Is a good but dull corporate job the right place to be?
May 3, 2009 4:07 AM   Subscribe

I'm trying to weigh up the advantages and disadvantages of working in the corporate world.

So I have a good corporate job which allows me a lot of freedom and a great lifestyle. I also kind of hate the work.

I work for a major multinational with over 30,000 employees. I work full time from home. My base salary is 57.5k GBP + 6.5k car allowance. I also get a 6% pension contribution. My total package is around 70k GBP which, with the current exchange rate, is around 105k dollars.

I get 27 days holiday a year plus 8 bank holidays. I don't commute - or at least I commute from my bedroom to my home office in the morning!

So in so many ways I have it pretty sweet. Yet I have always had this constant idea about quitting and doing something else and to be honest I don't relish and love the work I do.

At the same time I realise I do have a good package here and it may be very hard to get back to that.

So my question is has anyone found themselves in a similar position. What did you do? The boring and probably correct answer is realise how good I have it and be a grown up and deal with the parts that fall short of perfection. At the same time... I don't want to spend my life just settling for comfort.
posted by aTrumpetandaDream to Work & Money (28 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Money is great and very useful, but it can't replace happiness.

Work this job for X number of years, saving money like crazy. Then quit and go do what you want to do.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:24 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

Your decision has to be based on other factors than what you've listed. Do you have a family to support? How many years to retirement? Do you have any job advancement options that would take you to something more interesting to you. Are you just not thrilled with the work, or do you have fundamental ethical objections to it?

Not many people love what they do. Find a hobby.
posted by devbrain at 4:37 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: DevBrain - To answer your questions. I'm 30 with no family to support. Long time till retirement.

I've been applying for jobs within the company and externally. So, yeah, that may produce something.

I don't have any fundamental objections to the work just I dislike it. I've had 6 jobs in my career. Hated two of them, disliked two (including this one) and loved two.

I suppose the answer is to look to get back to what I love. Slightly tricky position in that because I've built my salary up a lot of the fun sounding jobs pay a lot less.

Thing is I do have it pretty good so i shouldn't really complain... but just considering options.
posted by aTrumpetandaDream at 5:11 AM on May 3, 2009

You talk a lot about the job you have now, but not the job you want to get. Do you have a specific job or career in mind? You describe some fun sounding jobs, but are they jobs that you have done before? I ask because I want you to make a choice based on all the information.

There is nothing wrong with wanting to have a job that is more fun, more fulfilling, more whatever, but do it with all the facts. Make sure that you are moving to a job that you are going to enjoy enough to make up for it paying less. ie. would the job still be fun if you had to move into a smaller place because you make so much less or if you couldn't take a holiday because you are working your second job.
posted by aetg at 5:28 AM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

If you can do both; get your 105K package, and your dream job, then I say more power to you. The reality of it is you will never find both, so a choice must be made. But you're only 30 years old. Suck it up for 5 or 6 more years. save save save and save some more. Then, if in the meantime you have not had some life changing event or epiphany I'd say you would be in the cat bird seat, and able to do whatever you want.
posted by Gungho at 5:50 AM on May 3, 2009

Why not start doing things you love without ditching your job? One of the things your job currently offers you is an incredible amount of freedom, not only on the financial side, but because you get five weeks of vacation annually. I'm going to start with two weeks at the end of the summer, which is just about enough time to cover going home for the holidays and a couple of long weekends here and there. You've totally got the freedom to take up the guitar and join a band, start a garden, write that novel, volunteer at homeless shelters, read to blind kids, whatever it is that you think you're missing.

Use your vacation time and the flexibility provided by fact that you don't actually have to go to work, to do things you like. If five weeks year isn't sufficient time to refresh and recharge, your problem with dissatisfaction may not be limited to work, as it would seem to me that that should enable you to do almost anything you like save getting a different job. If you can't think of anything to do with five-odd weeks off, your dissatisfaction problems may not be located in job dissatisfaction as much as other things.

Additionally, you can totally live within your means. If you don't have a "fuck you" stash, i.e. 6+ months of salary sitting in an account which bears minimal risk and is readily convertible to cash, get one, pronto. That will give you the freedom to just walk out of your job (or get laid off!) without having to worry about paying rent next month. Then start socking money away as quickly as you can. Granted, taxes and living expenses in the UK are nothing to sneeze at, but even allowing for that you should be able to save at least 10% of your income annually. That's a cool 7kGPB, which ain't chump change.

Again, if you aren't willing to do this, you need to reconsider how much you actually dislike your job. "Not wanting to give up what my job gets me" is arguably the same thing as "liking my job," as it displays an unwillingness to do anything else.

But yeah, you may just need to suck it up. You've got a pretty sweet gig, and if you can't be happy with what you've got whether or not you can be happy with having something else is highly debatable. Contentment is a virtue that requires practice, and given the absence of any concrete obstacles to it (e.g. you aren't poor, sick, an oppressed minority, etc.) your lack of it may say as much about you as it does about anything else.
posted by valkyryn at 6:09 AM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

You might find this speech by Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe interesting. He says that "follow your passion" is the worst job advice you can ever give somebody.
posted by COD at 6:15 AM on May 3, 2009 [2 favorites]

I second the suck it up advice. I think there is a certain sense of entitlement in the developed world that we should be able to find a job that we love and that pays well (not saying that you have this, but here in the US, I've found that attitude a lot).

That being said, is there anything that you like about what you do? If so, I would focus on that and try to find more of it. I also agree with the finding a hobby advice and saving like crazy should you decide to take the plunge and leave your current position.

In the mean time, see if there are any silver linings in your current situation and exploit those.
posted by Leezie at 6:16 AM on May 3, 2009

Maybe Mutant's response/story will assist you. Pretty thoughtful.

Not directly related but may allow you to see your position and what it can allow you in a different light.
posted by zerobyproxy at 6:16 AM on May 3, 2009

They don't call it work because it's supposed to be fun... It's what you do to support the fun stuff you want to do. Being able to have a career that you love and get fulfillment out of is a luxury that just doesn't happen for everyone. The happiest people I know are the ones who treat work as just what they do part of the time, and find (choose) the fun things to do the rest of the time.

Look at it this way (assuming you work an 8 hour day): You sleep for 8 hours. Half of your waking time is work, half is fun. And that's on days that you have to work- which, by my count, is 225 days a year. So, 40% of days in a year, you don't have to work at all. For the other 60%, only half is devoted to work. That's a lot of time to have fun with.
posted by gjc at 6:35 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

You might find this speech by Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe interesting. He says that "follow your passion" is the worst job advice you can ever give somebody.

It's a TED talk, but it's Not Safe For Breakfast.
posted by seawallrunner at 7:41 AM on May 3, 2009

out of an eight hour day I might have two hours or less of actual work

Seriously, with that statement plus that you have more than a month of paid time off, and a great salary and pension, I think it would be very foolish to quit this job, no matter how boring it is.

In my opinion, work is not your life, but what you do to you pay for your living. For the very little amount of time you are required to work, and the excellent pay you get for doing that little, I can't imagine quitting. You'd be trading to a different job which quite possibly would pay you less and take more of your time -- why do that??
posted by Houstonian at 7:51 AM on May 3, 2009

Our lives are divided into thirds.

You sleep for a third. You work for a third. You play for a third.

You've managed to find a way to make nearly ten times above the poverty line by working, by your admission, for barely a few hours a day... from home... with no commute... and over a month off per year.

I'm going to give you the sage advice to suck it up and use the money to enjoy the time you're not working. What could really be better for you? Have a job where you get twice as much and get to wear a cape and drive a car with a jet booster? I mean really man. Unless they're making you do something absolutely morally reprehensible to you... maybe you need to stop being a whiner.

Work doesn't define you. Work is what you do so you have money to enjoy your life. You've got a job that gives you tons of money (and with no wife or kids, 100k a year is a ton of money)

If I were in your situation... I'd save a big chunk of it, play with a big chunk of it... and be happy that I've got it better than 99 percent of the world.
posted by JFitzpatrick at 8:29 AM on May 3, 2009

You should leave your job. In fact, leave it to me:-) I'll make sure it's well taken care of.
posted by anniecat at 9:25 AM on May 3, 2009

Keep the 105k usd/year work-from-home job, dude. You've seen too many movies if you think quitting a great-paying job to do something you love for peanuts will make you happier. I've met maybe a handful of people who were doing something they truly love, and I think it was more their general life attitude that made this possible rather than the specific job. It's sorta like moving, "no matter where you go, there you are." Except, with less money. And having to go in every day.
posted by cj_ at 9:27 AM on May 3, 2009

It depends on which side of the financial safety vs. job happiness spectrum you lean more heavily toward.

My SO does what he loves but makes very little money at it (but his family can/does help him if he needs it). He believes things will always work out; he'll survive no matter what, so he might as well do exactly what he wants.

I trade passionately interesting work (mine is not) for financial stability (I make 3x more than my SO), and my lesser freedoms/perks (wearing sneakers at work, liking my small team of 3, etc.) are enough for me at the moment. Also, I have noone that I can depend on financially in a pinch.

Really think about how far down on the "comfort" scale you can go. It may be very far, in which case you should take the leap toward finding a job you love (although it still wouldn't hurt to save up for a few months!), but it also may distress you more to wonder if you can pay for health insurance, downgrade your housing situation, have no $ for vacations (if you even do have time), and so on.

It sounds like I'm leaning heavily toward the "stay with your job, you lucky b**tard" side, and I'm really not... I just think you should figure out your priorities without assuming there is a job out there that gives you $ AND satisfaction (although I do wish that for everyone).
posted by hellogoodbye at 9:37 AM on May 3, 2009

How about as a starter compromise you quit and do the same thing? In the current economy especially you might not have much trouble convincing your employer to let you spin off and start your own one-person company doing the exact same thing you do now, getting a consultant's fee equivalent to or even better than your salary. And if you could find and retain several other clients you would no longer be dependent on a single employer (who might be interested in an arrangement like this if it would let them adjust how much work they send to you, and therefore how much they pay you, month-to-month).

There are obviously risks involved and you have to plan and consider things carefully but if you're good at what you do it's very marketable and once I did this I found that it was actually much less intimidating or precarious-feeling than I'd imagined it would be. Several of my clients have made it clear that as well as calling me back for more consulting work (I have many repeat customers; if you can quickly and professionally take a problem off of someone's hands it's like they become addicted to it) they'd also be interested in the option (cheaper for them at this point) to hire me full-time so I've ended up with a Rolodex full of potential employers who all know me and my work very well.

I've known a few others in my field who do this and intentionally work part-time, making a still-quite-livable salary but effectively taking the summer off and every school vacation with their school teacher spouses.

Simply being able to make it on my own, fairly comfortably and with all the flexibility of setting one's own schedule, has given me the confidence to branch out from my specialty. And also I can be selective about the kind of work I do: if the project looks like something that will be especially aggravating, sorry guys, that one needs to be handled in-house by you.

I'm saying this from a U.S. state where it's very easy to form a company, not much more complicated than registering a car, so I don't know if the obstacles would be greater in the U.K. But if, as I'd assume, National Health Service would still be available to you as an independent, healthcare is obviously a big, expensive headache for me that I would willingly trade for some bureaucratic red tape on the government side.
posted by XMLicious at 9:57 AM on May 3, 2009

I really liked the TED talk but he does discuss castrating sheep in some detail. If you have testicles, I recommend listening from about 11 minutes in.
posted by selfmedicating at 10:00 AM on May 3, 2009

wow, can I do what you do, whatever it is?! I'd love a job like that!

I can see both sides of the coin; life is too short to do something you hate, but you don't say you hate it, only don't like it much, and it seems to have a *lot* of bonuses. I think you need to really think about what you might like to do instead, and start planning to make that happen, including saving whatever you can right now to give a nice little safety net. And be honest with yourself about what you really would miss about losing the lifestyle you currently have.

I just quit a job and a college course and moved back to my home area because I was doing a job I truly hated. I can't say I've landed on my feet yet (it's been just about two months), but I definitely made the right decision for me, but I do wish I had a better paying job (I'm now earning sub £15k. But on the other hand I was only earning slightly more than that before...). But the quality of life I've gained is definitely priceless.
posted by nunoidia at 10:11 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for all the comments. I think realistically I have it pretty good. It's just that sometimes I dream of more.

I suppose I'll keep plugging away in my comfortable but unloved little job and keep on dreaming... maybe one day I'll meet the lifestyle of my dreams! :)
posted by aTrumpetandaDream at 10:43 AM on May 3, 2009

Some people can happily write off 8-12 hours a day in exchange for a nice house, car, etc., whereas others can't compromise as easily in return for money. I need work to be fun, and am lucky enough to have skills and interests that allow me to achieve that much of the time, but as a result probably earn under half what I could.

I've no idea whether you should quit or not, but you should use your current job to keep your options open. Cut down all your expenses (especially those that tend to creep in as your wage increases) and set aside as large a proportion of your wage as you can. Quitting when you have enough to live on for a couple of years isn't scary, and someone who's 30 with no family to support is free to take risks.
posted by malevolent at 10:50 AM on May 3, 2009

I'm with those who suggest you save like crazy now and then go do what you want to do. Figure out an exit strategy that involves passive income (e.g., rental properties).
posted by salvia at 11:12 AM on May 3, 2009

What are you doing now with the 22 hours a day you spend not working, and with the 6 weeks a year when you're not required to work at all? If the answer isn't "following my bliss," you ought to max out that time before considering giving up a huge amount of money in an attempt to chase happiness.

Don't "keep dreaming." You have the resources to really do something with your life, and it sounds as though you're squandering the opportunity because you've chosen to define yourself by the work you do for less than 10 percent of your days. Cut it out, figure out what you really want to do, and do that with the massive amount of spare time and money your two hours of work a day provides you.
posted by decathecting at 11:22 AM on May 3, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm actually in your shoes somewhat myself right now. I don't earn nearly as much or get as much vacation, but I'm working a job that was never my dream.

I think you knew that, especially in the middle of this recession, everyone was going to tell you to hang on to your job for dear life. So then it seems to me you had two subconscious motivations for this post:

1) You're going to quit eventually anyway, you just needed someone to somehow give you permission in a legitimizing way.


2) You're hoping someone will make you feel better about not quitting.

So let me try both in thumbnail sketch. This job does not define you. This job does not own you. The very fact that you consider quitting proves that you, not this job, are in control of your life. Walker Percy once said that actually considering the option of suicide was the best remedy for suicidal ideation; once you realize you really can off yourself, then it occurs to you that living is your choice and not life's: you're in control. So if you want to quit, then quit!

Now let's make a plan how to do it. Go to websites or read books and find out what you want to be somehow. Is it a trumpeteer, by chance? Get just a rough idea. Then learn everything about it you're able. Just because you're dissatisfied with your present job does not necessarily mean that a *different* job would be better. What if you're subconsciously craving no job at all? Now you're stuck in another dead-end job you hate, but with less pay and no benefits. If you decide on something, though, then go to night school and learn how to do it and do it well. Then see whether it is possible for you to live your dream job on the side a little bit. I think I want to be a teacher someday, but such a career shift is not in the cards for me at the moment. So I tutor on nights and weekends. I gain a little profit but more importantly a lot of experience.

The only place I want to correct you is by noting that 30 is by no means "a long way off" from retirement, unless you have an inheritance coming. For those of us who do not, putting away as much as possible for that rainy day really is essential. Are your student loans paid off? Is your house paid for? Do you have credit card debt? Is your car paid for? Living for tomorrow is no fun, I know. But the counter-intuitive thing about living for today is that you're actually always trying spending today making up for yesterday. You really can't live for today, unfortunately. But if you live for tomorrow long enough, you'll find that you'll laid away enough that living for today magically happens.

I don't know if you can get his books in the UK, and you'll want to beware of a religious overlay, but Dave Ramsey is very influential for my thinking.

I hope this was helpful and not preachy.
posted by jefficator at 11:25 AM on May 3, 2009

When you jump out of a plane, it's always good to have a parachute and a destination.

You may have the parachute (savings - I sincerely hope you're not one of those idiots who goes around wasting money buying Porsches or designer handbags for wont of anything else to spend your money on) - but you don't seem to have the destination, ie you haven't found something you'd want to do.

Find that, do it enough so that you'd know if you want to do it 24/7, and THEN quit your job. In the meantime, work as usual, and save up your dosh to make your parachute bigger. Or donate some of it to worthwhile causes.

And in the context of this current economy, you may not have your job for long anyway!
posted by almostwitty at 11:26 AM on May 3, 2009

Response by poster: The only place I want to correct you is by noting that 30 is by no means "a long way off" from retirement, unless you have an inheritance coming. For those of us who do not, putting away as much as possible for that rainy day really is essential.

I suppose this is one of the reasons for working. Currently I am saving 15% of my salary (9% company contribution, 6% me) in to a pension. I also save about 1.5k a month.

If I moved to a lower paid funner job I would lose that.


I don't have debt. I rent a flat rather than own. I have 30k in savings. Was 60 last year but the stock market has been tough.
posted by aTrumpetandaDream at 1:50 PM on May 3, 2009

Do yourself a favour and find a short term goal. This could be more education (for the get-ahead types), or learning how to fence, or get into biking.. whatever. Having something that you are interested in the short time can really make a bad job bearable. Without that, the goal you have is "retire in 30+ years" which can really start to wear you down, considering how long term the goal is.

Also, the second favour you should do for yourself is change that 9% contribution to 15% at a bare minimum, if you can afford it. Later, when you decide you do hate the job and need to get out, you will appreciate that you actually live on much less money, day to day, than what you make.

Good luck!
posted by mbatch at 5:27 PM on May 3, 2009

Just wanted to say, there are no guarantees that the new job turns out to be more fun, even if it looks that way from the outside or even for the first couple weeks. Proceed w/ caution but do go with your gut. There are a lot of jobs to be had in this world, don't forget that. And yeah, I've recently been in a similar position if that's relevant.
posted by xiaolongbao at 11:05 PM on May 3, 2009

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