Sea swimming essentials every first-timer should have on their list
Sea swimming essentials every first-timer should have on their list

Sarah Finnan

These 4 key products will save your dry skin this winter
These 4 key products will save your dry skin this winter

Jennifer McShane

Toastie of the town: 9 of the best, meltiest cheese toasties in Dublin
Toastie of the town: 9 of the best, meltiest cheese toasties in Dublin

Ali Dunworth

How to create an eco-friendly winter flower arrangement (that doesn’t look dead)
How to create an eco-friendly winter flower arrangement (that doesn’t look dead)

Lauren Heskin

The trailer for Paul Mescal’s new movie with Olivia Colman is here and it looks creepy good
The trailer for Paul Mescal’s new movie with Olivia Colman is here and it looks...

Lauren Heskin

‘I was raised by a single mam. Everything that she did was for us’: Singer Soulé on who inspired her new music
‘I was raised by a single mam. Everything that she did was for us’: Singer...

Sarah Finnan

3 old cottages that are brimming with potential for under €100,000
3 old cottages that are brimming with potential for under €100,000

Megan Burns

8 things no one told me about the first trimester
8 things no one told me about the first trimester

Lauren Heskin

The Budget contraception scheme still holds women in Ireland responsible for safe sex
The Budget contraception scheme still holds women in Ireland responsible for safe sex

Kate Demolder

‘Romy & Michele’ actress Cortney Wolfston on being fired while pregnant
‘Romy & Michele’ actress Cortney Wolfston on being fired while pregnant

Sarah Finnan

Image / Agenda / Business

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do


Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do

What happens when the dream job is no longer living the dream? Leaving apparent career gold to leap into the big unknown can be terrifying, but ultimately your most valuable work decision.

I was twenty-four when my dream job literally landed in my lap. For as long as I can remember I had always wanted to be a journalist. As a toddler, I would run around the back garden in a nappy, notebook and pencil in hand, pausing every few minutes to scribble furiously, brow furrowed in deep concentration, before returning to investigating the long grass at the end of our lawn.

I can still remember the day Charlie Bird came to visit our primary school to give a talk on what it was to be a journalist. Work experience in fourth year was in the RTE news room.

The dream though was hampered somewhat by my intense embarrassment at anything I had written being in anyway publicly consumed. I can still remember the body squirming mortification as a teacher read out an essay in secondary school.

But then, like I say my dream job, as a journalist, literally appeared out of nowhere, with zero effort on my behalf. Anne Harris was an acquaintance, and out of nowhere asked me to come write for her fashion section. It was freelance at first, and I did what any sensible person would do when offered a small opening into the career of their dreams; everything I could think of to make myself indispensable. I would have lived in that office if they had allowed me.

And then I had my daughter. I remember a colleague once saying “of course you’ll have a baby and then feel differently about all this,” and I replied instantly “not a chance.”  But something stirred deep within, and I knew that they were possibly quite right.

As maternity leave came to an end, I was grief-stricken at the thought of leaving my then ten-month-old for the larger part of the day.

Giving up work never occurred to me. But slowly it began to dawn on me that there had to be something else. Another way.

Leaving a staff job in a creative industry to go freelance is not something generally looked on as the sanest of decisions.

As is often the case in the creative spheres, mine was not a job that one could have interviewed for. I had been in the right place at the right time. This job had been made up as we went along, by me and my editors. If I left, and then realized that leaving had been a mistake, it wasn’t as if there were endless amounts of similar jobs there for the taking. Well-paid staff jobs in journalism are a dying breed.

The very ‘struck gold’ nature of a job can be paralyzing. It can feel as if this is your one chance; quit, and there is no going back.

But the visceral upset I felt at leaving my baby every day – months into returning I would have to run for the bathroom to cry privately if anyone asked how she was – had meant my former dream job was no longer that. And so I left. I went freelance. I carved out a new dream job, one where I have the flexibility to spend afternoons in the park, to pick her up from playschool. Like most self-employed people I know, there is a lot of getting up to write at six before she wake, replying to emails late at night, spending a few hours at the weekend working, but it has been utterly worth it.

Plenty of people thought I’d gone mad, but it came down to a single pressing question: what kind of life did I want to lead?

Author and journalist Elizabeth Day has written about the dilemma of leaving the seemingly perfect job to jump into the unknown in an issue of Harper’s Bazaar.  “I know too well the value of striking out without overanalyzing the consequences. Until two years ago, I was a staff features writer on a national newspaper. It was, in many ways, a dream job: I had security, a pension, likeable colleagues and I wrote about a wide variety of subjects. But I had been there for eight years and felt stuck in a rut. Plus, I had started writing novels and I wanted to devote more time to that. After a long time of agonizing, I decided to go freelance. Plenty of people thought I’d gone mad, but it came down to a single pressing question: what kind of life did I want to lead? The one I desired for myself, or the one other people mistakenly thought was best for me?”

Journalist Caroline Ferry was a Senior Editor at one of Britain’s leading online fashion brands when she realised that what to all appearances was an ideal job in a notoriously difficult industry, was no longer making her happy.

“One of the main things keeping me in a job I was no longer enjoying was that long-ingrained (sadly very female) feeling that I must be so lucky and grateful to have a great job in fashion (especially after all the interning and tea-fetching),” she explains. “And that I’d be insane to leave it. But a sage colleague and friend did remind me that going freelance is not dying, not disappearing off the face of the earth forever. It’s just being your own boss and doing only the things you choose, for the companies you choose to work for. It’s not ducking out, it’s rising up.”

“Aside from money, I was actually quite worried that I’d let my professional network die a death in my four years “in-house”, and assumed everyone would have forgotten about me, that I knew nobody and even worse, nobody knew or cared who I was or what I had to say. But still, the need for a positive change far outweighed my fears. The minute I handed in my notice, I was a happier, more energetic person. It was absolutely instant.”

Leaving a job that from the outside seems to be pretty perfect can be daunting. There is bravery in admitting, to yourself, and others, that you are not satisfied with a career that provides the kind of variety and stimulation most people can only dream of.

“I was offered what I thought was my dream job before I even graduated with my masters,” recalls Dominique McMullan, Editorial Director at IMAGE. “At 24 I was offered the position of art director in one of the UK’s top advertising agencies. Very quickly I was co-writing scripts, presenting to clients and creatively directing shoots with teams of up to fifteen people in places like Cape Verde. I was pinching myself at the beginning. And of course Mum and Dad were very proud. It wasn’t long, however, until I realized that I wasn’t really happy. Because of my age, I thought that maybe this was just what it felt like to have a proper job. I was extremely stressed and not particularly enjoying anything I was doing. Despite this, I was creating great content and a piece I co-wrote went ‘viral’.  This made it harder to come to the realization that I wanted to leave. It took me a year, but as time went on it was the expectation to be creative on demand that wore me down. I left and felt like the world was lifted from my shoulders. What was a great job for someone, was not a great job for me. I learned a big lesson. Knowing what you don’t want is just as important as knowing what you do.”

This article was first published in June 2018.

Also Read

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BUSINESS, EVENTS
Introducing The IMAGE Business Summit 2021, with keynote speakers, panel discussions, masterclasses and more

Don’t miss this year’s IMAGE Business Summit, with an expert line-up, skills masterclasses, keynote addresses and more.Back by popular demand,...

By IMAGE

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BREAKING STORIES
Dogs Trust is encouraging Irish employers to allow dogs in the workplace

With many people having made a long-awaited return to the office this week, Dogs Trust Ireland is urging employers to...

By Sarah Finnan

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BUSINESS
‘The life we are living may not be the one we want’: Meet the career women pivoting because of the pandemic

The Great Resignation is underway, but a financial buffer – as well as bravery – favours those who sail away...

By Dearbhail McDonald

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BUSINESS
How to deal with failure: 4 tips on how to recover from a setback

Failure is inevitable in life, but while many of us know this deep down, we don’t tend to deal with...

By Colette Sexton

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BUSINESS
CAREERS IN CONVERSATION: Seminar 3 Your Boundaries

The third instalment of Sinead Brady’s career seminar series is all about managing the boundaries between work and life  ...

By IMAGE

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
IMAGE WRITES
Esther O’Moore Donohoe: ‘Back in the formal office structure, what have I taken away?’

Esther O’Moore Donohoe describes herself as a Podcaster, Writer and Rhythm Dancer. In June 2020 she reflected on her first...

By IMAGE

Making the leap: When leaving your ‘dream’ job is the right thing to do
BUSINESS, EVENTS
How To: Master the Art of Negotiation – An event with Negotiation Strategist Natalie Reynolds

We sit down with Negotiation Strategist Natalie Reynolds, discussing key tactics and strategies used to master the art of negotiation...

By Shayna Sappington