Note: This post was originally posted by the author on his personal blog last year. It is reposted here with his permission because we think it’s super relevant to all of you Trench Lifers!
Over the last few years, I’ve found myself cautioning those who have left our office in search of something better. “Be careful,” I catch myself telling those who’ve voiced their intentions to leave, “the grass is not always greener on the other side.”
Ironically, I write this with one foot out of the door of the firm that took me in as a pimple-faced high school student – and for which I’ve been working for the last 6 years – in search of my own greener pastures. As I’m writing this, I am less than a month out from a one-way plane trip to Melbourne, Australia.
“Be careful, the grass is not greener on the other side” the voice of trepidation threatens from well within my comfort zone. “You’re gonna get eaten by one of those massive dragon things” a mate of mine jests.
Monitor lizards 1:0 Mark’s confidence in the impending move.
Despite the anxiety and threat of an untimely end by the hand (claws? jaws?) of one of Australia’s many beasts, there is an an overwhelming sense of relief and excitement that has built up within me. A chance to see more of the world; an opportunity to learn about new cultures and meet new friends. Knowing a grand total of about 3 people in Australia, this is truly a clean slate for me, something which I am very fortunate to experience; not many people get this option in a lifetime.
Moving for the right reasons
Whether this turns out to be justified or not, I take solace in the fact that I am making a move for what I believe to be the “right” reasons. The decision to leave was borne not out of frustration nor despair (as is often the case in a professional services environment) but rather out of a place of comfort and intrigue.
Not that working within a big-four audit firm has been without its fair share of frustration, but I walk away content in the fact that I was able to find (and create) my own little niches – avenues in which I could practice and develop the activities and skills I was most passionate about while still contributing to the core business. For me, these niches revolved around training and coaching our people, as well as finding ways in which to bring a firm full of tired professionals together to relax and enjoy each other’s company, even during the busiest of busy seasons.
There were certainly times during which was I so overwhelmed/angry and swore to myself I’d resign the next day. There were times when I couldn’t comprehend why on earth I’d signed up for this in the first place.
Instead, I am leaving my role in South Africa at a time when I feel more comfortable doing my job than I ever have. I leave knowing 80% of our office on a first-name basis. I leave without any serious qualms and feeling extremely proud of the impact I believe I have been able to make. I leave the firm which took me from braces to boardrooms, leaving me with a smile on my face and many true friends, mentors and experiences richer.
Are you considering leaving your job?
For me, it’s time to push myself out of my comfort zone once again. The stubborn, competitive goat within me wants to prove that I can start fresh and Excel. (Yes, pun intended 😉 )
I know there are many of you who may also be considering the search for greener grass. My advice in this respect:
- Never make a decision to leave from a place of anger. If you’re wanting a change, write your resignation letter and sit on it for a week before sending it. Moments (and days) of frustration are commonplace in a stressful environment.
- Remember that our experience at work is often shaped by our immediate superiors. (As the saying goes, people don’t leave companies, they leave managers.) Understand where your frustration lies and whether there are ways to reduce this. Remember also that you are likely also somebody else’s immediate superior and that your words and actions may be shaping their working experience right now.
- Know that every job has parts that we don’t enjoy. Find a role where you can practice the things you are passionate about, alongside the bread & butter work. It doesn’t always have to be glamorous.
- Know that every job likely has people that we don’t enjoy. Do your best to spend more time with those you do get along with. Also do your best not to be someone others don’t enjoy.
- If you do decide to leave, never burn bridges. You never know when you may come to rely on those people in future.
Last, but not least, don’t be afraid to leave. The beauty of a professional services environment (and many other jobs) is that it’s not built for everyone to be there forever. There is tacit understanding that most of us will be there for a relatively short term, and that’s okay. If your time has come to go in search of something new, do so confidently, knowing that you’ve contributed all you can and added value to the business which you’re leaving. Do so having built an invaluable network and gathered experience & skills which will work in your favour in future.
I firmly believe that if we give 120% wherever we are, we’ll find things to enjoy about the role and have a rich and fulfilling experience.
Remember always: The grass is greenest where it is watered.
Update from author: Who would have known what 2020 would bring! Despite all this COVID-19 drama it has been refreshing to be pushed out of my comfort zone again! I’ve spent the last 6 months making new friends, learning a whole lot more and finding a work-life balance that I could never quite get right back in South Africa. This means I got to start Trench Life and do a whole lot more writing than I could before. Looks like the grass was greener after all. 😉
Thinking of making a big move? Let us know your thoughts in the comments! Please share this post with your friends and colleagues who are considering a change.