Join 3,364 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


How do I know if a job is a good fit for me?
December 14, 2013 12:00 PM   Subscribe

Earlier this week I started working at a flour mill driving tractor trailers, after 2 months of training at a truck driving school to obtain a CDL, and I am having doubts about this decision.

Even though I wouldn't say I dislike it, the hours are freakishly long at times, there is a considerable amount of manual labour, and driving tractor trailers is more stressful than I thought it'd be.

Yesterday, after I completed my second day of on-the-job training, I asked myself, "Is this what I want to do? Will this make me happy?"

Honestly, I chose to take the truck driving course because it was offered to me for free, and because the careers I really want to do require education I currently cannot access because of the costs or location. In the future, I would like to re-attend a college, ideally without a student loan, and pursue a career I think will be fulfilling to me: Geographic Information Systems with a Concentration in Cartography.

Until then I thought I would take advantage of the truck driving course and become more independent. However, I am finding that truck driving is considerably more stressful and complicated than I thought it would be, and I can't help but think I might have made a mistake.

Or am I making conclusions too soon? The company treats me well even though I have limited experience, I make a reasonable income for a 22 year old with no real job experience (around $40, 000/year). Perhaps it is 'harder' because it is new and I am not used to these long days?

Moreover, it is unrealistic to look for a job that makes me feel fulfilled and that I like in these times, where there is mass unemployment and many people my age can't find any work to sustain themselves much less work they like?

I would appreciate advice about this. Thank you.
posted by 8LeggedFriend to Work & Money (28 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You have a job and make decent money. Any new job is stressful while you're getting the hang of it -- it's a good idea to stick with it until you're into the swing of things. Also, it's only a few years, not a career.

I would look into ways to make it less tedious, so you can stay alert. Do you like stories? Get some books on tape to listen to so you don't get bored.
posted by DoubleLune at 12:07 PM on December 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think you are asking the wrong question of yourself. You are asking "Will this make me happy" when you should be asking "Will this take me where I want to be?"

You're making good money, especially for someone without job experience and without a degree. Surely you can save some of that money and it will get you closer to where you want to be?
posted by Houstonian at 12:08 PM on December 14, 2013 [14 favorites]


Everybody's different, but eventually when I got a job I enjoyed more, having a really mediocre job initially was kind of nice because it got me used to being an adult employed person. A lot of my stress was just due to being a working person for the first time.
posted by selfnoise at 12:10 PM on December 14, 2013 [8 favorites]


If you are starting at $40K a year (one assumes it will go up from there) with no job experience and have reasonable job security, then yes, you are luckier than people your age who can't find any work let alone "fulfilling" work. Try to think of your job as a means to an end -- stick with it at least two years, that is enough time to list on a resume (shows that you were a responsible and dependable employee), plus enough time to save up enough cash to realize your dream of going back to school to pursue your academic interest. Should your studies not pan out to a good job, you can always find another job in the trucking industry, using your present job as a reference.

For a point of reference: I have worked at a blue-collar job for which I am over-qualified for 33 years now. The job does not "fulfill" me in the way I think you mean, but I feel satisfied that I perform my duties well, and I am happy to have made a decent income plus benefits, enough to raise a child to successful adulthood as a single parent. I completed a bachelor's degree while working, and intend to go back for a second degree when I retire on a comfortable pension that I accrued.
posted by RRgal at 12:15 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


It sounds like this is your first job ever. I know your whole life you've been told a job should fulfill you as a person and make you feel complete and blah blah blah but sometimes a job is just a way to pay the bills (and there is nothing WRONG with just paying the bills) and maybe you need to have a plan to work towards whatever it is you actually want or find a way to explore some outside interests while you do this for now. It took me 4 years of working to get to a point where I was making $40,000.

What I would suggest is you approach this like a kid going into the military: Your job is to do this and save money for college, it doesn't have to be what you do forever, and in 4 years or whenever you have enough saved up, you'll bail. You're making really good money, you're going to have a ton of interesting stories that make you stand out as a person and as a job candidate (seriously "Ask me about the 4 years I spent being a trucker" is WAY more fun than the usual "tell me about yourself" answers), and you'll learn what it's like to work a job in a low stakes environment, since this isn't a lifetime career.

The idea that a job must complete you as a person is a very modern idea, for many, many generations before us it was just a way to pay your bills and not starve.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 12:18 PM on December 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


It sounds like a decent entry level job and better than most, honestly. (We get paid to work because nobody would do it otherwise. Mostly it sucks.) Get a library card and use the books on CD/tape collections. You have an enviable amount of time to listen to stuff that is interesting.

(But don't do this if the voices lull you to sleep. My husband loves books on tape for long drives, but I can't do it when I'm driving because being read to makes me fall asleep immediately. Try it as a passenger first.) If you can't do books on tape, listen to music.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:28 PM on December 14, 2013


When I worked in fast food in high school, it took me about two months before I could ring up orders on the register with absolute confidence that I wasn't accidentally messing the order up. I am now a university professor and I've been working at my current institution for about five months. I am still not yet up to date on all the systems in place here. I estimate that I won't really be settled into this position until two years have passed. Two days is absolutely nothing in terms of deciding whether you'll enjoy a position. In fact, positions that I've held in the past which start out being stress-free usually end up being too boring.

On top of that, your youth and lack of experience mean that any position you get right now will be entry-level. Which is code for frequent drudge work. The economic backdrop also means that given your youth and lack of experience, you will probably be hard-pressed to find a position that you enjoy more that pays a similar rate. Showing that you have a good work ethic and can hold a position for a couple years will also make you far more employable in the future than job-hopping and/or being unemployed.

I'll additionally mention that my first full-time job after college was a not-so-pleasant awakening. My life as a student was very diverse. I attended a variety of classes, was a member of several clubs, worked either part-time or full-time but only for summers such that everything was novel and fairly flexible and there was a lot of vacation time. My first full-time job was one that was much more rigid and time-consuming and monotonous and draining compared to my collegiate life. Let me clarify that it was a good position which I was lucky to have; all the things I'm complaining about are present in almost all full-time jobs and bailing on the position would have been a bad choice. Working there taught me a lot about myself and my work needs and about people/office politics, all while allowing me to save money and build my resume.

So I think you should stick it out for at least a year, if you can, and use that year to really think about what you'd like your working life to look like. I discovered I like positions that allow me to spend a lot of time interacting with people (not isolated cubicle/computer land) so after a couple years I did go back to school and start a different career path. My savings and stronger resume due to that first job allowed me to do that.
posted by vegartanipla at 12:37 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I worked in a factory for quite a few years after leaving college post freshman year - I was more interested in "party" than "school".
It was interesting work - for a factory - but I still found I wanted something more. I started taking night classes at the nearest college - with no real aim in mind as to a degree, more for the mental stimulation. One of my professors told me the better students were the ones who had worked for a while and had some maturity - plus, doing boring work is plumb motivational.
Later, I got hurt pretty bad off the job and had some disability time. A chance extended visit with my sister during that time gave me a vocation I wanted to follow, so I went back to school full time in Architecture. (Sounds like you already have something picked out).
I had up to four part time jobs during undergrad, usually just two or three, but I managed

to make it out debt free. Taking a full load in Architecture and working that much soon translated into sleeping alternate nights to save time. Like I was saying, working in a dull job can be motivational.
I was always on the dean's list, my partying days were behind me. The time I had spent going to school at night taking the basics translated into credits towards my degree.

Plus, don't neglect that there are no-payback forms of financial aid - I used the federal Pell Grant, not sure if it's around anymore. 600 bux a semester or so back in the early 80's, and Texas had dirt cheap tuition. Assets actually work against you if on a Pell if I remember correctly. You might check it out.
posted by rudd135 at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Keep doing this job until you've done it for 12 months. Save as much as you can. Keep your eye on the ball.

If you continuously look out for things to do next while using this job to develop your work discipline and build up savings, you will probably have a good idea of what you want to transition to by the time the year is up.

And yes, your job is certainly "harder" because you're new and not used to these long days. It will take you some time to get used to it.

In the future, you will be surprised by what experience turns out to be valuable.
posted by tel3path at 12:43 PM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


I know a good number of people who have careers they enjoy (including myself), but I can't think of a single one who entered into that career straight out of college.

You don't have to do this forever; in fact, you almost certainly won't do this forever, given that the vast majority of people switch jobs and careers multiple times through their adult lives. As mentioned upthread, don't think about this as Your New Lifelong Career; think about how it might be a useful, productive stepping stone to the next part of your life.
posted by scody at 12:44 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


It takes a while for any new job to be less-than-stressful. Even cushy ones, in a field you've had decades of experience in (say: your future GIS jobs), will often have you second-guessing the decision and feeling stressed out for the first few weeks/months. I say, give yourself a chance to grow into this job. Be patient with yourself in the early weeks and months, as it takes a while to get the hang of your particular work culture and responsibilities.

$40k is a very solid income for someone in your situation. Sock away as much as you can (but be sure to enjoy some of your earnings, too, so you feel the reward of your hard work). Learn as much as you can on the job, and if there are any opportunities for employee development (any free training), try to take advantage of it.

If nothing else, you will be an AMAZING driver after spending some months moving those big beasts around under stress. And it will set you up with a nice portable skill (specialized driving) that you can carry with you for the rest of your life. That's a good life skill to have!
posted by nacho fries at 12:48 PM on December 14, 2013 [2 favorites]


My husband was a truck driver for five years, for similar reasons to those you give. He stuck with it that long because he made good money consistently and he had few other options for earning that kind of salary at the time.

That said, being a trucker used him up. The schedules expected of truck drivers by their companies, plus the regulations and paperwork imposed by the DOT, combined with the generally crappy conditions of being on the road for millions of miles will 'use up' most people. He worked like a dog during his trucking years, was always tired, not in the greatest health due to poor diet and lack of exercise (despite his best efforts of making as much food for the road as he could and exercising at every ok oppurtunity...jogging at rest stops, that's a good time), and missed out on a lot of day-to-day life at home due to the extended periods on the road. He 'retired' after five years, as soon as he had enough money to pursue his current interests. I think at the end of the day he's glad he got the training and took the job, but he won't go back to it ever.

So in summary, trucking as a full-time career can serve you as a means to an end but it sounds like you want to have a grander plan for your life. Think about how trucking can get you to what you want to be.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 12:52 PM on December 14, 2013 [4 favorites]


Give it a month.

A lot of jobs seem overwhelming after the first week.

I think doing this will be good for you in general, and it sounds like the pay is good enough to allow you to set some money aside for an eventual return to school.

Nothing you've said makes the job seem especially awful or especially bad for you.
posted by Sara C. at 12:55 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


Tandem Affinity raises an excellent point. You'll want to be extra-mindful of keeping your body in good health while you do this not-forever gig. Any profession that involves lots of driving takes a big toll over time, and you don't want to hurt your youthful self and thereby limit your future mobility/enjoyment of life. There are lots of tips online about basic practical ways to care for yourself for long-hours driving...please take good care of yourself.

Even though you are young and can bounce back from injury/exhaustion, it's a good practice to learn early in your career to avoid work-related harm, whatever that career ends up being. Once you are in GIS, you'll still want to avoid ergonomic issues, e.g.
posted by nacho fries at 12:57 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want to echo: There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking a path for awhile that you don't intend to take for the rest of your life, if it gets you to a better path faster. More than there being nothing wrong with it, it is a really good idea. Don't think about this as what you're doing forever; think of it as what you're doing right now.

More than that, any new job that takes real training is super-stressful in that first period after you leave training and you're on your own. That part almost always improves with time, once you're more comfortable with it. Being on the road may always be a stressful thing, but it's normal at 22 to feel a bit overwhelmed when you're first thrust into being responsible for stuff.

Definitely look at how you can best be using your time right now to get you where you want to be. Like, if you're intending to go back to school, is there information that you can be learning in audiobook or podcast form that would be helpful, even if it's not GIS specifically? Stuff that might let you CLEP out of general education requirements, for example, or just stuff that's going to make you better at your future career goal? Make sure you have a budget so that you can see how much money is going into your College Fund every month--that will help this feel like progress instead of like being "stuck".
posted by Sequence at 12:59 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


Definitely try to stick it out. I don't always say this, because there are often really very good reasons that AskMe posters have that clearly indicate they should leave a job. But I'm saying it now, to you, for a couple of reasons: Having said that, I think you should be really working on an official, practical exit plan: one with deadlines and specific action items and a cheerleader/coach/etc. who you're keeping updated on the process. Mostly I think this because it's pretty obvious that you don't just not want to do this job but also don't want to do anything that's particularly related to this job and moreover don't want your physical activities to be anything like this job. That indicates you're not going to do too well at turning this into a brilliant long-term situation, at least not without a lot of highly intentional self-coaching and stuff, and I'm not sure that it'd be worth that level of work for something you appear to have no actual interest in doing (beyond self-preservation and your current lack of direction.)

You can however totally cope, and thus should do as best a job you possibly can of coping (and reminding yourself of the good parts of this job, and why you're staying for now) while putting that exit plan into action.

And stay away from booze and other unhealthy habits while you're in coping mode, please. That will very quickly turn this kind of annoying situation into a crisis.
posted by SMPA at 1:00 PM on December 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Think about the field you want to enter in the future (GIS) and look at what you're doing right now (trucking). Spend some time thinking about how those two blend into each other.

You're likely relying on GIS data to navigate. How can that data be delivered in a better fashion for somebody behind the wheel. Routing and transportation management (TMS) software is likely being used to schedule your routes and your deliveries. So how does it work and how well does it function? Are there things you're going to see as a driver in the real world that aren't necessarily accounted for by the TMS?

Take advantage of the position you're in to learn as much as you can. Let your bosses and superiors know (although not in a pushy way) that you're fascinated by what goes on behind the scenes and in the logistics office. Remember logistics and transportation is a growing field (and will likely be a healthy industry for some time), so any experience you can get from it, that you can (eventually) bring into your studies will put you head-and-shoulders above some kid fresh out of high school who may not even have a driver's licence.

And yes, what everybody else said. It's long, hard, stressful work, and you're new to it. You have to give yourself time to get acclimatized. Plus, you'll need to learn about yourself as an employee, and figure out how you function best.
posted by sardonyx at 1:04 PM on December 14, 2013 [11 favorites]


Right now you're earning $40k per year. That's a LOT more than $0, which is what you'd be earning if you were out of work. This job might not be perfect for you, but there are many more, much worse alternatives.

Give this job a fair try. I'd suggest several months, not just 2 days. If you don't like it, you can leave when you have another job. Or you could leave right now and end up with no income.

It's totally OK to look for something better. I've never done any kind of lorry driving, but from what people have said here, it might even be a very good idea to look for something new. However, don't scorn the money you'll be earning in the meantime. And if you're employed already, you're much more employable to someone else.
posted by Solomon at 1:06 PM on December 14, 2013


It's ALWAYS good to look for something that fits you. By the way, CDL doesn't condemn you to this sort of work -- it actually opens you up to some cool places. Have you considered tourism jobs? Example: My friend (mid-20s with a hard-won CDL) works winters driving ski buses in a Colorado resort town, and summers driving a tour bus in Denali (through Aramark, which runs the park's tour service). He's also considered driving buses for rafting companies, which use larges buses and trucks to haul rafters and equipment.

You're young, presumably healthy, and have a lot of freedom. This sort of work can give you a whole lot of neat life experience.
posted by mochapickle at 1:13 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


OK, I just took a quick look at your other questions (mostly because I was trying to see where you are - that kind of thing is really helpful for "plotting my future" questions, FYI.) And I noticed you have some challenges specific to coping well.

Therefore: before you make an exit plan, please do everything you possibly can to develop a support network (of human beings physically in the same place you're in.) You may have found it hard to become friends with your coworkers, and may be isolating yourself, due both to your own issues and also to some of the specific characteristics of the field you're currently in. Please make sure to have actual meaningful in-person conversations with other adults once a day if at all possible, and a few times a week at a bare minimum.

Also get yourself a physician in your new location, and if you can, a therapist or counselor you can see once or twice a month (more if you're struggling.) There's a very good possibility that you're feeling the way you are now in part because you did hit a limit. It could even have been due to not taking care of your own needs - that's pretty common for anxious people, and it's incredibly common in predominantly masculine social environments like the one you've been in for the last few months. Make sure someone with a medical background hears about what's going on with your brain and body lately, anyway.

And next time you ask a question about how you'll be able to cope with a job given your mental health and lack of experience, please include details like what the job actually entails - you would have gotten a few different answers to your last question if you had said the job involved driving trucks for long hours; most people don't review you for context before replying.
posted by SMPA at 1:15 PM on December 14, 2013


It sounds to me like you're sort of freaking out -- a "what if this isn't perfect?! what if I'm not perfect?!" kind of thing. I can be kind of high strung, too, and don't like screwing up. But you're going to screw up virtually everywhere on Day 2. That's OK, the job is fine, you're fine. Take a deep breath.

Of course your job is tough and exhausting, that's why they're paying you to do it. And you don't even know how to do it yet, so you don't even know what the hard/easy parts of your job are going to be once you're not preoccupied with learning the ropes. Don't worry about that right now, you're jumping the gun.

For now, learn what they're teaching you, try to pull your weight, and don't get fired. Eventually (months from now at least, probably more like a year or two from now), the situation will start seeming dull and played out -- that's when you should reassess.

Also, in my experience, the physical exhaustion is normal for someone starting a blue collar job. You might be feeling really sore, too. Eat more protein (red meat if you can, it'll help with your stamina) and sleep more than usual, maybe take a multi-vitamin, let yourself vegetate or do some very low-key socializing when you're off. Your body will get used to it, but the first few weeks can be tough and you probably won't get to a physical equilibrium until a couple months in. It's not even about being in good or bad shape, it's about your body getting used to being used in a particular way.

And by the way, neither you nor your job need to be perfect. You put your mind to learning useful, difficult skills, and now you're putting them to professional use! That's an accomplishment. You're doing great.
posted by rue72 at 1:19 PM on December 14, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am almost 40 years old. You make as much as I do (and I make more than almost all my friends). My benefits are probably better than yours and my job has no heavy lifting, but seriously, don't underestimate making good money. As a single childless person, you can live a really comfortable life on this money and save at the same time - hardly anyone not in the 1% can do that.

In a month or two, you'll be comfortable with the work. In a year it will be virtually automatic. Concentrate on either preparing to go back to school or doing fun hobby stuff outside of work.

Every new job is physically exhausting - when I started my current gig, I was tired every day for a couple of weeks because learning all at once is stressful. Your job is more physically tiring, yes, but you're really getting hit by the newness of it.

You know what? You made a great choice. You are young, you have your employment taken care of for a few years, you have a skill - even if it's not a super-exciting skill - which will be a fallback to you in later life. Good job, you.

And what's more, once you've powered through the first few months of this job, you'll have the mental/emotional skills to power through the first months of any new challenge. I assure you, this was a wise choice and it puts you in a good position.
posted by Frowner at 1:30 PM on December 14, 2013 [6 favorites]


Each time I've switched to a new job it's been stressful and exhausting at first, and this is for office-type jobs. The way it feels early on is just not representative of how it'll feel once you've settled in.

Also one of the main things that would help me cope with the extra stress early on was my first paychecks coming in - looking at my bank account and thinking, okay, this money gives me options. I can spend money on myself to make the down time easier, or buy things I need to make the job or commute more comfortable (such as nicer shoes, clothes, etc.), I can save money for a nicer place to live, I can save money for travel or education, I don't have to worry about whether or not I can afford things at the grocery store. It helps me feel like putting myself through the stress of taking a step up to a new job was definitely worth it.
posted by citron at 2:34 PM on December 14, 2013


Oh, and I wanted to add something. I'm a mid-career professional in a field I've been in for over a decade and I still have "I have no idea what I'm doing" days. That's perfectly normal. The big secret to being an adult is nobody really knows what they're doing, everyone is just doing the best they can and muddling through.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:58 PM on December 14, 2013 [5 favorites]


I feel for you and the whole "Millennial generation," because every question about jobs is met with a sanctimonious "YOU'RE LUCKY TO EVEN HAVE A JOB," usually delivered by the generation that created the crisis in the first place. As long as you have a roof over your head and food on the table, you should ignore the moralizing and do what you think will make you happy.

That said:

Give it a month. A lot of jobs seem overwhelming after the first week.

This is very true. On my first day at my current job I was emailing my old boss asking if it was too late to come back. And I really almost didn't come back the second day. I've now been there almost two years. It's far from perfect, but it's nowhere near as bad as it seemed at first, and on balance, I'm very glad I hung in there.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:13 PM on December 14, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm middle-aged, with multiple children, have been in my career for over 20 years, and make ~50,000.00 a year. I have a stressful, time consuming and only occasionally rewarding job.

Look at this medium-term. Hang in there until you know the ropes, and save, save, save, then get out & go to school in a few years. Work is work, and you're being paid extremely well for entry-level anything with no college degree.

Plus, if the GIS thing doesn't work out in the long-run, you will have a solid fall-back position on your resume. Give it a while.
posted by Florida Lee at 5:20 PM on December 14, 2013


I agree with what everyone has said about giving it time, because new jobs are always stressful. But I also have a completely different suggestion for you to think about:

You say you want attend college in the future, without a student loan. One way you can do that is to go drive a truck in Williston, North Dakota, in the oil industry for a year to 18 months. They are desperate for drivers with CDL's there, and you would most likely have a job within hours of arriving. Seriously.

Things to know:
1. It's not normal hours. Drivers typically work long shifts with lots of overtime for 2 weeks, then have 2 weeks off.
2. But they make about $100,000 a year. That is not a typo.
3. Housing is very tight in Williston, but a lot of the companies provide housing, although it's very similar to Army barracks, from my understanding.
4. The driving is mostly not long distance - from what I've read, they use a lot of water for the fracking process and drivers are just hauling water back and forth.
5. Winters are very, very harsh. But people deal with it.

I'm on my phone and out of town at the moment, so I can't provide links, but if this interests you, memail me and I'll send you some links when I get home Monday or Tuesday. It would certainly be a way to earn money for college quickly.
posted by MexicanYenta at 7:30 PM on December 14, 2013


I work in a job I enjoy most of the time and I have been in this line of work for almost a decade. I have two levels of people under me and two above me so I guess that makes me mid career at this point in my life.

Things to keep in mind. There are very few people who actually manage to get paid to do their hobbies. Most of us count our blessings if we get paid to do stuff we are reasonably good at working with people we like. But sometimes you have to settle for one of these two or just suck it up and go to work. If I won the lottery and had sufficient money to not have to work I wouldn't. Most people would not choose to work. So consider if your expectations are realistic. Clearly, there are good reasons for leaving a job. But nothing you have brought up here, after two days, falls into that category.

As others have pointed out entry level generally means repetitive/boring/I could do so much more if someone let me kind of roles. I very much doubt most of my trainees imagined they'd be doing some of the tasks I give them when they applied. The good ones realise that they can learn something from even the most mundane tasks. Often the things you learn go go beyond the tasks. That could be organising yourself, focus, co-ordination with others, etc.

Stick with this job for the time being. You'll adjust to the physical and mental demands before long. You can then evaluate what you actually like/dislike about the job. And can determine how it can help you with your other goal and plan how you're going to get from here to there. But a couple of days into a job is not the time to worry about any of that. Just focus on getting used to your new job.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:10 PM on December 14, 2013


« Older I'd like to start preparing my...   |  My son has been watching this ... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments