Just over two years ago, I handed in my first ever resignation letter. It was simultaneously the easiest and most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. The easiest because I felt I had no other choice, and the most difficult because I had no other plan. That’s right — in 2015, I quit a stable job in favor of the unknown…and it’s possibly the best decision I’ve made.
I’d worked for the company for three years and — with it being my first real job out of university — it had become my safe space. I knew how to do my job, and do it well. I’d formed some great relationships and barely ever faced any conflict. It was a comfortable place to be and I thought I was happy. Or, at the very least, I thought I was content. But then I woke up one day and realized I was miserable.
Now, I was fortunate at the time. I lived with my parents and had just completed a big freelance job that would allow me to cover my limited expenses for at least a month or two. And I was naive enough to think that’d be long enough to find a new path (which, thankfully, it was). In the space of 24 hours, I went from joking about resigning to seriously discussing it, and then, finally, to handing in my notice.
For someone like me, making that decision was pretty out of character. It wasn’t practical, it wasn’t well thought-out, and it certainly wasn’t safe. But it was one of the best choices I’ve ever made. That one blindfolded jump has taught me more valuable career lessons over the past two years than anything in the three years that led up to it. And here they are.
1. Don’t pretend money isn’t an issue when it is
Money isn’t everything. It can’t buy happiness, love or job satisfaction. But it can pay your bills and allow you to live a decent life. Don’t pretend money doesn’t matter when it comes to what you do for a living, especially when dealing with your boss. Instead, acknowledge that money is exactly why you’re there, no matter how ambitious or career-driven you are. Once you do that, it’ll be easier to decide whether you’re happy where you are or not. Your paycheck isn’t everything, but it’s a large factor.
2. Know what you’re worth
It’s so easy to become insecure when you’re unhappy at work. It’s simple to think of 1000 reasons why you can’t apply for other jobs. But you need to ignore that gnawing self-doubt if you want a fulfilling career and a decent salary. Instead, speak to more senior colleagues and find out what they honestly think of the work you’re producing. Chat to your peers in the industry and ask what they’ve been up to and what they’re doing. Most importantly, look at job ads and compare the skills and experience you have with the skills and experience required. Then sit and think about whether you have the title you deserve, or the paycheck you’ve clearly earned.
3. You’re replaceable, but so are they
Don’t fool yourself into thinking the business would drown if you suddenly walked away. A company may be sad to see you go, and they may even struggle to find a replacement. But there’s always someone else who is more than willing to take your place — and that’s why you can never trust a company to be loyal to you. No matter how hard you work or how much they like you, your purpose according to your employer is to make them a profit. So don’t resign with the hope you’ll see some tears and begging. Resign for you and your future.
However, just like your employer can replace you, you can replace them. Jobs don’t grow on trees, but neither do good employees. If you’ve got experience, work really hard, and are good at what you do, you’ll most likely be able to find a new company to work for. Don’t ever let yourself think you have no other options. Or rather, don’t ever let yourself become lazy and refuse to look for other options. If you’re not satisfied with your job or your paycheck, do something about it. Never make the mistake of being so loyal to a company that you no longer put yourself first.
4. Good leadership is rare, so search for it
In my industry, many people are under the impression that good leadership means having someone yell at you until you get it right. There’s this myth that your boss is supposed to knock you down, and it’s your job to teach yourself to get back up again. But the trick is to find a leader who is invested in you. Someone who wants to see you be the best that you can be. You need a boss who will never let you be simply adequate. You have to find someone who sees your worth, and wants to work with you to attain your goals.
5. Growth and comfort do not go together
If you’re happy with where your career is at present, and your paycheck is everything you need it to be right now, look no further. But if you’re staying at your current job because it’s comfortable, now is the time to run. There is nothing more harmful to ambition than comfort. Comfort will make you stay even though you’re not earning enough. Comfort will make you stay even if you’re bored. And comfort will make you stay even though you know you could do so much better.
Always look for growth. The comfort zone will leave you feeling fine, but never happy. Career growth, however, will make you feel like it’s all worth it. If you feel like you’re growing in your position, you’ll want to work those late nights, early mornings and weekends.
I didn’t quit that job without a plan because it was an awful place to work. Far from it. I quit that job without a plan because I was completely stagnant. I knew that if I didn’t make a sudden move, I’d stay in that place forever. And I wasn’t happy. Now, I’m not suggesting you do what I did, especially if you have responsibilities and bills to pay. But I am saying that you should take some time to consider these lessons I’ve learned and think about whether you’re getting what you really want from your job.
Jessica Edgson is a writer who lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa. Her day job is in performance marketing, but her night job (otherwise known as a hobby) is writing about whatever topic is on her mind for a variety of publications.
Image via Unsplash