Most people don’t graduate from college and land their dream job. If you are someone who has, you are the exception, not the rule. I was the rule, and my first real jobs out of college made me so miserable I thought about quitting, moving home and starting over again in a totally different field.
I started the summer of 2014 as an intern on the Hill. Working in a congressional press office was an incredibly fun and rewarding experience that made me realize what I actually want to do with my life. I like public policy and communications, and that was the direction I wanted to go.
After a month there, however, I was smacked hard in the face by reality. Unpaid internships are not sustainable. I was burning through my savings paying for rent, groceries and metro expenses. So when I got offered a paid six-month contract job working in data analysis, I took it.
It was mindless. I was a spreadsheet monkey. For a month, I slogged through endless numbers and codes. This was not somewhere I ever wanted to be. I spent every free moment applying for new jobs: press assistant, journalist, writer, editor, executive assistant… with no luck.
My lucky break came on a Tuesday when a girl who worked with me when I was an intern suggested that I apply for her job. It was a position as an editorial assistant. It was everything I could ever want … or so I thought. I would be a part-time journalist, and spend the other half of my time designing a magazine. Feature writing was the be-all, end-all for me. It was the reason I went to Hofstra, the reason I studied journalism, the ultimate goal I was working towards.
I interviewed and got the job. With a doe-eyed sense of accomplishment, I went to work. Parts of the job were less interesting, more administrative, but it was my first real, salaried job. I was getting paid a lot. I mean … A LOT. And this isn’t to brag, for reasons that will soon become clearer. I thought I was on top of the world, making money, getting healthcare, writing…
And then I realized, I hate journalism.
I still hold that feature writing is an art form, and while I aspire to do that kind of writing, I never want to do it for a publication like this. Business-2-Business writing is not for me, and I didn’t realize it until I was already knee-deep in it. I was comfortable in my job, cozy in my expensive apartment...
The lesson I learned not two months into this job was that those things are not enough to stay in a job I don’t like. Writing my articles, I felt like I was losing myself. Seeing the red pen slash through hundreds of my words every week, and I knew full well that it wasn’t because I am a bad writer. I am a good writer, but the subject was bad for me. I couldn’t get a handle on business writing. I am a human interest, story-telling person, and that is okay. But staying in a job where I would never advance, never enjoy, was absolutely not. So I found a new job.
Still, feeling guilty, I gave my two weeks’ notice. While my coworkers were supportive, my bosses were bitter about it. They had me write a 1600-word story for the following month’s issue, and didn’t print it. It was a terribly written, rushed article, so I didn’t mind honestly. The part that burned me was that nobody thought to shoot me a courteous email saying that they weren’t printing it. I had to find that out on my own. Worse, my editors didn’t wish me luck in my new job or even acknowledge me on my last day. I left feeling like I deserved that, because I was being disloyal to the people that hired me.
You live, you work and you learn. DC is a city full of vast opportunities for young professionals. If you find yourself feeling hopelessly trapped at your desk, there is nothing wrong with leaving. You should never feel guilty for wanting to be happy where you work. Being miserable in my former job was a real wake-up call. I now have a dream job, but I wouldn’t have gotten here without having a few bad ones first.