This Corporate Dropout Gets Honest About Quitting Her "Dream Job"
“It wasn’t until I found myself sobbing in the bathroom that I made the decision to leave,” says Jessica Choi, a young, ex-corporate professional hailing from the suburbs of Georgia.
Jessica always took all the right steps. She had a stellar high school career. A degree from Syracuse University. A résumé decorated with interning stints at CNN and Chevrolet, and a job at General Motors (GM) straight out of college. After GM, she hopped back down south where a dream job in Communications at an esteemed airline company awaited her in Atlanta.
“My whole life, I worked towards the goal of getting a great job at a great company that offered a great salary. I did that. I had that,” says the now health and wellness entrepreneur. “But life wasn’t ‘great.’”
Jessica’s dream job was anything but a dream. She found herself in “a never-ending cycle of exhaustion and anxiety.” Working in the aviation and travel industry meant everything affected her work in Communications from bad weather to the Super Bowl to terrorist attacks to the Zika Virus.
Jessica was always on call, working long hours and through the night. Too often she had to leave family and friend functions to sit in a separate room or in her car, open her laptop, and work. “It was exciting at first. But eventually, I just stopped making plans to do anything because I felt (and knew) that I probably would have to answer to work,” she recalls.
Jessica tried to pep talk herself to stick it out in hopes things would eventually improve or that she may find a better opportunity. But she remained unhappy, and the climactic moment in the bathroom was the last straw. “I gave my 2-weeks’ notice the very next day. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next. I still had bills and student loans. I was terrified. But if there’s one thing I was sure of, it was that I made the right decision,” she says.
So what happened after Jessica slayed the corporate dragon? She faced the financial aftermath dragon. “I was used to steady paychecks, autopay, eating out and $4 coffees. But once I stopped working, I really had to look at all my numbers and save money however and wherever I could. I quickly learned that I couldn’t live the life that I was used to and that my spending habits had to change,” says Jessica.
But what she struggled with just as much if not more, was her identity sans corporate job. “I was always very proud of my ‘big time’ corporate jobs. My jobs were always a part of who I am and gave me confidence. They were my way of showing others how hard I’ve worked. But once I quit and became ‘unemployed,’ I became incredibly self-conscious. I felt that people looked at me like I was a quitter or that I just couldn’t handle the real world.”
Jessica had to learn how to define her own happiness and stay focused on herself, all while making sure her bills weren’t singing Rihanna’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
“Quitting is seen as such a negative thing. People will judge you. And once you stop receiving those wonderful paychecks and benefits that you’re used to, things will get really hard, really fast,” she explains. “But I want you to know that it’s OK. I repeat: IT’S OK TO QUIT. It does not mean you’re weak. Sometimes, it’s the right thing to do. Take small, actionable steps to achieve your goals, and don’t let the opinions and fears of others get to you.”
So what should one take into consideration before leaving any job? Jessica says that it’s important to ask yourself why. “Is it the work environment, the type of work, the pay, or the company? Is there something going on in your personal life that’s making work less enjoyable? Or do you want to pursue something else? Knowing your reasons and having a good sense of self will help you feel confident about your decision and will be key to determining what happiness means to you.”
The next stop on the train to Quitville is the bank. Assess your current financial situation, advises Jessica. “Things will get hard financially. There’s no doubt about that. So, look at your responsibilities, savings and finances. I don’t have any kids, so it was easier for me to take the leap. I made sure I had enough money saved up to cover my bills, food and gas for 6 months. Then I came up with a plan to make at least 1/2 my monthly income. I’m not going to lie, I only made about a 1/3 of my monthly income. But that’s OK. Just make sure to have a plan and be flexible.”
Nowadays, Jessica is making boss moves. She’s in the infant stages of building a business that helps folks live healthier and happier lives. She’s been a fitness fanatic since high school, when it became a form of therapy during difficult times. Recently, she’s launched a YouTube channel where she shares full workouts, tips and recipes based on the knowledge she’s gained over the years. She’ll also be launching her first product later next year. So. Much. Yes.
“I can say that I am 1,000 times happier today. There are still a lot of challenges and stress that comes with leaving a corporate job to pursue your own passions. But it's also comforting and exciting to know that all my current stresses are over a business that I'm trying to build for myself. I'm not stressing out for anyone or anything else but me.”