Why I Don’t Regret Leaving my Job During an Economic Recession

Everyone has cut back due to the economic recession and it is no different in the museum industry. Websites like Artinfo.com have been meticulously documenting layoffs and cutbacks in our favorite institutions since the Detroit Institute of Arts announced a potential budget cut in September of 2008. Everyone is concerned, sad, and scared as employees are left watching the desks around them become cleared– at least that’s how I perceived it when I was working in a museum environment during the recession… until I choose to leave in mid-May.

Don’t get me wrong; I had an incredible job at a great museum, but I am starting graduate school in the Fall. After two years of wrestling to find time to get home, I decided to spend two months relaxing with loved ones and living life to the fullest before classes begin in mid-August. Despite that leaving was my own decision, I’m not any better off than a person who has been laid-off. In fact, I cannot collect unemployment, my monthly medical insurance payments are horrendous, and I’m about to take out several thousand dollars in student loans. But I don’t regret leaving, and I figured out exactly why when I was on the road and unemployed, exploring the Midwest:

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

1. Interesting fact about recessions… they end.

This recession is temporary–or they’d call it something else. As I was weighing the opportunity cost of leaving my job sooner than absolutely necessary, I uncovered a personal fact: if I didn’t take up this two-month adventure right now, my next chance may not be until after I retire- and my life will be very different then. I refused to miss my moment because of the recession. Life goes on. My aspirations, goals, morals, and priorities do not change- but, as the billboard reminds us– recessions end.

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

2. Bill Gates started Microsoft in a recession

In fact, Burger King, IHOP, FedEx, LexisNexis, Trader Joe’s, Wikipedia, Sports Illustrated, the Jim Henson Company, MTV Networks, CNN, Hewlett-Packard, and General Electric were all started during recessions. While recessions sometimes weed out not-so-strong companies, the economic climate uncovers societal and personal needs that, when filled, create huge success. Stay inspired! This can be an exciting time for new endeavours.

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

3. Self worth beats net worth
I would fist-bump this billboard if I were tall enough.

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

4. Experience and talent are recession-proof assets

If you are good, you’ll find something good.  You can make the most of your time while looking for jobs by conquering social media, working on your personal branding, building connections, and staying on top of your industry, for starters. Keep doing your thing. I don’t know anyone who has said, “Albert Einstein would have been a genius if it weren’t for that darn recession!” Great talent is great talent.

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

5. It’s a test not a final
I like this way of looking at the recession. It’s our individual responsibility to learn from this and come out of it stronger and wiser… and it won’t (shouldn’t) kill us.

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

Photo from www.oaaa.org/recession101.aspx

6. Nobody can repossess your future

My value grows as I drink in everything that nonprofits and museums are doing to beat out this economy. I’m reflecting on lessons I learned from  past experiences, reading blogs by other young professionals, looking up the qualifications for my down-the-road dream jobs, swimming blissfully in my course options for graduate school, printing maps of my new neighborhood in LA, and actually enjoying right now– a time in which I am in limbo and unemployed during an economic recession. Something great is on the way.

I’m not suggesting that anyone leave their full-time job during an economic recession without good reason. What I am suggesting is that, should we find ourselves without a job during an economic recession (whether it was our own decision or not), we keep the messages on these billboards in the back of our minds. I would have left my job in mid-May to spend time with loved ones before starting graduate school in August if we were not in this recession- and the economic climate does not negate the personal importance that I place on seeing family members again and taking time to reflect between life chapters (revisit experience and talent are recession- proof assets).

I hope that these billboards inspire you, and that you have the opportunity to see them on the road for yourself.

Posted on by colleendilen in Generation Y, Jobs, Lessons Learned, Words of Wisdom 6 Comments

About the author


MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore

6 Responses to Why I Don’t Regret Leaving my Job During an Economic Recession

  1. Stuart Bailey AKA Stu-Art

    RECESSION 101 Billboards..

    Hello my name is Stuart Bailey the art director of the recession 101 campaign.
    My partner Charlie Robb was the writer of the boards (not the designer as the AP wrote it incorrectly…I just wanted you to know we are glad to see your artical
    about the campaign and it was very intresting what you wrote. Thanks for the attention on this as we are glad to see those who appreciate it. There are mixed views on the campaign and some don’t get it.

  2. Deyanira


    Thank you for this inspiring article. Over the past several months I have been seriously considering leaving my full-time job to dedicate my time to my full-time graduate studies. Your article reaffirms everything I have been thinking about. It took me ten years to earn my AS and BA degrees, and I did it all in spite some awful circumstances. Though I have no money saved up, I know that this will probably be the last degree I earn. Do I want to race through it as I fight the exhaustion caused by my highly demanding job? I don’t. Do I want to rush to school and back home while depriving myself of an opportunity to meet people in my field and take advantage of the many cultural and educational opportunities that are just waiting to be discovered? No, I don’t. I want this experience to be a memorable time in my life, not because of the obstacles, but because I took full advantage of it.

    My mind is made up. I will quit my job. But fear stands in the way. I hope to very soon follow my heart and give it what it needs. Thanks again for the article for it spoke to my heart.

  3. Jo Notes

    The billboards are an excellent idea. Great initiative – only in America?

    Nice article – very uplifting. Thanks.

    (From the UK )

  4. TT

    hi colleen
    nice post !! Thanks a lot :)

  5. Stuart Bailey AKA Stu-Art

    Colleen, Its Stu-Art (Art Director of Rec 101 billboards)
    I got your email, and its at perfect time.

    I just left my FULL TIME sub-contract job TODAY…I got home a little
    shaken up but telling myself its ok..as the work is here and there is lots to do
    for my regular clients (and new ones too). But as I just got off the phone with my wife…she was a bit down…I told her it was for the best and let me tell u this!!!

    It was 11 years ago I was a graphic artist fired from my job…no computer
    and no phone. My friend said he knew a guy working late night shifts at a print shop with lots of computers…I went there at night and told them I would help them do designs if they would let me work at night doing my free lance.

    Well, after a month or so…they went out of business…and the place was vacant with just me sitting there still using the computers. The owner told me
    that any day everything was going to be taken over by the banks. As I sat there the phones still were ringing with customers..as I took their messages
    I started to realize no one was going to get back to them..so I started asking what they needed. Well long story short I told the owner if he would let me
    take over the phone number in my name I would pay him a percentage of any job I got from the calls. Shortly after that I had my own business selling printing and creating more graphics I could handle for 1 person. I ended up re-hiring the staff and I started Think Graphics. I had enough sales coming in I was able to start painting again as a fine artist and my whole life was as I wanted it within months from almost being homeless.

    11 years later I have a billboard up in Times Square with many awards following.

    Never give up hang in there this is all meant to be…

    Stu-Art – art director of Recession 101

    http://www.StuartDesigns.net http://www.ThinkGraphics.net
    http://www.SokPop.com (NEW SITE ALMOST DONE)

    • colleendilen

      Stu-Art – Thanks so much for your comment and great story! I am so glad that you shared it in your comment; it absolutely belongs with the post!

      I (clearly) have found your billboards very inspirational and I’m glad that they are up for all to see during these harder economic times. I’m excited to follow your design projects– and thanks again for sharing your inspiring story and commenting here. I’m thrilled to hear from you!


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