I’ve quit jobs twice in my adult life. The first one was when I stopped waiting tables at Frances’ Deli on Clark Street. While assisting local photographers to start my journey on my own photographic career, I picked up two photographers who shared my schedule, and was managing their studios, their shoots, their invoicing, and their marketing (IE, cold calling down lists and lists of contacts in the advertising industry). When I told the manager & co-owner, Steve, that I was leaving he said this to me, “You’ll be back, they all come back.” Then he gave me an evil little smile and I swear I heard an appropriate menacing laugh to accompany it.
Shortly there after was the second time I quit. It was time to choose between the two photographers since Kevin’s work was taking over all my time and I wasn’t giving Tony the attention or the share of my schedule he deserved. Well, Tony went ballistic, yelling and screaming at me about why I was choosing Kevin over him. I sighted that Kevin didn’t yell and scream at me as one of a laundry list of reasons I wanted to leave. One time Tony was yelling at me that I was ten minutes late to pick him up for the airport even though I was right on time, he just sets all the clocks in his studio ten minutes fast to which he did admit that he was in the wrong there, but it was too late. I wanted to work for someone where I felt needed, where I was a productive member of the team, not an overpaid dog sitter making cold calls and flirting with the bike messengers because I was so desperate for company during those long and lonely winter days alone in the studio.
After leaving Tony I went on to work on wonderful projects with Kevin for years until his workload slowed down and he could only afford to keep me on a freelance basis. We worked together for over 7 years, even after he relocated to Santa Fe. I found the perfect replacement for me for Tony and last I checked in, about 4 years ago, she was still working for him.
And now it was time to quit my job at Zeno. It wasn’t because I’m not a “full time gal” or other ideas you might have of someone who worked for themselves for over a decade taking a corporate job. I loved walking into the office everyday, I loved having a reason to put on make-up in the morning, I loved putting together cute outfits, and most of all I loved having multiple rooms full of adults with whom I could have adult conversations about anything in the world which didn’t involve doctors, upcoming surgeries, or therapy schedules. That part of it was truly ideal. Being surrounded by so many quality people, creative people, genuine people, energized me every single day. But energized me for what?
I was hired to manage a new department, to oversee the day to day intake of projects, developing of schedules, formulation of estimates, and tracking of details and deadlines, but my manager wanted that job in addition to the other roles he was performing for the company. So I was instructed to wait everyday for whatever small tasks he wanted me to accomplish, spent most of my days setting up billing codes, and spent countless hours taking the digital marketing classes that the company offered online. For a period of time I was shooting a lot for them and that was terrific. I was busy, I was creative, I was problem solving, and I was working with a team of fabulous women. Alas, that client headed in another direction and I was left with a lot of free time on my hands.
Many of you are thinking this situations sounds amazing, even ideal. I’m getting paid to show up and not do much work, dream job, hello?!? Maybe for some, not for me. Surrounded by busy people working together in busy teams moving in busy patterns around the office made me feel like I was missing out on all the excitement. I’d try to create my own busy by participating in brainstorming sessions, dedicating my time after work to surveys for the company, but in the end it wasn’t enough for me. I felt like I was wasting my time. Maybe it’s the natural reaction to someone who’s been running at full speed for three years, maybe it’s the natural reaction for a parent who has limited time to enjoy their children after being with them non-stop for years, or maybe it was the adolescent in me who felt like she was missing out on the party.
Thinking about my future at Zeno brought up the typical questions; would I be getting a raise or promotion upon my one year anniversary? For doing not much…I don’t think so. Were there other opportunities for me to use my vast skill set there? I had been asking HR this question since October and their answer was always “no”. What was I waiting for, someone to finally crunch the numbers and figure out that doing the work of an intern wasn’t worth being paid like an account supervisor? Would I wait until I met my 1 year anniversary to walk out the door? But who wants to job hunt and try to find new clients in August? Not me, not when most people have their minds on summer vacation, not during what’s typically one of the slowest months of the season.
April was an incredibly busy month for me and with my freelance work and full time work I was averaging 6.5 days a week of work and I was exhausted. During my time at Zeno I never stopped freelancing, never stopped picking up new clients, and never stopped thinking about my photography career. When I went into HR to tell them the news I let them know that I had been using my vacation days to work. Her comment back to me was, “You’ve been using your vacation days here to work for someone else? Then clearly you are making the right decision”. They didn’t even try to keep me there and I’m so glad they didn’t. I walked out of Zeno Group with a new group of friends and colleagues that I will cherish for a lifetime. I also walked out with digital marketing certifications under my belt, an entire portfolio of social media marketing, and more confidence in myself as a photographer and as a professional. It was 9 months that I wouldn’t take back, not for a single second.
Now pictures this: it’s my last Monday at work since I chose Friday the 13th to end it all, and I’m panicking. What am I doing? I have a family to support, I have a mortgage, I have a car, I have a son with special needs who needs constant therapy and access to new technology, didn’t I take this job in the first place because I wanted a better life? On Wednesday I got my email from the experiential marketing company I had worked for last summer booking me for a week of work (phew). On Thursday I got offered my first major commercial marketing photography gig, so on Friday I walked out the door with multiple glasses of sparking wine in my belly and a huge smile on my face. I’ve been working non-stop for the last three weeks with great success and I’m in constant contact with my Zeno peeps. It feels so good to be busy, busy, busy. Crashing into bed at night exhausted from hard work, and waking up every morning with heart palpitations over the uncertainty of my future, followed by the rush of fear and adrenaline to propel me through my day. I can’t wipe the smile off my face.