This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.
Quit Your Shitty Job is a new column that speaks to people who turned their back on their totally average and uninspiring jobs to pursue something they actually wanted.
This week, we spoke to Toronto-based Jonathan De Vela. His previous jobs include recruiting and gardening, but the 27-year-old found the Monday-to-Friday grind exhausting. These days, he’s happy to work 7 days a week, indulging his creative side as a barber and teaching assistant, learning and sharing what he knows about how to cut and style people’s hair.
VICE: What did you do in your previous jobs?
Jonathan De Vela: I studied urban planning at the University of Waterloo. Post graduation, I really struggled with finding a job. I couldn’t find something I was passionate about. I did all kinds of jobs: worked in retail, even worked as a gardener for a community center. What really tipped the scale for me was when I worked as a recruiter for a technical agency.
Why did it suck?
That was my shittiest job because all I did was cold-call people and force my information down their throat in 30 seconds or less and I didn’t feel like I was building any sort of relationships. I was talking to people who really hated talking to me 80 to 100 times a day. I felt emotionally drained.
But I was promised it gets better, that the ceiling is so high in business development and I could make six figures. But I didn’t want to sell my soul and make money just so I could feel like shit about myself at the end of the day.
What did you switch to instead?
I was cutting hair throughout college, and I was starting to cut hair more and more. And I found that the people who sit in my chair, do want to talk to me. [It’s] a genuine connection.
Photo via Jonathan De Vela
How did you make it happen?
I was on Instagram and I found an owner of a barber shop who was an educator. As a beginner barber, I didn’t have any formal training so I saw this guy as my ticket in—maybe this will be the guy who can help me.
I walked into his shop and asked for him by his name. I went straight to Jason and he gave me his number—we got to talking and after a few interviews and me hanging out at his shop, I wrote a resignation letter and gave it to my boss at my shitty job the next day. I just knew that I was done and I was putting all my eggs into this other basket. That was my unconventional lightbulb moment.
What do you love most about your job?
It’s different every day—different clients, compensation, haircuts. Even if I see the same client every week, they might choose something different. He might say he has a new girlfriend and he’s going to change it up. It’s just so engaging every day.
I’ve had requests from people getting married for me to be right there, at his hotel by 7 a.m. doing his haircut and hearing how excited he is, or if he has cold feet. Or people will tell me about their girlfriend breaking up with them, and it’s a whole different conversation. I never get bored of it.
Are there any downsides?
My legs get tired. Sometimes I miss lunch. But that’s about it. Just the physical toll. Sometimes I get too into my work. I currently work seven days a week, but I don’t know, I love it. I don’t see myself slowing down. I’m just addicted to the creative process of it.
Have there been any memorable moments?
I cut a client’s hair and he was getting ready for an interview and he was so nervous about it. I related to him because of what I studied and gave him some advice. Two months later, I was cutting someone else’s hair and he came up to me and said “I want to let you know that I got the job and I’ve never been happier. What you and I talked about before the interview really helped.” Stuff like that is just wow. He took time out of his day to come by and say “thanks for helping me out.” Those are things that make this job worth it. I could come home with $5 at the end of the day, but if someone tells me I gave them the best haircut ever, I’d be good.
Rate your life out of 10 before, and now:
When I was in the other job I was a five or six, just getting by. Now I feel like a nine. I don’t want to say it’s a 10 because it can always get better.
What advice would you give other people who hate their jobs?
Don’t quit that job yet. Find something you’re passionate about that you would do for free, and then find someone who’s willing to pay you for it. I’ve seen too many people say they hate their job and then quit, not knowing what their next step is and they end up taking another shitty job, and it’s an endless cycle.
You don’t have to drop everything to start something. I don’t like the term “funemployed” because that just means you’re broke. I’m not saying don’t have fun with it but I’m saying you might hate it so always have a plan, there’s always a way.
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