We’re all quitting our jobs – but how do we choose our next steps carefully?

After relocating to Manchester for a relatively well paying job as a new graduate, the pandemic hit a few months later. Then after dealing with isolation from remote working 300 miles from my home city, reduced mental health, and fearing for the health of family and friends, I decided to leave my job in Manchester. The height of the pandemic combined with the loneliness of isolation became too much for me to handle, and I became desperate to leave. But whatever – this here isn’t a pandemic post – we move… 

Despite itching to go home, I was not prepared to potentially be out of work for a few months while looking for the RIGHT role in the right company. Most people don’t have enough savings to just stop working for 6 months, and as a new graduate I definitely didn’t have much of a financial buffer either. Whilst looking for a new job back home, I was conducting interviews remotely (#pandemicinterviews) which meant that I couldn’t gauge the scope of prospective companies as easily. I found that the recruitment experience has the same vibe regardless of company when the entire process is done remotely. Skype interviews, Teams interviews or Zoom interviews – the vibe feels the same. There’s a lot of information you take in when visiting a company in person, things that would normally make companies more memorable or prompt you to ask questions that make it easier to compare prospective employers. Unfortunately I didn’t get any of that until I had signed a contract with the wrong one. 

Regardless of motivation, rushing inevitably leads to mistakes. Depending on the nature of them, they can range from being detrimental to your professional career and finances, to being detrimental to your work life balance and your mental health. There were a few mistakes made along the way in my process. Some by the agent representing the company and some by the company itself (or the guy running it). But the one I’m looking at here today is rushing. I rushed the process. That was my mistake.

Monkey barring between jobs and the headache that caused

I essentially leapt from one job to the next without enough background research on prospective companies and without having adequate ‘bare minimums’ in terms of what I would need my job to provide me. I didn’t know I needed them until I didn’t have them. Being relatively new to the industry meant I didn’t know how bad ‘bad employers’ could get and jumping on the first opportunity to present itself the way I did doesn’t really allow for good enough comparison between options. I also leaned too heavily on information provided by the agent representing the company, instead of doing my own research. Most agents only know as much about their client as their client chooses to share with them, and when you’re dealing with bad employers, that’s usually not enough. The company due to its small size was not publicly reviewed (on places like glassdoor or indeed) so sourcing information about it was extra difficult.

All this made it difficult to see what I was NOT getting with the new role.

If you’ve read any of my previous career posts, then you know I hated my last job. I literally cannot name a single good thing about the place, and that says a lot coming from me – I always aim to be objective in situations like this, and that is my objective opinion. That place is complete trash, and landing there was a compilation of mistakes.

What I did differently the second time around 

I saved up enough to be out of work for a few months so that I could spend those months researching my next role, figuring out what kind of work I wanted to do, what kind of company I wanted to work for, and what important benefits I wanted as part of my work package. I can’t say saving up was easy, but it was definitely made easier by living with family and working from home during national lockdowns. It was however made difficult by the fact that my old place had a really ghetto way of handling payroll, which meant that for the last 6 (or so) months of my time there, I kept getting either overpaid or underpaid, making it very difficult to plan and predict my finances. As with everything else about the place, I managed it because I didn’t have a choice at the time. 

However it had a negative impact on my perspective of my skills and my career goals.

Spending that amount of time doing work that you don’t like, for shitty pay that isnt reliable does a number on your psyche. You undervalue yourself and question everything. It made me question my qualifications, my skills and my choice of profession, and I had to re-decide what I wanted for myself. I knew it would be a lot of work so as soon as I was free of that mess, I spent time thinking, researching, deciding…

I came to conclusion that I enjoy engineering, and it’s not engineering that was the problem at my job. In fact, among all the other issues the company had (and I must stress that there were many), it was the lack of engineering that pissed me off the most – I felt the role had been advertized incorrectly, on purpose.

I was much more selective with my applications the second time around. In part because my last place burned me, but also because I had learned my lesson. I utilised Glassdoor and Indeed a whole lot more, taking it as a bad sign when a company was not reviewed on either. My old company was very small, so on top of it not being listed on glassdoor, the effects of the poor leadership there was exacerbated because there was no buffer of HR or anything of the sort. I knew I didn’t want a repeat of that again. Because of my experience, I had more questions for the hiring managers and agents that I spoke to going forward. 

I made what I was looking for very clear, and even though most of the agents I spoke to were supportive, I did get the “yeah but the economy right now…” and the “I don’t know if you’ll find that given the current pandemic…” from a couple of agents. Of course while they were valid concerns, I also was aware that it is an agent’s job to get you a role in a company they represent, so some will unfortunately (and inevitably) see it in their best interests to pull you towards their clients, even at the cost of discouraging you from more appealing potential employers. (Which isnt to say that’s what happened to me, but rather a point to remember that as nice as they can be, agents don’t work for you, they work for the companies) But I knew what I wanted was fair so I stuck to it – and it paid off eventually. 

The message in the mess…

My experience has taught me not to be too hasty with decisions. Hasty decision making is a poor strategy in the long run. Whenever at decision gates regarding your career, its best to take as much time as is reasonable to properly assess the options in front of you against your set criteria and goals. 

The motivation behind my mis-steps were largely linked to the conditions brought about by the pandemic, but there are other factors that could pressure you to make the same kind of mistakes I made:

1. Lack of market awareness or lack of confidence in the market. 

Know the market. Know the value of your skill type and level. This information increases your confidence in the market, gives you an insight to how you compare to other candidates and allows you to better assess opportunities that you will come across.

2. Low self esteem

Specifically, the deep fear that you are unqualified for the role you really want, even when you have the qualifications. Don’t allow anyone to undervalue your skills and experience, even if that someone is you. Do your best to remain objective about what you have to offer.

3. Lack of understanding of the process

Unfortunately, it’s normal to have to chase up applications a lot. Even then, you get more rejections than offers, that’s normal too. Rejections alone do not indicate your market value. Don’t allow yourself to be discouraged by the amount of effort it may take or the number of rejections you get. Everyone goes through the same thing in this process. 

4. Set adequate bare minimums!

Don’t loose sight of what is important to you, keep those things in mind while vetting prospective employers, as long as you are being reasonable, you shouldn’t allow anyone to tell you that you are asking for too much when what you are asking for is fair in terms of what the market is offering and what you bring to the table. If benefits like private healthcare are important to you, then ask about them – just maybe not in the initial interview. If you can’t work in that location for below X amount, then make that clear too. 

5. Being worried about being unemployed 

A. Financially unprepared

If you are about to make a larger transition to your next role, think about preparing a financial buffer for yourself so that money issues don’t pressure you into another dead end job you don’t really want. It will likely mean saving for a few months, so you are sacrificing your freedom of time for the hope of better financial freedom during your transition. It’s worth considering it.

B. Explaining gaps on your CV

Monkeybar ing between multiple jobs you hate can look just as questionable on a CV and it only takes a couple of times before a noticable pattern starts to show, so…. yeah. 

Remember to be loyal and fair to yourself in this process. Remeber your reasons for leaving your last place and guard your interests fiercely.

Long story short, if you’re quitting your job – and a lot of us are – make sure you’re not making a retrogressive move. Have clear goals in mind, know your industry and understand both your postion in your industry and your potential. Do your research and ask ALL the questions. Learn from my mistakes so that you don’t have to make them 🙂

Renẹ x

Published by Ẹlọghosa

Thought librarian | Commentary on culture and personal development | Fauna

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