I was walking towards my stark, windowless office building like I had done every day for the last eight years. But this time, as I approached, I felt a suffocating weight pushing back against my chest. I literally couldn’t take another step forward. It was like my subconscious was screaming at me not to go in.
I knew the Space Program was going to be intense at times, but the stress I was under every day was horrendous. Everything had to go perfectly. I would be lying in bed at night with a million thoughts racing through my mind. I couldn’t sleep. I had to rely on coffee to make it through the day. My personality was changing. I stopped returning many phone calls and emails. I lost my friends. I started associating more and more with work people instead. Even though I exercised regularly, I felt my health declining. I just couldn’t see it yet, but I was definitely sick. The stress was transforming me.
So I quit.
Know the Reasons Why You Want to Leave…
I found it very helpful to list all of the reasons I wanted to leave. This is what my list looked like:
- The stress was literally killing me. My health was being affected.
- Company loyalty had disappeared. This was the sixth straight year with layoffs.
- While I liked the type of work I was doing, I disliked the tight controls that the company had in place for product development. Innovation and creativity were actively stifled.
- I disliked my bosses and many of my coworkers. They thought like bureaucrats.
- I was boxed in: trying new things was very difficult. I felt like I was losing my edge.
More than anything, I wanted to challenge myself with something new. I felt like my life was slipping away, consumed with this job. I was too content in my stressful little bubble. I wanted to get my life and creativity back to how I envisioned they should be.
Make a Plan…
The Aerospace industry, like many others, is exceedingly incestuous. I knew I had to be careful how I left the company, since a wrong move would haunt future prospects. No one knows what the future holds, or who you may be working for ten years from now. So, I sat down and wrote a very positive letter of resignation and gave a full two weeks’ notice. I didn’t list the many problems or complaints I had. I didn’t write a single negative remark. Instead, I praised the company and the individuals for the tremendous experiences I had working with them. I can’t stress this point enough: You want to leave every job on positive, professional terms. You want to be remembered by the organization as a person of character. This will also make it easier to secure references for future endeavors.
I have to admit, I was unprepared for the level of awkwardness that ensued. Sure, a large number of people stopped by my office and wished me luck, cracking jokes all the while. But, I was definitely persona non grata the minute I submitted that letter. Two weeks is a very long time to sit there finalizing projects and handing work off to coworkers. By the second week, I had absolutely nothing to do. I was getting looks like, “Are you still here?” On my last day, I made the rounds and shook a hundred hands. My boss walked me to the door that afternoon.
I know many people get walked to the door the instant they hand in their notices. So, if you’re considering a change, you should be mentally prepared for that.
I found it very difficult to say goodbye to so many people I had seen every day for eight years. We all promised to stay in touch, but in the ensuing months I rarely heard from anyone there. The reality is, you will lose touch with almost all of your former coworkers. I suppose this is just human nature.
Day one on the new job brings an entirely different set of emotions. I was both hugely excited and tremendously nervous. I was basically starting over completely. It’s difficult to project the same level of confidence when you are scrambling to learn new technologies and very different product lines. I really pressed hard to try to integrate myself into the flow of the business. This isn’t easy.
There are many factors to consider when you are thinking of changing jobs, aside from the list of reasons you want to leave the old job. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- You will be giving up your seniority. If it doesn’t work out, you gave up any expectation of severance pay.
- You will likely lose any vacation cushion that you had saved up.
- You will know very few people at the new job, if any. No one will have your back.
- Changing insurance, retirement accounts, and locations can be chaotic. However, for me the new job actually provided better benefits.
- You must prove yourself all over again.
In the subsequent weeks after the change, I was able to settle into a bit of a routine. As I got used to the new terminology and operating methods, I was way more at ease on the job. I started making larger contributions and taking on more difficult assignments. I still miss my old job, but I’m now having a lot of fun in this new, more dynamic environment.
If you are considering a change, stop and think carefully about the reasons why and what the process will be like. If, like me, you still want to take the plunge, then go for it with all of your energy and efforts.