How Staying in a Bad Job Taught Me to Value Myself
By Thao Nguyen
I started working when I was a sophomore in high school. In the eight (!!!) years since, I’ve never gone through a period lasting longer than two months without a job. I can confidently say that I gained something beneficial from every position I held that wasn’t related to my pay. From valuable lessons about patience, to one of the best friends a girl could ask for, my career path has granted me many blessings. Surprisingly though, it was the job that I found the least amount of fulfillment in that gave me the most.
My first job out of college was as a technical writer for a semiconductor company in the Bay Area. Of the three job offers I had received prior to my graduation date, this was the one that I was most excited about. It seemed to have everything I wanted in a job - opportunities for growth and learning, a friendly team, and decent pay - and for the first month, I was pretty happy. But after that, I quickly found myself wondering everyday if I had chosen the right offer. I found myself feeling miserable, anxious, and dreadful every time I thought about work. The highlight of my day was seeing the building in my rearview mirror.
I knew that I was incredibly blessed to even have a job to hate in the first place, but I still struggled to be happy. My coworkers and I got along fine, my manager was incredibly nice and taught me a lot, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the 8 hours of drudgery I was putting up with. The work itself was dry and uninspiring, and that’s me being generous. The fact that I spent almost half of my waking hours doing something that I hated was not good at all for my emotional health. Being a cog in the machine made me feel dispensable and insecure about everything I had done in school to get to where I was. Anxiety about feeling unfulfilled for the rest of my life kept me up for nights at a time. Yet, despite all of that, I stayed at that job. For over a year.
It took everything not to quit. I dragged myself into the office everyday and stared listlessly at the screen for eight hours. Sticking it out was painful at the time, but I stayed because I felt bad about leaving my team when they were all so nice. However, when I finally made the leap to leave, I realized that for all of its shortcomings, the job had taught me a lot. It taught me that I needed to put my own wellbeing before what I imagined what others would feel. It taught me that even if my work made me feel useless, I was worthy of being happy in my job. I learned that I had to value myself more and do more to take care of myself. I was in a bad situation, but I choose to stay in it because it was familiar. Instead of aggressively looking for a new position, I settled for the unfulfilling one that I had. Once I was finally out of that company and happier than I had been in over a year, I realized that I had to do risky things like quitting more often, for my own good. That job taught me to value myself so much more than I had before, and that’s worth more than any paycheck.