Over the last few months, a number of friends and colleagues have either resigned or been let go. It doesn’t matter if leaving was your choice or not, the change is still incredibly stressful. Quite literally, work-related life changes are some of the most stressful events a person can experience. They account for five of the 20 top stressors along side imprisonment, divorce and the loss of a friend or family member.
My ‘Oh S***’ Moment
Once the initial shock subsides from leaving a job (assuming you don’t have another full-time gig lined up already) you will most likely have an, ‘Oh s***, what am I going to do with my life?’ moment. I experienced this moment one week after leaving my previous job, while I was huffing away on the stair master.
I frantically reached out to one of my best friends who told me, “Paige, you chose to leave your job. You’re fine.” Not surprisingly, this didn’t really soothe my anxiety. I called another friend who had recently been let go who said, “It’s going to be okay. It’s not easy, but you’ll get through it.” While neither response really put me at ease, they both had good points.
I had made this choice, and no matter how things felt at the moment, it would all be okay.
The Incredibly Uncomfortable Zone
The more I’ve thought about this ‘Oh s***’ moment, the more I think it’s a crucial component to personal growth and staying true to yourself. It’s so easy to just exist in a unfulfilling job; just riding the wave of complacency so long as the money keeps flowing into your bank account.
A colleague of mine recently said she admired me for having the guts to leave a job because I knew it wasn’t right for me. She had experienced something similar, only she stayed with the company for a year, dreading going to work and crying on almost a daily basis. I couldn’t fathom this being a reality for someone, especially a strong woman like the one sitting in front of me.
While financial stability is a huge driving factor behind why many people stay at an unfulfilling job, I urge those who can, to take a break; to re-center before charging ahead blindly. In the past, I’ve moved directly from one job to another, without even a day in between. At the time it seemed like the right approach, but looking back, I should have taken time to myself.
Understanding My Core
While contemplating a recent transition, a colleague of mine, Joanne Flynn, gave me some invaluable advice. Knowing that I tend to spread myself too thin, she said, “Always remember, don’t get too far from your core.” At the time, it made sense, but didn’t totally blow my mind. As time passed, I continued to come back to what she said and soon realized that I didn’t really understand what my core truly was. This meant that staying true to it was, well, basically impossible.
Despite not entirely knowing what my core was, my gut still tells me when something isn’t a fit. Listening to my gut, which I swear is the only way to exist, forced me to leave the financial comfort zone of an unfulfilling job so that I could start to explore what my core is and what my next step is in my professional career.
My goal during this period of my life was to embrace being outside of my comfort zone and really try to understand what I’m passionate about, where my skills are and how I want those two things to come together in my professional career. So far, I’ve stitched together the following pieces: copywriting, project management and event planning. How they look in a future job? I have absolutely no idea.
Being Comfortable ‘Doing You’
Now that I’m back on my own, people keep asking, “What do you want to do?” My response? “That’s what I’m figuring out. In the meantime, I like X, Y and Z, so let’s start there.” To many people, they find this sort of response alarming–it’s as though I’m doing something wrong or I’m lost in the world. I spoke with a friend of mine who also recently left her job and we were discussing how we tell people what we’re up to these days.
“I used to walk into networking events with confidence. I would say I do X for Z organization. Now, I don’t have the same confidence as I did before. I’m still me, but I don’t know how to explain what I’m doing,” she said.
It’s as though no longer being with a big reputable organization takes away the validity of being an accomplished professional. Breaking out on your own requires you to own and champion your personal accomplishments. There isn’t going to be the reputation of a larger organization to hide behind and support you.
One of the biggest hurdles that I deal with working independently is my tendency towards the Imposter Syndrome: The feeling that my accomplishments to date have been due to outside influences, and that at any moment someone might realize that I actually have no idea what I’m doing.
This is not an uncommon phenomena for people who work in the grey area of contracting, partnerships and part-time gigs. This fact should not however devalue a person’s confidence in their abilities, what they’re doing or what they want to do in the future. If someone chooses to take time to travel or to re-focus, good for you! Own it. It’s you doing you, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
So, I ask you, what is your core? Can you say you are honestly staying true to it? What would you do if you weren’t afraid?