What quitting my first job taught me
When Kinvara’s first job began to cause anxiety, they put their mental health first and handed in their notice.
Written by Kinvara Green
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
Last July I got my first job. The four months prior had been spent carefully editing my CV and perfecting a unique cover letter for each job. The response was underwhelming, to say the least; from April through to June I received a slew of rejection emails. And then, one day in mid-July I submitted a chance application, not expecting much. Within a day I was attending an interview, and within two days I was starting my very first job.
I was over the moon; I felt like all my hard work had finally paid off. It was a huge confidence boost for someone to look at me and decide they wanted me to work for them. The bragging rights for being the first of my friends to get a job was also a plus. I showed up on that very first day full of enthusiasm and energy. I was nervous too, of course. Starting your first job is a new experience and a slightly terrifying one at that. For me, it was the first time I found myself in a situation where I was fully on my own. Unlike at school or extracurriculars, there was no one there to hold my hand and guide me through it. Regardless of that, I was genuinely excited to start working and do my best. Unfortunately, within a week I was in a state of constant anxiety because of my job.
Feeling out of place
My first day wasn’t some nightmarish hell, it was fairly on par with what I expected. But I quickly began to feel like I was out of place. It seemed to me like working came much more naturally to everyone else. Everyone learns differently, and I need to be clear on what I’m supposed to do; set out what my responsibilities are, and I’ll fulfil them to the best of my ability. I didn’t get that in this job. It seemed like I was expected to know exactly what I was meant to be doing and when I was only given minimal training. I began to dread going to work the next day, working myself into a panic and crying every night. I was a normally confident person, but I began to feel sick with nerves over receiving phone calls and texts for work.
After a few weeks of feeling on edge, receiving phone calls on my scheduled days off, and even making myself so anxious that I had to call in sick one day, I left my job. I didn’t suddenly walk out or anything; I submitted my two weeks’ notice, and then due to a scheduling issue finished earlier than expected. Strangely, however, I didn’t feel immediate immense relief. I felt quite guilty over it.
In my workplace, there was a certain culture around prioritising your job over your life. I remember hearing co-workers giving out about people asking for weekends off, and others (teenagers like me) working up to two hours past their rostered end of shift. I never felt like I fit in with this view, but in submitting my notice after just a few weeks, I proved I didn’t.
A few months later, I can look back and say that feeling guilty over leaving my job was unnecessary; I know it was the right thing to do for my mental health. But I also know that sticking it out for as long as I did was equally important. It was an overwhelmingly negative experience at the time, but it ironically had a very positive impact on me. I tended to be slightly shy in my early teens, which this job completely eradicated. Going into a completely new environment, where I received very little advice or guidance was one of the most beneficial experiences of my life. As a result, I’ve become far more confident in myself and my abilities.
This too shall pass
Most importantly, having a negative experience with my first job showed me that I can get through awful experiences and benefit from them. I honestly think that this job is to thank for the confidence with which I started 5th year. Before this experience, I would have been anxious about being thrown in with a new year group, but afterwards, I knew I would get through it. I often think about the adage; ‘This too shall pass’. I used to think it was the most useless saying in the world. Now, in hard moments, I find myself whispering it like a mantra.
Oftentimes we assume milestones will be extremely positive experiences, but sometimes they aren’t. Getting my first job was a huge milestone but getting through it and standing up for myself was a bigger one. Milestones aren’t always positive experiences, but they give us the experience to learn from and an opportunity to grow.
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