The word written and circled in purple ink on the upper-right-hand side of my planner during my senior year of college. The word I kept my sights on as I crammed for exams, applied for internships and interviewed for full-time jobs.
Upon graduating from college, I’d accomplished my goal. I’d landed a full-time job as a copywriter at a local branding agency, and I was over the moon.
Fast forward another couple of years, and I was no longer over the moon about my role. Not because I didn’t want to be a copywriter, but because I knew that in order to grow as one, I needed to find a new place to work. After all, “stagnant” is not a word I’d ever written down, circled or hoped to become.
A Hard Pill to Swallow
My story is not new. We’ve all worked jobs that didn’t fulfill us. We’ve all landed at agencies we loved at first but grew out of in time. It’s normal. But that doesn’t make it easy. Realizing it was time for me to move on from what I thought was my dream job was a hard pill to swallow. I knew I wanted to find a new agency to challenge me, but I also loved the comfort, flexibility and security of my first gig.
I could have done that job in my sleep. I knew the processes, the tools, the clients and the office culture like the back of my hand. And I loved my coworkers. To leave it all behind and embark on something new felt scary, and left me riddled with anxiety for weeks as I began the all-too-familiar and all-too-exhausting hunt for a new job.
When I landed a new gig, I felt conflicted.
Is this the right move? Is the pay bump worth it? Will my boss be mad at me if I leave? Will my coworkers be mad at me? What if my new job sucks? What if I’m not good at it? What if I don’t fit in?
Eventually, I decided it was time to take the leap, but breaking the news to my supervisor felt like breaking up with someone. Like trying to let someone down easy when you know the relationship just isn’t going anywhere. And it felt like a breakup because as soon as I made the choice to leave, all I could remember were the things I liked most about that job. The holiday parties. The happy hours. The office puppies that frequented our halls. I wondered, “Am I making the right choice?” And it took a while, but eventually, my mind answered, “It’s time.”
Moving on and Making Peace
I didn’t like my new job at first. I felt like an outsider. Like Elle Woods showing up to her first Harvard class with a hot pink purse and feather pen, I felt like I stood out among my new coworkers—and not necessarily in a good way.
Friends, family and peers kept congratulating me on my new role, asking how I liked it, and I thought I had to lie. I smiled and said everything was fine, because that’s what I thought people expected of me. Things finally started to turn around, however, when I admitted the transition was hard.
As a member of the Minneapolis ad community, I attend a lot of networking events and meet a lot of really amazing people. And I compare myself to them. I look at what others my age are doing, or where they’re working, and feelings of inadequacy wash over me like a tidal wave. They’ve got it all figured out! They’re totally killing it at their new job. It hasn’t even been hard for them. Why is it hard for me?
Spoiler alert: It’s hard for everyone.
But we take leaps and try new things and sometimes, fall flat on our faces, because that’s what growth looks like. It isn’t linear—and honestly, not a lot of career paths are, either. For many of us, work is where we spend the majority of our time. A guaranteed 7 to 8 hours of our day, if not more, are reserved for staring at a computer screen and producing work for the people who sign our paychecks.
We can’t always work our dream job, but when we like what we do, life typically feels a lot easier to manage. During my first agency switch, I learned that changing jobs in advertising is like balancing an old-school scale. The moment you release yourself from one side, things get wobbly and uncertain. But eventually, they even back out.
Finally, things are evening out for me. With every passing day, my new job gets a little easier and feels a little more familiar. I’m realizing that who signs my paycheck doesn’t matter. How my life or my career looks to others doesn’t matter. What matters is the work I’ve put into becoming all that I am: a daughter, a sister, a friend, a yoga teacher… and, oh yea, a copywriter.
/written by Erika Voeller