I’ve known for a while that I do not want to be working in the corporate world. In fact, I’ve known my whole life, but here I am. How I landed here is my own fault, but I honestly was just trying to be an adult, and I thought it was the responsible decision at the time. I mean, not all adults live with their parents, defer their student loan payments, or need permission to use the car for a quick trip to Chipotle (pre-E.Coli outbreak). But I did, and I wanted a job that would change my situation and allow me to create an independent life for myself; taking a job in the corporate machine turned that wish into an immediate reality.
Looking back, I might’ve rushed into this whole adult thing; it’s not everything it’s cracked up to be. I’m not thrilled at the idea of paying bills and buying groceries for myself every week, and I’m really bummed out about watching my student loan payments magically cut my bank account in half on a monthly basis. But I’ve also developed a sense of accomplishment; I know that I’ve earned everything I have and am able to survive on my own. And I love that feeling. Unfortunately, these triumphs of adulthood ride in on the coattails of my corporate shame. I assimilated into the corporate mold out of necessity. I’ve mastered the act of sitting at a desk for eight hours a day and making politically-correct conversation. I’m a pro at Microsoft Office Suites and a gold medalist in data entry. I’ve perfected my workplace chic outfits and the fine art of schmoozing at colleague cocktail hours.
After a few years of mildly successful adulting, I feel stuck in this job and am pawing at every door out. There are days when I’m upset with myself for even joining the corporate entity; I sold out and forgot what my professional aspirations once were. I went to graduate school to develop myself into a more marketable applicant in the world of non-profits and government agencies. Now, with stacks on stacks on stacks of student loans, I’m not even working in these spaces that I find so fascinating, so important, and so essential. There are days when I feel like a complete failure, especially after scrolling through the LinkedIn accomplishments of my grad school cohorts. Seeing their success makes me feel bad about my lack of love for my workplace, but also assures me that I too can be successful in an industry that I’m passionate about. And so, after another long day of mindless Microsoft tasks, I decided to stop daydreaming about the jobs I could have and actually find one I loved.
This career transition has been one of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced. The corporate grind stopped providing daily motivation years ago, but once I started actively pursuing my passions, it became even harder to get out of bed every morning, throw on my blazer, and stare at my monitor all day long while daydreaming about my future elsewhere. But I stuck with it because the best advice my dad has ever given me is this: it’s easier to look for a job when you already have one.
Recently, I’ve read so many articles about millennials who left their corporate jobs on a whim to chase their dream, without having a real plan of action. These stories are not realistic, and they’re certainly not encouraging. I joined the workforce with the goal of being an adult, with the goal of supporting myself, and with the goal of paying my rent on time each month. And these articles suggest that in order to land my dream job, I need to throw my well-paying job, health insurance, and 401k plan out the window? Absolutely not. Quitting the corporate world does not mean that I will quit having responsibilities. And refusing to take a risk on my financial stability does not mean that I’m refusing to take a risk on myself. Above all, I reject the notion that finding a job you love and working in a job you detest are two mutually exclusive actions. It’s possible to persevere through an imperfect job, while making a simultaneous effort to push yourself into the job that you crave.
I quickly learned that keeping my corporate job came with many unexpected benefits. In my efforts to find and land my dream job, it became obvious that I was lacking certain skill sets, or at the very least, could bolster my strengths to stand out on an application. I started understanding where I needed to improve in order to become the perfect candidate for a more-perfect job. I used my 9-to-5 work day to better myself for my future role, seeking opportunities to grow, and asking for more assignments in areas of project management and customer services, which are areas that I hoped to develop in for a job in the public sector because they would bridge the divide between my current job and future job. With these goals, getting out of bed in the morning was a bit easier; I knew that I was going to spend the day preparing for my future job, instead of sulking in my corporate cage.
Apart from building a new skill set, I waited out my corporate job because I needed time. I knew that a career transition would not happen overnight. In fact, Inc.com suggests that in 2015, for every corporate job opening, there were 250 résumés submitted on average, and from those 250, only four to six candidates were selected for interviews. Although optimistic by nature, odds like these kept me grounded. Continuing in my corporate role helped keep my finances afloat while waiting for the perfect position to come along. With my job security, I was able to be picky about what I wanted in a new role and a new career. I wanted to make sure that history did not repeat itself; I wanted to make sure that I did not take a job that I would hate in a year or two. So I persevered through my unhappiness and pushed on through my boring work days, until I found the job that I was meant for.
It might’ve been easier to have quit the job I hated. To be honest, sticking it out was definitely the harder choice, but it was the right choice. I was able to remain financially stable, while developing myself on my own timeline. I was able to pick and choose which jobs and industries I wanted to pursue, and even say “no” to opportunities that weren’t great fits. Although I was unhappy, I was under no financial pressure to accept anything less than my dream job. And the unhappiness was temporary. While it took months (that seemed like milleniums) to find, fight for, and land a new job, I am now grateful to my corporate cubicle life for the benefits it gave me. Quitting my job to work at a fro-yo shop while I pursued my passions, would’ve been much too hasty for me, and the last thing you want to be careless with is your career.
*Norah prefers to use a pen name.
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