Help me leave office hell, find non-office contentment
May 9, 2010 2:34 PM   Subscribe

I am an introverted, nerdy, smart, middle class guy who wants to stop working in offices. What are my best options, and how do adjust? (yes, think Office Space)

I hate offices and office culture. I have no problem living on low wages (more is better, but I'm not too fussy).

I'd like a job I can forget about when I leave, where I don't have to bullshit all day. I like the idea of physical work and/or not being indoors, but it is not necessarily a requirement.

Low stress is my main goal.

I am not terrible at conversation if people have anything interesting to say, but I abhor smalltalk and pointless bullshitting.

I am in England, and went to a grammar school (smart-kid school provided by government). All of my friends work in offices, or similar setups.
posted by MetaMonkey to Work & Money (23 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Edit: I don't mind stress at work if it is productive and reasonable. I enjoy completing worthwhile tasks.
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:37 PM on May 9, 2010

Landscaping work might suit you.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:47 PM on May 9, 2010

Response by poster: Should have said - how do I go about getting possible new jobs?
posted by MetaMonkey at 2:52 PM on May 9, 2010

Why don't you try for a job where you telecommute? Stress associated with the job probably varies by the company, but you don't have to put up with the office culture.
posted by _cave at 3:07 PM on May 9, 2010

Response by poster: Good question _cave. Fundamentally I don't want to sit in a chair in a room all day, doing work of dubious value.
posted by MetaMonkey at 3:12 PM on May 9, 2010

Is it working in an office you don't like, or is it feeling like the work you're doing is meaningless? If it's the latter, maybe you can leverage your skills to get a job at a company or nonprofit/NGO that is doing work you believe in and want to support.

If it's the former, I recommend seeing if you can get hired on by a restaurant kitchen. Most restaurant kitchens will start someone who has no experience with dish washing. Then, depending on the kitchen, you can move to various places -- sometimes straight to learning a particular station, sometimes to learning prep for every station, etc. In some kitchens there's a lot of chatter, but in others there's almost none. It just depends on what the culture of the kitchen you're going into is. Working in a kitchen is difficult, all-consuming, physically exhausting, and incredibly satisfying -- although it is certainly not for everyone.

Other options include working for a nursing home (it depends on where you are what type of training is required), or becoming a teacher. Or you could try to train to work construction or become a plumber or something else that is super hands on.

Be prepared for a lot of training, though, and for people in those jobs to not take you seriously. Moving from white collar to blue collar is much rarer than the reverse.
posted by shamash at 3:30 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Take a weekend job to see if this is what you really want. To be frank, physical work sucks. You're sweaty, hot, and sore everyday. Your chances of getting injured are high. People treat you like an uneducated piece of garbage, even if you do specialized technical work.

Office politics, imho, is nothing compared to small/family business or union politics. Not to mention, a lot of blue collar workers idea of conversation include topics like how Rush Limbaugh really speaks the truth and how this Journey song on the radio is the best rock song ever. Don't resign until you really know what you want.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:56 PM on May 9, 2010 [8 favorites]

Nursing seems like it might work for you. You'd have to go back to school but there is such a shortage of nurses you could probably get it paid for. It also opens up the possibility of traveling or working as a paramedics etc instead of in a hospital. And there us always work for medical professionals
posted by fshgrl at 4:04 PM on May 9, 2010

You're not saying much about what your interests are. I've always thought that the work you enjoy the most is the one that plays to your interests and talents. So, what motivates you? What are you passionate about? What can you read about or tinker with for hours?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 4:38 PM on May 9, 2010

Any time I see a young American saying this, I always recommend that if they're fit, they should go join the U.S. Coast Guard and rescue people for a living. Her Majesty's Coastguard is waiting for you.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:02 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

Would your skill set transfer to academia? You'd still be sitting in a chair, but you'd no longer be doing work "of dubious value." I've made that switch myself and am happy with it. And it definitely does pay less!

Office culture in American academia is much different from office culture in "the enterprise." It can still be annoying and small-talky, but there seems to be a much greater tolerance for people who abhor small talk, and more opportunities for conversations that aren't about sports and drinking. I have no idea what office culture is like in British academia, though.
posted by bricoleur at 5:36 PM on May 9, 2010

Teach? Some introverts make it work. Nursing. Electrical.
posted by salvia at 5:46 PM on May 9, 2010

Re Her Majesty's Coastguard (above), job vacancies are here.
Otherwise you have to be a volunteer.
posted by lungtaworld at 6:15 PM on May 9, 2010

How about some sort of technician job? I work in a R&D lab for a corporation as a technician, and there's a pretty good mix of "using your brains" (trying to get test setups to work; knowing when to call BS on what the design engineer is expecting) and "using your hands" (assembly and tear-down and/or inspection) work. I do have a cubicle where my computer is, but i'm not really tied to it like a lot of the other people in the company are.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 6:40 PM on May 9, 2010

Take a weekend job to see if this is what you really want. To be frank, physical work sucks. You're sweaty, hot, and sore everyday. Your chances of getting injured are high. People treat you like an uneducated piece of garbage, even if you do specialized technical work.

Not to mention that your body can only do physical labor jobs for so long too, especially after injury.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:49 PM on May 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I was going to suggest the Coast Guard as well.
posted by Lizsterr at 8:35 PM on May 9, 2010

London Fire Brigade?
posted by mlis at 9:32 PM on May 9, 2010

maybe you can leverage your skills to get a job at a company or nonprofit/NGO that is doing work you believe in and want to support.

Office work is office work, and most non-profit work, while not focused on profits, is still focused on money. It's pretty demoralizing to see the ratio of how much time a non-profit actually spends on its mission and how much on fund raising. 10+ years in the non-profit world, and I'm more than ready for the profit industry - at least it's honest.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:45 PM on May 9, 2010

Honestly, not all offices' cultures are bullshit and pointless stress and such crap. Some people say that they are, perhaps because otherwise they'd have to admit they're choosing to stay in their unhappy environment, but there are offices that are less soul-deadening than that. If you're not focused on simply getting the highest pay possible, then you free yourself up to look for a job that doesn't make you hate life. It's worth it. You don't have to ditch the office per se, if all you're trying to avoid is the crap.

A technician job as ArgentCorvid says has a lot of appealing aspects: you're still working indoors, but it's not a sit-on-your-butt-all-day job, and you're applying both your mind and your hands to fixing concrete problems. OTOH, maybe fixing real problems in the prototype Pointlesstron-3000 is still pointless. But you can choose to work for a company whose products you think are actually worth making.

Some sort of in-the-field skilled job, engineering, mechanics, surveying, plumbing? Forestry, landscaping? You don't mention what kind of things you are good at or already know how to do.
posted by hattifattener at 10:51 PM on May 9, 2010

Are you good with cars? A specialized mechanic might fit the bill (i.e. you could specialize in, say, transmissions or electrical systems). Do you like planes? Someone's gotta build 'em, and Boeing might be hiring. Or you could service them. Does driving around all day sound enticing at all? You could do a few things here: bus driver, taxi driver (although I hear this can be really tough job), contractor for cable companies (i.e. Comcast subcontracts you to install cable at people's houses).
posted by spiderskull at 2:32 AM on May 10, 2010

When I got sick of sitting at a desk all day, I quit and applied at a horticulture company. For six months, I drove around watering plants in other people's offices. It was a blast, I got in killer shape (I lugged around two 15lb buckets of water all day!) and learned a lot about plants and plant care. The pay wasn't great, but it was a really good experience.
posted by caveat at 10:35 AM on May 10, 2010

Postal worker.
posted by kitcat at 12:06 PM on May 10, 2010

Not to defend offices, I daydream about getting out of the office environment too... but seconding Shamash about nonprofits. When I worked for a crappy amoral private corporation I'd have to drink myself senseless in the evenings just to keep from noticing how hideously depressed I was. I actually enjoy working for nonprofits though. Obviously not all companies (or nonprofits) are alike. But rest assured, it's absolutely possible to have a fulfilling office job with smart, pleasant coworkers, and get treated well. Pay's a little lower, but who cares. Life's too short to hate your boss.
posted by Erroneous at 1:21 PM on May 10, 2010

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