I’ve never hurled myself off a cliff, so I have very little idea what that feeling is like. I have to think, though, that the existential equivalent is quitting your job without any real idea of what to do next. If that’s the case, then I’m about to jump off a cliff.
You see, I’ve been here before. Early last year, a couple months after I finished managing a political campaign (we lost, thanks for asking), I took a more traditional job in the marketing department of an educational software company. It was a pretty standard entry-level job. The work was unglamorous, but management enticed recruits with the steadiness of a paycheck and potential benefits. Further, they advertised that the chance of advancement within the company was all but guaranteed. It was what every (semi-) recent graduate is supposed to want: security and opportunity.
But for some reason, it didn’t feel right. It’s not that I wasn’t good at the job. In fact, I was great. We had a point system that tracked our progress with bonuses for the winning person and team. My team won every week because I won every week, often by doubling or tripling other workers’ scores. It got to the point where people were just playing for second, and I was flush with Amazon gift cards. Within 24 days of working there, I had already been scouted by the sales department and given a promotion. Again I was living the dream, just not mine .
On the first day of training for my new job, our human resources director showed us a video about our product and told us that we were heroes and that we saved lives. I had to stifle laughter. We sold a fine product, one that people seemed to like. But it was also software that was purposely written at a sixth-grade level to make completion convenient for nursing home and correctional facility staff. The guys in Houston didn’t land on the moon, and we weren’t saving anybody’s life.
Later in the training, we were asked to give presentations about ourselves. I didn’t take this all too seriously, and when it was my turn to present I led a group discussion on the relative merits of Phil Collins (of whom I am not a fan). It was obviously impromptu, but people seemed to enjoy it.
Everybody but the human resources manager, that is. She referred me to my soon-to-be boss, who told me my actions “were a poor reflection on how the company was perceived.” It was hard for me to believe that after five weeks of putting up utterly Herculean stats at my job, a few jabs at Phil Collins were going to get me in trouble. It concerned me that my superiors were more worried about appearances than results. It concerned me more that I just couldn’t care if we sold our software or not. So I wrote an e-mail resigning and never went back.
Which brings us to now. I decided to get back into politics, a realm where I knew I could find a better sense of fulfillment. In August, I was hired as a finance assistant on a congressional campaign. Sort of. See, the first day I showed up, the finance director who hired me told me he was leaving in a week, and I was going to be trained to take over for him. It was my first day, and I had already been promoted to senior staff on a congressional race. It was intimidating, but being a person who likes to say yes more than no, I decided to take the challenge.
It was good to be gaining experience, and I was learning a lot on my own, but I soon found out I didn’t like my candidate very much. I realize that working for a person you don’t like is something that human adults have to do every so often—however, I soon found that my candidate was also was wildly unprofessional. He was always late, often unprepared, constantly complaining, and on two different occasions asked me to lie to my campaign manager. Worse, he would frequently lie to the faces of the staff and attempt to use divide and conquer tactics to get his way (except he wasn’t really smart enough to pull this off). I started to realize that this was a bad environment. I figured that I could work for somebody I don’t like, but I can’t work for somebody I don’t respect .
So I left again. Two jobs quit within a year. I felt like I had a decent justification for both, but nonetheless started to doubt myself. Did I have an attitude problem? Maybe so, but I had plenty of other jobs that I found stimulating and fulfilling that I had poured myself into and left on good terms. Should I have shut up and toiled away? Again, maybe, but I want to take pride in my work. I really only have two gears, and I want to find a place where I can hit the ground and go full throttle. I’ve yet to find that place.
So I’ll keep searching. And in the meantime, I’ll write dozens of cover letters while reacquiring a taste for Ramen noodles. I’ll live and die by the sound of an e-mail hitting my inbox so that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be in the running for consideration for a preliminary interview. It will be terrifying and exhilarating. It will make me work harder and write better than I ever have. And who knows, perhaps it’ll teach me that happiness really is the journey.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a jump to make, and it’s a long way down from here.
Have you ever left a job with no options in front of you? Share your story in the comments section!
Photo of man walking courtesy of Shutterstock .
Grady O'Brien is a political consultant and freelance writer based in North Carolina. He has the only opinions on the internet.More from this Author