What I Discovered when I Quit my First Job after 10 Months

What I Discovered when I Quit my First Job after 10 Months

When I graduated from grad school, I convinced myself, like most people in the helping professions, that I would go out and change the world. I chopped my hair off and moved home to Michigan where, bright-eyed, I walked into my first day as a new therapist. I applied to over 50 jobs before moving back home, where I accepted a job from the one and only company that took a chance on a new graduate like me. Being fresh in the field, I was motivated to work, learn, and discover my purpose through my new career. I dreamed about being able to help everyone. But less than a year in, I quit my first job– a decision that I now see as transformative in my own personal growth.

In many ways, I look back on my first job very fondly. At the time, I was providing intensive therapy. I spent many sleepless nights in the hospital doing crisis intervention, and spent several hours per week with my clients. I loved it. There was never a boring day in my job, and being able to work with people who really needed my help was incredibly rewarding.

But the burnout rate the field is very high. I provided therapy out in the community, which meant that my office was my car, client’s houses, coffee shops, school conference rooms, and anywhere else we could find a private space. Because the burnout rate was high, some of the clients that I saw had seen two or more therapists before me, and were feeling hopeless themselves. Even still, I was convinced that I could help them all. And if I couldn’t help them, I’d find someone who could.

After about 9 months, my job started wearing on me. I watched other therapists come and go, burnt out by the intensity of the work. I didn’t want to be one of them, so I pushed myself through my stress. But the more I fought against the fatigue and burnout of my job, my stress turned into depression. When I got called in the middle of the night to help someone, I’d cry. And then I’d cry because I was frustrated with myself for crying. I felt guilty that I couldn’t do it all, that I wasn’t strong enough for the job. I was confused because I still cared for my clients and my coworkers. This was the career I wanted, right?

7 months into my career, I experienced a traumatic event on the job. I talked to my supervisors, who felt for me and encouraged me to bring the situation to the higher-ups of the company. But unfortunately, even as traumatic as the event was, the company was unable to remedy the situation. I felt let down by the ones that I thought would support me in the case of an event like this. Was I willing to put my mental health aside and continue the work that I was convinced I was called to do, or would I leave my job and take care of myself?

I worked at my job for another three months, questions whirling through my head. “What would happen to my clients if I left? What if I wasn’t able to find another job? After all, I put in over 50 applications before I was called for this one!” I knew what the right decision was after I put in two job applications and was called for one within three days. After 10 months in the field, I quit my first job.

I now work for an amazing company doing what I had always envisioned. I work in a clinic setting working with a wide variety of people. My coworkers and fellow staff are all supportive and genuinely care about each other. I feel more fulfilled in my work than I could ever have hoped, and I owe it all to taking the plunge when I quit my first job.

I discovered my Limits

Working in crisis intervention and intensive therapy is still work that I find fulfilling, but I learned that I can’t do that every day. Two and a half years out after I quit my first job, I’ve discovered what I’m able to handle and what is too much. I know when to step back and ask for help, and what I know I can do for myself.

Strong Coworker Relationships are Essential

I could not have gone through what I did without the support of my coworkers. I knew going into my current job that the relationships I would build there would be essential in combating burnout. Let me tell you– working with a bunch of therapists is one of the biggest blessings! I know I always have support when I need a pick-me-up, when I need someone to bounce ideas off of, and when I need someone to challenge me.

[Related:Β Work-Life Balance: Manage your Time, Improve Relationships, & Avoid Burnout]

Self-Care is a Necessity

Friends. Self-care has to be a priority in a high-stress job. I still struggle with PTSD to this day from what I went through two an a half years ago at my last job. There are days when I still struggle to manage my trauma triggers, even though I have improved dramatically. When I’m feeling burned out, I have learned that trying to trudge through the stress only makes things worse. I’ve learned to step back, slow down, and take care of my own needs.

[Related:Β Self-Care Isn’t Selfish: 3 Ways Self-Care Benefits Others]

I Knew More than I Thought I Did

When I quit my first job, I was worried that I would still feel like an inexperienced, underqualified clinician. However, I learned that I actually had learned a lot about helping people. When I went into my new job, I realized that I wouldn’t feel as clueless as I did on day one of my first job. I actually did know what I was doing. I wouldn’t have gotten a new job as quickly as I did if they didn’t believe that I was qualified. Quitting my first job meant I gained confidence in myself.

Yet, I Still Knew Nothing

When I quit my first job, I was leaving as one of the longer-standing therapists there. Before I left, my coworkers would come to me to consult. At my new job, I am surrounded by coworkers who had been providing therapy for 20+ years! I now work with counselors, social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and nurses that have infinite wisdom. They continue to teach me every day!

I Felt Empowered

When I quit my first job, I knew that I was doing more than leaving a position that was causing me a lot of stress. I was proving to myself that I knew what was best for me. I used to let people walk all over me. When I graduated and chopped my hair short, I was symbolizing that I was a new person. Staying in that job would mean that I was continuing the same patterns of self-abuse. When I quit my job, I felt empowered to pursue what I had envisioned for myself.

[Related:Β What Wonder Woman Teaches about Female Empowerment]

I discovered a lot about myself when I quit my first job even through my trauma. I count myself fortunate to have had the experiences I did, because without them, I’d never be in the place I am now!

What valuable lessons have you learned since leaving a job? Let me know in the comments!

What I Discovered when I Quit my First Job after 10 Months

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  • Rachel Jaffe

    This was a great read. We all need to do things for ourselves sometimes!

  • Courtney Lee

    Self Care is so important. I too found myself in a soul sucking position as a nurse. It took a real toll on me. I would come home and cry and could not process my thoughts. That’s when I knew I had to get out. This year I understand my boundaries and take care of myself. So proud of you for being so open and honest with your readers!

    Courtney – http://www.themoneydoll.com

    • Thanks Courtney! I’m sure as a fellow helping professional, you totally understand!

  • Reading this was really important. Co-worker relationships are so important and really shape and improve work environment. Being into HR, I’m aware about it and yet, I cannot open up and maintain these relationships. Brilliant article, though. Sharing! πŸ™‚

  • Laina Turner

    Life is to short to not enjoy what you do and who you work with. Changing jobs can be stressful but worth it in the end.

  • can relate to so much of this! I will always look back on that first 9-5 fondly, especially since they took the risk before i even graduated! it was a major catalyst on my journey and even though I’m not in the field anymore, It shaped so much of my career path and I’m forever grateful for how it all played out

    • Thanks Rachel! That’s great that you’re still able to see your career change as paramount in your own journey. πŸ™‚

  • shootingstarsmag

    I’m sorry to hear the higher-ups didn’t help with your trauma on that job, but I’m so glad that you are at a much better place now. It’s one thing to do what you love, but it can’t be at the extent of your own well being.

    -Lauren
    http://www.shootingstarsmag.net

    • Definitely. I’ve forgiven them for it and still keep in contact with people from over there, so it’s all good πŸ™‚ Just wasn’t the place for me anymore.

  • Caitlin

    Thank you for sharing this! I can relate to a lot of the things you discovered about yourself. I stopped pursuing a dream career and even though I tell myself I can get back into it down the road I know that may never happen. But instead of being upset I’m using then experience to better myself and congratulating myself on going for it.

  • Love this! As a recent grad school graduate, I can def relate to your job search struggle and frustrations. I didn’t end up landing a job, but it definitely wasn’t from a lack of trying! I feel like my story would have been very similar to yours if I had!

    • What did you go to school for? Are you planning on still trying to pursue that career?

      • I actually got my degree in Anatomy and Forensic Anthropology, and between licensing changes and the job market, can’t really get a decent-paying job without a PhD. So I’m working on getting financially stable before I consider going back to school. So maybe in the future, but I’m likely going to be changing career paths!

  • I can definitely relate to this. A year and a half ago, I walked away from a job that was “perfect” on paper. But the stress and anxiety and exhaustion that I went through while I was there caused me to finally realize that if I didn’t leave, I was headed for a breakdown. People didn’t understand my decision, but I knew it was the right one for me. And I’m much happier now!! πŸ™‚

  • I can relate to all of this! It can be super stressful to switch jobs but your happiness is worth it. πŸ™‚

  • Robin

    This is such an awesome post, Amanda! I can relate on two levels. First, I worked for a short time at a school for kids with autism. I saw so, so many teachers quit after less than a year while I was there. They not only worked with kids all day – they also had to drive to other kids’ houses after school for one-on-one therapy. They made so little money, and I could hardly imagine how exhausted they must have been every day. Second, I quit the most draining, miserable job I could imagine last year, and I learned so many of the same lessons as you – especially what my limits are, how important coworker relationships are, and how empowering it can be to walk away from something that isn’t right for you. I’m glad you’re in a better place now!!

    • Oh man that sounds exhausting! I’m glad you were able to walk away as well! It can be a tough decision because even if we’re miserable, at least that’s predictable. Walking into something new means you have no idea what to expect.

  • Enjoyed reading your story. πŸ™‚ Sometimes we have to step away from old situations to make room for something new and beautiful to come into our lives.

  • We have to do what is best for us. Even quitting a job can be a form of self-care. I’ve been in many life sucking positions and I quit everyone of them. It was time to move on to better things.

    • That’s so true. It’s hard to get any quality word done when you feel so burnt out. Glad you were able to move forward.

  • Thanks Debbie. I think that it’s a more common problem than people are led to believe because no one wants to admit that they made a mistake or settled.

  • For sure! This was the first job that I quit because I just wanted a different job. Any other job I had quit was because I was going to school, etc. So that in itself was a challenge.

  • Jordyn Upchurch

    I really, really enjoyed reading this! I just graduated just over a year ago & began teaching before I even officially graduated (so I was truly pushed out into the world quickly!) Unfortunately, because of this and because of the rate that I went through school-pushing myself to graduate early and my involvement at the school (basically doing everything I could for anyone and everyone) I just felt so burned out. I wasn’t renewed for this year (for no fault of my own-just the school didn’t have enough money to hire me back), but I honestly see it as a blessing. My husband and I have two businesses that are incredibly busy & keep him working more than full time. Me not teaching has opened up so many doors for me to be more involved with our family businesses and spend more time with him, which is awesome compared to last year!

    xoxo, SS

    Southern and Style

    • Oh I can totally relate to pushing yourself too hard! I did that too. Faster does not always equal better. Sorry to hear that you weren’t renewed but I’m glad you were able to have a positive attitude about it!

  • Taylor Smith

    You go girl. If I helps…I quit my first job out of college after THREE months so you made it longer than I did. I discovered what I could and couldn’t handle very quickly.

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