Work

What I learnt from trying to leave my first job (during the pandemic)

Esther Cho* // September 17, 2021, 5:42 pm

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Barely 1.5 years into my first job out of university, I started having a nagging sense that I had to question my career path and rethink my job.

It wasn’t until a year later, in the midst of a pandemic in July 2020, that I finally bit the bullet and tendered my resignation.

I didn’t know it back then, but burnout from a steep learning curve and taking on several projects all on my own, along with several other factors, had triggered this unrest in me.

The turning point came when COVID-19 hit our shores and the nation went into isolation in April 2020.

As reports poured in of young and old falling extremely ill from the virus and clusters started hitting closer to home, I couldn’t ignore the nudging I felt anymore.

After days of scrambling to meet revised deadlines because of the pandemic, I finally stopped and asked myself: “Is this truly something I care for and want to keep doing?”

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Over the next few months, I started thinking deeply about what was really holding me back. 

One year on, this is my two cents on the entire process — it’s mostly a practical reminder to myself for all the transitions life will bring in the future.

I hope these four lessons will be helpful, even if it’s just for one person! 

THE FIRST STEP IS THE HARDEST

The first step for me was not sending in my resignation letter. It was actually getting over myself.

My fears, doubts… these were mostly worries that I was meant to stay but was quitting out of a lack of resilience. (100% not!)

And the longer I ruminated on what could be next for me, work started becoming a comfortable routine and my learning stagnated.

I grew wearier as days turned into weeks and months at the same place, not knowing what I needed and how I was going to break out of the cycle. 

The longer I waited, the bigger the struggle became — and the harder it was to leave.

I was running away from starting the process because I was daunted by the many things I had to do before I could actually reach the end point of leaving.

Fear is a huge time waster; nothing good comes out of it.

When I finally knew I had to go, sitting with my thoughts, writing the actual letter and calling my boss were equally difficult.

The process is most definitely not easy. But it’s in showing up bit by bit that we get to experience grace, courage and growth.

Most importantly, we get the freedom to move on.

DON’T SHORTCHANGE YOURSELF BY GIVING INTO FEAR

Is it the right time? What will my boss think of me? But I don’t have a job lined up… whatever you’re scared of, acknowledge it, feel it and then gently set it aside for later.

What if this was just me throwing in the towel too early? What if I was just not trying hard enough?

It’s ridiculous how much fear made me overthink (still working on that) and essentially, I’m the one who held myself back from potential opportunities!

I realised I also had a need to be right. I feared I would make the wrong decision and fall outside of God’s plan.

But I believe that the Lord had all of this in His grander plan for me. Regardless of the detours I took, I have not veered off His course. 

Fear is a huge time waster; nothing good comes out of it.

You miss opportunities, and cause unnecessary stress by giving your worries too much weight. I wasted 8 months just worrying! Think of the head start I would have gotten if I didn’t.

There will always be a better decision, but the best one is the one you can make right in the moment, so be informed of your options, finish the worry list and just take the plunge.

BELIEVE IN WHAT YOUR COMMUNITY SAYS

My doubts were quickly refuted by trusted friends. They took time to hear me out throughout my year-long struggle, and they too could see how affected the journey had left me.

They held a perspective that I didn’t have. Being too close to ourselves limits our view and objectivity. But those seeing us from the outside have the advantage of a bird’s-eye view.

Potential red flags, skewed perspectives and even false beliefs – if we’re lacking in discernment in these areas, then it’s best to allow wise counsel to show us what we are missing.

Take the chance to learn from those who have gone before too.

And if they say your job – or whatever the commitment is – has changed you for the worse, you best believe it.

DO SOME SOUL SEARCHING

It was also during this time that I recognised I wasn’t sure of myself – what I needed, what I was truly passionate about and what I hoped.

The uncertainty of who I was led to the inability to make the decisions. It was also easier to be swayed by the endless opinions out there. 

In a society where success is defined by narrow parameters, and deviating from the typical path is often met with questions and criticism, it’s easy to feel like you have to think twice about big decisions.

One thing I wish I spent more time on instead of worrying was to really dig deep. Knowing myself would be part of making an informed decision on my next steps and not allowing myself to be pulled in different directions.

Looking back, I know that one can move on despite not having all of the answers.

But had I reflected and realised earlier that I badly needed to rest, heal and grow in other areas, I believe I wouldn’t have hesitated as much as I did.

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So, get honest with yourself. It’s the best – and pretty much only – thing you can do. The rest is out of your control.

The Lord is gracious and has promised to show us the path ahead (Psalm 32:8).

So long as we continue to seek him, ask Him for what we lack (James 1:5) and invite the Holy Spirit into our situations, we can be assured that it is not us, but Him who is guiding our decisions. 

Life will always be uncertain, but we can be certain of the One who remains constant for all our days (Malachi 3:6). And we can take heart that His work in us will be completed when He returns (Philippians 1:6).

*The writer’s name has been changed for confidentiality.

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THINK + TALK

  1. Are you making decisions out of fear or faith?
  2. Are you driven by the motivation to please God or to win approval from men?
  3. Are you trying to do all of this alone? Remember to seek the Lord throughout the journey as well as speak with trusted ones who know you well and have your best interests at heart!