Nearly 3 years ago, I quit my job.
Rewinding a little… After dropping out of university – twice – I was still none the wiser as to what I wanted to do with my life.
Sales was one of the things I could do without a degree (after the financial crisis of 2007-08, graduates had a hard time getting a job, let alone non-graduates), where there was still an opportunity to make what I considered ‘good money’. Whatever that means.
I was also attracted to recruitment as I figured I liked helping people, and helping recruit people into jobs would feel good, right? Hmm, little did I realise at the time, but most people weren’t in financial services to ‘feel better’. And moving a person from one job to another, doing the same thing but for more money, didn’t have the intended feel-good factor I was hoping for.
Anyhow, from day one I’d known that recruitment wasn’t “it”. There were highs and lows, long hours and commute, and I found myself sometimes leaving home at 6.30 in the morning, and then not getting back until 8 or 9, or even later, in the evening. And earning what I could’ve done working 9-5 in retail. In recruitment, starting out, you have to earn your stripes.
For a while, the competition sustained me, and I was lucky to join a second recruitment firm that was a smaller outfit, and the people were a bit more human.
In my last year there, I broke into the “top-5” in sales performers. I earned just under £70,000, before the taxman got his nice piece. That year, I also got shared ‘Employee of the Year’ with another colleague.
One moment still sticks, at my last Christmas party. Everyone else was drinking, being merry, having a good time. Earlier that evening, I’d been announced as joint Employee-of-the-Year and received a prize, applause, etc. And yet, I was sat at that Christmas party thinking, why am I not happier than this?
Shortly after getting back from a family trip in February, I was certain that my time was up. I just didn’t know what I wanted to do.
Having not completed a Bachelor’s at university (and coming from a ‘good school’ and Indian blood where more had been expected from this baaaad boi), there was some unfinished business there. In my early 20s, I’d gotten into devouring self-help, body language and psychology books. I managed to get myself into a year-long Masters course in Psychology. It felt right, even though I didn’t know what I’d do afterwards.
I handed in my notice the day I got confirmation of my place on the course. My resignation came as no surprise; I had been a shadow of my motivated, energised self the previous year. In an open-plan office, spending that many hours with your colleagues, people know when something’s up. They wished my well and, after just two days, I was gone. (Short notice periods in recruitment – one week at my place – if you’re not making money, why keep you? Also, I’d arranged a lunch with a colleague each day to pass the time / say goodbye, and I think they didn’t want me telling them I hating recruitment and was going off to ‘find myself’ or some sh*t).
Alongside my Masters, I tried to set up “my own thing”. After devouring books around “lifestyle design” and “do what you love” and “build the life you want”, and also doing a ‘career-changers’ course with a small group of other confused, unfulfilled millennials – I decided that I wanted to try my own venture. Becoming a life coach, joining a startup, and being an entrepreneur seemed like the go-to options for unfulfilled folk, and I most fancied the latter.
Boy, was it stressful. Especially doing it all on your own. After a few months, as Christmas approached (I’m convinced I’m affected by the ‘winter blues’), it became increasingly apparent that this was of living wasn’t going to work out.
The day-to-day reality of running a business, this business, wasn’t for me. I was stressed out and worrying all the time. It really wasn’t nice.
My Masters course had lectures only a couple of days a month. And the business was a solo venture. Through isolation, stress, and an increasing sense of panic that I was back at square one and still had no idea what I was going to do with my life, my mental health deteriorated.
I felt like a failure. I felt that friends, family and the world had send me quit my job, and made a big mistake. What’s worse is that I didn’t realise or acknowledge this, and talk about any of this with anyone.
Worried about my changing mood, my mum somehow convinced me to see a psychiatrist who had come recommended. I went for her peace of mind and – somewhat to my surprise – I filled out a couple of forms and was told that I had ‘a degree of depression and anxiety’.
Whatever that meant. I wasn’t convinced. I was pretty damn low, but I remember at the time not believing I was depressed and anxious, as I ‘didn’t feel suicidal or anything like that’. I perceived that I was insulting those who really were depressed and anxious, that I was making myself out to be ‘worse’ than what I was really feeling. Good ol’ inner critic of mine. He can be a harsh b*stard at the best of times.
I am so fortunate to have seen the psychiatrist when I did. I was getting lower, and more isolated, and had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth completely. I didn’t want to text/Whatsapp anyone, let alone see anyone. I remember going to the gym, often a safe space for me to go to workout and lift my mood. I remember one particular time where I just could not focus on exercising at all. I was so low and unmotivated. I was also paranoid that others around me could detect my low mood, and I was nervously looking about the place – even more so than usual.
Through a combination of medication, group-therapy and 1-to-1 therapy, thankfully I’m in a better place as I type this today (though I did have a relapse around September/October last year, taking a turn for the second year running – again, the change in weather and daylight seems to affect my mood).
After the Masters year, and my business thing fizzling out, I ended up taking a year out. I’m now looking to start working again – after almost 3 years of not working for anyone.
As well as the usual anxiety that comes with a change, the subject of ‘work’ is one that has caused me distress and discomfort for what seems like all of my adult life.
As I’m looking to do something different with my life, I am looking at junior-level roles – and even internships – to learn the ropes. I feel like Chandler from Friends when he made his own career change,
I have this fear of “am I good enough?” and “Why would they pick me for this role?”. F*ck you, critical voice!
It feels like I’m well-and-truly winging it (hello, imposter syndrome 👋🏽) and, whilst all these thoughts aren’t uncommon, I have to be careful to keeps some perspective and not let my thoughts run away with me.
As my day is still my own, it’s very easy to get caught up in these sort of thoughts, round and round in my head, slowly chipping away at my self-confidence and self-belief.
I’ve had interviews, and even an offer, so I’m making progress. I’m doing my best to treat wherever I end up as an opportunity and a learning experience, where I can only gain.
I try to remind myself that many of my concerns are unfairly being amplified and irrational.
Whilst I have faith that the path I’m on is the right one, never did I think that quitting my recruitment job would eventually lead to my depression and anxiety diagnosis.
But thank God it did. 🙏🏽
✏ Written: Friday, 23rd February 2018 @ 11.44pm
What about you?
Have you ever quit a job you didn’t like? Have you dealt with any of these feelings of WTF when it comes to the whole ‘work’ think? I’d love to hear about what you’ve experienced 💙