Why I Quit My Dream Job After 17 Years

Illustration by Janet Sung
I can't remember the exact moment this happened, but I can tell you that it felt like an epiphany.
My book had been out for a few months, and it was doing really well. But most importantly, the reader reviews were everything that I dreamed they would be. The advice was actually helping people all around the world! I’m not sure what kind of change I expected upon launching Leave Your Mark, but I can tell you that going back to the same desk every day after a multi-week press blitz felt very anticlimactic. It was the same old DKNY, except that I wasn’t the same old Aliza.
I started to have strange thoughts, very strange thoughts. Like, what if I didn’t work at Donna Karan anymore? What would happen if I weren’t the famous DKNY PR GIRL commanding the attention of millions of followers? What if I didn’t have the power of a big brand behind me? These thoughts swirled around my head like clothes in a dryer.
Nah. I couldn’t QUIT. Could I? I loved my job. I had a dream job. I’m quite certain that people would line up for blocks for a chance to sit at my desk. But in truth, after 17 years at the same company, it had become commonplace. Not the kind of boring where you’re so jaded that you don’t appreciate all the amazing opportunities that you experience on a daily basis, but the kind of boring when you know in your heart that you are capable of more. You see, I could do my job with my eyes closed. Now some of you may be thinking, Great! Easy ride. Get paid well and go home early. Well, not me. I couldn’t help but think that I was supposed to be embarking on new challenges and learning new things.

When you spend seventeen years at a company, it starts to feel like you will be there forever.

I am a firm believer that things happen for a reason. In May 2015, my mentor and boss, Patti Cohen, stepped down from the company after three decades! She was its first employee ever and I wasn’t sure how Donna would actually survive without her. If you saw Donna, you saw Patti. She was her right hand. They finished each other’s sentences. It didn’t take long for rapid change to happen and by June, Donna stepped down as Chief Designer for Donna Karan International. It was truly the end of an era.
With Donna’s departure, the Donna Karan New York brand itself was suspended, leaving only DKNY as the solo brand of the company. That was a complete shock to the industry, myself included. The suspension of Donna Karan New York meant the demise of my favorite collection, Donna Karan Atelier, a brand that I conceived and spearheaded for celebrity dressing. I loved that brand and all the drama that went with it. As much as I dreaded awards season, I also loved it. I fed off of it. It provided an adrenaline rush season after season.
In college, I spent endless hours studying. My studying was never-ending, so I always looked for a good stopping point. Similarly, without the two matriarchs of the company and with the luxury level collection suspended, it felt like the stopping point I was looking for. Donna and Patti were family, so I decided to use their departures as a springboard for my own. I reasoned that it was all meant to be.
I gave my notice shortly thereafter and pledged to the company that I would stay until the end of the year. After all, my intention was not to go to another brand, but rather to set out on my own.
This is an excerpt from LEAVE YOUR MARK: Land Your Dream Job. Kill it in Your Career. Rock Social Media. by Aliza Licht. Copyright © 2015 by Aliza Licht. Reprinted by permission of Grand Central Publishing, New York, NY. All rights reserved.

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