I Quit My Dream Job For A Better Career

Career paths are tricky to navigate, especially in a modern world when there are so many choices to make. This is even truer for millennials, the generation renowned for their entrepreneurial approach towards their career and ability to remain flexible in the face of expanding professional horizons and opportunities. Branding yourself as a full-time Instagram-mer is now a legit option, as is having your dream life sponsored by GoPro.

I am one of these millennials, currently in the process of re-evaluating my career. Although I have no desire share my life on Instagram in exchange for cash rewards, I am in the process of re-structuring my five-year plan and using a non-linear path to get there.

To give you a bit of back story, until six months ago I was working in my dream job in a gallery. It had taken me a while to get there – a lot of dedication, schooling, and internships. I worked there for three years and loved it, as in, loved it.

However, after three years I realized that although I loved my job, I didn’t have much of a life outside of it. I wanted to travel, meet new people, and get excited about learning again.

Could I be brave enough to leave a job I loved, a job that didn’t feel like ‘work’, behind? These were risky thoughts, especially in a world where another great gig wasn’t guaranteed to be just around the corner.

After much consideration I remembered that I was only 28 – I had my entire adulthood life to work. So, how would a year or two out of the professional world affect my CV, in the long-term? I had paid my dues, I had developed my professional network, I trust my ambition and drive for success, and dammit I was ready to see what else the working world had to offer me.

Too often, career advice encourages us to be consistently making steps forward in our career path, as if success happens in a clear trajectory. Although this is ideal, this isn’t often a choice or a reality for most people. After all, not everyone has the luxury of quitting on their own terms; redundancies happen, funding cuts are a real thing, and competition is as fierce as ever in our over-qualified world.

Taking a chance on your career

A very real part of me wanting to quit my dream job was so that I could get out there again and be inspired by new information, ways of working, and explore creative opportunities that I hadn’t had room to consider before. But without a new job to go to, I felt as though I was taking a step back. In an attempt to feel more confident in my decision, I spoke to Kate Savage from Elbow Room Coaching to hear her take on quitting your dream job as a way to expand your career options.

I wanted to know, can taking one step backwards in terms of career ‘progression’, sometimes lead us to taking two steps forward in our next move?

Absolutely. You often hear of people stepping ‘sideways’ into roles. In my experience, this is often a case of running away from a role rather than running towards a role you really want. For example, moving into a similar role in a similar company, thinking the grass will be greener.”

“If you have a goal and a plan, and that plan involves stepping backwards to gain experience, insight, or a foot in the door, then you’ll also know why you’re doing it, and what your next two steps forward will be in advance. A lot of people and companies are also starting to recognise the importance of attitude as well as learnt skills. Get in there and show them what you can do!”

Leaving the institution

Another reason for leaving my dream job was my fear of being institutionalised. I wanted to know what other work environments were out there, and to discover what they could offer me in terms of professional development. Is it important to think about this in our professional lives, and how damaging really, can the threat of being institutionalised be to our career?

From an external point of view, it’s all about positioning, transferrable skills. It’s true, you will have some people who will see one role in one place and dismiss your application, but there are many who won’t – particularly if you explain why not up front. Change how you present yourself. Don’t talk about your title or job description, talk about the skills you have. What did you learn? What will you bring to their role? What’s in it for them?”

When is it time to say goodbye?

For a long time, the only thing that truly held me back from taking the next leap was my own self-doubt. Aside from feeling unsure about what comes next, what are the key tell-tale signs that it is time to leave a role and move on to greener pastures?

“Crying on Sunday evenings is one, and it’s not as uncommon as you might think. Is it a career or a job? Are you living to work or working to live? Neither is wrong, you just need to know which situation you’re in, and which one you want to be in.”

“Ask yourself: do you love your job? Is it negatively affecting your life outside work? Is it worth it? As always though, make sure that when you make the leap you are moving towards something you want, not just running away from something you don’t.”

And it was with that comment that I realised, it’s time to stop over-thinking my choice and focus more on planning instead.