How I Knew It Was Time to Leave My First Job

How I knew it was time to Leave My First Job - signs its time to leave your job - time to quit your job - when to quit your job

After seven rounds of interviews and a case competition, I landed one of the 13 spots of PepsiCo’s Sales Associate Rotational Program. The program was going to be 4 years long and I would be rotated to different cities with each role. I was going to be placed in Southern California for my first rotation and given a company car. It was my dream to move down to Southern California after graduation and to travel so I knew I had to take the role. Little did I know that I would end up leaving my first job out of college in a year..

My first year in the real world was probably the most challenging life experiences I’ve ever had.

I made every mistake you could probably make in your first job, I cried multiple times, and I was extremely stressed out. So let me tell you how I knew I needed to leave my first job….

My first job as a retail sales rep was very simple: sell and build as many Gatorade and Quaker Oats displays as I could to grocery and store managers. My goal was to always come in as the top salesperson in the territory.

How I knew it was time to Leave My First Job - signs its time to leave your job - time to quit your job - when to quit your job - career advice for millennials

One of the first lessons I learned in my first job was that I did not fit well with the PepsiCo Sales culture.

My business unit ranked the retail sales people and published a monthly/quarterly list. The ranking system was one way the company/leadership motivated its sales teams to sell more and more each year. While some people really enjoyed this type of motivation, I did not. I knew going into the job that I’m motivated to achieve, not motivated to win or beat others. But I wanted to give sales a try because I had majored and marketing and sales in college.

My first 3 months in the job were rough… but after figuring out my selling style and developing relationships with my 31 grocery stories, it did get easier. By the end of my second quarter (6 months), I was ranked 2nd on our scorecard. And by the end of the 1st quarter of 2015 (9 months), I was ranked number one.

Even as my numbers came in, I didn’t feel more fulfilled or motivated by the scorecard – because again, I’m motivated to achieve, not to beat the next person next to me.

How I knew it was time to Leave My First Job - signs its time to leave your job - time to quit your job - when to quit your job

Aside from the company culture, I also learned from this experience that just because I can perform well in job, doesn’t mean I enjoy it or want to do it.

Even though I’m thankful I learned how to build positive relationships with my customers, I also learned that I don’t get a kick out of selling more pallets of food into grocery stores. I realized that in 9 months into the role that I didn’t necessarily enjoy sales either. I decided that I could take relationship building and my emotional intelligence skills into any role I take on.


Which leads me to my next reason on why I knew I needed to leave my first job: I couldn’t get excited about the product.

I don’t know about you, but Quaker Oats and Gatorade are both cool brands, but to me they’re still groceries at the end of the day. I was stressed out the entire year about making sure I had enough displays of Chewy Bars, Life Cereal, and Gatorade stands. And I realized I didn’t want an entire career about stressing out about these food products…

I had completed two internships for the Boeing Company where I supported all airplane programs in my Flight Services and Supplier Management internships. I realized that I understand the importance of airplanes in both the commercial and defense industry. Personally, I could see a long term career supporting airplanes more than I did supporting food.

So for me, the culture, the business function (sales), and the product were all signs that helped me decide to leave my first job. Additionally, I knew I wanted to get my master’s degree these next few years. I felt called to go back to Boeing because the Boeing Company pays for you entire master’s degree while PepsiCo didn’t even cover a 1/3 of tuition.

How I knew it was time to Leave My First Job - signs its time to leave your job - time to quit your job - when to quit your job

If you’re debating whether or not your current job is a fit, here are a few signs that show it may be time to leave your current job:

  1. When you wake up unhappy every morning

A big indication of when you know it’s time to move on and leave your first job/or current job is if you wake up unhappy every day. If you aren’t motivated or see the relevance in coming to work, you may not be happy or satisfied with your work situation.

  1. When you are no longer learning or challenged – aka you’re bored.

Whether you’ve been in your role one year or five years, if you feel like you are no longer learning in your role, it’s time to move on. If you find you’re bored or looking for a new challenge, you may need to start looking for a new opportunity to be challenged.

  1. If the company culture is not a good fit

Does your team have a work hard play hard mentality? Does your management team motivate the organization by ranking individuals? Or does your team put in long hours that extend into the weekend?

The way your management motivates employees and the attitude your team has towards work are all a part of the company culture. I’ve found that if the company culture fits my life style, I’m much happier. Personally, I strive for a balance lifestyle. I do work hard at work but it’s also important for me to have time for myself to work out and blog outside of work.

How I knew it was time to Leave My First Job - signs its time to leave your job - time to quit your job - when to quit your job - career advice for millennials

  1. Company goals aren’t aligned with yours

For some people it can be very challenging to work in an industry or support a company whose products, services or goals aren’t in line with yours. For instance, in my experience I couldn’t get excited about selling more Gatorade or Quaker Oats.

You may be able to support a product service or goal that may not be aligned with your goals and values. But you should know that you don’t have to.

  1. You’re burnt out

Working tons of hours, demanding deadlines, and not having time for you at the end of the day or week are all signs that you’re burnt out. If you’re feeling like you can’t unwind or you’re exhausted from work all of the time or unmotivated to get to work each day, you may be burnt out.

Personally in my experience, I was working on average of 50 hours a week. I knew I wanted more work life balanced so I knew I needed to leave my first job.

  1. The work environment is toxic

If you have a struggling relationship with your manager, team, or leadership, or have demanding expectations without the resources or support to succeed, it can be very challenging to strive to be a top performer. You will know if your work environment is toxic. If you’re witnessing people getting thrown underneath the bus during meetings or people living in fear in the office, it may be time to rethink what time of environment you want to work in.

If you recognized that it’s time to leave your job, here are: 10 steps to figure out your next step in your career.

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Thank you for reading!



Photos: Holly Phan



  1. February 12, 2018 / 5:59 pm

    Oh my god, this post spoke to me. I graduated in May and landed my first job in July. I’m already starting to get the itch to move onto another company because I’m not excited about the product I’m selling. I would love to hear if you have any advice about how you move onto that next job. How do you get time off to interview/know it’s worth taking time off to interview? How do you let your boss know? How do you ask for a recommendation from your boss if you’re still working for them?

    I literally have a million and a half questions and you seem like you really figured it out!
    xo Logan

    • emma
      February 13, 2018 / 8:00 am

      Hi Logan,

      My advice to you is to stick out at least a year so at least you to experience a full year working cycle. But I did start looking 6 months out from my one year mark, so it would be wise to at least start looking at what opportunities are out there! I go over how to find your next step in the blog post I linked in the bottom: 10 Steps to Figure Out Your Next Step In Your Career.

      But to answer your questions:
      How do you get time off to interview: I would call in sick or schedule appointments during work and come back to stay at work a little later to make up the hour I missed.

      How do you know it’s worth taking time off to interview: If you are interested in the business function or industry, or are super excited about the opportunity, I’d say its worth it. Interviewing is also a skill, so the more practice you get, the better you’ll become.

      How do you let your boss know: I wrote a formal letter to my manager, director, and our VP when I formally put in my two weeks. I just sent it in an email.

      How do you ask for a recommendation from your boss when you’re still working for them: Well if you’ve had the conversation with your boss about moving onto a different company or role, then you can ask. I didn’t ask for any recommendations for my next role.

      I hope that helps! Thanks again for stopping by πŸ™‚

      xo, emma

  2. February 12, 2018 / 9:25 pm

    This was a great read and so very relatable! My first job out of school was with PepsiCo as well – in HR, though. While I had some great opportunities (Pepsi is the reason I moved to Seattle!) and learned a lot, I had very similar experiences with the culture and feelings toward the product. I was in Beverages and hadn’t drunk soda in years πŸ™‚ I stuck around for 2 years in different HR roles before I realized I was checking every box on your list. These are also the same topics I’ve been talking through with friends that are currently in/recently left the Sales Associate role here in Seattle. It’s so nice to hear the success stories of others that have moved on from Pepsi!


    • emma
      February 20, 2018 / 7:52 am

      Hi Jordan!

      That’s awesome that you also got your career start with PepsiCo! I always wondered if the culture I experienced was the sales culture or PepsiCo culture in general. I hope you are in a more fulfilling role/or at least in a role where you can support the product! Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚ Hopefully I get to meet you at one of the Seattle events!

      xo, emma

  3. February 14, 2018 / 8:25 am

    It’s always good to know when to say “enough is enough” whether it’s personal or professional. You’re the perfect example of how much happier you’ll be if you do!


  4. February 14, 2018 / 8:26 am

    Love this post Emma! So honest and helpful!

  5. February 14, 2018 / 9:44 am

    This was just what I needed to read today! Thank you for sharing!!

  6. February 14, 2018 / 10:15 pm

    Deciding to leave your first job is such a scary decision but also a brave one that takes a lot of self awareness. I recently quit my first job out of college and can relate to this so much. Thanks for sharing!


  7. February 20, 2018 / 4:52 am

    I couldn’t have come across this post at a more perfect time!
    I’ve just hit the six month mark at my first post-grad job, and I’ve regularly been considering my future with this company and my overall career. Most mornings I despise waking up and commuting 1.5 hours to work. I have no excitement or joy in the brands that I work for and the content we produce. And despite what my account directors say, I believe our advertising agency is an extremely toxic environment.
    I’m really struggling with my opinion and experience with my current employer, because I don’t have a similar experience to compare it to. Am I being a sook? Am I being ungrateful? Am I not making enough of this opportunity? These are questions I’m regularly asking and I’m still unable to find an answer.
    Reading your post has put me at ease, because I’ve finally found someone who can relate! So big, big thanks for sharing your experience – I’ll definitely keep it nearby on rough days to remind myself I am not alone!
    Justine x

    • emma
      February 20, 2018 / 7:58 am

      Hi Justine,

      Oh man I still remember when I hit my 6 month! I honestly felt the same way with you. I felt so conflicted because in one hand I was working for a fortune 50 company but in the other I knew the culture wasn’t a fit. My advice to you is to always put yourself in a place of that gives you the most options.

      If you’re thinking about leaving, I would start reaching out to your network NOW. I started reaching out to my friends/past managers/etc. for informational interviews and to keep me in mind for roles that open up.

      If you’re thinking its just your manager or your group but you want to see other groups, I would also start doing informational interviews with other teams. I’m telling you now that you don’t have to wake up unhappy everyday! You can do this girl!

      xo, emma

  8. January 21, 2021 / 1:39 pm

    I know this post is 2 year old but I really helped. I’m been so unhappy at my job and I keep saying maybe next month it’ll get better and it never does. Is difficult, specially in the middle of a pandemic to leave a job.

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