To anyone who is burnt out, I graduated two years ago and finally had some time between my first job and my current one to really reflect on the whole experience.
I was definitely one of those graduates who felt like their life was together because I was fortunate enough to secure a job before I graduated. In fact, I would consider it my dream job because it was the company I wanted to work for since freshman year in college. I always told my friends that I would be so happy if I can get a job in the fashion industry. I didn’t need to make a lot of money because I knew I could work my way up after I got more experience.
I believed in myself and I would say I worked pretty hard for it. If anyone knows anything about enneagrams, I am number 3, and maybe you will be able to understand my work ethic better. Regardless, I don’t want to go on a rampage about my work ethic and want to talk more about why I decided to quit my job without anything lined up and I want to share what went through my head at the moment.
Reason #1: I would feel anxious when I heard my phone ding with a notification on days off.
I was in a managerial role right after college. Being in a role where I managed a team of 22 colleagues, there were always some problems or situations that arose that needed my attention. On my days off, I wasn’t able to be “checked out” because my team members (also managers) would notify me of those problems.
I did not know how to even ask for help or even voice how much that process of them notifying me was stressing me out. Quickly within 2–3 months, I was already feeling burnt out and we were shortly reaching the holiday season also known as the busy season. I dreaded my phone lighting up because I was so scared that when I am not at work, something bad will happen and I would still need to manage the crisis at home. I constantly blamed myself for not being able to manage my team before I left or wonder why I didn’t empower them enough to manage the problems themselves. It felt like I never left work even when I truly did.
Reason #2: I had no work-life balance.
You can probably already imagine my schedule based on my first reason. Being in a retail setting, most of my colleagues were older and because it wasn’t a typical 9–5 job, everyone got off work at different times. No one was really hanging out as friends outside of work because we were always just working extended hours already. In fact, because I was getting so stressed from my days-off notifications, I cannot even imagine hanging out with them after work. So truly, I didn’t have a separate life where I was doing something I enjoyed. This dream job was no longer a dream and it was something I dreaded every day.
And while I share my negative thoughts and feelings about my first job, there were also a lot of positives that I want to highlight. I truly understand when you become a manager, someone goes to work for you and not the company. I learned that my team will go the extra mile for me because they respected me and knew I respected and valued them. I learned that if you do something wrong as a leader, you need to own up to your mistakes and correct them. I plan to share another post soon about the lessons I learned. But for now, let’s go continue with my next reason.
Reason #3: I wasn’t happy and life did not feel fulfilling.
I might have built this expectation of what life after college would be in New York City and it was nothing remotely close, aside from the fact that I had extra money to save and spend. One of the main reasons why I wanted to work in the fashion industry was because I loved how clothes were able to make people feel confident and beautiful. To me, fashion was a way for people to express who they are when they entered a room before they even spoke.
But working at a place where I constantly felt pressure from meeting the numbers to coaching a team to firing my own team members, I was not fully prepared to handle all those responsibilities emotionally. I felt like I was carrying invisible weight on my shoulders and I just wasn’t my usual happy self. I knew my performance was not as good as I can be if I were in my best mental state. And despite how much I try to explain to my friends and family, it was an experience that left me speechless because I just can’t find the right words to describe how I felt.
Reason #4: As I shared earlier, I believed in myself and my work ethic.
The biggest reason I decided to just bite the bullet and give in my three weeks' notice was that I knew intuitively that this role just wasn’t meant for me. At least not now.
The moment I mentally decided to even quit, the weight on my shoulders was lifted. I woke up feeling light and was able to really not take everything that happened personally. I felt happier already even though I still had 3 weeks to go. I spoke with my direct supervisor who offered other options to stay and wanted to share other ways to help me manage my work-life balance, but I realized it just wasn’t meant for me at that time. (Also felt like it’s important to note that it wasn’t the first time my direct supervisor knew about my burnt-out feelings)
During my time at that role, I had the opportunity to travel by myself for the first time. When I was on my vacation staring out into the frozen river, I felt this burden and heaviness lifted when I realized how big the world was. Traveling made me remember that there are a lot of other things to do and appreciate in life. I understand that this comes from a point of privilege where I was able to quit without another offer. I did not take this opportunity lightly and definitely continued reflecting on my experience there and how to take those skills into my next role. I like to consider myself as someone who is optimistic and does believe that when I share my passions and career goals with my future employer they would believe and see my value.
While there may be many other minor reasons why I decided to quit my first job after college, I would say these four were the biggest ones. I think if I learned anything right now, it is to learn how to be content and listen to your gut.
To anyone who is burnt out from work, just know I am thinking about you. Weigh your options and consider if it is possible. Are you in a place where you can talk to your supervisor about transferring you into a different team? (I was honestly surprised I even had that option when I shared my goal to quit. Your supervisor might not be expressive in how much they value you) If this is not an option, see how you can incorporate a side hustle or passion project on the side.
Doing something that can bring back some joy into your life even for half an hour can make a big difference.
More importantly, ask yourself what sparks your passion. What makes your eyes light up in a conversation? What do you find yourself doing without anyone telling you to do?
Jessie at 6:12 pm in Brooklyn, NY