Well, it's been a couple weeks since my last blog, but this is a note to let you know that I'm not done just yet!! I have a summary blog in the works, but this note is to tide you over until I get that finished.
At the beginning of my 8-week journey, a filmmaker friend of mine asked me to write a guest blog on the topic of 'Advice to Those Who Hate Their Jobs.' Her name is Punam, and she has dealt with her fair share of career struggles. Her recent film Young Masters actually deals with the subject of the skilled-trades and the students who master them.
"Although destined for the podium as masters in their respective trades of autobody repair, painting, and IT, these young people reveal how they are often treated like second-class citizens because of their vocation. In a society that values the head over the hands, university over college, and white collar over blue, can these young people also prove to be masters of their own futures?"
- Quote from the synopsis of Young Masters
Visit the Young Masters Website
Punam and I spoke about our individual experiences and struggles, and realized that there's a lot more to this whole movement than we first thought. This is the blog I wrote for her.
I have to be honest with you.
It’s been over a year. A year of trying to convince myself, a year of minor meltdowns, a year of disappointment, disagreement, and gut rot.
I swear I’ve tried! I’ve worked hard, committed myself, and opened up to some new and wonderful things. I have nodded my head, stepped up, and paid my dues.
The thing is, no matter how good you think we work together, this just isn’t working…
Quite simply: it’s not me - it’s you.
Have you ever felt this way? Not just about romantic relationships, but about your job? I’m willing to bet that a good number of people out there aren’t being fulfilled by what they do to earn a living. Maybe you fell into this job because of financial reasons – you had loans to pay off, a mortgage to worry about, or children to raise. Perhaps you were expected to take over the family business, or felt society bully you down a certain path. Maybe you just got used to a certain routine and can’t even remember what it was that got you into this job in the first place.
Whatever it was that got you into this position, however, the reality is that you want out. Some days you may even go so far as to say that you hate your job.
You catch yourself daydreaming about what it’s like to be that crazy cat lady you see collecting bottles through your office window. You start raving to the receptionist about strange tickles in your throat, and begin blowing your nose excessively in hopes that your boss will notice and send you home. Or even worse, as you catch your bus to work you start to realize that it’s not unusual to feel the familiar sting of tears welling up in your eyes.
If you dread going to work in a gut twisting, sobbing, ‘mommy-don’t-leave-me’ kind of way, I’d say it’s time to look elsewhere; these are all clear signs that you do not enjoy what it is you get paid to do.
But how can you leave work when this is the job that pays the bills? What if it takes you months to find a new position? How will you continue to support yourself and your fresh Guatemalan coffee addiction? What about your monster-truck action-figure collection? I guess it’s important to answer a few questions about yourself first: what do you treasure more, designer accessories or your daily-happiness? If you’ve simply gotten used to being miserable, this may be difficult to answer.
To sprinkle in a little self-loathing, I can tell you that I have definitely been in this position. I’ve stayed with a job simply because I didn’t know who else would have me. I was new to the city and the options were few. Not to mention that I was lucky to even have a job during the economic downturn; this job was the envy of so many others in my industry! People would kill to be in my shoes.
While I worked in this new position, I struggled to stay on top of everything as it came at me. In any new job there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve, and I originally believed that that was why I was having such a hard time – it was my own issue. I just needed to learn the skill set they asked of me, and then I would be fine. The only thing was - did I really want to do what it was they were assigning?
I kept working and learning, and did pick up some amazing skills, but I still wasn’t happy. With new responsibilities constantly being handed to me, I felt like I was being ripped from one assignment to the next. My focus was always changing and it was tough feeling like I was doing justice to each individual project. Some people thrive in this kind of environment, but I definitely do not.
Work would get handed to me at the last minute, and I was expected to put my life on hold to finish a project. The boss would play mind-games with employees, pitting us against each other, and destroying any sense of teamwork. There was no pride in what we were doing - it was more like a game of ‘pass-the-blame.’
In addition, there seemed to be no real hierarchy – which was something I’d always respected and found to be beneficial in my other jobs. To know who to report to makes things clearer and more level amongst employees.
It also wasn’t uncommon for me to feel abandoned, like no one really knew or cared about what I was doing. My boss would rarely even look over my work, simply assuming that I knew what I was doing. This freedom can be fun – but I found it confusing. Was I doing a good job? What was becoming of my projects? Also, any sense of a cohesive goal seemed to be muddled in whatever project was coming up next. The company itself was confused, and I was having a hard time keeping up.
The Slippery Slope
I continued to struggle with job satisfaction, but tried to do my work as well as I could. Even though I didn’t completely agree with how things were done, if my name was on something, I wanted to do it justice. I felt alone – stuck in my office and trapped in a job I thought I should be grateful to have, not to mention that to many it ‘looked good.’ I was working for a well-known company in a large city; I was lucky to have the job – wasn’t I?
The longer I stayed, the more miserable I became. I kept trying to convince myself that it was me who was being difficult and not the management or the workload. It was my fault that I was unhappy. Maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough.
I felt so lost; was this what I was supposed to be doing? Was this where my life was headed? I even started struggling with moral issues: who was I helping? What good was I bringing to the world? I didn’t feel as if my work was valued or aimed at anything worthwhile. I would leave for work with a sense of dread, and come home with tears running down my cheeks. I would even hide out in the office bathroom, and play games on my phone to avoid going back to work. I started taking out my misery on my friends and family – my boyfriend was especially used to dealing with my emotional lows, and spent more than his fair share of time comforting me, and urging me to leave my job.
In The End
I realized that it wasn’t because I hadn’t tried hard enough or that I was a bad worker: I simply didn’t like the work – and more blatantly, the way the company was run.
I was sick and tired of feeling so damn helpless all the time, and never getting anywhere. The company wasn’t going to change - I needed to do something. So, I resigned. It took me two whole years of confusion, angst, and misery to finally leave. Easy, right? Right.
WHAT Did You Do?
Ultimately, my meager savings account and a healthy dose of self-respect added up to just-enough courage for me to do something about my situation. I admit that I’m in a privileged position; as a 25 year-old I don’t have any kids to support, nor do I have any debt to worry about. Essentially, that’s why it’s important to realize the huge number of possibilities that are open to you when you’re just entering the work force. Take advantage of these opportunities, don’t just take the first job that comes up and settle into a mortgage and a new car - feel around until you find something you actually like. And if it takes awhile, so be it.
Also, don’t feel that you have to stay in the same job, or even the same industry your entire life. There’s nothing wrong with moving around a bit, and trying out something new every so often. This especially goes for those of you with empty nests and renewed curiosity! Why not get out there and challenge yourself? It could be the fresh start you’ve been looking for.
People say it all the time, but life is too short to be miserable! If you’re bringing your work home with you, and making your loved-ones feel bad about it – you’re not helping anyone. You owe it to them to be happy, just as much as you owe it to yourself.
If you’re worried about your bills, figure out a way to cut back on some of the fun things. My cell phone plan for instance, had to become more economical.
If you’re struggling to find meaning in your life, try volunteering with a cause you feel strongly about. Donating your time can help you get your priorities straight, and make you feel like you’re actually contributing to society.
As far as work is concerned, it will come. It may not come quickly, or with the right sized pay cheque, but when it does, your patience will be rewarded. You’ll finally be able to come out of your office bathroom and be proud of what you do. Instead of idolizing the local cat-lady, you’ll be busy completing projects that make a difference. Heck, you might not even miss that fresh-Guatemalan coffee you used to be addicted to! Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll realize that that’s where you should have been working all along.
- A. Lowe