I can't do this job anymore!
October 16, 2009 8:54 AM   Subscribe

I don't like my job and I'm tired of trying to like it. I just want to quit but I'm afraid of what will happen if/when I do.

Requisite long backstory: I've been employed for about 5.5 years at my current company. First 4.5 years were great, then a year ago, amidst some layoffs, I got transferred from a financial analysis role to an accounting role (basically managing the accounting of our business units). I was misled about what exactly I would be doing, but I think that was more due to poor planning than dishonesty. I took on more responsibility, started managing people, etc. but didn't get a raise/promotion or even a title change. I think I was supposed to be happy to keep my job.

I am bored senseless doing this, I'm not very interested in learning what I do, and I don't think I'm very good at it. I've basically been doing the minimum I can do to not get fired. I had the worst performance review of my life during the summer, and my bosses know I'm mentally checked out. I had a very good reputation in my old role, but I'm sure it's taken a good hit amongst my superiors because I obviously don't care. So I wonder how repairable this situation really is even if I start kicking ass.

But I look at what it takes to get ahead in this department, or even do my job at the best of my ability, and I have no desire to do it. I've already talked to my bosses about my unhappiness with the role, and it really went nowhere. There's not much flexibility budget-wise to create a new position (or even my old one), so there's nowhere for me to go.

I have a mortgage, but I have roommates to offset that cost by about 50%. Not counting their income, I have enough in savings to get by for maybe 7-8 months if I live frugally. If times got really desperate I have another $15k in a 401(k) that I could draw from (before penalties). I'm in my mid-late 20s, no kids.

I just need to get out of this situation but I don't know the best way. I don't want to look for another job in this field because I hate it, and I have no idea what else to do. I feel like quitting is the only way to force myself to make a change. I know it's not, but I haven't been helping myself get out of this situation. I feel like a weight will be lifted off my shoulders when I do it. But I'm terrified of being unemployed.

I've read other AskMe's about this. I don't feel like I'm being underpaid that badly, or mistreated, I'm just tired of underperforming at something I hate.

Am I an idiot for quitting? What do I need to think about that I might have overlooked? Should I quit? What have you guys done in this situation?
posted by PFL to Work & Money (13 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
I would share your anxiety about being unemployed in this economy. I know many people who have been out of work for over a year. Why not look for a job more like what you were doing in your old role at this company? Just taking action to begin looking for something else might make your days more tolerable.
posted by something something at 8:57 AM on October 16, 2009

You're in a far stronger position looking for a new job from a current one, and it looks better to potential employers. Get a recommendation from the boss of your old position, and/or be able to explain your current poor performance.
posted by Spacelegoman at 9:04 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would make a list of likes and dislikes in a job to see where you would fit in if you move into another position.

I would say if you received poor performance reviews, moving to another position in the company might not happen. You got marked once, so it's hard for that company to move on.

Like Spacelegoman said you are in a really good position to look for another job. Do what you can at that job without becoming a worse performer, look for a job/interview, and move on. It's not that scary. You'll feel relieved when you leave this one.

And for tapping into the 401k--DO NOT do it. If you have 7-8 months savings, you have plenty of cash to look for a job or quit if you can't take it. It's rough out there right now but it's not impossible.

Good luck.
posted by stormpooper at 9:20 AM on October 16, 2009

This may be bad advice, but since I left my horrible job I've felt so much better due to the lack of stress, even with the added stressors of no income, savings, or insurance. There's a point of diminishing returns, y'know?
posted by jtron at 9:25 AM on October 16, 2009

I was in a very similar situation about a year ago. I had a high paying stable job that I absolutely HATED. I mentally checked out, did just enough to get by, really wanted to leave my industry - exactly what you're going through.

I quit. I quit during the worst recession since the great depression and quit without a plan or a job to go to. I lived off of cash reserves and some occasional freelance from home for 9 months - and it was an amazing decision.

I simply ignored the recession fearmongers and did what I thought I needed to do, and it all worked out. Money was very tight, but it forced me to engage in frugality and reprioritize what was truly important. During my time off I also sought therapy to help me deal with some of my work-related frustrations and have since learned a variety of coping skills.

I am now back working in the same industry I left, doing very much the same thing I used to do - except now I simply look at it as a means to an end. Its a J.O.B. Not a calling. I have attempted to pursue my true passions without much success in terms of making it an income-generating affair, and I have come to accept that. I don't think I could have truly come to terms with this without having taken time off though.

People don't always love their jobs. You don't have to, and statistically, most people won't ever get paid to do their "passion." Accept this. It helped me personally to simply understand that I work for a paycheck so that I can afford the rest of my life and save for an eventual family etc. This is not perfect...and of course it would be great to have a job that made me feel totally inclusive, autonomous and stimulated...but it may never happen.

Now I do the minimum I need to get by, generally say what I want and don't ever go above and beyond what people expect of me, and I have had just as much success (and higher pay) than I did 9 months ago.

Do whatever you need to do to cope and still make a paycheck, and if you can't do that - quit. Take time off and figure things out. If you feel like you can look for work while currently employed...great - that's a good option. But if not, don't beat yourself up or fear the scary recession.
posted by jnnla at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2009 [11 favorites]

Why not go back to school for something you do love?
posted by desjardins at 9:52 AM on October 16, 2009

Sometimes any change can set you in the right direction. Can you still get shitty coffee shop jobs etc even in the recession. That's what I did when I left offices behind for ever and it got me on the right track to a better life.

Perhaps that sort of work could potentially be worse in US culture than UK, but maybe there's something similar you can do.
posted by Not Supplied at 10:30 AM on October 16, 2009

I simply ignored the recession fearmongers and did what I thought I needed to do, and it all worked out. Money was very tight, but it forced me to engage in frugality and reprioritize what was truly important. During my time off I also sought therapy to help me deal with some of my work-related frustrations and have since learned a variety of coping skills.

jnnla, I'm in search of a similar experience. I feel that blowing everything up, quitting my job, and letting the chips fall will force me into making the life changes I need. But sometimes I wonder if I can learn the same lessons without destroying my finances or quitting the job. For all my complaining, the job really isn't that bad and I make solid money, but I just cannot come to grips with the notion that this is it. That's what I think I'm trying to escape.
posted by PFL at 10:37 AM on October 16, 2009

Why not get a side job and then quit, once you know you'd have the opportunity to pick up additional shifts at the nursery / restaurant / bike shop / whatever? It'll make it possible for you to quit without tapping into your savings, while letting you get outside of your industry and have some mental breathing room while you look for something else. Plus, in the meantime while you're working two jobs, you'll save up money quickly.
posted by salvia at 11:14 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


I personally felt that quitting WITHOUT a plan was the best option for me to really force me to make changes. That being said, I should be candid:

*I am, all things considered, a Very Responsible Young Person. Before my time off I regularly deposited 22% of every paycheck into an investment account, in ADDITION to about 1/4 of my paycheck into cash reserves. Another 1/4 went to living expenses and the rest went to eating out and fun - which helped me stay sane in a life with a job I hate.

*I had quite a bit of cash saved up and quite a bit more in a retirement fund before I quit.

*I stretched this cash without having to dip into my retirement fund, but by the last few months I did have to draw out of my retirement savings. This was not fun, but again...as with anything in life it is all how you "frame" it. I simply considered it a "tax" on having the freedom to do whatever the F*ck I wanted for 9 months. I would not have changed a thing. BUT, I am realistic enough to not be ok with drawing more than a couple thousand out of my retirement savings. And once I tapped that tree, I decided it was best to go BACK to work.

*Not having money makes you realize how nice it is to be making money. A WHOLE new set of problems come up when you are unemployed and burning through reserve cash. I am still paying back bills I incurred during the time off (bills which I deferred rather than paid off promptly as I normally would have). I had never lived this type of life and living that way (deferring bills, considering cash advances, etc) makes you appreciate having a job and making good money in a new way.

*My attitudes have CERTAINLY changed. I am no longer content to be quite as Responsible. Before taking time off I invested and saved most of my money. I had my job, which I hated, and my money which I saved. Now that I am back to work, I am looking forward to quitting again and traveling as soon as I have enough money to do so. Obviously I will continue to save...but not as much. Job security is illusory anyway. I am not content with 2 weeks of vacation per year. My pay is good enough that I can save quite a bit and quit...use it to travel...and come back to the industry to repeat the process. (The nature of my job allows this...your industry may not).

As far as the notion that "THIS IS IT" - I still deal with that on a daily basis. It may very well be that this IS it. If that's the case, I still won't settle. I will quit when I want, work when I want, save what I can, and travel the rest of the time. There are very real sacrifices and very real risks to this mode of living...but it suits me. Unfortunately, the American identity is very wrapped up in your job. "What do you do" is more important than "What are you about?" These are real social pressures that push us into thinking that your job is your life. Some people operate this way and are happy. I am not one of those people, and it sounds like you might not be either.

I still wrestle with ideas and ideals of success, what it means to succeed, the desire or ambivalence to "climb the career ladder" - to fulfill the New American Dream of being a coffee swilling, hot talking, type-A with a 6 figure salary and a 60 hour workweek. I used to do that...but it wasn't making me happy. You need a job depending on your goals...I want to build a foundation for a family eventually. Other than that, I think jobs are bollocks and bullsh*t. I don't buy into "taking one for the team," staying later than I have to, or doing any work beyond my paygrade. I'm not mean or nasty about it, and I don't generally TALK about that as being my belief system - but it keeps me sane and paid.

So, before this gets chatty...

*You may be able to learn the same lessons while AT your job. I'm kind of trying to do that now. I find that getting involved in activities in the evenings helps this. I do improv. You might want to find something else. This not only gives you another community to be apart of, but it also A) Bookends your evenings and guarantees that you are out of work on time ("I'm sorry, I can't stay, I have a previous appointment that I can't miss") and B)gives your life meaning and priority over your job.

*Therapy also helps, big time. Having someone to talk to about Early 21st Century Ennui helped me quite a bit.

Feel free to meMail me if you want.
posted by jnnla at 11:22 AM on October 16, 2009 [5 favorites]

I'm in search of a similar experience. I feel that blowing everything up, quitting my job, and letting the chips fall will force me into making the life changes I need. But sometimes I wonder if I can learn the same lessons without destroying my finances or quitting the job.

You could, but will you? You can't get experience without having it.

Maybe a stepping stone to a decision might be to reconsider whether this would really constitute "blowing everything up." Seems to me to be a pretty dramatic take on the situation.
posted by rhizome at 12:20 PM on October 16, 2009

If you don't care anymore, then it's time for another job. Don't quit this one, but bide your time by looking for another job in a field that interests you. You will probably have to start entry level. It will pay less but you have money saved, right? The trick is figuring out what you want, right? (Also, leave that 401k alone.)
posted by bunny hugger at 12:21 PM on October 16, 2009

Don't quit without some sort of plan. Have a part-time or something lined up.

It would be best to look for a job like your old one while you keep this job. It makes interviews less nerve-wracking. You'll look more confident and things will go smoother if you're not desperate.
posted by spaltavian at 12:26 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]

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