You Need to Leave Your First Job
In a fast moving world, where many skip from job to job in 6 months or less, there is still a notion that staying on at a place for at least 2 years shows consistency and stability which isn’t the case today. There is also still this old ideal that loyalty to your work place pays in promotions, incentives etc. This worked for the generation before us – our parents, grandparents etc. It doesn’t work for us. And honestly, you don’t know what’s out there till you quit your first job.
Your first job makes a big impression on you because it is your first experience with employment. And you tend to believe the marketing done by the in house HR and senior management – where the usual interview is where you are made to feel you are joining the greatest company on earth, that it’s an amazing opportunity and that you are lucky to be selected etc. After years of working in different companies, you realize this fable and that no one is going to hire a liability (unless there is a personal reason) and that you are an asset they will exploit. I remember my father saying, ‘the private sector will squeeze you like a lemon’. He would know, he was in the military and private sector both. And sure enough, I came to realize that.
First jobs rarely see us negotiating packages, work terms and if you are hired as an executive, unfortunately in Sri Lanka, the laws do little to protect you in terms of work hours, working conditions and general abuse in the form of verbal, sexual or emotional. The very contracts you sign will carry all kinds of open ended clauses that leave little room for you to fight. And of course, you are grateful to be employed and the brainwashing on the greatness of the company prevents you from really questioning the things you should.
A lot of people are scared to leave their first jobs. You become comfortable, with the not so great work conditions and hours (working till 2am or 9pm daily would be made to sound normal), the meager increments (the company is not making profit though the directors just got a new fleet of cars) and so you get used to the place and you would never really know your worth or value coz you only have the opinion of one place. Managers in companies are almost brainwashed to justify the bullshit of a lot of top managements and it’s a South Asian malaise. Covid 19 showed how most companies have no qualms about axing employment – especially of the mid tier executives who are not really protected by much. And this is accepted – whereas directors continue to live their cushy lives.
This is why it’s important to leave your first job – to be strong enough to say goodbye to something that no longer serves you. Yes you will learn great things, but once you learn and you become just another cog in the wheel, then it’s time to pull out. And people need to start doing this more. In 10 – 15 years of being in a company, if you are not in the top tier management or director board, then you really need to question yourself as to what the hell you’re doing there.
Corporate Sri Lanka is still very old fashioned and lacks professionalism on many levels. Lewd crude jokes, male preference, old boys club type of behaviour is normal. Sexual and verbal abuse is considered normal. In this environment, when you’re a woman you have to battle the stereotype that you are not as intelligent as your male counterparts, you have to battle the sexual game that some women play and you have to be firm if you are not to be trampled. In the process you can get labeled a bitch, ambitious and what not. Those are not tags a male will really face. Therefore, women especially, should leave their first jobs. Unless it’s your own business. Even then, a stint out will give you perspective. The more diverse our experiences in the world, the better equipped we become to handling ourselves and the way we work. If not we end up frogs in the well.
So leave your first job. Yes it’s your comfort zone, which is precisely why you need to let it go. Most companies are good at laterally shuffling people between departments, giving promotions after a decade and justifying it coz they are a ‘big company’. Don’t fall for the marketing BS. Just up and go. Often we miss great opportunities coz we are afraid to close the door on the past. The world is out there – don’t be afraid to explore and conquer.