*bursts into High School Musical karaoke*
My presence on this site has been sporadic at best but given the changes in my life at the moment, I feel like it warrants a blog post.
So. I quit my job.
I feel like the natural response to that is ‘so what?’ but my feelings about it are pretty complex. I don’t want to get sued so I won’t refer to the company I worked for by name but for context you should know it’s a pretty big one with all the kind of politics and red tape that you’d expect from a large organisation.
I did a Summer internship at the company 7 years ago, basically on a whim. I went to a careers fair, heard about them and thought they sounded alright. I applied, filled in a lot of paperwork, did a bunch of tests and attended an assessment centre and I got the role. I got my first taste of working life and when they offered me the job, I didn’t think about it too much. I was just grateful to have something waiting for me after I graduated from university. I never paused and thought ‘is this what I really want?’. I never asked myself ‘is this the best use of my skills?’. I didn’t apply anywhere else. Looking back, I really should have done that but I was young and dumb, and I didn’t know any better.
So I joined the company and we started off with a intensive graduate training programme. We were put into groups with other people that joined in our intake and we were taught a lot of theory and essential information. We also worked on a group project and did day to day work for real clients. And it was… fun. Comparing it to the current graduate training programme, I feel so lucky to have received something so extensive and interactive. It gave me a solid foundation that I know I will rely on wherever I go.
I had joined the pensions department and if you had told me while I was at university that I would become a pensions specialist, I would have laughed in your face. Who cares about pensions? …. Well apparently, I do. Over the years, I have come to appreciate the issues in the pensions industry and my work in this field matters to me. I have turned into the kind of person that will talk about the importance of pension provision at the hairdressers (writing that made me both cringe and feel proud simultaneously).
I worked my butt off for the company. I really committed to the role and I was so hungry to learn. I put in the extra hours. I volunteered for things even when I knew I had plenty on. I made myself invaluable to the teams I was on and I genuinely did the best that I could. As a result, I got glowing feedback; I got promoted quickly; I got good bonuses; I was nominated for a women in pensions award; I was seen and appreciated. I was given increased responsibility and presented with good opportunities. I led some high profile projects, I did a secondment in Lisbon for 3 months, I was a key member of a specialist network within the company and I had really good relationships with (almost) all my seniors and juniors.
But every story has a flip side.
I was tired, I was anxious and I was mentally exhausted. I had ripped my nails to shreds. My parents were constantly saying that working like this was unsustainable. I think I experienced burnout three times over the six years that I was there. But I couldn’t stop. Because I knew that I was only as good as the last project I delivered. My seniors were throwing things at me that I didn’t feel ready for or didn’t have the time to do justice, so I’d give up my evenings, my weekends, my commuting time to *try* and catch up. I knew I had a reputation to maintain and so did everyone else. I started feeling like the safety net on my teams, the person that they could rely on whenever everything was on fire. It was all taking its toll.
Coupled with some serious overhauls at the company of key processes, resourcing and office location, it was losing the familial feel that first attracted me in the first place. I also found myself looking at my seniors and genuinely considering whether I could see myself doing their role; the answer was yes… but not happily. I noticed that with increased seniority, the less I would actually get to do the stuff I really liked such as building spreadsheets, getting stuck into projects and pushing things forward. I didn’t want to be the person at the end of the process that has to present slides or results that I didn’t actually produce and lord know I definitely didn’t want to be harassed by clients.
These were not new feelings. I had felt like this for ages, years even, but I was in a strange situation where I was too busy at work to even consider looking for a new job. Or if I felt really bad, something good would happen that would temper my feelings; I’d get promoted or receive a spot bonus and I’d think okay maybe I was over-reacting. It will all get better.
But I had my wake up call in early 2020. It was a busy time and I had a number of projects on the go but no more so than usual. However I found myself walking to the office and for no particular reason, my eyes were leaking. I sat at my desk and I realised I’d need to sort my face out or everyone would see but at that moment I got a call from a client and I had to do everything to keep my voice from shaking on the phone. As soon as I had finished I went to a meeting room and I bawled. Full on ugly crying, snot everywhere. I went to the loos to sort my face out and I genuinely had “that moment” where I actually looked at myself in the mirror and thought “gurl, what are you doing?!”. I decided there and then that I needed to make a change.
I went home that day and I wrote my CV, started my research and things started falling into place. Ironically my workload got much better too but this time, I didn’t let that deter me. I felt like if I didn’t go through with it, I could easily end up at the company for another 5 years.
I think the job hunting process deserves a post of its own because god knows this one is long enough.
But I’d like to end with these thoughts. Despite everything, I am so grateful to this company. I have become an adult here. I have learnt how to be a professional here. I have learnt ‘my craft’ here. I have had some great moments and built important relationships. But now I am ready to leave and start something new. And I’m really excited about it 🙂
Reminders of happy times:
Over and Out!