This is What Career Freedom Looks Like

“Are you sure I can’t start January 6th? I’m ready to start.”

“No, sorry. Orientation is January 13th. I appreciate the eagerness, Robbie, but you can’t start earlier than that.”

“Do I need to be in this two-week orientation? I programmed before, so I don’t need to be in this class. I’m ready to start the real job.”

“Sorry, Robbie. You must be in this class. I appreciate the eagerness, but you’ll have to finish the orientation. It’s only two weeks.”

I was the most eager new hire of all time. I just graduated college and was ready to join the workforce as a consultant. I was optimistic that I would be on the “career fast track.” I promise you that no one was more eager than me.

I knew what I wanted out of my career and in life. I didn’t want anything to slow me down. I wanted to work long hours. I wanted the challenge. I was ready to show my bosses how smart I was and how different than I was than everyone else.

Some people take a year off school to find themselves.

I never understood that. Find yourself? What is there to find, exactly?

And let’s be real. I had no money to take a year off anyway. I found myself in the mirror every morning. That was good enough.

Time off is for lazy people. Hell, I tried to convince Human Resources to start a WEEK EARLIER than my start date.

My first day after orientation completed I was taking a flight from O’Hare Airport to the client I was assigned in New York. At the airport, I met a work colleague that was on the same project as me.

I had so many questions for her.

How awesome is it to travel every week?
The client seems super cool. How cool are they?
Where does everyone hang out after work?
They must be smart. What cities are they from?

Her response shocked me. She seemed frustrated. She talked about the struggles of working with the client and how traveling every week was tiring. She didn’t get along with her manager. She wasn’t complaining, but you can tell she wasn’t happy.

I shrugged it off. She’s probably having a bad day. It’s 6 a.m. on a Monday. She’s definitely having a bad day.

I paid close attention to her for the next six months.

She left work early every day. There was no way to leave without being noticed. She had to walk through a center aisle where all of her co-workers and managers sit.

This office wasn’t the “As long as you have work done, you can leave whenever you want” type of environment. If you left before 7 pm, you are doing something wrong.

I had several thoughts:

“She must not have her act together.”

“How dare she leave early every day, especially when everyone else stays until 7 pm. They are paying you money, the least you can do is obey the rules.”

Later that year, she quit and joined a competitor.

It surprised nobody.

I met with her a few years after she left.

She was happy. It was the best decision she’s ever made. She was doing the same work for someone else and yet everything was different.

It was then that I realized I was wrong about her.

When she left early, it wasn’t because she didn’t have her act together or she was a bad worker. It was the exact opposite.

She knew she wasn’t happy. She knew that her career wasn’t going to last long at her current company. She knew that leaving the office early would piss everyone off.

She had everything figured out! If they didn’t care about me, I’m not going to care about them.

Even if meant the death stares when walking out of the office.

She was free, and no one was going to get in her way.

Some people suffer through 30 years of career misery before doing what’s right for their life and their career. It only took her six months.

That’s what career freedom looks like.

PS: Read the only resignation letter template you’ll ever need.