Dear Captain Awkward,
Quick background: I just graduated this June and moved to a new city in August to be with my lovely, lovely boyfriend. We’re not living together yet (but we’re discussing it and both of us want to move in together soon), but I am staying with an aunt and uncle who live in this new city. I applied like crazy for jobs when I moved out here and took the first one I was offered because the economy sucks and I was scared, etc., and I am incredibly grateful to have gotten work so quickly after moving, in spite of the job itself. I know that I am lucky in that regard. I have some student loans to pay off, but those payments don’t have to start until January. I also bought a car, but my grandma helped me pay for it, so now I’m paying her back. That’s my financial situation right now.
I’ve been working as a data entry operator at this job for about two months and from day one, I hated it. I cry on the way home from work at least once a week. I dread waking up to go to work every morning. I stare at a computer screen for forty hours a week in a windowless office in a warehouse with people I don’t like or have much respect for. The women I work with gossip about each other constantly and it makes me wonder what they’re saying about me when I’m not around. I don’t get up. I don’t do anything different at any point in the day, just shuffle papers from one pile to another. My commute is at least an hour in heavy traffic both ways. This job isn’t in my field of interest, there are no benefits, no networking opportunities, and no room for growth in the company. My boyfriend has been telling me to quit since week one and my parents quickly jumped on board because I am so unhappy working here. I’ve kept applying for other jobs (with non-profits, my field of interest) and keeping my head down at work in the meantime.
Thankfully, something came through. It’s a job I’d applied for back when I was applying for anything and everything, so it isn’t in my field, but honestly, anything to get me out of this job sounds good right now and this job seems a little fun and at least different. It wasn’t clear to me in the interview whether this would be full or part-time (it’s a service position, so it would depend on how many shifts I said I was available to work), but they moved really quickly on the hiring process (I interviewed on Sunday, took a drug test today, and am filling out the final paperwork tomorrow). Full or part-time, I’d rather be doing this than my current job time any day.
It all sounds good so far, right? Why am I writing to you if everything has worked out? I don’t know how to tell my boss that I’m leaving. I’m really worried that she’s going to try to guilt me into staying (and if not her, then one of the other women I work with will even though it is none of her business) and I’m already feeling guilty for leaving so quickly. I mean, they did give me my first job and I’ve only been there two months. Two miserable months, but still. I want to act quickly not just because I want to be out of there, but because I can feel my boss and my other coworker starting to rely on me more and more. Not to brag, but I’m pretty good at my job (which isn’t hard. A drunk monkey could do my job so it isn’t really a brag at all). I’ve heard them gossiping about the third woman in our office and they want to fire her soon (she wants to quit too and her work performance has fallen dramatically). They’ve already started putting some of her workload on me because they can’t rely on her; work that I don’t want and that isn’t part of my job description. Add to that, my other coworker wants to work less now because she’s studying for a major test to go back to school and because she feels she can pass her work off to me (and she has been). This environment is one of the main reasons I want to leave, but it is also one of my main areas of guilt. Who will do my job if I’m not there to do it? Will they say mean things about me once I’m gone? Why do I even care enough to ask these questions when I hate my job so much?
Anyway, I guess I’m looking for a script to tell my boss and my nosy co-worker I’m leaving and some phrases I can rely on when she tries to guilt me in to leaving or questions me about my new position. I feel it’s appropriate to give two weeks notice, so I need to be able to defend myself for two weeks. Also, on a side note, I need something to tell my aunt and uncle. I don’t think they care particularly, but they definitely believe in making money even if you’re unhappy, so I don’t know quite what to say. It’s not like I’m giving up a high paying, awesome career anyway, but I am living with them rent free, and I don’t want them to think I’m a slacker or something (which I am definitely, definitely not).
Any advice you can give me would be great–I’ve never had to do this before.
Dear Unhappy Employee:
Good work! You had a job you didn’t like, so you found a new one that you thought you might like better, so you’re leaving. That’s a reason for celebration, not worry!
Here is the script for quitting your job. You need to do it in writing anyway, so send an email.
This note is to inform you that I will be leaving (company) after (date) to pursue a new opportunity. (Date) will be my last day. I’ve greatly appreciated your training and mentorship during my time here. I wish you and (company) all the best.
After two weeks, you will likely never see these people again. After four to six weeks, they will have pretty much forgotten you, so whatever “guilt” you’re feeling has a pretty short shelf life. For those last two weeks, be gracious and polite to everyone. Do your work and leave your workspace and projects spotless and organized. Keep your negative feelings about the job to yourself – I mean, your coworkers still have to work there, and I guarantee that they do not want to hear any yapping about how you will soon be “free.” They will ask about your new job, and you can keep things very vague. Is the commute at the new job better, by any chance? Maybe seize on that as a reason. “I found something with a much better commute, thanks for asking!” “It has a more flexible schedule, thanks for asking. How are things with (family/hobby/school?)”
Now, your boss may understandably be peeved when she hears the news. New employees are more trouble than they are worth right at the beginning (even bright, newly minted college grads in seemingly “easy” or “boring” jobs), and the fact that she’s relying on you to pick up some other people’s slack is a sign that you’ve now crossed that line into “useful person who can be counted on.” So she’ll be annoyed at having to replace you. That’s why I want you to thank her (even if you don’t feel thankful) explicitly in her letter, and on your last day when you say goodbye, thank her again in person. In the meantime, ask her “What can I do to help?”
As for your aunt and uncle, why are you so worried to tell them that you got a new and different job? You didn’t quit your old job without lining up a new job, so what’s the worry? “Hey, Aunt and Uncle, great news! I got a new job!”
Now, as I am your elder, allow me a small sermon:
You should quit jobs that you don’t like. You should use your drive and smarts to find new ones that you might like better. Look out for yourself without guilt. No problem. I’m a little tired of the current economic narrative that a job is something that you are grateful for instead of a relationship where both sides are contributing something of value. However, sometimes economic realities lead us to have to do things like enter data in a dusty warehouse even when our aspirations are set on better things.
So, I know you were grateful to be hired so quickly and you have legitimate reasons for wanting to leave, but I want you to seriously think about the contempt that you convey when you talk about how “A drunk monkey could do my job so it isn’t really a brag at all” and how you work with people you “don’t like or have much respect for.” You may end up working a lot of jobs on the way to your dream job, and you’re going to serve yourself and the people around you better if you don’t look down on the work that you’re doing and on the other people who do that work.
A Former Waitress, Data Entry Clerk, Receptionist, Cashier, Hostess, and owner of many jobs with the word “Assistant” in the title Who Learned The Hard Way