I quit my job and it was my biggest mistake ever...


A couple of years ago I decided to quit my job without having a new employment.

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Written by Björn Jonasson – Vice President Maxkompetens

A couple of years ago I decided to quit my job without having a new employment. My friends and former colleagues said I was “brave”, “courageous” and “did the right thing”. Some also told me that they “wished they had the courage to do exactly the same thing”and that it would be a “fantastic feeling” to do it. For me it was my biggest career mistake I could have made.

The background was that I had been working in the institutions of the European Union a couple of years after I graduated. Those employments are by their nature, short term employments and connected to some risk, which I knew from the start. When my contract one day ended, I decided to stay in public affairs and applied for a position at a well renowned communications agency. After a selection of over 430 applicants, I was called to the interview and case stages and was after that, one out of seven to be offered an employment. It felt really great and I had high expectations, having landed a fantastic job I thought.

Unfortunately, the agency underwent a huge expansion at this time which required new structures that weren’t yet in place. They had done and did exceptionally well in national and international contests, winning almost everything that was out there. So, even though the agency grew stronger, I felt misplaced and misused in the organization. I felt that I performed too simple tasks, wasn’t given the opportunity to contribute with my previous developed skills and felt under stimulated. So I got frustrated, angry, felt misunderstood and my ego took a hit, to the point after four months when I from one day to another just quit without having any new employment. And here is why that was a huge mistake.

1. Emotionally

Even though it felt great to quit that job when I did it, that feeling didn’t last long. This was in May and one would think that it was the best month to quit a job, having all summer off. The truth is that even though I indeed had the longest summer ever, I also felt more and more miserable because of the difficulties of getting a new job. Recruiting agencies don’t have a lot of jobs during summers and companies don’t employ before or under the summer. So if my ego was hurt before, it was nothing compared to how I felt during that summer. My value had gone from top to bottom within a couple of months.

2. Financially

That summer I had trips planned and paid for to Tokyo, Paris and southern Italy. I went on all. These trips, a summer at home and rent to pay, of course heavily affected my savings account, to say the least. Since it was my own decision to quit, I wasn’t entitled to any support from the government, which I never thought I would be in the position to ask for and which in itself was a peculiar feeling having double degrees. One could say that those minutes of a feeling of freedom were the most expensive minutes I will probably ever experience in my life.

3. Career wise

Quitting a job without having anything new coming, no matter what, is extraordinary short sighted career wise. It took me three months to get a new job and I was at that time in no position to be picky. Before getting a new employment I sat down, gathered my mind and really thought of how to maximize my outcome of getting a job where I would do really well and enjoy. I have always performed well in sales and communication and like the energy of having a lot of people around me. So I decided to look for a sales job, which I finally got. But that also meant that I had to start from the bottom again and work myself up, prove myself once again and enter a new business once again. Had I stayed with the communications agency or in that business but at another agency, I would not have had to spend a couple of years doing all from the beginning again. Career wise it could have gone downhill from there.

But I was lucky, there is really no other way I can see it. I liked my new job right from start. It was a great company to work at, I had friendly and professional colleagues and a fantastic boss. She believed in me from the beginning and little by little I got my self-confidence back, my energy was reaching its former levels and with that came good results.

Looking at that time in retrospect when I quit that job, I can’t blame anyone or anything for what happened. It was just bad timing and I was at the wrong place at the wrong time. What I learned is that sometimes it happens and the only thing one can do when it does is to have a plan to get out of there. That plan for me, should it happen again, would be to start looking for new jobs, but at the same time stay positive and try to distance myself as much as possible from the surroundings but still get the job done. And be convinced that in time that plan would always lead me to a new job without putting everything at stake.

What happened made me stronger but I would never do it again, because it came with a big price and could have ruined a promising career.

What about you? Have you any similar experiences and how did you pick your career back up again?