Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job

Why I Stopped Saying That I Quit My Real Job

If you’ve chanced upon the About Me page, you may have noticed that I studied Mechanical Engineering. After my degree, I worked as a Production Supervisor at PepsiCo. Now, I work for Live Out Loud Adventures organizing and guiding hiking trips in Canada and around the world. When I started with LOLA, I – or whoever I was talking to – would half-jokingly remark that I quit my real job to chase a dream. Go rogue. Be a reckless millennial. Have some fun and do something spontaneous. For a while, I kind of relished this reaction and assessment. It felt exciting and rebellious! I have come to realize, however, that by saying that I quit my corporate, “real” job to pursue a career in the Outdoor Industry I completely diminish the validity of a career in the outdoor industry. This is something people both within and outside of the industry are guilty of doing, and I think it’s high time we become aware of it and put and end to it.

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: Hiking in Jasper, Alberta on the Brazeau Loop
This is my office, but only for a very small amount of time!! Hanging on The Brazeau Loop in Jasper, Alberta

Why are Some Jobs More Real Than Others?

Professional Professions 

I come from an environment where doctors, lawyers, bankers, and engineers represent ultimate career success. Science and math are more important than art and language, and wearing a suit to work is reflective of one’s intelligence. Why is this? If anyone has other answers, do share. My own primary assessment has been simple: these professions are (mostly) transparent. We understand what these people do, how they benefit our society, and what it takes to get there. Doctors fix people. Lawyers settle fights. Bankers manage money. Engineers build stuff. All of these things have a direct impact on our lives, and we respect the people who are able to fix, settle, manage, and build stuff for us. For this, they deserve every ounce of credit they get; we truly would not get on without them.

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: Tree planting!
While most don’t make a career in tree planting, this was still the best job I’ve ever had – no role has taught me more in such a short period of time

Unprofessional Professions

When it comes to the outdoor industry (amongst other fields including artists, bloggers, actors, etc.), it’s harder to see and understand the purpose. There is a lack of awareness as to how or why they are beneficial, especially in the short term. The impact of their work is seen in more nuanced ways, and over a longer period of time. Take a musician, for example. When the musician decides he is going to pursue music, he leaves behind family and friends who are confused and concerned. The threat of “starving artist syndrome” is real, and people wonder why he has chosen this path. Many people criticize him for being selfish; for choosing a path that benefits only himself. They may show outward support, but “tsk tsk” under their breath.

While some of the criticism hides jealousy and awe, isn’t it ironic how we idolize the musician once he is famous? Listening to his songs brings us immense joy; singing along at his concert is the time of our lives. In the outdoor industry, there is a similar story. No one sees the benefits of an outdoor adventure until they themselves are on one; few understand the long term effects and importance of the time we do spend outside.

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job - Artist Lauren Chu
An impressionist painting I did as part of my Brazeau Loop series of art

Related: On Being Outdoorsy and the Outdoorsy People Club

Big Companies vs. Big Jobs

When I worked at PepsiCo, it was easy to answer the questions, “What do you do?” and “Where do you work?”. By simply saying that “I work at Pepsi,” the conversation could end if I wanted it to. People immediately recognized the brand, found it reasonably impressive (due to its familiarity and size), and could subconsciously put me into a category. The thing is, at this big company, I had a relatively small role. I was one Production Supervisor for one of three shifts at one of thousands of factories in one of dozens of countries. Though I was afforded incredible opportunity to make an impact, I was always going to be a small part of a massive production. A big company.

Now, I wear many hats and have a big job at a small company. Neither is better than the other, but with regards to reputation and respect in our society it’s easy to see which reigns supreme. It follows the unspoken “bigger is better” mantra, and it isn’t until you have been both David and Goliath that you understand the challenges and rewards of both.

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: Hiking in Portugal
Small company, big ocean! Hiking The Fishermen’s Trail in Portugal

Apparent Labels vs. Actual Application

I studied mechanical engineering. What was your gut reaction to that? For most people, it’s a lot of “wow”, “you must be smart”, “I could never do that”, “did you have a social life?”, and “good for you”. Sure, I got through the degree, and to all you engineers out there I don’t mean to discredit your accomplishment. However, there’s a big difference between the label I have and my application of what it took to get that label.

I can change a flat tire on my bicycle: that’s honestly the extent of my mechanical engineering abilities. Most of what I learned from engineering is soft skills. Skills like problem solving, time management, a work ethic, logical thinking, and creative thinking at the same time. Like many, it is the soft skills I learned from my education that will stay with me over the long term in my career. We forget that these skills are learned in just about any degree or path you can dream of.

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: Engineering Frosh Week at Queens
A soft skill learned in engineering: Being a frosh week leader at Queen’s University

Are All People in the Outdoor Industry Vagabonds, Dirtbags, and Bums?

Good question! And fair question, too! Hey all you people in the outdoor industry, listen up! We need to get it together, man! There is this blaring association of unprofessionalism (and subsequent lack of intellect) with those in the outdoor industry. We need to be better at proving people wrong. Don’t show up to that conference in Tevas and Pata-gucci with a Camelbak in tow. Show up like the professional you are.

You know that saying, “dress for the job you want, not the job you have”? I hate to break it to you, but that does not apply all the time. If you want to be taken seriously, you have to take yourself seriously first, and sometimes that means suiting up. Keep the beard, sure, but trim it! Wear your Garmin watch with the altimeter, but perhaps leave the Buff at home. You don’t need to be untrue to yourself to be presentable and professional, but we all need to be better at treating ourselves with the respect we seek and deserve. As per Kathryn Stockett in The Help: you is kind, you is smart, you is important. Now act like it!!

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: Tree planters in Northern Ontario
Tree planters: the epitome of a dirtbag. While we may look like this in the bush, we can clean up quite nicely!

So What?

To Those With a “Real Job”

You have a real job. It is important. It is fantastic, and so are you. Just remember to stay grounded and keep an open heart and mind.

To Those Without a “Real Job” (or Quit a “Real Job”)

You have a real job. Own it, act like it, and understand it. Take yourself seriously – it will do wonders for both personal growth and professional relationships. It will also do wonders for your reputation and conversations at Thanksgiving dinners with the extended family. And for goodness sakes, please stop saying, “I quit my real job”.

Click the image to pin it for later!

Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job to instead pursue an atypical career Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job: professionalism in the outdoor industry Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job or you don't give yourself the credit you deserve

43 Replies to “Stop Saying I Quit My Real Job

  1. Definitely agree. BTW my dad graduated from Queens university with a chemistry degree, and now he teaches tennis to 3-10 year old kids. He’s never been happier.

    1. YES! Firstly yes to Queen’s, and more importantly I love that he loves that. Kids are hilarious and tennis is awesome.

  2. I LOVE YOUR POST! It’s so true that we devalue our own work by not calling it a real job – it’s bad enough that 90% of the people I talk to think my blog is just a hobby (the 10% being other bloggers…). I just got a book about building a successful portfolio career and can’t wait to dive in and learn more about how my current work situation is actually something I should value more! Most of the jobs we do now just didn’t exist 20 years ago – how could there have been a specific degree to do… now it’s all changing I think, and there are a lot more opportunities for multiple legs to stand on and more fluid job descriptions. I love it!

    1. That’s SUPER cool! What’s the book called if you don’t mind? I’d love to read it too. I’m always looking for good reads. That is so true too. The workplace has changed dramatically and quickly, and we are all still stuck in the mindset of the past!! Getting there, one confident person at a time I am sure. Thanks for reading 🙂

  3. Thank you for writing this important post! Although I’m in a different situation, I recognise many points you make. At uni, I studied Econometrics and everyone was like wow, you’re smart. However, econometrics wasn’t what I wanted to do the rest of my life, so I switched to Classics (which I absolutely love). Many people don’t understand why I preferred the humanities, a field which probably won’t lead to a “professional profession”. They should read this post.

    1. Thank you for reading! I think it takes a lot of courage and confidence to make a switch like that. I really respect you for making that change; while I loved the people in engineering, I knew my whole degree that I would be better at and would enjoy something else so much more. Whatever the situation is, it is wholly yours and entirely real.

  4. This really resonated with me!! I’m on the verge of quitting my “real job,” and the biggest reason I haven’t done so yet is the knowledge of what people will think. There’s such a stigma towards anyone who leaves a comfortable job for a more non-traditional path. But not all of us are suited to the 9-5 office job! It’s not what we’re wired for or meant to do. All jobs are important – if they didn’t serve a purpose, they wouldn’t exist. Love this post, Lauren!

    1. Ahhh thank you for reading along and I totally agree. I don’t know why we place these subconscious hierarchies on different paths, but however it happens it is certainly crippling for people who don’t follow those typical paths. In any case, I totally agree. I love that. If they didn’t serve a purpose they wouldn’t exist. Let me know how your decision goes, and know that you have one supporter in me.

  5. Sometimes people love to make inappropriate comments but I am lucky enough that no one is telling me anything bad when I quit my corporate job for blogging nor for solo traveling even if I am a mum of young kids!

    1. I haven’t had many negative comments either; sometimes it’s just the nuanced ways people react. In any case, rock on and keep on doing very real and very awesome stuff!

  6. I LOVE this post. I’m just leaving a law school reunion where I was around fascinating people. A number of them are living very high stress lives. I reflected upon the yoga retreat I went to a few weeks ago and the person who ran the retreat changed by life with her healing aura. She’s not a doctor but she saved my life. She too was in a big corporate job before she decided to follow her passion. I’m lucky enough that I love my lawyer job AND travel. All work is work and anything that brings you joy is a good thing. Enjoy what you do and do it in joy!

    1. Thank you so much for reading along. A big fat YES to all of that. “She’s not a doctor but she saved my life” is exactly the point! People bring so much value to our lives and sometimes we forget to give them credit. This value can come from the most unexpected places too. Finally, I love even more that you love your “real” job. That’s something else that we need to be better at. It’s actually really cool to love your corporate job – even though it seems like we are supposed to be unhappy somehow. Thanks for being one warrior in this long battle for pride in ourselves!!

  7. Well in my case, with people around here, anything that you do outside of a corporate, traditional office or setting, means it’s not a “real job”. Like you are not earning real money or doing anything important just because say, you work from home, at a cafe or a coworking space somewhere remote. People are still not used to the nonconventional types of jobs or people who pursue their passions, sadly.

    1. Yes, unfortunately this is the reality for so many of us. However, it’s up to us to change that mindset, and it starts with open conversations!

  8. Love this post!! I quit my corporate job to focus on my blog.. and I work SO much harder now than I ever did. I don’t think many people understand what it takes and the amount of work that goes in. When people ask me what I do I proudly say I am a travel writer. That is my job, 100%.

    1. Ah thank you for reading along and good for you!! I agree – because people don’t understand what I do day to day, they have a hard time imagining it as “real work”. THANK YOU for being proud of it, and thank you for helping us all validate the industry and job. Rock on!!!

  9. Hi Lauren, I’m sorry for my late comment on this. It’s a great post, and I can definitely relate to the questioning about jobs. In the last several years, I realized that I had internalized because of my schooling and the environment where I was raised that the most worthy kind of work reflects intellect and academic achievement–for example, a lawyer who has clerked for the Supreme Court, a journalist who won Pulitzers. The problem was, I soon discovered that I did not find inner satisfaction from pursuing a career for the sake of external achievement and the recognition of others. Having changed jobs and moved abroad, I now believe that what’s most important in work, as in life in general, is the combination of contributing something beneficial to the world and feeling enriched internally from it–for instance, if this work satisfies one’s love of problem solving or creating something tangible. I realize that what kept me in a high stress, extrinsic achievement-oriented environment that I was actually very ready to leave was this idea that certain jobs are more real. People who are considering leaving “real” jobs may think, as I once did, that they could never be that person who just goes and makes a huge, crazy change, that they are not that free spirited. But it’s always worth remembering, we all only have one life. If you are brave enough to live yours, I do believe you are rewarded. And not only that, but you are showing other people who feel stuck that it can be done. Free spirits are usually not born that way — we all change and grow through our choices, as incremental as they may sometimes need to be. You are doing awesome work — and all of it is very real 🙂

    1. ELAINE!! My goodness thank you so much for taking the time to read, and for making the effort of writing such a thoughtful comment. I’m impressed and glad you’ve been able to come to those conclusions about your own real job. I love what you said here. “If you are brave enough to live yours, you are rewarded.” Thanks again and keep up your own real work in your very real life!!!

  10. Kuddos to you. You have a job that many of us only wish we could have. You get to work with others while doing what you love. Moreover, you are outside in nature. Doesn’t get much better. Obviously it is a job if people are hiring you to lead them! I’m slightly jealous.

  11. I love this. My husband is a mechanical engineer and Ops Manager for a bath bomb/candle brand (lucky me). But engineering is his absolute passion and it’s his “real” job because he lives and breathes it. But one of my friends is stuck in an aeronautical enineering job that he haaaates. He’s an incredibly talented artist and I think if he quit to pursue his art he would get a lot of “you quit your real job” comments too. But to me, his art SHOULD be his real job. It’s how he identifies and it’s his calling.

    1. Yes! I love that so much too!!!! All jobs are real jobs and we don’t need to dis one to qualify another. Love that, and hope he finds where he can pour his heart into in art.

  12. Love this piece- you’re completely right, a career in the outdoors is still a career, and we need people on both sides to take it seriously. I grew up in a similar environment where you’re either a doctor, lawyer, or failure, and I think culture, racism, and poverty has a lot to do with it. My parents came from less wealthy countries than Canada and the only way to really get out is if you have one of those careers. I’m not sure what it’s like there but in the US there’s a lot of income inequality, so it’s harder to survive if you don’t have a high paying job or intergenerational wealth (which recent immigrants and minorities don’t tend to have). So that’s what pushed that doctor/lawyer narrative in my family, but I think since we’re growing up in a different country, they need to remember that passion matters a lot to us too.

    1. I think I understand what you mean, and totally agree – with parents who weren’t born in Canada certainly added to the existing pressure in our community. I’m not sure how the income inequality compares, but I am sure we are not perfect and the issue exists wholly – the pressure is certainly rooted in good intentions, but sometimes becomes constricting!

  13. Good article. As long as you are doing what you love, that’s all that matters. Sometimes, the perception of others tend to drive us into doing something that we don’t actually enjoy. What’s the point in life? As long as you eat and sleep well, I think that’s what matter most. Not to forget that you are happy. There’s always the stereotype that being in a professional job is consider “real”. But how many of them are actually doing it because they love it?

    1. So true. Health and strong relationships are at the core of our lives, and everything else is how we achieve those things – no matter what they are – so we might as well seek to enjoy it as much as possible!

  14. This was such a lovely read early Sunday Morning. I am myself a lawyer, an Ex-Naval Officer who is now traveling and Travel Curating so you are right, feeling enriched with what you are doing is the most important thing – that is what actually counts! Keep up your real and good work girl 🙂

    1. That’s incredible!! I love hearing from people who were much farther in their careers than I was when I pivoted: it’s inspiring to hear how fulfilling it can be. Thank you so much for reading and your lovely comment – it really made my day 🙂

  15. I really enjoyed reading your article, Lauren! Yes, that’s definitely what you say. We are bloggers, and we all know our work is hard. It is not “an endless vacation”, as some other people may think. It is a serious job, and it is a job that we like. Maybe this is the key actually: many people, who work “real job” (engineers, doctors, etc.) actually DON’T like what they work. They would like to escape from their “real jobs” and do something that they like (and some of them became bloggers). But bloggers- we all like our jobs. I haven’t heard about a blogger, who doesn’t like blogging (yes, many people stop blogging, not because they don’t like it, but because they just lose their confidence). For me- blogging IS a real job- not only because I like it, but because I really do my best to be useful for others. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for reading along, and I’m so glad I’m not alone. It’s true. Much of the criticism likely comes from envy as you said. You’ll never love every single part of your job, but at least you will be working towards a greater overall goal. Keep on doing your very real job and your very real blog!!!! 🙂

  16. This post resonates with me big time! ‘Real job’ is such an anachronism. Just because someone doesn’t wear a suit and a tie or office attire, doesn’t mean he or she is not doing a real job. I have two masters – one in Finance and another in Journalism – and I worked in big companies before, but I wasn’t fulfilled. So now I travel and write blogs. It’s a job and it is as real as being an accountant or an engineer, but unfortunately people don’t see it that way. Even my friends and family. I love the outdoors, I camp and yes I get dirty. The experience that I gain from my travels enriches me as a person and I’m proud of that.

    1. Ahh I’m so glad you read along and could find some piece of it that resonated. GOOD FOR YOU!!!!!! Keep on keepin’ on and be proud of your very real life choices 🙂

  17. This is such an important post especially for this generation. I feel like everyone should be motivated to do something they believe in and with utmost passion! No such thing as a real job, every job is real!

    1. That’s so true! I sometimes wonder if I’m being too much of the millennial stereotype, but I have to just remind myself that there’s nothing wrong with pursuing something you care deeply about!

  18. I absolutely agree with you. People that say blogging isn’t a real job are either a) devaluing their own work b) aren’t serious about blogging. If you want to make a blog work and grow big enough, you have to give 150% and sometimes it requires even more effort than what one’s “real job might”

    1. Yes, and c) devaluing the whole profession and subconsciously damaging its reputation for other bloggers! So true, and thanks for stopping by to read along 🙂

  19. Do whatever gives you happiness and allows you to sustain. Working in a corporate to not, its ones own choice and people should respect that. I work full time as a teacher and I travel too and also blog about it. It is difficult to manage everything but I love my job and travel both. Thank you writing this post, a lot of people will benefit from reading this.

    1. I love that you loved it and thank you for taking the time to read and stop by! Being a teacher is both remarkable and wonderful! So tough through the year but time in the summer!

  20. Oh this blog really goes with me as well !! because when our mind is relax we think differently . I have done MBA my actual plan was to do job as usual 9 to 5 no idea to start blogging but during searching for the job after MBA one guest lecture on internet awareness turns me into travel blogger and now I want to travel the world. The thing I planned job is left behind because today I am doing business with my dad.

    1. That’s so true – our mind behaves so differently depending on our situation, and having hobbies or other jobs so opposite to your normal one can be very rewarding. I hope your business with your dad is wonderful! What an exciting privilege to work with family 🙂

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