I shared part of this story initially on Facebook on 29th September 2018. I got comments that made me realise that people related with my story. I have now taken the liberty to expand the post into this blog.
In October 2017, I quit my job. Neither because I had secured another job nor come up with a revolutionary business idea. I decided to quit my job because I was stressed. I was depressed. Every week on that job brought with it, its share of nightmares. What started as providing suggestions, moved from micromanagement, to throwing me under the bus.
I am very aware of my skills, and my capabilities. Slowly, I began to second guess my decisions. I began to question my competences. Maybe, I am not as competent as I had always believed-I could tell myself. Before I knew it, I was down in hole where I was not sure about myself, my skills or knowledge in my field of specialization. I lost my confidence in almost everything. Self-doubt was slowly becoming my friend.
People dread Monday’s because they want to rest. I dreaded Mondays because I was afraid of what mental torture I will suffer.
As a fighter, I told myself that this is a battle that I will win someday. I told myself that things will get better, but they didn’t. Until one day when I was fed up I printed that resignation letter and had it submitted. The fighter in me gave up, and I had to accept defeat.
I was asked what my plan was. To be honest, I didn’t have any. All I knew was, I want to get out of here.
The day that I finally walked out of the organization, I felt lighter. Like a dark cloud has just been lifted on me. Even though I was broke, and I didn’t know where I will get money to pay my quarterly rent, and my other expenses, I was at peace and happy.
My post job life had its fair share of ups and downs. I had to undergo a three-part job interview with an organization where I was told that I was the strongest fit for the job, from all the candidates they had interviewed. This got me excited, until when I was told that they still want to do a wider search on the job market again before they make a final decision. I am still waiting. Then, I got a call from a youth organization, where I had submitted my job application for a senior post. The lady on the other side told me that they were shortlisting for the post, and they were looking at my CV.
‘We were looking at your CV, and we noted that you did not indicate your age on your CV. How old are you sir?’-She asked
‘I am 29 years old, madame’-I responded
That was the first and last time I heard from that organization.
Months after, I was also invited for another job interview. I arrived at the interview at 7:45am. At around 8:15, we were all invited into the office of the Human Resource(HR) Officer.
‘I am sorry, but we are not going to hold the interviews today. The senior management which makes part of the panel is very busy today. We are going to call you guys again once we set a new date for the interview.’- Said the HR Officer
This was June 2018, and I have not heard from them since.
I tried to push on the PhD front as well. I already had a PhD in International Development offer with the University of East Anglia (UEA). I applied for Commonwealth Scholarship. On 20th March 2018, I got this email
We are finalising the nominations for the Commonwealth Scholarships and require you to submit an additional reference letter and supporting statement from your proposed supervisor by no later than tomorrow at 5pm UK time in order for your application to still be considered.
I was very hopeful when I got this email. In my mind, I told myself that no one contacts a weak candidate. All the documents were submitted before the deadline. On 3rd March, I got an email which read:
We have now finished finalising our nominations however on this occasion you were unsuccessful – sorry about this. It was an exceptionally competitive process with over 350 applications for just 14 nominated candidates.
These happenings and others drove me into depression. I thank God, who took care of me through and through. God always made sure that I had something to pay all my bills. Most importantly, God made sure that I was at peace. I also thank my family and friends who helped me through the process of my depression during and after I quit my job.
However, this period was not only doom and gloom. I got consultancy jobs with United Purpose, Jesuit Refugee Services, Girl Effect, Broad impact Limited, National Youth Council of Malawi, Action Aid, and Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). I conducted trainings with different people and organizations. I also began working with United Nations Development Programme as a Communications Analyst.
During my dark times, I was among the 200 emerging leaders from Africa to join the Obama Foundation Leaders Africa program to explore new ways to take on the biggest challenges in their communities. I am also among the 64 finalists of the Social Inclusion Heroes Award by the World Bank Group. The competition awards persons below 40 years old, carrying out great work transforming the lives of socially excluded people in their community. Just recently, I was among the 30 selected young leaders to attend the Young Civil Servants Tech-Policy Hackathon by the Pathways for Prosperity Commission Technology and Inclusive Development(hosted by the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxford).
The dark times helped me to begin building my personal brand. It was the time that I launched by website www.chimwemwemanyozo.com and my official Facebook page. Improved my branding on LinkedIn and Twitter.
Further to that, during my dark times, I read books, blogs, listened to Podcasts, watched educational materials, and attended both physical and virtual trainings. Thank God that I have managed to sustain some of these habits.
To all my brothers and sisters who are going through a rough patch, know that you are not alone. Many people and I have and continue to go through hard times. For people who are in a toxic work environment, don’t trade your happiness and peace for the illusion of job security. Your life is not fixed to one organization or one person. You can have a life outside of the organization and still be able to live your life. It is not easy I know. It is even more complicated because you have huge responsibilities. But I can assure you that the only way that you can handle those responsibilities is when you are alive. Don’t shortcut your way to the grave because of a monthly pay check and an illusion of job security and social status.