Terrified over dream job
June 4, 2014 7:33 AM   Subscribe

I am moving into a job I always wanted to have. Please remind me this is the right thing to do.

I have a career I love. In a large company that I'm mostly fine with. Except my actual department, which has horrible, bullying, soul destroying managers. We've had high turnover due explicitly to these managers but it doesn't seem that the company is really going to do anything about it. I started looking for another job last year and finally found one which literally - if I could have drafted the exact kind of job I wanted, would be this job. Smaller company, more flexibility and autonomy, ability to wear lots of different hats, be involved in many different things and learn new skills, it's all there. The pay/benefits are decent and the owners seem very nice, as do all the people I'd be working with (I met them all). Everyone seems great and from what I could gather, the company culture seems rational and reasonable. I sense that the owner (who I'll be working with) can be a little impulsive and possibly not really detail-oriented but I know that everyone has different quirks and this one doesn't bother me in the slightest. I'm very grounded and organized and I'm okay with being an anchoring type of person, plus I've worked with this type of personality before with no problem. The owners seem supportive of my future growth and want to give me lots of good opportunities.

So I put in my notice this week and I am terrified. I'm scared I'm doing the wrong thing. Other than our shitty department managers, I love all my coworkers and even spend time with a lot of them outside of work. I also have a great deal of respect amongst the senior management of my company outside of my department and I know they'll be disappointed to see me go, as will my direct colleagues. I could theoretically stick it out with my awful, soul-destroying boss until I'm able to apply to a different department and get away from him but there are some other company issues and concerns about its future direction that I have. A lot of it has to do with being so large and having so much red tape, processes and bureaucracy that the relatively simple solutions to get things back on track are incredibly difficult to implement because its too big a ship to turn around quickly (if at all). But it pays me decently (new job pays a little more), people like me and I probably have some measure of security. And I'm leaving it all behind to go to a tiny company.

I'm not scared I can't do the job (it's what I've been doing for years so I know I can), I'm not worried about people not liking me (I liked everyone I met and they all liked me, plus I tend to get along with most people I work with), I guess I'm just scared that it's a very small (but long-term, well-established) company and I know nothing about how things work at places like these. I'm scared they won't give work/life balance, I'm scared they won't get the revenue they need one quarter and I'll be out of a job. I'm just really, really filled with anxiety over something that I was so excited about not that long ago. If it doesn't go well, what if I can't find anything else? This is totally unlike me. I've changed jobs before and never had this kind of fear over it. What's even crazier is that I've wanted to leave what I think is a manager-driven toxic workplace that has caused me an incredible, incredible amount of stress for such a long time. Not only do I finally have the opportunity, but it's also for my exact ideal of what I wanted to end up in, so why am I having second thoughts? This might seems ridiculous but it's wrecking my head right now.

I'm hoping to hear from people who have made a similar jump to something with such a radically different structure and how well it worked out for you and if you were able to adjust with minimal or no problems. I've always wanted to be a part of helping a smaller company to grow and have come to hate the bureaucracy of large orgs but....the devil you know?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds like the only thing you like about your current job is your co-workers, which you already meet with outside work. So it sounds like if you take the job you want, and hang out with your old co-workers after work still, you'll end up with the best of both worlds.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:38 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

You'll be fine. I've moved from giant corp to medium corp to tiny company now back to another giant corp. My first move was terrifying, but in hindsight it was the best career and work/life move I've ever done.

Any real friendships formed at each place have continued on outside of work. I've also realized job security is a myth, equally at giant corp and tiny company. Always look out for yourself (and your resume), and you'll be OK. Additionally, by moving to various types of places, you will be able to offer new perspective to problems which they might not see due to their entrenched ways (getting them to actually change is another topic).
posted by Diddly at 7:55 AM on June 4, 2014 [5 favorites]

What you're feeling is normal, it's scary giving up "the devil you know" but you're not running away from your old company, you're running towards your new one.

Be realistic, no job is a dream job all day, every day. There will be things that gripe you, and annoyances, and other things that aren't perfect. Because that's life.

You are going to be just fine, your first weeks will be annoying because it's different and it takes time to get used to it, and you'll convince yourself that your old job wasn't that bad, not compared to using a different version of Windows on a Dell instead of an HP. But at about month 3, you'll hit your stride, and you won't be missing your old job at all. You'll have made new work-friends, you may even find a work-spouse, you'll discover a great place to get Pho near your new office, you'll learn all kinds of new things with Excel, because you'll have to. And it will be great.

Also, a department run by assholes is populated with assholes eventually. You're not an asshole, and thus you have moved on.

A downer, but true, all those friends you made at work, your relationship with them will change. With some it will grow stronger, with others they'll drop you like a bad habit. Others may meet you for lunch, but all you really had in common was the job, so they'll fade.

Welcome to Adulthood, population YOU.

But believe me, in a year, you will be SO happy you did this.

Good Luck!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:57 AM on June 4, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is anxiety talking. There is uncertainty around this move, it's true, and anxiety can't tolerate uncertainty. It thinks about worst case scenarios and fixates on them until they seem not only possible, but inevitable. But in fact it's not likely that you'll crash and burn at this new place.

Your mantra could be: I cannot know the future, but I am making the best choice for myself given the circumstances, so I can do so without regret. Whatever happens, I am capable and I can handle it.

Also, sometimes when we are fixated on something which in our mind becomes the centre of what's wrong with our life, and then that thing is suddenly removed, the void it leaves can be... strange. I experienced this when I finished my PhD; even though I was transitioning to a great career, I felt a sudden spike in fear and anxiety. This was a recognition that I had become used to living in the future, telling myself I would be happy when X was over, but then when it finally happened I wasn't suddenly happy. Of course I wasn't. The mind has momentum; it has to unlearn old patterns before it can learn new ones. But suddenly being responsible for my own happiness and my life, rather than being able to blame my unhappiness on something external, was actually a pretty big responsibility to suddenly take on, and one I realized I had been ducking for a very long time.

I guess don't underestimate how badly stressed out you are when evaluating your fears and anxieties, and recognize that this is a big step and it is natural to be scared of the unknown -- but remember, you've already done the thinking and made a decision that this was right for you, and you did this at a time when you were more resourced and less overwhelmed, so you can honour that person's decision and carry out the plan without needing to second-guess.
posted by PercussivePaul at 7:59 AM on June 4, 2014 [7 favorites]

I've gotten nervous and scared and doubtful every time I've ever left one job for another. Every single time. Even though, every single time, I was dissatisfied with the old job and wanted to leave, and the new one was an improvement. It's normal to start panicking after you hand in your notice.

The thing is - and this goes for any major life change - you can never know how it'll shake out. You can make your best educated guess, but you can't know everything in advance or control every variable. If the new job doesn't work out in the end, it doesn't mean you made the wrong choice, and it doesn't mean staying put would have been better or wiser. All you can do in the face of fear or disappointment is trust your ability to dust yourself off and keep moving. You can do this.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:04 AM on June 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think this kind of job-leaving anxiety is very normal, especially when you're leaving a place that has some characteristics of a sick system. Check out this post at AskAManager for some insight.

I've made two similar jumps. The first was from a company of 10,000+ employees to a company of about 200; after that, I went to a company of about 30 employees. The second jump required more adjustment -- not because of the company size, but because of the difference between a toxic environment and a collaborative, supportive, productive one. I liken it to culture shock. But it fades really fast, especially if you feel confident in your ability to do the work and get along with new coworkers.
posted by neushoorn at 8:08 AM on June 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

It sounds like the new job is a great opportunity and that you've done all the due diligence you can in terms of meeting everyone and assessing the situation. Your current job is dominated by toxic management and doesn't have a promising future because of that. Take the chance for the dream job. Anxiety is natural in this situation and I think that the sustained stress you've been under due to the soul destroying managers is adding fuel to that anxiety. But, it will recede.

Also, keep up your relationships with your colleagues at old job as well as managers who are in different divisions. You never know, at some point in the future, returning to the old company in some other role could be a good move. Leave those doors open by staying in touch.

Getting away from toxic, chronic stress inducing, soul destroying management is always a good move. Always.

Good luck!
posted by quince at 11:10 AM on June 4, 2014

My first job was with a big company, my second job was at a small shop. Very much like the situation you describe. I had many of the same fears. I showed up, I was reliable, I did my job, I showed initiative, and everything worked out great. Eventually the writing was on the wall that it wasn't going to expand in the direction I had hoped; not because of the people but because the project I was hired to work on just wasn't successful in the marketplace, and their core products that were successful were not what I wanted to do (or had any experience with). So I went to a different startup. But that's another story.

Anyway, tl;dr—work hard, have fun, you'll be fine.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:55 AM on June 4, 2014

Quince has the right idea. Leaving might be the best way to move to a better position different department at big corp in the future. Learn a lot at the dream job and keep in touch. You never know what might open up in the future.

I just experienced something similar. Left great Job 1 that got infested with bad politics. Experienced something new and different at Job 2. Four years later, I'll be back working with some of my friends on the team from Job 1 at Job 3.
posted by Gotanda at 2:45 PM on June 4, 2014

Toxic environments make you more fearful. This might be the extinction burst of your current soul-sucking managers making you feel self doubt.

If the small company has revenue and has been established, it is a lot safer than a small company that is losing money but counting on getting investors or their products to take off.
posted by cheesecake at 2:55 PM on June 5, 2014

I had favorited this question and neushoorn's answer in this thread back at the end of July. What I can now tell you from experience: Once you're out the door at a workplace like that, you will feel so much better. I'm hoping you left and experienced that for yourself!

I had read so many Ask MetaFilter answers that said just that, over and over again for years, but yeah, now I've felt it. I hope your new job is awesome!
posted by limeonaire at 8:38 AM on November 22, 2014

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