An almost 40-something woman I know quit her job recently and is taking 6 weeks to take stock and then move forward. As part of her process she is writing about her journey. What she is experiencing now and how it’s different from her 20s. Today she is writing about quitting her job. The push and pull between sticking it out or saving yourself. This struck a chord with me as one of my very first questions from a 20-something was about this very subject.
“Never quitting was a huge part of my upbringing. I think this is true for a lot of 20-somethings and goes along with the pressure to be perfect. Perfect people don’t quit and they honor their commitments. I stayed on a sports team that bullied team members. I stayed in abusive job because it was prestigious. There was that voice in my head. It was like “don’t quit’ and ‘rise above obstacles’ were the most important things. Isn’t there a point where you say ‘this isn’t working for me? How bad does it have to get?’ – 20-something
Sometimes it’s hard to see the other side in your 20s. What’s next can be uncertain and scary. Here is one woman’s view from the other side:
What It Feels Like to Quit Your Job at 40
I’ve quit other jobs. Several of them, in fact. But I’ve always had another job lined up or had some sort of plan about what would happen next in life that was better than the current situation. Not this time. This time, I found myself in a situation that was so bad, so untenable and so…absolutely exasperating that I couldn’t take it anymore, and so I quit. I quit my big-time, big-brand, big-team, friends-and-family-want-to-brag-about-you job because I knew it was the right thing to do, and – I finally have the confidence to do what it the best thing for me, despite the stigma and usual self-doubt that comes with any sort of failure, much less a self-directed one.
In the final weeks of my tenure at The Big Brand, I found myself either at my desk or leaving the office in tears multiple times – hoping that my assistant wasn’t seeing me and being thankful that my trusted “lieutenant” understood what a bad environment we were working in together. But, ultimately, I could not BELIEVE that here I was, almost 40, IN TEARS about A F*&%$@* JOB. My mother, with whom I am very close, said to me “You’re tougher than this…stop crying and fight back,” which sounded sage for about 8 seconds until I realized “What a tough person would do is get the hell out of this situation and find something better and more rewarding to do with her life!”
In my 20s, I would be shattered that I gave up, caved in, walked away. Now, I’m honestly proud of myself for doing the right, difficult thing and remarkably calm given I don’t have any idea of what’s ahead. Part of that calm comes from the fact that I negotiated my departure so that I kept my signing bonus and will receive a not-insignificant severance package. Another life lesson: the older and more senior you get, the more power you have on the job front: you not only can negotiate a starting salary more than you know (just ask for what you want!), you can leave a miserable situation with a nice chunk of change to help ease the transition. That’s a major benefit of getting older and gaining experience — you’re actually far more valuable to your current and potential employers than you might ever imagine.
Lest I give the impression that I wake up every day with the “Rocky” theme playing in my head, I will tell you that I still can get freaked out by the notion that I need to find a new gig. The anxiety on that front has more to do with wanting to find something that is a good fit as opposed to whether I will find something at all. And who knows how I’ll be feeling 6 months from now if I haven’t found a new job or any good leads? My guess is I’ll be feeling even more anxious, but I don’t think I’ll be feeling regret – because at my age and with my experience, I know I made the right decision by quitting. I’m also fortunate that I have a good network of former colleagues and bosses who respect me and my work – people who are willing to help me network and who will provide amazing references. Their collective belief in me and the portfolio of my work are the result of almost 20 years in the workplace, and I’m happy to truly feel as if I’ve earned the right to feel good about quitting.
What I’ve learned that I didn’t know in my 20’s is that quitting doesn’t mean failing. Instead, I’ve arrived at a spot where I have the confidence to know that “toughing it out” in a bad situation isn’t the best solution. Knowing this can be incredibly rewarding.
Thank you!! The lesson, don’t be afraid to put yourself first when the bad outweighs the good. That job won’t be your last!