Mentally exhausted by my professional situation (and I'm the reason)
January 27, 2011 1:51 AM   Subscribe

I'm 33 and I feel like a hopeless failure professionally. To an outsider it would not seem so - I've gone to prestigious undergrad and grad (MBA) schools and have had decent to very good job opportunities and experiences. However, the pattern of my career has been: stress about finding a good job, land one eventually, do ok and enjoy it in the beginning, then begin a downward slide into frustration, anger, and general dissatisfaction and start to think about getting out - maybe this isn't the right function, this isn't the right industry, this isn't the right company, more school? I've chopped and changed industries & roles (grass is always greener syndrome) and consequently don't really have deep experience in anything. I have never been promoted, never gotten a raise, never gotten a really good review. I've never voluntarily left a job - never fired per se but either laid off, close to it or my employer wasn't sad to see me go. Most of my peers are plowing full steam ahead into senior positions and handsome compensation; meanwhile I'm struggling to hang on to a job. My professional life has always been and continues to be a source of anxiety, frustration, anger, shame - agony - for me and I desperately want peace, and a plan for moving forward.

I sort of understand intellectually what's gone wrong - I take work too personally, care too much and expect too much, of myself and my employer, internalize it all too much - but I can't stop the bad behaviors, i.e. letting all the bad feelings show, generally projecting negativity. I know that in terms of getting a job done, I'm as good as anyone else, if not better, but it's all the emotional and interpersonal stuff that surrounds it that is a problem for me. I lack confidence (though again, not to the outside world) and my poor professional performance to date (seemingly, to me anyway) has only aggravated this, to the point now where there's way too much fear about f-ing up again and negative self-talk.

I'm currently on maternity leave and I don't have a job to go back to (long story, but combination of behaviors described here in and a constantly restructuring company). I need to find a new job but I really worry about the pattern just repeating, undermining my ability to sell myself.

So my questions are: do other people experience this sort of self-inflicted psychic pain about work, and if so have you managed to get a handle on it? Do I need to rethink my career strategy? My partner, whom I respect, admire and trust greatly, thinks I am not cut out for big companies (can't deal with the politics/glad-handing required) and in fact should work for myself. I definitely think there is truth in this but my competitive, conventional-success-driven self has a hard time accepting it. But I also worry that the same things that have sunk me in all my previous jobs will sink me again. Even if I were working for myself, I worry that I would second-guess and self-doubt myself to failure again - I can see myself venturing out on my own and after a year or two thinking, working for the man wasn't so bad at all, I should try that again.

In my good moments I know I just have to get on with it, put on my game face and get out there and do the best I can. In my bad moments I can't believe how my career has turned out, how far short it has fallen of my expectations and just accepting that I'll never be successful as I envisioned (ie either progressing up the corporate ladder or doing something on my own that I am passionate about and can be proud of). I'm always impressed with the responses here so I'm hoping to catch a little of that wisdom for myself. Thanks.
posted by goalie to Work & Money (27 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Is setting up your own business an option?
posted by ceri richard at 2:12 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I don't know if sharing my experience will help, but here goes...

I graduated college and went through several first-it-was-ok and then-it-became-hell-type jobs (which, looking back, weren't all that bad, but still made me miserable). They were pink and white collar type jobs. They felt like purgatory once a year had rolled by, and I found myself in various stages of breakdown/depression/fuming rage in each of these jobs. I think, ultimately, I wondered what the whole point of my presence was. I did not believe in any of the things I was doing. I felt disconnected with the work. The actual work itself had highlights, but I didn't enjoy it ENOUGH to overcome my eventual doubting and questioning. I mean, the various products and services were decent and sometimes even great, but really, who gave a shit?

Finally, I said fuck it, and I took a job in the minimum wage service industry. Ah, this is nice, I thought. I can serve something, make people happy, and feel like I did something concrete, no matter how small. Also, I did not have to take any work home (very important!)

I eventually found my way to a higher paid service job.

Despite being generally introverted, working directly with people and not in a cubicle/office is fantastic, and will never, ever go back if I can help it. I don't care how much I get paid. I don't care if I were offered buckets of disposition (despite being an introvert!) does not seem to mesh well with an office environment. There is something about being in a room all day that causes me to feel depressed or trapped. Even my worst days now are better than my best days in an office. I like connecting with people in person, and I like making them happy. When it comes down to it, I guess I find the people I meet far more interesting (and challenging) than any spreadsheet.

It's only a shame I wasted money and resources to get that college degree (which is now, of course, perfectly useless).

If you're not willing to take a big of a jump as I did, into a completely different line of work, I'd say go for being self-employed. Why not...what do you have to lose? If your partner is able to support the two of you financially, I can't see the downside.

Hope that helps. Best of luck to you.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:26 AM on January 27, 2011 [11 favorites]

How about going the non-corporate route? Maybe you would excel in an environment that is more vocational - where taking work personally is at the core of the work. Many people are not cut out for jobs which require them to compartmentalize parts of themselves, and the 'acting out' you describe is often a sympton for a badly-fitting culture of work (rather than the work itself).

Different places have very different cultures, it might be worth checking out what volunteering opportunities there are around you in places you might not have considered before. Volunteering for a short time may also take away some of your internal pressure about 'achieving' and enable you to evaluate your skills in a low-pressure environment.

It might also be worth examining (in detail) the points in your previous jobs where things started to go wrong, maybe you can identify triggers and discover patterns that you can avoid next time. This is a great issue to take to a counsellor.
posted by freya_lamb at 2:30 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Gah - sympton = symptom...
posted by freya_lamb at 2:32 AM on January 27, 2011

Also, a tip:

Try not to think about your peers and where they are. At all. You are you, and we aren't all cookie cutter people all meant to do the same things in the same way.

Your dissatisfaction may be stemming from your tendency to think, "everybody I know wants THIS and is doing it THIS WAY and is happy and is doing great. If I want THE SAME THING and do it THE SAME WAY, _I_ will be happy and will be doing great."

I think the past decade or so has shown you no, you DON'T want the same thing in the same way. Terrible news: you are different from your peers! (Though personally I think this is a great thing...more people should realize they aren't cut out for corporate work.)

Your more "conventional, success-driven" self seems to be trying to fit you in a mold that doesn't suit you. I think your more "genuine" self is trying to tell you, "Jesus, I've had enough of this bullshit already!!!"
posted by The ____ of Justice at 2:43 AM on January 27, 2011 [6 favorites]

I have felt the same difficulty in being happy in a regular job, despite having all the academic degrees that would suggest success in climbing corporate ladders. I think I can somewhat identify with your difficulties, and I have to say that I agree with your partner.

My solution has been to find a job at a really small entrepreneurial set-up. Here, I am surrounded by people who are worrying (in a positive sense) about work all the time. However, there is no politics, no need to talk behind anyone's back and a sense of joie de vivre that comes with working just to please yourself. Nobody cares about performance reviews, because you really are getting feedback everyday as you have lunch with your team.

I feel happier and less stressed out, and would strongly recommend working in a small company (< 10 people) or starting out on one's own if that's an option.
posted by rahulrg at 2:59 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you, thank you for your answers.

@ ceri richard - I'm not really considering this now because (a) I have MBA loans to pay off and want to pay them off/not pile on more debt (b) I don't have an idea I'm really confident and excited about. I just don't feel ready now but it's something I could see myself doing down the line.

@ The _____ of Justice - thank you for sharing, hearing about others' experiences definitely helps. A lot of times I do think I should just do something I'm probably overqualified for but I would feel confident and happy doing - but I don't think I could bear the shame of falling short. As for self-employment, I really don't want to depend on my partner financially. (I mean, I am now, but I want the situation to end very soon.) And I know you're absolutely right about not comparing myself to others but...I just can't help it. Deeply engrained behavior - wah!!

@ freya_lamb - I saw a counselor for a couple of years not too long ago and tried to discuss this with her but she didn't really have much to say about it. I have thought about seeing a career coach/counselor but my sense has been that my problem falls between a counselor and a career counselor so I haven't done it. Also, I'm kind of sick of having to seek therapy for everything in my life!
posted by goalie at 3:10 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ rahulrg - It's good to hear that someone else can maybe relate. Part of the problem is that I don't feel like anyone really understands where I'm coming from. I'm actually working a bit on the sly for a start-up and if funding materializes it could turn into something full time. But although the founder, whom I'm working closely with, is super nice and supportive and seems to think highly of me, I am feeling a lot of self-doubt. But yes, I think you're right that a smaller environment where the work matters more than the organizational dynamics is better for me. Out of curiosity how did you come to a solution for yourself? Trial and error? Did you speak to anyone eg a counselor? Books?
posted by goalie at 3:16 AM on January 27, 2011

It's not you, it's them.

Jobs seem more and more suited for monkeys or mindless automatons than people these days and just when you think it can't possibly get any worse, it does.

But don't blame yourself. It's not us, it's them.

We need to determine what personal responsibilities we can manage more efficiently so when the time comes we have earned the freedom to take a small risk.

I am within a few years of paying my mortgage. With that burden lifted, I will be able to explore riskier, but hopefully less stifling and soul killing employment opportunities or perhaps a return to school.

What are you doing to manage your external to work responsibilities so you can take the plunge at starting that business / finding that dream job / early retirement on a beach in Bali selling tangerines and live bait?
posted by j03 at 3:39 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

The magic in happiness isn't in the career choice. If it were, there'd be no one unhappy with their career. Changing horses in midstream (career-wise) isn't that unusual, either, and in my own circle of friends, there are a few physicians (one a psychiatrist), several lawyers, and a lot of business people who are no longer doing what they were trained to do.

Your problem isn't unusual.

While it may be true that 'the problem isn't you', you should give a little consideration to the possibility that it MAY BE YOU. Not everyone is cut out to be a leader. Businesses don't just go around handing out management slots to be fair to everyone. When they do promote folks who aren't up to the task, it has a great effect outside that person's subordinates. It discourages and minimizes folks outside the immediate circle. As much as anything, a good manager is evaluated on how he/she develops subordinates and betters an organization.

The first rule to getting ahead is to do things well. Do you do things well? Are you a standout? Do you go the extra mile? Do you exercise good judgment? Do you devote a good deal of your time to making your boss look good? Can they depend on you?

Personally, I'm not into getting ahead anymore. My tastes have evolved into being self-directed, but if you are interested in being 'successful' in your chosen environment, you might benefit from evaluating (honestly) what the successful folks have that you lack and work on getting some of that, whatever the hell it is. Unless you are very unusual, you are probably trainable. You can learn new stuff and get better at old stuff.

Oddly enough, the more valuable you become to yourself, by learning new stuff, the more valuable you become to your employer, and it will compete for your services.

Train for your next job.
posted by FauxScot at 4:17 AM on January 27, 2011 [3 favorites]

Saw a link to this in another job related post. I found it inspirational; maybe it will have similar effect with you.
When a man becomes either a head or a hand, in the long run he does neither good head work nor good hand work. There must be a whole human being at work to get permanently good results in any field of action. It is possible to "kill the goose that lays the golden egg" of economic prosperity; and the "goose that lays the golden egg" is manhood, womanhood and especially childhood, exploited for the sake of immediate commercial results. Such exploitation is the true race suicide; and that nation will win and retain leadership, even in the economic struggle of the nations of the earth, that keeps its men, women and children human beings first and cog wheels in a productive machine afterwards if at all.
posted by j03 at 4:22 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Although my career path doesn't match yours, exactly, I can sympathize with your situation.

You say you're not ready to start a business right now, but if that's an idea that is interesting to you, and you have a general idea about the direction you'd like to go with it, I suggest that you try to land jobs that will give you the experience, connections and skills necessary to put yourself into a position to start your business.

This is the route I took over the last 10 years, or so. I had a general idea about a business that I wanted to start, but I was missing some of the necessary experience and connections to feel comfortable about starting the business.

So I spent some time in some jobs that weren't perfect, but where I was getting paid to learn the skills, gather the experience and make the connections I'd need to start my own company. I started last June and am extremely happy with the way things are going, so far.

I can't say that I loved the jobs that I had during this decade of learning, but I had a goal in mind, and I knew how each job fit into the bigger picture of attaining that goal, so it was easier to keep myself motivated.

Pick a bigger picture goal, look for jobs that advance you toward that goal, and I think you'll be able to tolerate some of the negative aspects.
posted by syzygy at 4:47 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

I suggest you read Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, which is all about the cost of clinging to work you're not suited to. It's not a fun read (spoiler: the salesman dies) but I find it helps settle the compass needle.

I don't think there's a single obvious solution to your problems. Going into business for yourself as an escape, without a vision for what that business will do, is not going to fly. But I do think that giving yourself permission to pursue work, work relationships and working environments that feel good and make sense to you is an absolute prerequisite to improving your situation. Shame is a distorting lens. It twists one's perceptions around, making mediocrity seem like excellence and bravery appear as cowardice. As long as you suppress and resist your intuitions about what would actually feel good, in favor of some exterior notion of what should feel good, you are chasing mirages.
posted by jon1270 at 5:24 AM on January 27, 2011 [2 favorites]

Oh, honey, I sympathize. But it's both you and them: the way you react to problems in your work life is exactly the same as how you relate to the rest of the universe. Your current setting may not be ideal for you, but your unhappiness is a combination of you and the job, not just the job. You're not going to solve the mystery of this pattern of strong negative reactions unless you look at your whole self and world, which means...yes, therapy.

That said, it is absolutely true that different office structures have different cultures. Working in a small startup can be awesomely free of bullshit, and embued with a sense of mission, and your coworkers also willing to strike out against the tide are often a lot more fun. You really just might not fit into corporate culture.

But in order to try out other kinds of work, you may have to sacrifice salary, a least in the short term. You don't get to slip the shackles of the corporate world.without paying a price! So it might be more practical to make this a longer term plan, focusing the next few years on cutting expenses, staying in the bad job, and plowing the money into the debt.

Last thing - I see you are on maternity leave. It's possible that work will be different for you when you have a baby back home. In my observation, it seems like working moms can get an amazing kind of focus at work, where it's all about getting in, doing the job, and getting back to the baby. No time for worrying about anything else.
posted by yarly at 6:04 AM on January 27, 2011

You sound really unhappy with your past work experiences and I can absolutely relate. I couldn't handle office politics, either. I solved that by getting myself out of offices. It took a decade or more of hating work, and then a decade of raising two children and loving that (but needing more) to make me come around to the fact that I cannot handle working in offices. Or, at the very least, I can't handle working in the offices I was working in. I imagine I would find much greater success working with less conservative, more educated people than I had been.

Currently I'm doing freelance writing and I'm also helping out at the front desk at my kids' Taekwondo school and I couldn't be happier. The pay is low but my mental state is sound.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that you just seem unhappy in general. You talk repeatedly about self-doubt and fallen expectations. I really do think you should speak to a therapist about this part of your life. Yes, it ties back into the work thing but maybe it goes deeper than that.

Good luck!
posted by cooker girl at 6:55 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you again to all - you have delivered on my hope for some wise perspective on my plight.

@ FauxScot - I guess when I was younger and had my career ahead of me I never stopped to consider that I might not be good at something! I think I do things well but I am not a great natural communicator (a lot more goes on in my head than I share) and I'm not a good influencer/salesperson, which is pretty important in a corporate setting. And I'm a pretty negative/skeptical/analytical person (note the number of 'nots'!) As you say I think I could learn these things/change certain behaviors, but would it make more sense to just go to an environment where those things aren't so important.

@ syzygy - Makes a lot of sense. I have not been good thus far in my life at setting a long term goal and working towards it, I sort of react to things as they come along. Which is just restating the problem.

@ jon1270 - Spot on. I know I need to stop looking out and pay attention to what just feels right. But, I also think that nothing ever feels great all the time, so the question is, how much hardship is too much?

@ yarly - All very good points. That's right - I do wonder whether having a baby, and just being older and more mature? hardened?, will make me more focused on the job and less on the anxieties surrounding it.

@ schmichael - It took me a long time to draft and post this - I didn't just slap it up in a moment of desperation - and I did it because I had searched for guidance in other places and hadn't found any. I did read all the warnings and roadblocks about acceptable questions to ask and yes I knew my question was longer than it probably should be, and not as crystal clear as you would like, however having read a lot of this forum I didn't think it was out of line. Indeed many of the most interesting and discussed questions for me anyway are about issues that are appropriate for a therapist's office. Why you gotta pick on me?
posted by goalie at 7:01 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: @ cooker girl - Thank you...I'm not that unhappy!! I have an awesome little boy, super supportive and kind partner, great friends etc. This is my Achilles heel, always has been. I'm sure it's related to childhood/family issues, which I have discussed in therapy in the past. But you're right, the self-doubt and generally being hard on myself are still issues that could stand some attention.
posted by goalie at 7:05 AM on January 27, 2011

Mod note: Comment removed. If you're bothered by the formatting of a question, flag it or go to metatalk or drop the mods a note via the contact form.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:05 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: @j03 - It took me a couple of times to get it - I like that.
posted by goalie at 7:07 AM on January 27, 2011

Nothing ever feels great all the time, so the question is, how much hardship is too much?

When you're aimless and don't know what you're doing or why you're doing it, almost any suffering feels overwhelming. After all, you don't get a prize for being miserable. The ability to tolerate unpleasantness only becomes useful when you're making progress towards a goal that matters to you, in which case you can probably take quite a lot of it and still feel pretty good.

Time to trot out the Joseph Campbell:
We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.
posted by jon1270 at 7:20 AM on January 27, 2011 [7 favorites]

I’m not really quite sure what the question, but I can feel the pain in your question and I hated working in jobs (I now work for myself, but I hated working in all the jobs before this).

Even though I read that you are upset, what do you really want to be “successful” (or happy) at a workplace. You mention seeing your friends move up the ladder and becoming angry – but is that you really want? I’d say first define what you want out of the workplace, and it doesn’t have to be a title or promotion unless that is what you want. I have seen people very close to me (work colleagues) move up that ladder and most of them were not just promoted. They went to their supervisor and requested a list of items that he or she had to complete to move up the ladder. If the boss then failed to reward them, then he or she jumped to the next place, and only went to a workplace that gave them such a title. Some of these people gave up a lot to get those titles and positions (time) and many were in the end very bitter because it may not have been what they wanted in the first place. So I’d say first, define if this is what you want because I think that you may be unhappy if you get it.

Also, I really would not look to the workplace to give you happiness or satisfaction (you mention anger or how you are disappointed by your employer). To your employer, you are just a cog helping the business get more $. There is no loyalty, etc.

Instead, at the next job, define what you want and go for it. I took a route very similar to syzygy up there- I decided that I wanted out of the job(s). I was never going to be happy anywhere because it was fulfilling someone else’s vision and in the end, the job wants to fit all the square pegs into circle pegs and = why? So I went to my last job with a list of goals ( I want these work samples, I want to learn X) and that was all that I did. Then I jumped. I don’t believe you need a “vision” or any of that crap – it is whatever you want it to be. Best thing that I ever did and I am much happier than I was at most other jobs.

If you do decide to go the self employment route – I do think you may need to work on selfconfidence etc. You can define if the work is good or not. Your customers will not return to you over and over again unless it is good. You will not get validation from people around you at all, either (or very few). Just saying that you may need to get control of the emotions and decide what you want – and go for it. Maybe as the set of skills to acquire for your next job it could be – get 1 promotion, or negotiate to get this policy accepted or this training completed, or whatever it is, but I think you may do better if you get that skill first. Also, I think once that you set this plan in motion (again, if you do the self employment as your partner suggests), you will be a little happier at work because it is the vision of something beyond the box, and you know that you will get out.

posted by Wolfster at 7:39 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

How much time typically transpires between your getting and liking a job to your descent into frustration and anger?
posted by rhizome at 8:44 AM on January 27, 2011

@goalie: Glad to hear that you are already trying to do something in a smaller environment. Hope that works out! You'll see that as you immerse yourself in work, self-doubt gradually dissolves away simply because you don't have time for it.

I got lucky, in a sense. Rather than finding the solution, the solution rather found me.
posted by rahulrg at 8:49 AM on January 27, 2011

I am not a great natural communicator (a lot more goes on in my head than I share) and I'm not a good influencer/salesperson, which is pretty important in a corporate setting. And I'm a pretty negative/skeptical/analytical person (note the number of 'nots'!) As you say I think I could learn these things/change certain behaviors, but would it make more sense to just go to an environment where those things aren't so important.

These traits are typical of us introverts. I have experienced similar things in office environments. The more conservative the office, the worse I felt about myself in it. Joining the chorus of "it's not you, it's them."

I'm older than you, and I was able to, over time and trial and error, find jobs that fit me better. The best job for my temperament is one that involves regular contact with people in a casual environment, whether it's office-based or home-based with daily contact with others. I loved working at a progressive non-profit, for example, in their office with their five other employees (I had to leave when I earned out the grant for my position). I loved working as a Census Bureau recruiter, because I set my own hours and daily gave tests to groups of potential employees. Being a freelance journalist was fun because I saw and talked to people on a daily basis, but if I wanted to go home and write until 4 a.m., I could. The single thread uniting those jobs is verbal and written communication (they sound very different on the surface but really all drew on those skills).

I think as long as you find a skill set you can use in jobs that suit your personality, you'll be fine. Even if you're not making a ton of money, your self-esteem will improve when you're doing something you're good at, and others are responding positively.

Also, have you considered being a stay-at-home mom for a little while if you and your partner can afford to? It might be a win-win for all your family members and be very fulfilling for you. My sister is doing that now after 20+ years in the workforce and is very happy.
posted by xenophile at 10:50 AM on January 27, 2011

Two different experiences yet same motivation.

1. I am like you. I'm Mrs 9-5 work for someone. I've worked in medium corporations, very large ones, and agencies (both mid and large). I would say that out of all of them the mid agency was the best environment for me and most of them were either family owned or tight knit family-like thinking. These companies had real parties but also real good work. Corporations are alllllllll about politics and think about it--500+ employees and you are supposed to get along for a common goal? No way. You're there to screw the other person and think about you and only you. If this is not your motivation for getting up in the morning, then you won't fit in. Most recently I've done stellar work and have had 5 managers in the 5 years I've been here only ONE manager was all about supporting his workers, encouraging creativity, trying to give you your time on the stage, giving credit where it's due, standing up for you, etc. And guess what, he got tired of being kicked around and left (leaving me with the crazies). He went to a competitor and...left the crazies there. Good people can't survive so you do your best and bounce around.

2. My husband hates being told what to do even more than me. He's bounced around from minimum wage movers jobs, floor mopping jobs, sales jobs, etc. without a college degree. His last corporate job was in-office sales at a desk for 9-5 with commission and sales goals. I KNEW after 6 months he would be depressed, pissed off, and his performance would turn and in turn he would blame the other guy (not that the company was f-ed up). And it did happen. We have a house. We wanted a child. I told him you know, we can't both be this way and I'm used to 9-5 life. He's not. So I told him to open his own business. Seven years later he's still doing that business even to the point he was doing really well. Then he partnered with someone and the same ol "being told what to do" happened and now they're suing each other.

Short moral of the story--he can only work for one @hole--himself (his words). But it's not easy. He has to deal with stress I don't--collecting pay from clients, pleasing clients, working deals including cutting his profit. But in the end he's way happier than when I tell him "you know either you work harder or get a 2nd job" and the thought of working for someone and all the b.s. (especially when I tell him of how my days go) he says he rather work harder on his time, his hours, and let off steam with the goofball clients. He can actually dump a client if they're total jerks. It's hard but he can do it.

So I guess what I'm saying is there are a lot of us not fitting into the mold type. It's not a bad thing. But if you choose to stay with 9-5 you do have to change YOUR perception of thigns. I did pretty well with blowing off the office politics for five years until it started to be targeted towards me. I went from stellar reviews to "you suck" in one day because the boss changed their tune. Not sure why. Mulled it over and got a migraine. So now the choice it up to me--ignore it, deal with it, and shut up about it, or move on. Like you, I don't "shut up". I've already spoken out once (respectfully) in front of a large group and the manager and well, now I can't get promoted. The games they play are hard. I don't play games and I know I won't do well. I'm either stuck in this position and be happy or want more and get out.

It was smart when a MeFi said work towards your next job. Job hopping isn't as frowned upon as it used to be.

Enjoy your child and congrats. You'll figure it out. In the meantime, perhaps freelance is the way to go. Get in, get out before the politics start, have a good portfolio, bounce around because you're supposed to, and no committed b.s. politics to deal with.

Good luck
posted by stormpooper at 11:28 AM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

A lot of times I do think I should just do something I'm probably overqualified for but I would feel confident and happy doing - but I don't think I could bear the shame of falling short.

Can you explain a little more about what you mean by this? I think this is probably a really core part of the problems you're having, and understanding and moving past this shame will probably be really helpful for you. But I know understanding-and-moving-past-it is easier said than done, and I (and others) may be able to offer more helpful suggestions (and/or been-there-done-that sympathy!) if you can explain a little more about what "the shame of falling short" means to you.
posted by EmilyClimbs at 1:53 PM on January 27, 2011 [1 favorite]

"I take work too personally, care too much and expect too much, of myself and my employer, internalize it all too much"

Your personality may be better suited to self-employment. Your rewards would be much more directly related to your level of passion/involvement, and more aspects of your work would be under your control and thus you will be less frustrated because you have the power to fix/change things as necessary instead of going through proper channels.
posted by Jacqueline at 1:05 AM on January 28, 2011 [1 favorite]

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