I’m actually fairly surprised that I haven’t written about this before. But then I remember where I was mentally a year ago and I know why I didn’t write about this. This being, quitting my very stable, rather successful, safe and full time job. I tried to find a photo from that time but I didn’t take any pictures for about two months so there aren’t any visually interesting things in here. I had a few titles for this post, “How quitting my job changed my life.” “I changed my career path in five minutes, you can too.” “I quit my toxic job.” but none of them quite sum up what I’m trying to say.
And when I say I quit my job, I don’t mean that I lined up another employer and gave my proper notice making the company aware that I was resigning. I quit. I didn’t just not go in and block their number, I went in for the day. Went to my manager’s office. Cried. And then walked out. No notice. No plan. Nothing.
In the week before I quit, I read several blogs on this topic. I read stories from people who stuck it out for more time than I did, stories from people who hated their job even more than I hated mine, but at the end of the day their message was the same, don’t stay in an environment that’s crushing you. You never know what opportunities will come your way.
Here’s the quick version of this story: I went to college with the intention of becoming a financial advisor, working with a large bank. The summer before I graduated I went around looking for someone to work for and I was told the same thing every time, “You need six months to a year of banking experience.”
“What kind of banking experience?” I would ask.
So, I did anything. I applied for banking jobs left and right. I interviewed for a few. And then I accepted one.
I worked as a collections agent for one of the top five largest banks in the US.
And it was absolutely terrible.
The work wasn’t hard. Maybe one day we can talk about what it was like to be a collections agent who has a heart (I think most agents do have hearts). The work itself was easy. Cold call people for eight hours a day, when people tell you they don’t want to pay, convince them to pay. Upsell autopay (Seriously, I can’t hear the words, “it’s just one less thing for you to worry about” without being thrown back to the brainwashing training we went through. Oh, maybe that’s another thing we can talk about later, the actual brainwashing that took place from day one). Transfer people to customer service. Explain that our bank backs several consumer credit lines and that XYZ Construction store is backed by X Banking Institution. Try to explain that we’re not scamming anyone. And absorb the negativity.
I’m the kind of person who can shrug off just about anything. I knew that I wasn’t a terrible person for calling these people who’d racked up thousands and thousands of dollars worth of credit card debt. I knew that I wasn’t an evil person for getting people to pay the bill they’d forgotten about.
What got to me was the situations where the girl was twenty years old, younger than me at the time, and she had almost ten thousand dollars worth of credit card debt and no way to pay it back because her boyfriend dumped her and left her to pay all of the bills herself. Why did the bank allow her to have access to that kind of credit? What kind of algorithm BS did they use to say, yeah she should be able to pay this back, no problem?
Or where the man was in a car accident, where he sustained a serious brain injury, and he was trying so hard to keep up with his payments but his medical bills became more important. Because he was less than thirty days past due, and he would occasionally make small payments, the banking institution would not offer him any recourse.
Those situations were the ones that I could not brush off. How did the bank allow these things to happen? And where is the humanity in these systems?
I was going to work every day, more and more dejected. Feeling more and more like a robot, and less like a human. I couldn’t offer these people anything. I wasn’t enriching the world in any kind of way. I was drained by the time I came home, and unwilling to do much of anything before I left for work. I was faced with a moral dilemma much bigger than I’d expected.
In December, 2017, I graduated college. I told myself that when I graduated, I wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed with everything. I told myself to push through just a little while longer.
I made it through graduation and still, I couldn’t stand the horrifying stories I heard. The belligerence, the name calling, the hate for collections agents was an everyday thing. But the trauma, it didn’t happen all the time. So when it did, it stood out.
We took a trip, Sara and I, to New York City. I told myself that when I got home I would feel better. New York is my favorite place to be in the world, and it would lift my spirits.
When I returned home. Nothing had changed.
I cried every day before going into work. I cried every night in the driveway on my way home. Until one day, I didn’t cry at all. I was completely numb. To everything. To everyone. And I didn’t care what happened next.
I spent about three weeks living like this. I would intentionally come in late. I would hang up when people said they didn’t want to pay (you’re not supposed to do that, you’re supposed to convince them to pay, no matter what).
I asked how I could change departments, again thinking that I would feel better in a different department. I asked how I could get promoted. Thinking a change in environment might be for the best. But every opportunity for movement was shut down.
We had these huge bulletin boards on the walls, and these charts in our emails, that showed just how much money we were recovering for the bank every day. One day, I was looking at my line in the chart. There were thousands of dollars beside my name. Tens of thousands of dollars. More money than I think I’ve made in my entire life, saved for the bank in just a few weeks. And I sat in my car. And I looked at my paycheck. And I looked at my life. And I knew that my position was worth so much to that company. But again, the job itself was easy, which makes agents replaceable, expendable. Work them into the ground until they have two options, eat dirt, or leave.
I had no plan. None. I hadn’t been interviewing with anyone. I hadn’t even really been looking for other jobs, because I was still convinced that corporate banking was for me.
I went to work on Friday with the intention of tell my manager I needed to be moved, or I would quit. But she didn’t show up that day. I took it as a sign that I needed to continue. That I was in the right place. That day was terrible.
I went in on Saturday, because my manager was on the weekend schedule, and she didn’t show for her shift, so I left my shift. On Monday, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went in, almost thirty minutes late, after having shown up twenty minutes early, and sat at my desk, and waited. I told myself that if she had any sympathy for me, at all, then I would believe that somewhere this bank did have a heartbeat and that I could find it, and I would continue.
In her office, she tried to blow me off. When I wouldn’t clock in she said fine.
I sat in the chair. I warned her that I was going to cry (I cry all the time for no reason at all), and I said, “I don’t think I can do this anymore.”
And her response was, “I’m sure someone told you in your interview that this job is difficult. It’s not for everyone.” I remember this part of of the conversation like it was yesterday. But she made me so angry when she said that so I’m paraphrasing the next couple bits because I don’t remember exactly what was said.
I hate when people try to tell you why you’re doing something. When they make up this excuse in their head for why people quit. “This job isn’t hard. This job is easy. It’s the lack of communication. It’s the fact that I have to listen to how this bank ruined these people’s lives and I have nothing to say to them and you still want me to push autopay on them.”
“This is a business, November, this is what we do. If you can’t handle it maybe you shouldn’t be here.” She wasn’t mean or angry in how she said it, but she was apathetic, she didn’t care one way or the other.
So I said okay. And I packed up my desk. I’m sure she was annoyed because she was losing an agent and she was supposed to be on a conference call but she had to walk me out of the building. I was getting my stuff out of my drawers, giving most of it to my cubicle buddy, and she came over to me and said, “I really can’t believe you’re smiling right now.”
I didn’t even realize I was smiling.
We walked out and down the stairs and I felt my chest get lighter. I felt my cheeks start to hurt I was smiling so hard. She said, “Really, you’re smiling right now.”
I shook my head and said, “I will never have to work here again.”
Just writing about this experience gives me all kinds of emotions. It was such a relief. It was absolutely insane. My advice to anyone in that kind of work environment is to quit. You’ll find another job. Just because you thought that something was for you doesn’t mean it will work out. You can be smarter about it, go to interviews, email people who do the kind of job you might be interested in, anything is possible.
I called my husband and said, “Uhm, I just quit.”
“I’m proud of you.”
He knew how much it took for me to walk away from that job. He knew that I’d defined myself for almost three years as someone who was going to go into banking.
Money was tight, absolutely, while I looked for another job, but we’ve made it so much farther on so much less and we made it out okay.
It took me almost two full months to find another job. Yesterday marked exactly one year in this new job, and I love every single day that I’m here. I’ll write about that more later this month.
You can certainly overcome any challenge, but that doesn’t mean you have to.
Until next time – Xx.