Saying no is a powerful thing.
Shortly after college graduation, I got a job at an ecommerce “startup.” It wasn’t a startup. I was making Shopify sites and doing product photography.
I commuted 3+ hours a day to work at a small office in LA selling products on Shopify and Amazon. I’m a designer by trade. This was soul crushing.
I quit less than two weeks in.
That might seem crazy, but it’s not. Here’s why:
I took the first job I could get
Living in California is expensive. Graduating from college makes that even harder. I was desperate. When an offer came I immediately said yes.
What I didn’t realize is that every time you say yes to something, you’re saying no to something else.
When you take a job, you’re saying no to:
- All the other jobs out there (for now)
- Control over your schedule
- Valuable networking opportunities
- Higher pay when you have multiple offers
Take the time to think through the implications of your commitment. Think days, weeks and months ahead. You can’t predict everything, but your gut is often right.
The job wasn’t developing my skills
As a new grad, I was hungry to learn.
This job consisted of primarily redundant tasks that did not require specialized skill. While I was learning something, it wasn’t going to help me move my career in the right direction long-term.
There was no leadership or mentorship.
Thought I’m self-motivated by nature, not having anyone to look up to is uninspiring. I needed leadership. If nothing changed, I couldn’t grow.
This is especially important early in your career. We become the people who we spend the most time with.
The commute was killing me
The average American spends 52.2 minutes/day commuting.
I was spending over 3 hours/day.
That’s 32 days a year in my car.
3 hours is a long time. In that time I can:
- Get ready for the day
- Eat breakfast
- Respond to emails
- Write a Medium article
- Do a short workout
My time (and your time) is more valuable than you think. Commuting takes a toll on your physical and emotional health. It also strains your relationships.
Not only was I losing my mind commuting, my back and neck were really starting to hurt. This wasn’t sustainable.
If I owned the business and had greater control over the job, I may be able to rationalize the commute. This was not the case. My pay was so low and the opportunity wasn’t providing me mentorship or experience. I had to quit.
I didn’t need to stay at a job for years and years
A few decades ago, it was possible to work at the same company for 30+ years and comfortably retire. That’s not how the world works today.
As I considered quitting, multiple people told me to “stick it out” or at least stay for a year.
I believe in honoring your commitments. I also believe in at-will employment. You control your career.
Legally, I was not obligated in any way to stay at the job. Staying at that job would only hurt me. Switching jobs is okay, especially early in your career. Here’s why:
- You’re figuring out what you want to do
- You’re identifying what size of company you want to work with
- People who switch jobs make more money
- Younger people statistically don’t stay at a job as long
With all of this in mind, I made the decision to quit.
I got a different job
Quitting was scary. I had no other job prospects at the time.
When I quit, here are the actions I took:
- I got coffee with a lot of people
- I spent a lot of time on LinkedIn
- I drummed up enough freelance to pay the bills
- I took an internship with a company I respected
I was extremely self-disciplined with my time management over the next month. I pulled in freelance work. I met up with designers and creative directors. I learned everything I could from anyone I could connect with.
A month after I quit, I was offered a 3 month internship with an advertising agency. I really wanted to work there full time, but there were no openings for a designer. So I made myself indispensable.
I added so much value in a month and a half that they cut my internship short and gave me a full time offer as a designer.
I didn’t quit that job after two weeks.
If you feel stuck in your current job, but don’t know where to start, that’s okay. Try new things in your free time. Discover what you like to do. Meet new people. Ask questions and find out what’s out there.
If your gut is telling you it’s time to take the jump, take it.
Believe in yourself. Be real. Work hard. Everything else will fall into place.
I’m a Senior Product Designer at Square. If you liked this article, you’ll like my newsletter. I write about design, emerging tech and I find new design tools once a week. Get it here.