The Career Advice I Totally Ignored – And I’m So Glad I Did
posted on August 15, 2019 | by Megan Lierley
When I graduated from college, I was thrilled to commit to a two-year fellowship as a high school English teacher in New Orleans. A year and a half in, I was losing hair, having daily panic attacks, and sobbing nightly. I knew it wasn’t working, but I was so embarrassed—I didn’t want to be a quitter. If everyone else was making it work, surely I could too! Not to mention the fact that seemingly everyone felt the need to tell me how bad it looked to quit and change jobs as you were building your career. Not to mention the fact that seemingly everyone I knew had the same career advice: It looks really, really bad to quit and change jobs as you are building your career. But reader, I quit anyway.
My health got better, I got a new job, and I quit that one, too. I quit a handful of jobs in my twenties—never without a plan for what was next and another job secured—against the advice of everyone around me who wanted me to stick with something and forge a path, even if that path wasn’t meant for me.
And at 31, I have my dream job in a role and field I would not have found without trusting my gut and taking chances on myself and my passions. While I would never advise anyone to simply up and quit when you’re having a bad day (it is work, after all, it’s unlikely to be thrilling or even fun right out the gates!), it’s important to evaluate other people’s advice with a grain of salt and a strong belief that you know what’s best for you. So, if you’re debating whether or not to take the advice that quitting your job is a bad idea, here’s my advice:
Ask the Tough Questions
Leaving New Orleans was a lesson in being brutally honest with myself. Asking myself whether I could handle another semester of teaching—and honestly answering “no”—was really hard. The questions that followed were also tough and made me acknowledge and admit that this situation was more than the “ugh, work” feelings my friends were experiencing; I was really struggling with my mental health in a way that was very much exacerbated by my work environment.
Another tough question? A few years post-teaching, I interned briefly in the publishing industry and loved it. I spoke with my boss about starting full-time, and the starting salary was…well, paying rent would have been a struggle. I had to ask myself how much money actually means to me, and it was more than I cared to admit at the time. Sometimes these tough questions revealed things to me that I thought were less than ideal or flattering, but my answers were honest and they have allowed me to live a more authentic life.
Be Responsible (But Know This Looks Different For Everybody)
While I can sit here and write all day long about how happy I was leaving jobs and exploring new opportunities in my twenties, I want to be clear in saying that I always had a plan. When I left my teaching job in New Orleans, it was after extensive conversations with friends and, most importantly, my parents, who I was very fortunate to have as a safety net. I was also lucky to have supportive family friends who graciously allowed me to stay at their house, rent-free, while I saved up for San Francisco rent.
I also had a new job lined up. This new job was absolutely not my dream job, but it was a paycheck, and it got me to the right city, so it was a step in the right direction. Things don’t need to be perfect, or anywhere close to it, but you need to have a plan for food to eat and a roof over your head. (And no, the guy you’ve been dating for 6 months who has offered to let you crash with him doesn’t count.)
You Know Yourself Best
There was a lot of teeth sucking and unsolicited advice in response to some of my career decisions. Most people, myself included, respond to that skepticism with defensiveness: But I’ve done the research! I have a new job! I have savings, it’s fine! Repeat after me: You owe these answers to no one. If you are being true to yourself and leaving your job with a responsible plan that doesn’t negatively impact others, you are doing just fine. You are exactly where you need to be right now.