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Why I Left My Dream Job and How It Helped Me Find Balance

This time last year I was working at my dream job. I loved it so much it consumed all of my time. I thought I couldn't be happier, turns out I couldn't find balance until I left the job I loved so much.

This time last year I was in a job at the YMCA that was perfect for me and that I loved.

I worked in a field that I knew well, doing a job that I adored for a supervisor who cared about my personal growth and development.

I was three years into what I thought would be a long-term career when I got asked to apply for a different job.

After a lot of internal debate, I applied.

Why you ask?

Because I thought getting some interviewing experience would be a great thing.

Well, applying to a job for the interview practice turned into me leaving my dream job.

Telling my boss I was quitting was a much harder conversation than I anticipated, and was a sign to me that changing jobs would be harder than I had planned for.

During my three years at the Y, I turned into a bit of a workaholic. Because I was so passionate about the work I was doing, working a lot didn’t seem like a burden to me or like something I didn’t want to do.

Very quickly, my career at the Y turned into my life. When I left the Y, I really struggled with my identity. I went through a bit of a quarter-life crisis when trying to figure out what I was passionate about and what I would latch on to.

I went from spending time and brain space on the Y to… nothing.

Ultimately, I learned that my identity can’t be attached to my career.

This was a hard lesson to learn, but I learned that I have to be complete within myself.

Jobs and careers may change (and we all may take a break from work for various reasons). If my identity (and self-worth) is attached to my job, it will be easy to lose myself and my self-value when jobs change. And that isn’t healthy.

Amy Poehler said it best:

“Treat your career like a bad boyfriend. Here’s the thing. Your career won’t take care of you. It won’t call you back or introduce you to its parents. Your career will openly flirt with other people while you are around. Your career will never marry you. Your career will chase you if you act like other things (passion, friendship, family, longevity) are more important to you. If your career is a bad boyfriend, it is healthy to remember you can always leave and go sleep with somebody else.”

Leaving a job that I knew so much about for a job and field that was very new to me meant that I would be challenged and that I would need to learn new things. While that was something I was looking forward to, it wasn’t always rainbows and butterflies.

"Treat your career like a bad boyfriend." - Amy Poehler, Yes Please

There were times when I didn’t know what I was doing and when I felt insecure about this new job/career.

I learned that working in a new field, and trying new things meant that I was going to grow.

I realized that being challenged and pushed outside of my comfort zone is actually a really good thing. Knowing that I can try new things, figure them out (or ask questions if I don’t know what I am doing), was surprisingly empowering. It is awesome to know that you can constantly learn and do new things.

While I was at the Y, I was busy. I honestly kind of hate that word and think it is overused and weirdly glorified, but I was. And I got used to working a lot and going at a pretty intense pace.

When I transitioned, I went into a role that had previously been vacant, so there was a bit of creating the job that needed to happen. And it wasn’t very busy for a while.

Now that may seem like a gift–how exciting to be able to slow down and work less! But after three years of working a lot at a fast pace, slowing down that drastically was not something I was okay with.

It was bizarre, I felt bored and I felt like I wasn’t contributing and wasn’t productive. I struggled a lot with this until I had a few conversations that made me change my perspective–slowing down is a good thing!

I know our twenties are a time when we can work a lot and get a lot done. But it is also the best time to start creating the life you want to have long term.

Now for some people that may mean working 60+ hour weeks, but for others that will look different. For me, I finally found a balance of being busy at work, but also having a personal life (outside of the volunteering I was already doing). It was really refreshing to have a more balanced life.

For the first few months of my job, I tried to deal with the things that I wasn’t thrilled about instead of communicating those things to my new supervisor. Once I finally decided to communicate to my supervisor, I not only felt better, but we were able to talk through some solutions.

I learned that communication and openness are key to being successful in a new job. Also, be open to feedback, good or bad.

Transitioning ended up being a great thing for me. I have grown to appreciate the change, but also genuinely like my new job.

While my story has a happy ending, if you have transitioned into a job and really question your decision, try to evaluate why you are unhappy in your job.

Have conversations with mentors, family or friends. Try to figure out if it is just the change that makes you uncomfortable (I had a little of that when I transitioned), or if this really is not a good fit for you.

If it isn’t, talking to your supervisor may be a good idea, but you may want to look into finding a new job. I wouldn’t recommend leaving a job every time you are unhappy — millennials are seen as the generation that leaves jobs every 2-3 years and older generations see that as disloyal, making for unbalanced work environments.

If you are thinking about leaving a job you like, know going into that transition that it will be challenging. Make sure you know why you are leaving, and make sure you are confident in that reason.

When things get difficult, remind yourself why you made the transition–to build a better life for yourself.

Have you left a job you liked? Or had to leave a job? Let us know about that experience! I would love to hear about it!

About the Author

Jessica Sharp

Jessica Sharp is passionate about empowering underserved and minority communities, diverse representation, and brain education. Jessica is the Founder and Chief Educator of Sharp Brain Consulting which works with public service agencies to provide education about the brain and its effect on organizational outcomes. Additionally, she is on the leadership team of Meals on Wheels in her town of Greenville, SC. She is completing a Masters of Public Affairs from the University of Missouri. Upon her completion, she will attend William James College to obtain a Doctorate of Psychology. Follow her on twitter at @sharpjes.


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