Quit my job, no new one, bad circumstances
December 8, 2010 5:59 AM   Subscribe

I just quit my (bad) job and have no new job to go to. I know I need to be proactively seeking work but I'm suffering from confidence problems and bad personal circumstances and finding it difficult. Any tips or similar stories?

Hi everyone,

I took a job with a young and fast-growing company last Spring. It was a new position that seemed to play to many of my strengths (online content management and copywriting). However I quickly discovered that the company is run in a very chaotic style, and that the needs of the company hadn't been properly thought out when they designed the role.

As a result, the work I am doing now is marketing and project-management, and is well outside of my skillset and area of interest. Additionally, I have been given extra responsibilities that were not in my original job description, and I don't have the time or the necessary experience to get everything done. This induces panic and a feeling of constant impending failure.

Although I have had good performance reviews and am well-respected in the company, I find my work terrifying on a daily basis. My manager, who was training me, quit after about 6 weeks and wasn't replaced for a long time. Although I now have a new manager, she has been unable to give me the necessary support or training as the company has quickly co-opted her role for extra responsibilities too, flying her around the globe to meet with different people and absorbing most of her time with meetings. I feel like I am doing everything alone, by the seat of my pants, and at constant risk of screwing up. Additionally I'm required to be available out of hours, including over the Christmas break, which is something that was never disclosed to me at the interview stage and which is damaging my social life and potential for relaxation.

There are two other people doing the same role-type as me but working on different projects. For their own reasons, they are faring better than me (or at least appear to be coping better) and while they also have their complaints, struggles and failings, I feel that I am the only one who truly cannot cut it.

The frustration is that people at work recognise me as a competent and even talented person, but have no job for me other than my chaotic, overloaded and ill-supported current role. I have tried to address this with attempts to improve and better define the role, and I even designed and pitched a new copywriting-led role to company leadership, but again was told respectfully that although there was a need for this, the lack of resources meant that there would be no possibility of it happening in the foreseeable future.

I began to feel increasingly stressed, angry and overwhelmed, and after some frank discussions my new manager and HR guy advised me to get out, find the job I really wanted to do and take control over my career. They agreed that the chances of things calming down or a more suitable role opening up were pretty non-existent. I took their advice and handed in my notice, with an end date of Jan 21st (I'm in the UK), and resolved to find a new job in the meantime.

Unfortunately, these events have co-incided with family illness (my dad has been diagnosed with cancer, albeit of a minor form) and the breakdown of my 2 year relationship. (I live with my ex.)

In retrospect I was stupid to take their advice. I suppose I felt somewhat desperate. The truth is that my CV is not stellar - I have some good experience but of short duration (my longest employment in the 4 years since I graduated is 1 year 2 months), and 8 months at this job won't help the impression of job-hopping to new employers.

I feel that I have failed in my current role and will fail in any new endeavour. At the worst times I feel that I am incapable of coping with any job. I suspect that my mental health is not altogether good right now, because in addition to these negative ideas, I'm constantly tearful, can't sleep and have lost my appetite. To me these are warning signs of depression.

I write this from home - I have taken a couple of days off sick because I'm too distressed to be useful at work. I actually started crying in a meeting yesterday when asked to come up with some work I hadn't done. (That is pretty humiliating and not like me at all.) I've used my poor old dad as an excuse for the tears and the time off, but in all honesty I'm worried for myself as well as him. (He's actually doing pretty well, is retired and has plenty of support while he undergoes treatment.)

To add an extra layer of complication, I responded to the end of my relationship by having a fling with a guy from my team at work. (Again, stupid.) This has gone sour, and he has moved on to a flirtation with another colleague (which happens under my nose each day). I feel completely horrible about myself in this regard too.

I suppose I am asking... can anyone offer any advice about finding a new job, positive self-image, handling anxiety and overwork, and basically surviving? Also, has anyone experienced a similar situation and come out of the other side?

Grateful to anyone who managed to read to the end!

posted by Franny26 to Work & Money (14 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
As I was reading your description of the work environment and how it impacts you, I thought "wow, chaos and unpredictability are clearly not her thing!" Which brings me to my advice: rather than focus on how much of a failure you feel in the current environment and how that doesn't bode well for the future, turn your attention to identifying what type of work, company, and job are best for you. It sounds like you were clear about that when you started the current job, but that knowledge has been overwhelmed by the bad aspects.

Since you seem to like structure (and thank god someone does!), create a "project plan" for figuring out what things really suit you and make you shine, then how to identify a company that has those elements. The next step is to find companies that fit your ideal and pitch yourself to them.

If you set a clear project plan for your job search, complete with steps and due dates, it will help you endure your remaining days at the current job while you make progress toward landing the right job for you.

Short form: You landed in a situation that doesn't suit you, and you're getting out of it. Good for you. The reasons for the misstep -- misrepresentation? wishful thinking? -- are far less important than figuring out where you need to head and then heading there.
posted by DrGail at 6:26 AM on December 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I feel that I have failed in my current role and will fail in any new endeavour. At the worst times I feel that I am incapable of coping with any job.

Huh? You just said yourself that you are not being asked to do the job that you were hired to do. You haven't failed at all; your managers failed by putting you into a role that lies well outside of your job description that also happens to make you uncomfortable.

You're probably feeling down because of your father, and recent breakup... This does not change the fact that you were in a job that was a complete bad fit for you. You have a month and a half to find a new job, which should hopefully be enough to find something, even if it's temporary, while you're holding out for a better job.
posted by schmod at 6:40 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

DrGail has given great insight and advice. I suggest exercise, exercise, and more exercise! Also read biographies of people who inspire you and/or overcame adversity. TR, FDR, and ER are my favorites for this. Be sure to do some things for fun and consider taking up a craft.

The best of luck to you!
posted by jgirl at 6:52 AM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

This kind of stuff happens to a lot of people. Nobody on Metafilter would dare admit it, but this is a common story I've heard from other people. Your manager was lazy, the HR people were lazy, and they didn't help you. Obviously they don't care about the work actually getting done if they advised you to leave. What's done is done.

Also, you have a leaving date set for more than a month from now. You never know what can happen. And you didn't get fired, so it's okay. Just say it wasn't a very good fit and you wanted to find something more suitable.

In the future, don't take HR's advice. They typically want to get rid of you without any problems or lawsuits. I'm pretty sure this was something they discussed about you before you ever talked to them.

Good luck.
posted by anniecat at 7:20 AM on December 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Seconding the fact that this was the company's failure, and not yours. Your supervisors didn't try to use your abilities, and didn't give you ample opportunity to adapt to the new workload with training. Recognize that you'll do better in a future job that actually involves your skillset, and also that the bad stuff you dealt with at this company was a learning experience. Next time around will be better.
posted by bessel functions seem unnecessarily complicated at 7:33 AM on December 8, 2010

...company is run in a very chaotic style, and that the needs of the company hadn't been properly thought out when they designed the role.

It has been my experience that MOST companies run like this. I've been out in the working world for 20+ years. When I started, at a mid-sized manufacturing company, I thought it was poorly run, out of control, and destined to crash. I no longer work there, but they're still around.

Was this a "small" company (10-50 people-ish)? Smaller companies can ask a lot of employees, frequently asking them to do things they were not hired to do. Looking at this from another viewpoint, it can be a real plus. You gain diverse experience, which expands your horizons. I was a graphic designer... became a designer/copywriter... became a designer/copywriter/advertising manager... became a designer/copywriter/advertising manager/marketing guy... and so on. I have my own business now. It's all valuable experience.

Confidence: 1. You'll gain more as you conquer difficulties, 2. You sound like you may suffer from anxiety and/or depression... I have had the same problems throughout my career. Getting help is a good idea... talk therapy and/or meds can help a lot.

Best of luck!
posted by ecorrocio at 7:39 AM on December 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Nthing other posters-- this is not your fault.

I"m not a therapist or doctor, but the symptoms you describe sound like depression. Have you been depressed before? Do you have a good doctor or therapist to help you with this? The problem is, when people get depressed, they can't perform tasks to their usual levels, which makes them feel guilty or incompetent, which leads to more depression. (Ask me how I know.) Getting help with depression will make it easier to look for a new job, get out of the bad living situation, etc. Please consider it.
posted by tuesdayschild at 7:56 AM on December 8, 2010

I would like to second everything that ecorrocio said.
posted by Kwine at 9:22 AM on December 8, 2010

Wow. I feel like I could have written this. Exactly the same thing happened to me this year, down to the job description, lack of support, and number of months I stuck around. Like you, my work was respected, but I was exhausted, freaked out constantly, and physically and mentally incapable of continuing. The exception is that I've been out of school for over 10 years, and I know that there are better environments for me. Yes, the people who are writing that all companies are chaotic and dysfunctional are right. But it's amazing how much easier it is to deal with the chaos and BS when you get to do the job you were, you know, hired to do.

I still struggle, but I'm doing well as a freelancer and contractor. I have control over my work, and have a chance to see a lot of different professional environments. I've even been able to use the new skills I gained in the last job, but on my terms.

My advice? Get up in the morning and exercise, and spend a week working on your portfolio. It'll give you a chance to focus on what you're good at, and the projects you're most proud of. You'll absolutely find something else. Good luck.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:59 AM on December 8, 2010

People will perhaps give you glances askance for quitting a job "in THIS economy". Don't let them get you down. The exact same thing happened to me very recently-- I quit a job that was a terrible fit, into nothing. Frankly, I'm crying all the way to the sanity bank-- it would be nice to have a job, but it's a lot nicer not to dread waking up. If you have the privilege to be able to temporarily not work (and yes, it is a privilege), don't let jealous people make you think you made the wrong choice when they don't have all the information.
posted by threeants at 12:29 PM on December 8, 2010 [2 favorites]

Your first problem is that you still live wit your ex. Your second problem is that you work with "fling guy" and he's moved on to someone else and rubbing your nose in it every day.

- Essentially, your chaotic personal life is undermining your professional life

- ecorrocio is right that this work situation is sadly common, especially in small companies, and I submit to you that if your personal life wasn't such a wreck you wouldn't be taking the work situation so personally.

I'll be blunt: I think you quit your job because it's something that you feel you have control over (vs. living with the ex or your dad's illness or the behavior of mr. fling - all of which you have no control over.)

This doesn't have to be a tragedy! You started the clean-up process in your life where you started it. Good for you for doing something proactive. The job wasn't a great fit for you and you would have moved on from it sooner or later. You probably should have fixed your living situation first, because this would have done heaps for your sense of stability --but-- hindsight is always 20/20, right? So! Just be happy you are taking steps and moving in a direction now, ok?

Folks will advise therapy and meds. I'm OK with therapy, but I do not recommend meds. That's my personal bias because I think meds are hit and miss, plus, the side effects are so unpredictable. If you take control of your life right now, that will do a lot more for you than meds in the short and longterm, IMHO.

Step #1 - Either kick out your ex out or move yourself. I'm sure you think there is a good reason you are still living together, but living together is undermining the rest of your life. Fix This Now.

Step #2 - Pick up the job search once the holidays are over and you are settled in your living situation. Living in a stable situation will do wonders for your confidence and you will be able to approach the job search with a clear head.

Step #3 - Exercise, meditate, read inspiring books, etc. while you work on steps #1 & #2.

Step #4 - Eventually find a therapist and look at the bigger patterns you've engaged in to cope with stress. I'm thinking about things like (a) taking up with your co-worker mr. fling, and (b) living with your ex past the break-up when I refer to "patterns to cope with stress" here.

I'd recommend therapy as step #1, but I really think you need to take some positive action before you start beanplating and dissecting yourself. If you think you can't manage to straighten out your living situation with out help,, then make therapy step #1.

Good luck.
posted by jbenben at 12:47 PM on December 8, 2010

I haven't read all the comments but you might find this useful. I don't agree with Penelope on everything but this will at least give you something to mull over, and I've found that the website is very dig-around-able
posted by blue_bicycle at 2:06 PM on December 8, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for your comments everyone. I'm finding the different takes people have on this very helpful indeed, and I'm very appreciative that people took the time to reply.

To clarify a couple of points - my ex and I are living together, partly because we're tied into a housing contract and partly because we're not in a hostile situation, more of a "this is not a relationship anymore it's a friendship, let's face it" situation. Still massively sad, but we decided that maintaining the stability of the household is better than trying to face finding new accommodation and adjusting to new housemates at this point in time, particularly since we're not arguing or finding each other's company difficult. Once we hit the point where we can break our housing contract, we will make our separate plans for the future.

Re. therapy and medication - I have made an appointment with my doctor for tomorrow and have filled a prescription for SSRIs (I took them a while back, and luckily I know the ones that work for me). So agree, this will help with the anxiety and self-image stuff. I have also made an appointment to speak to a counsellor this week.

ecorroccio - in answer to your question, it's not that small, no - there are a couple of hundred employees, but a lack of structure and a breakneck pace that seems to be a hangover from their startup days. I definitely have gained some valuable skills, not least in terms of resilience and dealing with chaos. I am sure they'll bear fruit at some point in the future.

I'm definitely taking up these suggestions about exercise and reading.

As for "Mr. Fling"... I'm sure I'll have moved on from this fairly quickly, as I have bigger fish to fry. It's stinging like a paper-cut at the moment, but it'll heal fast like one too.
posted by Franny26 at 2:55 PM on December 8, 2010

Why are you talking as if you've failed at your job when you clearly haven't? I don't get it. You've done a huge amount of stuff that you were in no way prepared or trained for, and done it with very little or no supervision and support. But because HR can see you're burned out, the most convenient thing for them to tell you is to leave, which makes you feel as though you've been fired. I agree with anniecat that they just don't want any problems or lawsuits, and they may be aware of ways in which you would have a case against them. Not that I'm suggesting you take legal action, but if they send you away exhausted with your self-esteem in tatters, you're unlikely to attempt to stand up for yourself in any way, and no-one in the company has to lift a finger.

You have had good performance reviews - that's actual documented proof that your company was willing to say good things about you and sign off on them. If they only said good things to your face, it wouldn't help you at all - it would be your word against theirs. Much more difficult for HR to write you a bad reference now. Make sure you have copies of everything good anyone's ever written about you, and be careful about any documented discussions or, heaven forbid, appraisals between now and leaving time as any factual reference (that could be written three years from now by someone who's never met you) will be based on your last performance review.

My guess is that the unlimited working hours have been the tipping point for you: you could maybe have stood it if they didn't own you 24/7. On future interviews, maybe you could ask something like, "so how's the work-life balance?" Slave companies, in my experience, invariably get aggressive or evasive at this and will usually eliminate you on the spot just for asking, and will usually tell you so too!

And don't worry about the "job-hopping" thing. At your age it really doesn't serve you well to stay in one place for very long, it'll only get you into a salary rut. On your next job, be sure to emphasize that you have loads of experience and can enact amazing feats of versatility entirely on your own, so you are worth the higher salary range that you are going to be looking for.

And yes, of course, your living and family situation and your romantic life means that you are dealing with all this with no solid foundation of stability underneath you. As for "Mr. Fling", well, he has a right to put himself about like that, but it's still a bit tawdry of him if you ask me. No wonder you feel like crap. Anybody in this situation would feel just as bad, if not worse.

Pretty soon you won't have to go to that job. You will feel *so* much better and the SSRIs will help with your coping skills. Please please do not look upon this job as a failure because you think crying in a meeting negated all of your good work. Your company is just making you feel like a failure (or rather doing nothing to prevent your feeling like a failure) because they view their employees as pieces of office equipment to be replaced when they wear them out. It doesn't mean you didn't do a brilliant job.
posted by tel3path at 5:08 PM on December 8, 2010

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