Too many women stay too long in jobs where they’re unappreciated, stunting their potential.
November 2, 2018 4 min read
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Every week I get them: Emails from women in the ad industry asking if they should quit. It happens so often that I’ve started to call myself the Quitting Coach.
These weary notes don’t surprise me. Despite recent efforts to hire a more diverse workforce and promote women, advertising is still a boys’ club. The women who write to me get passed over for raises and promotions. Their less experienced and less talented male colleagues get the prime accounts, projects and job offers.
Research performed by the 3% Movement bears out what is obvious to anyone who has worked in the industry: Women who don’t adjust to the grueling workweeks, inflexibility and family unfriendly environment simply leave.
I understand the yearning for something different: I spent 10 wonderful, magical years working for Wieden + Kennedy, producing work for brands like Nike, Coca-Cola and Powerade — but I started itching for new ways to challenge myself and take some risks. Then the universe gave me the nudge I needed to finally quit. If I was going to work 14-hour days, I wanted to pour myself into something I was passionate about building — something that truly valued what I brought to the table. So, I went on to freelance and then founded my own agency, Red & Co., where every day I work to create a better version of this industry we call advertising.
The years after quitting weren’t always easy, but they were infinitely better. They made me question, should I have quit earlier?
The No. 1 myth that keeps women stuck in unfulfilling jobs
The thing that overrode my instincts to leave earlier is the same fear that keeps many of us stuck: losing your security.
Here’s the thing, though. Security is an illusion. Layoffs, client whims, an asshole boss, anything — poof! — and there goes your salary, insurance package, title and fancy business cards.
But, when you let go of this false version of security, you might lose much more. You could lose having brilliant ideas squashed by unimaginative clients, working late because of someone else’s boozy lunch, having to pump breast milk in a bathroom stall.
Instead of questioning what we have to lose, what if we asked: What do we have to gain?
The five pep talks you need to pull the plug
Still, the anxiety over leaving a “successful” job — even if it robs you of your personal time and relationships, or involves “networking” at after-work ass-grabs — persists.
The women who email me about quitting ask the same questions. Here’s what I tell them.
“What if I fail?”
Good! Failure means you took a risk. Now use that failure to inform what you do next, and view your ability to move on as proof that you’re strong enough to do this.
“What if no one wants me?”
If you had a friend who stayed with a shitty boyfriend because she was afraid no one else would date her, you’d bring her a pint of ice cream and tell her to leave, like, yesterday. Truth is, you don’t need an abusive relationship, and you don’t need an abusive job, either.
“What if I break an arm and can’t work? What if my boss gets pissed and blackballs me? What if the Big One hits?”
The giant void left by uncertainty is easy to fill with what-ifs and catastrophes.
But, what’s the worst that could happen? If all hell breaks loose, you can go and get another full-time job. The world will not end because you quit. This is only advertising.
“What if I can’t pay my bills?”
Quitting sounds like it takes your salary to zero, but in reality it gives you the opportunity to earn what you’re actually worth. Within a month of quitting W+K, I quadrupled my previous full-time salary. You can, too.
“Quitting is too risky.”
You know what’s actually risky? Putting all your money-making eggs in one basket. Quitting actually diversifies your income streams: If one project doesn’t pan out, you have others in the works.
Too many women stay in unappreciative jobs for too long, stunting their potential.
There’s so much that comes into your life when you empty your basket and allow new things to fill it. The universe rewards the brave.