The first time I applied for a job to leave my last company was April 2014. I was actually approached by a friend who asked me to apply at her company. I honestly hadn't thought about leaving until she suggested it. I was very unhappy but not yet miserable, and the pros still outweighed the cons. I never heard back from the place I applied, but that sparked the fire and from then on, I kept an updated resume at all times and would apply to jobs every now and then when something that looked REALLY GOOD popped up.
Some time after that, the pros weren't outweighing the cons anymore. I came to find my boss a morally bankrupt person, an offensive and misogynistic person, and downright rude and disrespectful to me on a personal level. It's not necessary to walk through all the reasons why, but I spent every day feeling disrespected, degraded, demoralized. But still, I kind of thought that's how everyone felt at their jobs at some point or another.
Around March of this year, I started furiously applying to jobs. For a good few months, I spent half my time on job boards, writing cover letters, sending out resumes, etc. It wasn't easy, and my market is pretty saturated. I broke down in tears more than once out of sheer frustration. What was I doing wrong? I was doing everything by the book: I received feedback on my resume and cover letter. I networked with colleagues. I emailed HR personally and enthusiastically. There was not a job I was qualified for that I didn't apply for—and there were many I was completely unqualified for that I sent my information to anyway. I had one fantastic interview this April, followed the rules and sent a thank you email, we bonded over a shared alma mater. I never heard anything back from the woman who promised me a timely response.
In early June I went on an interview that I was almost positive I was going to get. In the weeks that followed I got so fed up at work that I thought pretty much every single day about just winging it, quitting on the spot, and crossing my fingers that the job offer would come through. I got that offer in the first week of July, accepted, gave two weeks notice, and then rejected the job offer before I started. So I was totally and completely jobless with less than two weeks left to work. I thought for maybe half a second about rescinding my resignation, but I couldn't stand the thought of being shackled to my boss for literally one more day. It just wasn't worth it.
Before I rescinded my acceptance of the job offer at the newspaper, I was contacted by two corporate recruiters in my field and had landed two really promising job interviews on my own. I was still applying to jobs every single day. I was hunting down freelance work, working on my portfolio, and trying to network my way into little gigs that would at least help me keep the lights on. A recruiter landed me a temp assignment—a lot of people only want copywriters/editors on an assignment basis rather than employing one full-time in-house—at a marketing agency and I took it. I told myself it was a stop-gap, as I fully expected a job offer from a company I wanted to work for any day now. The temp assignment pay was great, and I figured it was only temporary.
As you know, I was pretty devastated by a rejection not long after all that.
After a few weeks, the marketing firm loved me and wanted to transition me to a full-time employee. I thought about how much I was annoyed by little things there, and how if I committed to work at this company on a full-time basis, I would hate it there just as much as I grew to hate my last company. That was senseless to me. I didn't leave a miserable job just to end up at an equally miserable job, with a longer commute and not-as-awesome coworkers to boot. So after a few weeks of still nothing coming down the pike except the knowledge that my recruiter's job is to find me work, even if it's temp, I gave two weeks notice with absolutely nothing lined up. Again.
A sidebar here is necessary: I am not of the mindset of a lot of people: I don't believe in living to work. I don't believe in working more than 40 hours a week (in most cases). I don't believe in our jobs being central to our identities, and I completely detest the idea that a person who doesn't want to work their life away is lazy or unambitious or lacks drive. I think that money is bullshit and I hate it, but it's a necessary evil so I control mine intensely so it doesn't control me. I believe work should keep us out of trouble and teach us humility and a job should be something that funds our pursuits of happiness and purpose in life. A lot of people think their purpose and their job are the same. I think maybe 5% of the Western world is so lucky for that to be true.
To that end, I despise the idea of working at a job that makes me (or you) feel sad, miserable, degraded, devalued, disrespected, or any of the other things I felt for the last two years of the job I was at for three years, the things I was sure I would come to feel sooner than later here.
That all brings us to the end of this September. While news of my upcoming departure trickled through the marketing firm, I was absolutely shocked by the number of people who seemed to care. The CEO of the entire firm as well as the CEO of one of the brands operated within came to me personally (I had never spoken to either one before) and remarked about my good work there and basically asked me to stay—or come back, if the grass didn't turn out to be any greener wherever it was that I was going. To paint a bit more of a picture, I was brought in to build a brand voice and editorial cadence, tone, and style from the ground up. I quite literally wrote the voice for a global brand, and I had proven myself to be a good and hard worker.
But I was still unhappy and it was getting worse each day, so I leapt off the edge. I was still sending out resumes, still being represented by a recruiter, and now I had a global brand and a whole lot more samples to add to my portfolio. All this while I had a few freelance side gigs and I was plotting how to turn them into steadier work. I was ready to hustle, but it occurred to me one day that I wasn't really hustling toward anything in particular.
After being rejected by Pearson (as in, the publishing company that produced every textbook you ever used in school) after being one of the top two candidates for the position, I was immensely deflated and completely lost direction. After hating my last job so much, Pearson was the only company I could see myself moving to. And they had decided they didn't want me. So what did I want now?
I knew what I didn't want. I didn't want to be instructed on how or when to be creative. I didn't want to be given "creative freedom" in constraints. I wanted to do my best work the best way I knew how, and I wanted enough respect from my employer to be given the trust that I knew better than he or she did what that was. I wanted work to be about work; I didn't want my life to be about my work. I wanted a new job, not a new lifestyle. I didn't want to lose hours per week to commuting. I didn't want to feel like everything I was doing was a step on the treadmill. I won't even run on a treadmill in marathon training; you think I was going to do it in real life?
But I also never wanted self-employment: the taxes, the health insurance, the hustle, the headache. I didn't want it at all. Until I realized that it was the only way I could keep out the shit I didn't want. And again, slowly, and then all at once, I decided to work for myself.
I worked out a deal with the marketing firm to work on a freelance basis, remotely, only attending in-office meetings as necessary. I fired my resume out again, but to different places and people and looked for different things. I write for a few websites now and picked up more work with others I already had relationships with. And then suddenly, one day I turned around and was a self-employed content writer and copywriter.
It was a really weird realization at first: the realization that I had actually become, in a good way, something I never thought I wanted to be. I've read for years about people in my industry who were DYING to be their own bosses, who side-hustled and worked 80 hours per week for a year to build up a client base and earn the freedom to transition to self-employment. I, on the other hand, leaped without looking and fell into what I discovered in an instant was the best thing for me, and what I didn't know before I really wanted to do. I felt at first like I didn't earn it, like I was going to have to pay the Pied Piper, and like I probably couldn't hack it.
But I can, and I am, and I did earn it. I just went a different route than some, I suppose. You know that quote about getting lost on the way to a dream and finding a different one? It's true. It's so, so true, you guys. And another thing I have to say: I went back and read the comments on this post today, and you all were so, so right. Thank you for having my back when I really needed to hear something I totally didn't want to hear: that being rejected was a blessing, and that something better for me was closer than I could have realized.