think people my age are more aware that a job is just a job, and therefore it’s easier to move on when you run into a dead-end or when you decide a job isn’t right for you and when you get sick of putting up with bad management.
People my mom’s age, on the other hand, grew up in a world where jobs came with great benefits, a liveable wage, and a pension. Their parents were used to giving their lives to maybe one or two jobs. It’s weird to her that I would give up something stable and known for something else, and it’s hard for her to do the same even though it’s clearly time to go.
What I realized as I was talking to her about our jobs recently is that it’s also been easier for me to see what’s possible. My husband has been at his job since we graduated, where he’s on a team of smart, supportive people. For the past four years, I’ve been able to see the difference between his work and mine, where I was a team of one. I had wonderful coworkers, yes, but none of them were doing the same work as me, and that makes a difference. I had an example to aspire to. My mom hasn’t had that – my dad has held his job since before I was born, but his position is such that he mostly works alone. And that works for him, but it’s not something my very social mom could do. It was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me to realize that our environments help us believe in what’s possible for us. (It’s the same reason representation matters, especially for children.)
In any case, my mom is the only one who can make decisions about her job, just like I’m the only one who can make decisions about mine (even when everyone reacts to my desire to leave with anxiety). I’m rooting for her regardless, and excited for myself as we head into a new year.