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Advice: Quit… before you burn a bridge

quit before you burn a bridge

I’ve been working for 20 years, in a monogamous relationship for 15 (well, including two short breakups) and have been managing (and getting feedback from) various employees, freelancers and independent contractors for 6 (well, kinda 10) years. That is a lot of mistakes, lessons learned, and things that I must have done right. So I started writing a post about giving advise to my 25-year-old self and that post went on for like 15 pages, so I figured it would be much better as some individual posts and then you all can weigh in.

Let’s start with a mistake that I made.

 

I started working at Jonathan Adler when I was 23. I think I made 22K a year so I bartended at night to help pay those bills. I was a pretty darn good shop girl – as you can probably imagine really friendly, helpful, maybe jarringly so for New York. Everyone was constantly like ‘Are you from the Mid-West? and I would say, ‘No, Oregon’ and they’d say ‘Yea … the midwest’. Anyway, after about a year I got overlooked for an assistant management position and I was pretty bummed. But I realized it was probably not for me which made me question if retail was for me anyway. As I started to pin point what I loved about the job, I realized that it had very little to do with working my way up in retail. So I started assistant styling and still bartending and cut back hours at JA to just part-time. I should have just quit, but quitting is uncomfortable, especially when you aren’t sure how consistent the other stuff is.

Meanwhile my heart wasn’t in it so I started slacking. While I was there I was still good, but definitely not as good and on Sundays after a late night bartending then going to after hours parties, I would be often late for my 11am shift. I would apologize and I got a talking-to a couple of times in nice ways. Again, I should have just quit! But the following Sunday I slept in, like past 11 and when I woke up at 12 I was like Oh sh*t. I called them and made some excuse about the subway which was SOOOO stupid and such an obvious lie. When I got to work Ginny, the manager who I was actually pretty close with despite our 10 year age difference, pulled me aside and said something like ‘You aren’t into it anymore. Are you sure you want to be here?’. I realized that she was kinda asking me to quit because she didn’t want to fire me. So I said ‘No’ and apologized profusely for lying and gave my 2 week notice. The last two weeks I worked really hard to make it up to them. The only reason that I didn’t burn a bridge was because I apologized profusely and because I was 24. But I certainly left on a not so good note and it was awkward going in the store to rent things for the next couple years.

Since having people work for me, I’ve been able to see the signs that people were ready to move on, do their own thing, be their own boss and it’s been at times really frustrating to watch. I can see them slacking, not doing their best, not really caring and just going through the motions. It always ends up fine, but the longer you/they carry on with that behavior, the trickier it is to recommend them and be a really good reference for them. In a lot of ways, when you leave on a bad note or burn a bridge (especially when you previously worked really hard) you are robbing yourself of someone who will go to bat for you to help you in the future. Every employer you have can be that angel that can help find you your dream job, so every time you taint or squander that relationship you are just hurting yourself.

When you are over it, ask yourself what you want – what would really make you stay – and if it’s not a possibility then it’s ok to move on instead of driving the experience and relationship into the ground. Most bosses would much prefer this over what I did – the ‘over time slack off and resort to bad excuses and lies’. That is good for no one.

The only time that I think it can get tricky is when you are mid-project, but then what I’d do is tell them how you are feeling and ask for what you’d want to keep you there after the project and if they can’t meet those needs then work so hard, kill that last project and move on gracefully. Don’t let the last few months of a job negate the previous years of working hard.

So, that’s my first piece of advise that I would give myself if I could go back to be 25. Anyone have experience that can attest to this either way?

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  1. Well, I am much older then you, 48, started a family late, have a 11 and 6 year old and have done many things in my years. When I was 25 I was travelling around Australia and Asia. One thing I would tell myself is to be more open, I was (and still am) great at bottling up my feelings, either good or bad and not letting anyone in. My travels would have been a lot more fun if I had opened up to many possibilities, not been so reserved and lived a little. I would also have planned better for my retirement. I know sounds weird, but I am now struggling to make up a short fall for my retirement that I know is coming. DO NOT young ladies spend ALL your money are partying, makeup, clothes. I kept thinking, I have 40 years to go, I have 35 years to go, I have 25 years to go. I have lots of time to save. Well if I want to retire at 60 (which might not be a option now), I have 22 years to go, seems like a lot, but it really isn’t (I am a stay at home mom, which makes it harder). There is my rant and what I would tell my 25 year old self.

    1. I hate to burst your bubble but if you are 48 and want to retire at 60 then you only have 12 years. Not 22. Better get saving! 🙂

      1. Social Security doesn’t consider you eligible to retire any where close to 60 these days. I wish!

        1. Thanks for doing the math!

          At present, Social Security allows you to begin collecting reduced benefits at age 62. Full benefits begin at age 66. The amount you will receive is based on earning, i.e. what you paid in. As a stay-at-home Mom (lucky you!), you may not be paying in so you will not collect a large amount.

          Right now, investments are paying not a heck of a lot. But saving is always a good thing. Will you receive a pension? Some other form of income? Good luck – things should work out.

    2. Dear, you only have 12 years to go if you hope to retire at 60. Good Luck!

    3. Save for your retirement. I am 21 and when I told my parents that I want to save for my retirement, they literally laughed at me. Everyone does. They think I am stupid. I have just landed a job and I am thinking of retirement!!! It is important.
      But I have just started thinking of it. I save money and call it my retirement fund and then ens up spending it on some “urgent” need. 🙁 Can you suggest how not to do that?

      1. Put in in an IRA. Good for you for thinking ahead!

      2. You are very smart. Any compound interest chart will show them that saving now means that you’ll have to save a lot less of your income because you’ll have the benefit of compounded returns. I would save in a Roth IRA. Find an index fund with a very low fee and go for it. If you need money in the future, you can withdraw principle (not earnings) when you need to (since you’ve already paid taxes on the principle).

  2. It is so, so refreshing to read about your very real life experience & advice! Not many people choose to talk about their mistakes online, which I think creates this ridiculous illusion that no one else screws up. Thank you for this! I always appreciate your transparency & we need more of this realness/honesty in the online community. 🙂

    1. I totally second this. Thank you for sharing the whole experience, the screw ups, the redos, the progress, and the triumphs. It’s truly encouraging and so, so appreciated.

    2. Ditto from me as well. Emily, I’m amazed at how much interesting and useful information you post on this blog that is only tangentially related to design: career advice, relationship advice, mothering, art buying…on and on. Thanks for it all!

      1. Thanks guys. I seriously appreciate it. xx

  3. I second the above comment. Your discussions of mistakes you’ve made, regrets you’ve had, and so forth could actually change lives in ways that just posting your gorgeous rooms couldn’t.

    I’m in the “just not into it” anymore phase of my current job. I so don’t care anymore. But it pays well enough and it’s easy so I still come in day after day doing the minimum. They don’t seem to notice except they probably do. I’m not into it but I’m not doing anything about it. I’m neither buckling down and recommitting to it nor am I seeing what else is out there for me. I feel like I should get something else going while I’m still working this job (and financially I think it’s a must) but then I fear just having two things I’m not doing so great at (and more when you add in the time away from my family’s needs).

    1. I very much sympathize with your situation, Emily. The worst part about my dilemma is that I’ve only been at my job 6 months. I knew I didn’t want the job when I took it, but I was trying to avoid being unemployed, and now if I left I probably another position with as reasonable a salary. In truth, I’m over my whole career path–my passion is something else, but I don’t even know how to begin breaking into it, and I’m not sure I have the money or time to go back to school.

      I’m not really sure what to do in a situation like this–a sacrifice has to happen somewhere, whether it’s money, family obligations, or career happiness. It’s tough to make the leap not knowing what the outcome will be.

      I hope things work out for you so you can find something you’re happier doing!

      1. it’s where i am right now. a very stressful place to be, filled with question marks. and no one can help you with your decisions but you.

        btw, i know things worked out for emily in a big way! (:
        she worked incredibly hard to get to where she is now,
        and it’s all because she was true to herself
        listened to what she wanted and was brave enough
        to go for it.
        you are very much an inspiration to me emily,
        and thank you for this post.

  4. This is wonderful advice, I just moved on from a job last year that I had been at for 5 years. And the 5 years really should have been 3 years. I left with a bad taste in my mouth, and they ended up basically thanking me for finally moving on. I moved from the design world to something completely unrelated. For the last year I had such a bad “hangover” from the bad experience I just deprived myself of all things design, (your blog, a beautiful mess, at-home projects, sewing) all things that I used to love and have such a passion for. I’m only now realizing how much that bad two years ruined my love for design, and I am working hard to get it back. It can have such a huge ripple effect!

    Thanks for the advice from a 25 year-old who needed it!

  5. Emily, thanks for the honesty and the real life example. It would be easier to talk in vague terms about past experiences but the details make them so much more relatable.

    To build on your advice to a 25 year old self: Don’t stay in a job for the relationship(s) alone. I stayed in a job that was clearly a dead end for me in all regards because I loved my bosses. We were friendly, had fun, they were good to me. It made it harder to leave, so I wasted what I now know were a very precious 18 months not making any progress in my career or continued education.

    It is never easy to leave, but if you do it for the right reason, and in the right way, a good employer should support you. And ideally you leave a trailing fan club behind you.

  6. Ohhhhh girl this is such an interesting topic! It’s hard (like, really hard) to “go deep” at the end of something you’ve grown tired of and are preparing to move on from, but “pulling up shallow” is never a healthy way to end a working (or, any) relationship. Thanks for this gentle reminder today. xox

    1. I know. but if you finish big then you have so much more leverage and options, etc. GO BIG!!!

  7. My advice would be to quit before… you find yourself having 30 years old and having spent 11 years on a long relationship that in hindsight was basically just a friendship with benefits. Even if it was mutually monogamous, it was nothing like I wanted it to be, I deluded myself thinking I was focused on study, and work and this “thing” was just what I needed (funny and practical). Meh… I was just to scared to “invest” in love and now at 40 and madly in love I’m trying to conceive and it’s not so easy. So, if I had found love earlier, maybe, I wouldn’t find myself here… Just my 2 cents.

    1. Oh man. I know sooo many people who get stuck in that situation. Nice job for getting yourself out of it. That must have been super hard. GOOOOOOOOODDDDD luck to you. ‘Best of luck’ sounds cold, but seriously, I wish you all the luck in the world. xx

      1. Yes, such a hard lesson here :-/ Thanks a lot, Emily, for your kind encouragement.

  8. This was a great post. I love that you’ve shared your past work experiences here. As someone who is not in the design field but loves design work, it’s a fascinating glimpse into something I wouldn’t have access to otherwise. But this post applies to all working professionals. Thanks for being so open.

    And btw, did you watch the Bachelor finale? I know you’re a fan and I won’t spoil it for anyone who hasn’t but OMG on the next Bachelorette.

    1. DUDE. I’m not happy about it. DON’T MESS WITH A GOOD THING!!!! And I can’t believe they are trying to convince us that they couldn’t decide between the two. YEah, right. Obviously Kaitlyn is the world’s choice. Don’t get me wrong. I’ll watch that shit, and probably love it, but there is something that feels really gross about it – if you can believe that. I know that there will be extra stupid cat fights and that the two will battle in a way that makes me uncomfortable. Geez, you’d think I would be talking myself out of watching it but I already have my DVR set. #teamkaitlyn

      1. I know! That was some major BS about the “Bachelor Nation being evenly divided” or whatever nonsense they were trying to peddle. I will probably watch, too, regardless who the Bachelorette is but fingers crossed it’s Kaitlyn. She’s just more interesting and relatable and I’d love to see her whittle down the group of men. WHY they would make either girl go through another rejection seems cold and unnecessary and yes, gross. Ugh.

  9. This post could not have been more timely for me Emily. I am at the stage of having had enough of my job, but also being completely overworked is not helping matters, nor is my boss really giving me much help in that department. I don’t have anything new to move on to (and few prospects due to relocating), but I am going to have to take the plunge before I let the relationship get really sour, as I will be relying on my boss for references in future. This has given me the kick up the backside I needed to be brave and get on with it. Thank you.

    1. Good. Do it. You’ll be happy to took the plunge. xx

  10. What I’d suggest from my experience is to not give a lengthy upfront notice. I was ready to move on but worried about my employer being able to replace me, so I gave two months’ notice. Even though we had a great working relationship, those “lame duck” months were awkward; I quickly wished I’d kept it to two weeks.

    1. MJ, that’s great advice. When an employer knows you’re leaving the working dynamic really changes. I think we all want to give as much notice as possible as a courtesy so that there is time to find a replacement; however, two weeks is standard for a reason. I agree that those “lame duck” times can just be…weird…for everyone involved.

      I wonder – are there any employers here who can weigh in? Emily? Do bosses appreciate more notice, or is it just frustrating knowing an employee is on the way out?

      1. I run HR for a small-ish 30+ employee company that my husband co-owns. I can say that the notice you give should depend on your job position. Some of our employees are required to give 30 days notice because we previously had an instance in which a VP of Product Development gave only two weeks notice and there was just not enough time to find a replacement and provide knowledge transfer, which resulted in some major setbacks for the company and time/money lost – the owners are still bitter. So my advise is to take into account your position within the company when providing notice of leave and try not to leave in the middle of a big project if possible.

        1. Yeah, I agree. I think it also has to do with why you are leaving. If you are leaving becasue you aren’t happy with the company, your work there, etc, then just give two weeks. But if you are moving on, to start your own company, take on clients or get a higher management position at a different company then finish the projects you are working on. That’s kinda how Orlando did it – he slowly fazed out but finished the projects that he was in charge of. Had he just been leaving to work at another design firm (a lateral move) then I would have been bummed and probably would rather have had him jut quit.

  11. Great post as usual! I’m finding myself in a quandary because I’m working part-time at a job I’m over but in the beginning stages of starting my own business that is not to the point where I can viably quit the other part-time job. Trying to stay upbeat and with it at work is hard when I really want to be 100% doing my own thing. I am getting moved into a department that is more creative and suits me better so that will help but I’m dreaming of the day when I can cut the cord and be on my own. Thanks for the encouragement to do it right all the way to the end!

    1. That is so tricky. The plunge into full time freelance is terrifying. If you can try to save as much money – then you can take that plunge sooner – and meanwhile if there is anyway that you can make your job now help you create more experience (or get more clients) with your own business then that would be ideal, obviously. Good luck!

  12. Can’t wait for the rest of this series, Emily! – my design idol and now new life coach 🙂

  13. Great advice! You don’t want to ruin a recommendation an employer might give you by acting like a butt in your last month there

  14. emily – loved this…can you speak at all at some point to how to help your employees move on when they are obviously ready to go? Or at least managing people in a small business? I am a new business owner and have very little experience with managing people. I inherited two employees and one of them is very clearly ready to go. But he’s been here a long time and still knows more than me. I don’t want to fire him but I need some advice on how to handle this…

    1. Andrea,
      Have a candid conversation with the employee about what you see his strengths are and ask him where he sees himself/ wants to be in your company in the next 6 months. If he lights up and has a “path” he sees himself on, dedicate yourself to helping him make it happen by setting achievable goals. If he “doesn’t know” or seems disinterested, have an even more candid conversation about where he sees himself if not with your company, and leaving things on good terms with you by creating an exit strategy for himself that includes training you on things you still need to know and a date that he will be gone. The important thing is to deal with it and face it no matter what– he will feel better, as will you, and you will avoid creating a “bad apple” that you are desperate to get rid of.

      1. Well said, Christie. I totally agree. I think I had a few conversations with Orlando when he himself didn’t know that he was ready to go, so it was kinda similar – I’d ask what do you want and he thought he was happy. But I think that every time we talked about it it got him thinking about his future and he did start making steps to creating his own company. But do what Christie said. 🙂

        1. thank you so much for responding – both of you…so kind…

  15. Thank you for being so generous!

  16. Great post, thanks for sharing your experience.

    it resonated with me and something i can use when i speak to younger women as well!

  17. this is incredibly true. i am so glad you shared your story. it is nice to know other designers are in the same place. there is something about the design industry that once you get the itch to leave, you can’t ignore it. i just left my job, but tried very hard not to burn bridges and maintain relationships. timing is everything.

  18. Oh my yes! I have been doing a similar exercise and this is number 3 on my list. Number 1 is make choices for the life you are living today, not the story you have made up for the future. Number 2 is finish experimenting with all the interesting things sometime in your late 20’s or early 30’s and narrow down so you can apply your energy to the things that really matter. And then this. I had great jobs that changed over time. And every time I waited way to long to move on. I kept thinking it might work out and that I could make myself work as well by being disciplined.

  19. What a timely post Emily, thanks for sharing and giving more than a few of us the much needed shove to make some decisions!

    Would be great to hear more thoughts on notice periods…

  20. Wow! You just articulated and experience I recently had. I was on the other side though and as the employer watched someone who at one time had been a star employee deteriorate to the point she had to be released. She clearly grew bored but was intent on hanging around for promotion opportunities that might arise from attrition. Those opportunities never arose as vacancies were never created and her work ethic grew worse with each passing month. I noticed the change in behavior and new projects and assignments were offered, but they were not approached with any kind of dedication or commitment to quality. In fact the quality suffered immensely, deadlines were missed, and clients were disappointed. In the midst of all of that, she asked for a substantial raise which was neither justified nor affordable and when it was not given performance continued to deteriorate. When the separation finally occurred it was handled well by all parties on the surface but the professional working relationship was so bad that no one in the work environment would be inclined to give a positive reference and now she has a job separation and gap and her resume that may be difficult to explain. The sad truth is exactly how you described it: she was full of talent, full of ambition, and a very dedicated employee at one time. She simply hung around too long after she lost interest. The really unfortunate thing for her is several months after she was let go, an opening did occur which would have been an advancement for her and at one time I would have promoted her in an instant. But after seeing the poor behavior, I did not even reach out to her as a possibility to fill the vacancy. As you so accurately stated, if she had left the agency on good terms when her performance had been at the top of its game, I would have eagerly reached out to her when the opening occurred.

  21. Love this! Thanks for sharing,Emily. I’m wondering how to apply this great advice in the context of mid-thirties with a family to support. At 25 you can call it, but tougher when kids and major expenses are in the mix. That’s when you really feel stuck. My hubby would love to bail and I wish there was a way…

    1. I second this! I know that my future at my current job is limited and I am in the process of hunting for a new opportunity. Quitting isn’t an option though – both financially and because I believe (at least in some industries) that being currently employed makes you a much more desirable candidate for a new company. So I do my best to keep myself motivated and working hard despite knowing that I’m on my way out (hopefully) soon. It can be really tough.

  22. Love this post! Hope you continue it, It’s nice to have advice from someone you respect both for their business and personal life choices/actions! Love a shout out to us millennials!

  23. You are admired not just for your design work, but who you are.
    Thank you for sharing.

  24. Great advice. I wish someone I’m close with would’ve read this 4 years ago!

  25. I’m really excited about this series! I’ve long admired you as a self-made woman (such a weird phrase, but you get what I mean). I’m 30 and still in that floundering, what-do-I-really-want-to-do-for-a-career stage…I mean, I know what I want to do but I also know what pays the bills, so I’m in between those things. My heart isn’t in my job but I have such a crazy work ethic instilled into me that I’m still carrying my weight…but I’m sure my boss would want someone who is crazy excited about the product we’re putting out! I really need all the advice I can get and can’t wait to read more! Thank you!

  26. On the flip side of this discussion is the issue of “job-hopping”. My resume is full of 18-month jobs because once I’m done, I’m done. I think part of my problem is I’m not in a field I’m passionate about, so new positions go stale very quickly (I’m working on the industry part). I’ve been in my current position a little a year and I’m gearing up for a job search. But maybe it’s not so much WHEN you leave, but HOW you leave.

    1. This is a great point! As a manager one of the the major turn-offs when I see a resume is job-hopping. We are always looking for loyalty and longevity in our future employees. I have to say that there is a fine line between leaving when you know you’re done, and digging in to discover what more you can learn. Initiating a candid conversation with your manager can go a surprisingly long way.. I WISH more employees would tell me when they feel stagnant, need a change, want to learn sometbing new, want to transfer positions, etc. Granted I work for a large agency where there are plentiful opportunities– I realize this does not apply for all workplaces.

  27. I agree and this post came in good timing with where I’m at in my life. Though I believe you are doing yourself and employer an injustice, sometimes it take a while to realize this and decide on the next direction. It can me daunting! Hopefully, we can all take your advice before we add this to our own life lessons.

  28. When I got to that point where I didn’t care any more at my last job (because I realized they never cared about me in the first place), I channeled that feeling into becoming indispensable to the company. You can become apathetic about a job, but I think your reaction to apathy is what will define your work ethic.

  29. i want to print this out and give it to everyone who has ever worked for me. oh…and also give it to myself. and even some bosses i’ve had. great post!

  30. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your posts recently about how you got to where you are and the choices you made when you were around my age (23). I went to school for interior design and am currently living in Austin, struggling to get my foot in the design door. I’m working as a teacher with young children I absolutely love but am becoming a poor employee due to lack of “passion” I never truly had. I drive to work feeling very sad and empty and wishing for the chance to use my creativity. It seems employers aren’t fond of people who lack experience! The result of all this has been an extreme lack of self confidence and me trying to remind myself I am talented. I even chose to not apply to your position (my dream job!) due to fear. Since I discovered you on design star I’ve felt you were my soul sister of design. It’s peaceful to know you were once where I am (sort of) and I hope I can overcome these life obstacles soon. I hope you’re able to read this and maybe even reply with some advice or just a “keep your head up”. Thank you for all these wonderful posts and your love for brass. We share that.
    <3

    1. Kali, you definitely should keep going! 🙂 I work in Austin and I’ve noticed an increase of work in the area within the last year. I was totally in your position as a recent grad – it was hard to get someone to give me a chance without much experience. I’ve found the key to conquering that is persistence. Keep putting your feelers out there. Send out your resume, maybe attend local design events, reach out to firms/designers that interest you. Even though you have a degree under your belt, don’t overlook an opportunity to intern. It will help you stay current and may lead to a full time position!

      1. Thanks for the advice Nataliya! I’m definitely happy to hear other people making it work. Would you say it’s overbearing to send my resume to companies that aren’t necessarily hiring?

        1. Kali, I don’t think it’s overbearing at all – but it may get overlooked unless you make an impression on them. You want them to say “Wow I totally want her on my team.” Emily hit the nail on the head. Showcasing your style and abilities is huge, but also a big part of it is selling yourself as a person. You don’t always have to have all the skills to land a job – but they need to like YOU. I think more so then randomly sending an email that says “I’d like to work for you, attached is my resume”, come up with a creative way to tell them why you would like to work for them (in example, tell them what you loved about a recent project they’ve done.) When you show interest in people, they are more likely to reciprocate. Best of luck to you!!

    2. Oh man. I’m so sorry. Here’s my advise – because I don’t know if the experience thing is your problem getting in the door – it may be how you are presenting your work. you may say ‘I don’t have any of my own clients’ but that shouldn’t stop you from making a mood board (or 4) of your dream room. Hell, put them in a floorplan and present it at job interviews (or attach with resumes) as if its real client – not lying of course, just saying how it represents your style. If you have skills (rendering, research) and style (which the mood boards will help show) then you can absolutely get your foot in the door. You should have ABSOLUTELY have applied for the job, but if it makes you feel better we really didn’t look outside LA because there are so many good people here and the idea of someone moving here for the job (if it didn’t work out) stressed me out. If you want, email me your resume/portfolio and I can give you honest feedback to help you figure out how to get your foot in the door. I keep meaning to do a post about it, but it would be raking a bunch of people across the coals. I guess instead I could just highlight the people that did stand out and explain why – because it wasn’t always because of experience. At all. I hired someone recently based on her instagram account – it showed how artful and creative she was and once I met her and liked her I was like – yep, we could use her brain over here. Make yourself unique and useful in ways that employers don’t think about – social media, styling, marketing, etc. That is what this generation has to offer to us old folks 🙂 Good luck!

  31. Enjoying hearing your back story! (also, piece of “advice” not “advise)

  32. While Emily’s post doesn’t reflect my exact situation, it was comforting to read. I just recently put in my notice at my job…same company for over 10 years, and the only place I’ve ever worked. I was ready to be out of that job 2 years in…let alone 10. It is hard to put in that notice, even when you want to. It’s like dumping someone who is really a great person, but for whatever your reason(s), you just need to move on from. You do want to leave on good terms! I believe I am doing that. It can be scary, amazing, intimidating, awesome, but ultimately – you know when it’s time to go.

  33. Wow, this one hits home. This was my life at my last design position. I probably stayed about a year longer than I should have. I knew it wasn’t a good fit, yet I kept going through the motions because I was comfortable. And drained to a point where I couldn’t even conceptualize the work I would have to put in to find something else. (Hey job hunting in the design industry isn’t always as simple as just sending a resume online.) I kept making excuses and holding onto fear and false hope…. but sooner or later face the music and just end it. I don’t think most peeps really knew the extent of how miserable I was until I wrote a post about it. (http://vimandvintageblog.com/2013/10/28/this-is-my-life-i-get-1-im-not-settling-for-less/)
    I’ve always found that you know what’s best for you, and you have to listen to that little voice. Like a bad relationship, a job that isn’t the right fit just isn’t worth your time.
    So thanks for taking the time to write about your life experience! I’m sure you’ve reached a lot of other people struggling with this, and maybe they will see their situation in a new light.
    xo.

  34. Oh yes, I’ve been there. Although I was always quick to jump ship if I wasn’t feeling something. In some cases I burnt some bridges but, if you’ll excuse the cheesy analogy, I was in time able to build new ones. It took 6 years post uni of bouncing from one unhappy position to another (including a freelance business I created for myself) before I landed in what is turning out to be the right one. I can’t stay for long in a job I don’t like (partly why I work editorial-it’s fast) although I will push myself to stick with it for longer now than I used to. Thankfully, I love what I do now! Thanks Emily. x

  35. Ooooh….good information. Looking forward to the rest in this series.

  36. Thank you so much for posting this. Your advice really hit home with me, as a 25-year-old and given my current work situation (3 years at the same agency). I think this is so true, I absolutely enjoyed reading this!

  37. I’m confused.

    Why would you give your 25 year-old-self advice that you needed when you were 24?

    1. Ha. the series is ‘advice to my 25 year old self’ because that is when I ended the most of it, but yes this happened when I was 24. Maybe i’ll edit so there isn’t ‘confusion’. ‘advice to my 20 year old self? I just think its a mid-20’s problem but maybe its anytime. 🙂

      1. * needed it 🙂 not ended it.

  38. Emily,
    I just love your blog and your thoughts on so many design issues. I have followed you since the HGTV crowning and I wish you still had a TV show.
    I was wondering if this post was for the reader benefit or perhaps it’s meant for your employee? I hope they read this.:}

    1. HA. this is for reader – literally just things that I knew. I think anybody that I work with would immediately catch on, but I would definitely talk to them before I wrote this. We have been discussing these a lot, though, at the office and the first one I wrote I didn’t even post yet because it was pretty controversial over here – Brady didn’t necessarily agree with it – so sometimes these may not be so obvious. We’ll see 🙂

  39. I feel like you wrote this post directly to me but I’m not 25. The last job I was at I left when I was laid off after 9 years. I should have left after 5. I probably NEVER would have left if I hadn’t been laid off. My current job I’ve been at for 6 but should have left two years ago. It’s sad, because when I started here, I loved it. And I told myself if I ever felt like I didn’t, I would have enough nerve to recognize it and move on and not be negative around co workers. And I just haven’t. I tell myself that the reason I haven’t left is a good one, but in my heart, I know that’s not true. My kid would have adjusted. My husband would have adjusted. I need to move on, to do something for me. I just need to JUMP!

  40. Thank you! I will certainly remember this as I am applying for a second job.

  41. This is such refreshing news to hear – both from the side of an employer and employee!

    It’s eerily similar to the situation I’m in now. At 25. Ready to move on. I’m starting to feel “the slip” – passion is lying elsewhere.

    Your post has a way of putting a positive twist on it – alleviating some of the guilt that can be associated with leaving a job.

  42. Oh thank you for posting this. This situation reminds me so much of the first (and only) time I had to fire someone in retail. What I really wanted to tell this young talented person was that I was doing her a favor … because I just knew that she wasn’t “in it” and totally needed to find her true path. This was 10 years ago! I still think about it and hope she did find that path….

  43. I didn’t see you on Design Star but your tv show was my fav on HGTV partly because you actually showed yourself making mistakes and backpedaling sometimes. TV editing (and blogs) usually show just the victories and the end results and can make viewers/readers feel so inadequate, thinking we’re the only ones who screw up. So thanks!

  44. As I was reading your post I thought you were going to say you were leaving us! Relieved that wasn’t it.

  45. As a twenty-five year old that just burned a bridge to start a new career path (from jewelry design to interiors!) This completely just validated everything I had been feeling and what I couldn’t explain to my friends and family. Thank you for confirming that I’m not as crazy as I thought I was!

  46. Thanks for sharing these stories Emily. I am currently in that same situation right now. I am 31 years old. I have been a hairstylist for almost 11 years. I find myself not wanting to go in to work and sometimes postponing appts to stay home and work on things around my house. I have always (and when I say always I mean since the age of 6) wanted to implement some sort of interior design in our house. This year I took the leap of faith to start a blog and see where I could go with it.. It’s very scary putting yourself out there. But I truly want to spend my time doing what I love, even if it means doing free jobs here and there it’s what makes me happy. With that I would tell my younger self.. Figure out who you are, what your passions are, and do what you love and what makes you happy!

  47. This is so perfectly timed for me. I have been trying to take the plunge from my current job to going out on my own but the unknown is scary. I have everything lined up to start my business but have yet to tell my employers. We run in the same circle and have kids at the same school so I want to leave on a good note. I can tell my heart is no longer in it. The day I finally got the nerve to tell them, they beat me to the punch and asked me to head up a project good for my portfolio. I am nearing the end of it and trying to decide if I should tell them before it is finished, but finish up the project, or afterwards. Also working super hard on it to leave well.

  48. I forgot about my 25-yr old self and you just reminded me. What a cool thing to do. Totally awesome post today.

  49. I totally agree with this – both as an employee and as a team leader. The worst is when you watch someone just decide it’s not worth it but sort of hang on…it’s just like a bad relationship where the guy is too chicken to break up with you but does all the annoying things like ignore you, become unreliable…and you end up breaking up with him. In the working world, it is MUCH better for the employee to just leave on their own terms. Getting fired is a huge ordeal both for the manager, and for the employee / future prospects (recommendations as you mention). I’d also highlight what you mentioned – just being honest. In most cases your boss is on your side – if something is not making you happy they either may not be aware of that (so tell them!) or they may know of another opportunity that would be a better fit. But they can’t help you unless they know. I know personally I’ve had my struggles, but indicating your feelings to someone you trust (boss, mentor, more senior colleague) can actually help you see something you didn’t see before and make your situation better without having to leave. So try that first. And if that fails…then leave.

  50. I’ve been quite keen on this very subject of writing advice to my much younger self as a way to share it with my daughters. While I never had the problem of staying in a position I did not feel passionate about; I have stayed in a town that was to be my two month stay with a friend post college while save up the money to move to a place I liked. I left it twice for work in other more interesting cities and each time was recruited back to the town I loathe (okay so it is technically a city but a town to me). I realized in my mid 30’s that there was a reason the universe wanted me to live there so I was damn determined to make the best of it and well….ten days into moving back I met my husband who LOVES this darn place. 25 years later I am still HERE and dreaming of moving.
    I would tell my 20’s self to find a job out of the US and live abroad and work for a couple years somewhere else. Then return back to the US and live in a city that geographically and culturally excites you.

  51. This is crazy timing! I am turning 25 at the end of the month and just gave my notice YESTERDAY! To a company I have been with for 5 years. It’s a growing company that I feel so attached to and love the idea of, but honestly, I haven’t been loving doing my job and it’s caused some stressful personal situations. I feel so conflicted – devastated to leave but also relieved. I think being honest is the best option. I told them how I was feeling, came up with a timeline that was good for me (a little over 3 weeks), and brought them a solution/what I would do to make the transition as smooth as possible. And because of this, I was told I am welcome back whenever I choose.
    I think being in an upper-management position, I know how appreciative I am when people are honest and want to be part of the solution. And I know how frustrating it is when someone isn’t doing a good job because they don’t care but is refusing to leave. There wouldn’t be any hard feelings for people who just don’t feel like the position is a right fit, and move on gracefully. I am happy to be a reference for these people, because why would I want to hold them back from doing what they really want to do?! And opening up the opportunity for me to find people who are excited to be in their position.

  52. This is good advise. Not so easy when you are in a very specific job roll and you are looking around for another job but you don’t want to move to another state and there are few postions available. During the bad economy I looked for another job for 2 years. Finally I just quit because i couldn’t take it any longer…not even for one more day.

  53. Dear Emily,
    Thanks so much for the post and blog. I agree completely and feel this is stellar advice for anyone no matter your age. Case in point, I am now working with a company that had hired a man as the CEO who owned a previous company ( where I had worked ten years ago ) the only reason I landed this big account is due to the fact that I did in fact not burn a bridge when I left the previous principle some years back. Everything in my industry ( natural products channel ) comes full circle. I like to think of it as my little Karma fairy who watches out for me. I truly believe that what goes around comes around. The universe gives us back what we put out there. That being said being kind to me is my biggest advice to a young person staring out on her career path. That in conjunction with doing the best you can is always a safe bet! Of coarse I have made mistakes we all have we are human after all! But the rule of thumb for me is to start every meeting with a smile and be grateful for everyone and every situation. It seems to be serving me quite well. XO Paula P

  54. Oh my stars …! Will not begin to say how far past 25 this can apply. Thank you for this generous post.

  55. Great Advice! I only wish I had read this about 8 months ago. I just burnt a bridge because I didn’t realise how unhappy I was in my job. You give really great advice, and I am looking forward to reading your next post!

  56. My advice is quit if you can, but don’t start slacking. I really don’t understand that mentality. I worked at a job that was crushing my soul and making me physically ill, but I still worked my butt off until I left because that’s the responsible thing to do. If you feel yourself slacking, remind yourself that it’s not permanent and in the long run, you will be happier if you keep up good work until you leave.

  57. yes! You’re so right here. I think the point to get out of this in a larger sense though is about learning how to operate in the professional world. When you’re 25 and have worked things like part time campus jobs and summer gigs (hi, life guarding) you need to have some experiences like this where you realize ‘oh, this is not how people with a career in this behave’. Learning things like how to quit, when, and how to maintain connections afterwards are all hard won lessons. I think we’ve all been there! Ask me about the time I was ‘sick’ on the day of a commercial shoot for an internship at a production company. Needless to say, did not go well.

  58. You are literally my role model now, Love the way you describe your life so far in such colorful words.

    XOXO
    http://hilarynirvana.blogspot.com/

  59. Thank you for your honesty! I did something VERY similar at 22. I was in the corporate world, making a crap salary, and I would bartender/set up weddings/ whatever to make money on the side. I came in late one time too many. It was so embarassing, and I felt shame about it for YEARS. Ten years later, I have learned to forgive my younger self for screwing up, but also learned how to be a more responsible human being who takes ownership of my own decisions. Although you probably regret the decision, it’s good to have such a humbling experience to have learned from. It makes me a more understanding supervisor, and I think will also make me a more sympathetic mom when (not if) my precious, perfect in MY eyes 14 month old screws up one day

  60. You are the only blogger I follow that is this open and honest about your career! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate it! I’m 23, working a crappy government job, and trying to break in to home remodeling. Restoring historic homes is my biggest passion in life (you just can’t beat the quality of the craftsmanship and materials in older construction) and through a series of incredibly lucky breaks, I’ve landed my first reno project. I feel so lucky to have gotten this opportunity and am so scared to waste it. Playing contractor/designer and dealing with electricians, plumbers, permits, inspections, construction crews, a property owner and a budget for the first time ever is just about the scariest thing I’ve ever done, but your posts on how you run your business and mistakes you’ve made are helping me through it. So this was a little gushy, and I’m going to stop rambling now, but yeah, thank you!

  61. Seriously wonderful advice. Thank you for being so honest. This is something I know to be true but it’s so hard sometimes to listen.

  62. great advice Emily. I’m in a COMPLETELY different place from where I was 7 years (I’m 34) ago and while it’s not perfect and I make less money, I’m much, much happier. The company I worked for lost its contract and when they were trying to get us placed with a similar company, I turned my option down. It was a big deal to my family (I worked with a family member who didn’t understand my decision), but I knew if I had taken that job, I would’ve gotten fired bc I had already started slacking at the current one bc I hated it so much (I’m not sure if anyone could really tell). I knew to back out and luckily, I didn’t have to burn any bridges with anyone, thankfully. You have to know when to take a chance and walk away. When you despise getting dressed in the morning to go to work, then you know it’s time to find a way out.

  63. Mine is simple: 25-year-old self, don’t let that boy go. You’ll regret it forever……..

  64. Emily – I’m that 25 year old (okay, 26 and a half…) that can staind to learn from your experiences, as I forge my own. It’s a tricky venture, figuring out what my niche is in the design field, learning as much as I can from the opportunities I have, and payin’ the bills. Looking forward to see more of this series!

  65. Emily, this post speaks to me on every level imaginable. I am 23 years old, working at a law firm to pay the bills, but spending every free moment trying to make it as a full time wedding photographer. I have been feeling all those feelings of “this isn’t where I want/need to be but the bills need paid and I don’t know where to go from here.”

    I’m not doing as well as I know I’m capable of because my mind is constantly somewhere else. I don’t want to be known as someone who can’t do their job well. This post is exactly what I needed to hear. Thank you.

  66. Great advice! I gave my first job about nine months notice because I knew I would have to quit when I started student-teaching, and my last month would be right in the middle of the company’s busiest season. Definitely a smart move–my boss constantly told me how awesome I was, and I had plenty of time to train my replacement. 🙂

  67. Wow. This is exactly what I needed to hear. I was stressing earlier today about whether I should stay or go. I’m slacking. After almost 5 awesomr years,, I’m not loving it anymore and I’m not being challenged. I’m the new catch-all since a few people were laid off (very small company) and it’s discouraging. I love the perks…like my pay and working from home…but I think I need to sit my ass down and apply for the dream job posting I just saw a few days ago. What’s the point if I’m not excited to kick ass at my job every day? Thank you. Sincerely.

  68. This is exactly where I am right now. I’m 24 and just quit my first job out of college to focus on grad school. I was burnt out at work and having a hard time focusing in school. I was doing neither well. I wish I had read this post last week while I was freaking out about quitting. Reading this is making me feel MUCH better about my decision. Love reading this blog for it’s design inspo but I really appreciate your fresh and honest opinions on life and careers.

  69. This is the best advice I could have ever gotten at this time. THANK YOU!

  70. Great post, I always love reading about successful bloggers/stylists/designers’s pasts! (Mostly because I’m in that awkward “tying to find a real career” phase of life, and looking for tips!)

    I would love to read more about this (can I have your 15 page essay!? 😉 ), but mostly I would love to hear about the kinds of positions you’ve had before getting to where you are now, and how you got them/came across them.

    Cheers!