Reflections on a Career Shift

 minute read

Emma Banks

Because progress isn’t linear, and sometimes it’s OK to be selfish. 

This time of year, I’m an oxymoron: New Year’s Eve is my favorite holiday, and yet I don’t believe that January 1 holds a monopoly on resolutions; in fact, every day is an opportunity to resolve to better yourself. But January is the first month in our calendar, and it’s as good a month as any to reflect. I’m feeling particularly introspective this season – 2019 was a momentous year. I moved (twice), made a home with my partner, accepted a new job, and started consistently devoting time to write. It was a year of pursuing self-betterment and, importantly, succeeding in that pursuit, particularly when it came to my work. 
I started the year as an editorial director at a small ad agency, a job that I had clamored my way toward over the course of almost three years; a job that felt representative of so much status and success. In short, I thought it was my dream job. I thought “ultimate career fulfillment” (whatever that means) was at the end of that ladder, if only I could make it to the top. But of course that wasn’t the case, or I wouldn’t be writing this essay. Earning a title – and, with it, the validation that I so desperately wanted – didn’t amount to a contented work life. I felt no closer to the self I aspired to be than I did as a 22-year-old assistant three years prior. 

It’s an odd, uncomfortable feeling to finally get what you want, then realize that it isn’t what you thought it to be; that the reality of the position simply couldn’t live up to all I’d imagined.

But hindsight is 20/20 – at the time, I certainly enjoyed the small amount of power that came with being in charge of a lean but mighty editorial platform, and walking away from that job in search of something better was undeniably tough. “Better”, for me, didn’t mean more money or more power; it meant getting closer to that deep sense of satisfaction that can only be found in the pure pursuit of work that you genuinely feel called to do. In 2019, that meant pursuing my writing more seriously; that I was ready to walk away from editing for a season in order to improve my own craft. When I read my own articulation of that transition here, it sounds selfish – would I really rather perfect my own words than help someone else with theirs? – but that was the truth I could no longer ignore. 
I applied to countless jobs, but a writer position at a booming digital media company – one I already immensely admired – felt right. That was July – it’s now January, and I’m starting a writing course at the end of the month (paid for by my job’s education stipend), and I couldn’t be happier with the work I’m producing.

On paper, I took a step down, from managing three people to none, but I know better than to lose sleep over a perceived drop in status.

Progress isn’t linear, and I’m propelling forward in my own way, on my own terms. All that to say: if you find yourself at the top of a ladder and don’t like how it feels, give yourself permission to reach for something new.

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