The day I knew I had to get out

July 12, 2012

The day my mindset switched from “I want to leave” to “I have to leave” was the day I was treated like an administrator by my manager.

It wasn’t really his fault, he thought he was doing me a service.

I had talked with him in the past about taking on a different role within our team, one that had more responsibility and would be considered a higher position than my own. He agreed that I would be great for it, and he began informally training me to eventually take it over.

But then everything kind of fell apart.

The gal in that role was no longer going to be moving on to her new position due to some budget cuts and project reassignments, therefore me moving into hers wasn’t going to be an option.

Every year our team had a holiday lunch and informal recognition event, and this gal had always planned it. Why, I don’t know. It surely wasn’t in her job description.

And now my manager wanted me to plan this event.

To plan an event. A team event. As in, event planning. As in, call several places and get quotes on meeting space and organize a date and send out the invites and follow up on the reservation and make the food orders and arrive early to ensure our table is ready and UGH.

I was a software designer who defined system functionality, wrote the specs, and worked with the programmers to make my design come to life.

The gal whose role I would have eventually taken over was a project manager. She worked with several dozen people on a couple different teams, laying out project plans and time allocations and reporting to the executive suite on the current state of this and that.

I was going to have her role, but then I couldn’t, and there was nothing I could do about it.

My manager felt bad for me because, completely out of our control, I was no longer going to be able to take her position, so he assigned me the one little aspect of her responsibilities that he could: the annual holiday lunch. A consolation prize gone wrong.

I remember receiving an instant message to come meet him in a conference room, walking in, sitting down, and then smiling and laughing dumbstruck with unnecessary enthusiasm when he explained this new task. He was trying to be so nice and I knew it, he was sincere as can be, but I was so insulted and taken aback that the only way I knew how to respond was with too much of a response. He probably walked out of that room thinking that he was the nicest guy on Earth, look how happy he just made his software designer!

Looking back, it wasn’t really that big of a deal. So you were assigned a silly administrative task that had nothing to do with your role. Something that would help out the team as a whole and be a mental break from the designs you work on every day. So what.

But it was a big deal. Then. I was already feeling unappreciated. I was already on the brink. I already knew that I wanted out someday. Someday soon. And I already knew the growing businesses that were going to get me out.

All I remember thinking as I walked back to my cube was to just keep smiling. Because if I kept smiling, maybe no one would notice that I wanted to run away and scream in frustration.

And that’s when it switched.

I had wanted out. I knew that someday I would get out and do full-time what I was already doing part-time. But that walk back to my desk was the moment a sense of urgency kicked in. The moment I became desperate. Was this what I had come down to? Being accidentally insulted by a well-intentioned manager after missing out on a promotion out of my control when he assigned me an administrative event-planning task that his project manager usually took care of, all of it bringing me to a ridiculous brink of tears and frustration? I mean, really?

I want to leave.
I have to leave.

That was the beginning. And, kind of, the end.
The beginning of my push, my all-out no-holds-barred push to make it happen.
The end of any shred of care I had left for feeling like I was weird to think I wanted something more.
The beginning of the next phase.

Without that desperate sense of urgency, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to jump the corporate ship. A few more months? An additional year? Several additional years? All I know is that I’m grateful that switch was flipped inside of me that day, because I took that desperation and ran with it.

I was out of there seven months later.

I still plan a holiday lunch once in a while. Except now they are for any darn date and time and location I please, for me and my solopreneur team of one.

When was your switch? Whether you’re still “in” or already “out” – when was the moment you knew that you wanted something different? When did your sense of urgency kick in? Do share!


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