One of the first topics I am going to write about after this long break is about changing my work situation.
Why do I write about that? I quit a job in last autumn which was a decision I thought about for more than a year. For me it was a great decision – but still I would not go out and tell anybody I meet to quit the job as you should think about it sufficiently. I do believe that in some situations it is good to go and in others it is worth a while to stay. Since leaving I have taken time for me to travel, go to seminars and met a lot of interesting people. I also had a lot of conversations with other job quitters and not-quitters as well. As there is a lot to write about, I split this among several blog posts. The first one is about my own experience.
I had a consulting job in Spain which I started during my master’s thesis when I was living in Bilbao. To be honest I was never really sure if I really wanted a career in consulting. But it also seemed like a good way to get into work life after finishing the postgraduate studies in business. And I ended up meeting a lot of other graduates, we were quite a young team and had a lot of fun spending time together. Nevertheless, in this first year the work often seemed boring and meaningless to me. At that point I was not really sure what to do – whether I should go back to Germany where I originally come from or stay in Spain. Somehow I really liked Spain and did not want to go back to Germany but I was also often missing my family and friends. So I sent some CVs and went to a few assessment centers.
In the meantime at my workplace I was offered to take part in an „international project“ in Germany. This basically meant that I would go back to my country – but as an expatriate, a very funny but also strange imagination for me. So as I was maintaining my Spanish work contract and having the possibility of going back to Spain every 2 or 3 months the decision between the two countries was postponed for the moment. Somehow I ended up accepting the challenge and just 2 weeks later I found myself sitting in a plane to Germany together with my new boss, our manager, his boss and a representative of the customer.
As life seems sometimes a bit ironic, I got a nice job offer just a few days afterwards, in this first week of the new project. Obviously I rejected as I just accepted this new challenge.
Since then what seemed boring before turned into something extremely exhausting. The work itself got better, we learned a lot of stuff, made some really good impacts for the customer and a promotion was also waiting for me that had a good financial impact. But as you know the coin has always two sides and some of the work conditions were not so promising for me on a personal level. I hardly had any personal space and leisure time left for me. I shared an apartment with my boss – in the first six weeks we even had to share a bedroom due to an organizational mistake of the company – we also shared a company car and an office where we worked long hours. This scenario was my reality for two years. So it also meant that the work day never really finished as work always “accompanied” me. I could observe the consequences on my health and wellbeing and my resilience was not really developed at that point. But I can also tell you that today as the reality is different we can laugh about the situation as it always makes a funny anecdote to tell.
My boss and me became good friends besides the fact that she is quite the opposite of me in many areas. We often made jokes about the situation – that we are like an old married couple – spending more time together than many people do in a relationship. We made a little circle of friends with some other German and Spanish colleagues and went on many excursions, parties and wine tastings. There were funny times but I found that life basically took place at the weekends. In some ways I also started to feel at unease on Sunday afternoons as the new week was waiting for me.
But I noticed that this framework was not working out for me and I ended up having different stress-related symptoms in my body – the consequences on my health and wellbeing I mentioned before. I realized that as a highly sensitive person I have to take better care of my needs and establish boundaries. On the one hand I need and appreciate nice company but I also need space to be on my own, the freedom to decide how to spend my time and a work which is fulfilling and meaningful to me. I started feeling the desire to find my purpose in life and a work which is more in line with my personal values. After half a year of the project I was already unsure whether I would like to continue it or not. But I did not take a decision because I was not sure what to do instead – and if I had quit I would have had to face the decision between Germany and Spain and I would need a plan. Both of these issues were intimidating for me. So I continued even though I often felt exhausted or unsatisfied in different ways. And I also found myself telling something like “I quit in 3 months” but ended up staying. So maybe things were not “bad enough” at that point.
I discovered the field of personal development, went to yoga retreats when I was on holiday, spent time in nature, practiced meditation, made the first introduction of Reiki and started a remote education in health- and prevention coaching. Because already before I found that the whole field of wellbeing and holistic health was quite interesting for me. But due to the high work load I often could not bring up the time I should have. At least I spend a lot of time thinking about what I want to do in life instead of the current job, started talking to different people and gathering ideas to make a plan for quitting. There was the idea to go to India and do a yoga teacher training, travel around Asia and central America was also on my mind. But it also scared me as I had never done something like that before – I had not even been on a long distance flight. Not to mention the effort I would have to spend to plan all of that. And I was also somehow worrying – just a little bit! – how to explain this gap in my CV (sidenote question: Why should it be so bad to have a little gap in your CV?).
Finally it was last summer when I sent the important email – the notice of quitting in the end of August. It was a bit difficult to take this step as my colleagues and me became friends and worked a lot of time together and I would also have to move out of the flat as it was paid by the company. But it was quite a relieving feeling and I have to say – the last 6 weeks at work were one of the happiest and lightest work weeks! Apart from that my boss was super supportive.
I basically felt great about life and all the new experiences that were waiting for me at that point. I just had to sort things out with the leaving procedures in Spain, come back and start enjoying the journey.
Now let us take a look at the decision of quitting. I have to say that this long uncertainty of postponing a decision was quite challenging for me. Because in many situations not taking a decision brings more „suffering“ than taking a decision. Still I would not recommend to take such a decision from one day to the next because you should carefully think about it and have an idea about how to proceed with your life afterwards. But the learning I took from it is not to postpone such decisions and face what you have to face. In my case it was that I had to get comfortable by facing uncertainty and cut my work relations to Spain – for the moment. We never know if life brings me back to Spain for work in the future or maybe somewhere else?
The unusual thing in my case was that I was quitting without having a new job offer – and there were quite some people in my surroundings which could not really understand this. There were also others who thought I was brave and inspiring. In general I would say that in many aspects security has quite a high value in Germany and it is more common to have a new job waiting there before quitting. My decision was not in line with that. But I do not regret it. In general I think you should not worry too much if there are critical opinions among your family or friends as long as you are sure about the decision and feel good about it. I have heard a lot of positive feedback of other job quitters as well.
Some people nowadays have the opportunity to do a sabbatical and continue with their job afterwards but for me this was not a feasible option as I was planning to change basically everything.
Maybe you have experienced something similar – have you ever quitted a job without having a new one?
Have you been on a sabbatical?
If you are interested in the topic you should also check out my next blog posts which might be about ideas for the decision when to quit and when to stay in a job, getting back after a sabbatical and maybe also about stress at work and in life.