Thursday, September 1, 2011

Career Day

For the last couple of months I've been struggling with what I'm supposed to be doing with my life.  I know my place in our home.  I'm the happy husband who works on the dishes.  I'm the father of two little ones.  I'm the diaper changer and bottle maker.  I'm the one on the floor rolling around and entertaining 10-month-olds.  I'm the guy who chases those little ones all over the place.  That part of my of life is set.  I love it and cherish every moment I have playing those parts.

Unfortunately I haven't been feeling nearly as complete in my professional life.  It was the first time I questioned where I was and my direction.

I've been in the same industry since I was 16 years old.  I work in collections.  Scum of the Earth.  I know.  But it is something I've excelled at since before I could drive a car.  I called people on the phone and helped them recover their debts.  Or I managed and trained people who called people to recover their debts.  And for 13 years that is what I did from 9 to 5 every day (or 6 to 6 and even later while I've been in management).  When you do something for that long, it starts to define you.

This only made things more difficult.

It's hard to even think about leaving a stable job that you're pretty good at in an unforgiving job market.  It's even harder to do this with the house payment and a new family.  But when you feel like your life needs a change and you start to feel underappreciated, doing what is "safe" feels less and less like an option.  Whereas doing something new and challenging has been shouting at me like an obnoxious sports fan.  It was something I couldn't ignore in spite of how scary it really was.  I needed to address this nagging feeling that had grabbed hold of my brain and refused to let go.

Erin and I talked about it over the last few months.  She could tell I wasn't happy where I was.  She saw how much it was taking out of me.  And although it would make our life a little more difficult in the short term, she supported me and let me know that she would back me up no matter what my final decision was.  She knew I had to move on if only for my mental health.  She wanted what I wanted and knew that I would do what was best for myself and more importantly for our family.  We spent much of our vacation talking about plans, where I could work, what we needed for income, health benefits, etc.  We talked about the short-term and the bigger picture.  I emphasized how important it would be to work closer and cut out my commute.  We realized an opportunity and weighed the options of taking it or looking for something else.  I had reached a decision by the time we got home and knew what I had to do.

So I did something incredibly difficult when I returned from a week off, I informed my boss that I would be leaving after the end of this month to pursue something new.  I was leaving a place just a few weeks short of my five-year anniversary and an industry that defined my professional life.  She was a little shocked that she would no longer have me to depend on, but she understood my reasoning.  There was no bad blood.  No bridges burned.  I would give her all the knowledge I had to make sure no balls were dropped after I left.  But I would also not look back the moment I walked out the door on my final day.  That was fair.

This week I informed the rest of the staff.  A task that I actually found even more difficult to do.  These were the people that have gotten to know me over these last few years.  I had actually hired and trained most of them.  I tried to teach them what I knew and helped them be successful whenever I could.  There were times when they frustrated me (and I'm sure I frustrated them), but that is the nature of people you work with.  You respect them and enjoy them all the same.  Part of me feels like I'm abandoning them, and that is what made it harder than anything.  I know they can do the work and continue to be successful without me there, but I also know that not seeing someone that you're used to seeing every day is hard.  I've always had a positive attitude and a smile on my face which isn't easy to do in this particular industry, and I hope that isn't lost when I leave.  I will miss them and wish them all the best.

I'm at the same time scared and excited, mournful and ready.  I've made big changes in my life before, but this is a change that welcomes an exit from my comfort zone.  This is a risk that I've not taken before.  This is giving up something tangible for the unknown.  Nothing great can start without something else ending.  I think this is the start of something great.


Kim {Yep, they are all mine} said...

Todd could have written this exact post, he's been at the same employer since he was 19 - except he hasn't made the leap into a new industry. It is hard to see him miserable, but only he can decide if/when to make that change! Good luck to you :) Good stuff.

Anonymous said...

wow, that is pretty heavy