I was working at a 9-5 corporate job straight out of college, and it was...a revelation.
From working till 2 AM at night (or is it morning?) to your senior saying ‘leaving early today!’ when you try to snake out of the office at 5 PM - if I had a penny for every time I said “I don’t get paid enough for this” I would have crossed my own salary.
It was placement season in college, and a slew of big companies came to offer us jobs. It almost felt like a buffet of top-notch, front page of Forbes-eque companies that we could choose from. Only, we were the buffet, and not them.
Through the week, as we got placed, our value was attached to our payslips, where at its worst we couldn’t afford to shift out of our parent’s house, and at best we would earn just enough to pay for our rent and food.
There were of course companies that paid well. But the only way you could get selected in them was by being the president of the debate club, best delegate of the MUN club, director of the theatre club, and a part-time social worker and animal lover.
Since I only satisfied the last criteria, I got paid just enough to break even at the end of the month. However, the initial excitement of earning for myself, clad in a clean-cut suit and a dangling ID card, was enough to sail me through the first few months. No complaints.
But as time passed, I started catching myself sorting ‘lowest to highest’ on a menu and being that person who cancels your Goa trip - because as it turns out, the Final_fin_FINAL.pptx PPT was not final yet.
Until one fine day, cramped in a squeaky chair in a questionable movie theatre (eating even more questionable samosas) watching the cheaper 10 PM show, I sighed, and got myself to admit - I don’t get paid enough
Granted, pay is not the most important factor in choosing a company. The work environment, the management, the policies, are far more important for most people. But more often than not, what a company is willing to pay, is a litmus test of how much the company values its employees.
If a company is okay with you living in apartments the size of matchboxes, the odds are it is okay with skimping on bonuses. If it is okay with not giving monetary rewards to its employees for good work, odds are it is okay with you working overtime, hopped up on coffee with your mental health doing some weird cha-cha.
The worst part? People, including me, bought into this culture. “I worked for 15 hours today”, “I don’t remember the last time I got 8 hours of sleep!”, “I didn’t take even a single leave last year”
When these phrases stop sounding like medieval punishments and start sounding like pitches to get a raise - quit, run for the hills, and stay there.
But now, how do you run for the hills with empty pockets?
So, there are two kinds of people - One who eats the best part of their meal in the beginning, and the other who eats the green and gritty stuff first, and saves the best for last (You know who you are)
When it comes to quitting a salaried job, you’ve got to think like the second kind, at least for a little while. Think of ways of saving your salary, limited as it may be, into an ‘All hell has broken loose’ fund. A savings stash that gives you the option to skedaddle out of toxic situations - without worrying too much about your finances.
Figure out your expenses and categorise them into ‘absolutely necessary’ and ‘can live without’. Cut out the latter as much as you can, say by cancelling that Netflix subscription (read ‘use friend’s account’) and resisting the urge to avail every annual once in a lifetime sale. Also, think of little ways of saving on the ‘necessary’ - say by buying groceries in bulk from wholesale places. Go through the gritty and aim at saving close to 3 months of your salary. This way you’ll be much more comfortable quitting your job.
Now, in the time you ideate, research and work towards getting a new job, take up part-time jobs that help cover your basic expenses, so that you don’t have to dip into your savings stash too often. This is a great way to capitalise on your inherent skills - take up singing, dancing, writing, tutoring or graphic designing gigs - and you might even find ways to do it successfully, full-time.
As a college student, who never got more than ₹3k per month as allowance, getting a job that paid anything, felt like hitting a pot of gold - but it really wasn’t.
I knew something wasn’t right in the work-pay dynamic, but I had no idea how to change this. And when I looked around the office, at my colleagues who were glued to their screens at 11:30 PM on a Friday, it seemed like they didn’t realise this either.
No matter how ‘normal’ a company makes it feel to hustle to just be able to make basic rent, it’s not normal. In fact, no matter how ‘normal’ a company makes it feel to constantly hustle like the world will end if you don’t, is not normal either.
All these are signs for a proverbial ‘Evacuate, Evacuate, Evacuate’ and the ‘All hell has broken loose’ fund - your proverbial parachute. This also means that you need to constantly build these funds, even after you get your dream job that pays well. Because you never know when you’d need to run for those hills again.
So, after you find a stable job, gradually increase the size of the savings fund from 3 months to 6 months of your salary. Once you’re comfortable with your pile there, lower your monthly contribution to the fund, and re-route it into investing. Dabble in both short-term investments (recurring deposits, arbitrage funds or liquid funds) & long-term investments (equity mutual funds or investing directly into stocks).
Investing helps make your money work for you, giving it more returns than keeping it deposited in a bank ever could. With a comfortable savings pile, a good investment portfolio, and hopefully a great job, you can choose to bid adieu & good riddance to any environment that is not serving you well.
I left my job after about a year of working in this organisation, and if I could give myself one piece of advice - it would be to start saving from the word go - not when literal hell breaks loose. And also to show the bold 9 AM - 5 PM in my employment contract to anyone who says ‘leaving early?’ at 5 PM.