Finding the best work situation for a cranky, non-self-starting misanthrope
December 16, 2011 12:04 PM   Subscribe

I'm perpetually anxious and unhappy in my current professional field, and have been trying to transition to a different professional field. However, I'm lately wondering if the problem is really that I'm simply not a professional-type person. Should I give up on the idea of having a "career"? How stupid would this be given, you know, the economy and all that?

I'm a librarian and wannabe professional writer. Thanks to advice I've gotten in previous askmes, I've done informational interviews with two nonprofit communications professionals, and their answers have made it clear how difficult it will be to transition into this crowded field. I'm also now worried that the problems I have with my current job will simply follow me as I try to change careers. Specifically, my problems are: I hate conferences, I hate networking, I hate presentations, I don't do well with brainstorming ideas in teams, or with taking on leadership roles or anything like that. Ugh. The very word "leadership" gives me the willies. So does social media and trying to present a polished image online or in person. Try as I might, I seem incapable of anything but a rumpled, faintly nerdy presence. I also cannot stand sitting at a desk all day. One of the few perks about my current job (other than a decent paycheck) is that I can move around pretty much at will.

And so I'm wondering if I should give up on the rat race and join the ranks of...whatever non-professional job I can find. I was actually somewhat inspired by this answer to someone else's askme. Like, maybe I could find a retail or bakery job somewhere and accept money worries as the replacement for my professional worries? I only really shine in a work-related capacity when someone gives me a very specific set of parameters for a job they need done, then leaves me to do it. I may get bored, but that would be better than the combination of boredom and gut-churning anxiety I currently feel. What I would hope is that taking away work anxiety would allow me to chill out sufficiently in my personal life so that I could pursue my art and writing hobbies, which are what I truly care about.

I wouldn't quit tomorrow, but only after securing some type of downgraded employment somewhere, and possibly accumulating a nice savings. But I worry that I'm underestimating the brutality of life without enough money. This was a fairly common state of affairs for me up until about 5 years ago, and I used to deal with it by running up student loans and credit card debt. This is no longer an option. Plus, the economy was pretty fantastic all throughout my misspent youth, and that is no longer the case.

Thanks for any advice you have, be it of the cautionary variety or otherwise.
posted by indognito to Work & Money (38 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
But I worry that I'm underestimating the brutality of life without enough money.

Retail/bakery work is going to be $8-$12 dollars an hour most places, and you may not be able to get full time work doing a lot of those sorts of jobs (often deliberately so businesses can avoid paying extra for you).

If I were you I would calculate what my monthly take-home pay would be at $8-$12 per hour and then really try to live on that for a month or two. Can you do it? Are you happy?
posted by cairdeas at 12:16 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


But I worry that I'm underestimating the brutality of life without enough money.
I think this is probably the case.

While being miserable about your professional life sucks, not having money has a big chance of making you miserable about your entire life. Don't have money to get your car fixed and can't get to work? Hey, you're fired! Get really sick and don't have health insurance? Now you're 20k in debt. Oh, and also you got fired because your sick leave ran out and your position wasn't covered under FMLA. And don't think you won't have job worries working a low-level job. Maybe your bakery boss is an asshole, or you work in retail and they're cutting your hours at Christmas and giving them all to high school kids who get paid slightly less.
posted by ghharr at 12:19 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


One of the few perks about my current job (other than a decent paycheck) is that I can move around pretty much at will.

No matter what you wind up doing, don't sell yourself short on this issue. I don't think that most non-professional jobs will allow you to do this, unless you pick up a trade (which to me is "professional," just not of the white-collar variety).
posted by Currer Belfry at 12:21 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I only really shine in a work-related capacity when someone gives me a very specific set of parameters for a job they need done, then leaves me to do it.

Also, in a lot of low-level jobs, you're treated in pretty much the opposite way to this. Someone gives you a specific set of parameters, and then someone micromanages you to the gills on them, critiques you harshly for inane things, gives you inadequate instructions and then blames you when things don't come out right, blames you for things that were their fault or you couldn't possibly have known about, etc.

You don't get more autonomy generally, you get less. You don't get more freedom, you get less. You aren't trusted more, you are trusted less. You aren't respected more, you are respected way, way, way less. Do you want to go back to needing permission to use the bathroom? Being criticized arbitrarily over how you've folded something?

One of the strangest things I ever leaned in my life when I began working is that the more people pay you, the more they respect you, and the less people pay you, the less they respect you.
posted by cairdeas at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [27 favorites]


My experience is that disaffected white-collar professionals tend to over-romanticize blue collar work. I used to have a similar escape fantasy of running a bakery; then I met an actual baker. He was miserable.

You hate to say "suck it up", but sometimes even bakers have to be leaders, have to meet other bakers, have to talk to groups of staff (aka give presentations). You aren't going to get away from the pressures of being an adult, even by accepting dramatically less pay and much harder working conditions.
posted by downing street memo at 12:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [4 favorites]


Is it possible you may be in the wrong part of librarianship and might be happier in a less networking-heavy part of the job like tech services or circulation or smaller public libraries? It sounds like you're at a bigger library and it's a place where there is a lot of emphasis on social media and presenting stuff. That's the sort of thing I do and I like it but there are many many libraries where this is not at all a required part of the work you do. And depending how you feel about working with the public, you might like something more routine but also detail oriented like working with circulation stuff, or serials, or even in tech services. You'd still get to use your professional skills but maybe not in a direction that you don't personally like.

There are many different sorts of libraries and I know a lot of nice rumpled and nerdy librarians who are happy and content in their jobs and don't feel the pressures that you feel. Keep in mind that the holidays make everyone crazy and contemplating big big changes, so I'd set yourself up some goals for the next month or two [exploring other opportunities in your current workplace if there are any, looking into other professional jobs in different workplaces, maybe looking into what else is local if you're not mobile] and giving yourself an excuse to chill out at your job, say "it's not for me and that's okay" but still be able to get to work and do your job while you're making other plans.

I'd also look into doing some writing while you're doing this. There are a few decent opportunities for writing for professional level publications [Computers in Libraries, for example, is always looking for decently written "How we did something at my workplace" types of things and your local library organization may also have a publication and appreciate some fresh content] and that helps you get to know people without doing noxious empty networking. And lastly make sure you're treating your anxiety so that you can figure out what's your nervous mind agitating and what's a real thing that is a problem. So, get exercise, eat well enough, keep the caffeine intake somewhat level and make a 1-3 month plan for investigating options and check in with yourself in the new year. Best of luck.
posted by jessamyn at 12:29 PM on December 16, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am a professional writer at a university. Have you considered development (fundraising)? I see from your previous question that you asked about grantwriting, but development goes beyond that and actually focuses mainly on individual givers. Writing jobs are generally hard to get in this economy (or any time), but development is doing well as a field and there are openings for writers.

Feel free to PM me if you'd like to chat about it. Also, agreeing w/everyone else that you shouldn't sell yourself short.
posted by dovesandstones at 12:38 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Something actually just occurred to me:

Finding the best work situation for a cranky, non-self-starting misanthrope

My cousin is a cranky, non-self-starting misanthrope. Seriously. He moved out of his mom's house in his teens because he hated his stepdad, and got a job stocking a supermarket overnight because he "didn't want to deal with any people".

He said he gets along with the people who stock the supermarket overnight with him because they're "on his wavelength" and won't care if he's in a bad mood.

He is now in his mid-20s with the same job. He has his own studio, but doesn't have a car because he says it's a waste of money -- he walks everywhere. He says he has enough money to do everything he wants (but what he wants is to watch a lot of anime videos and play MMORPGs by himself in his studio -- not activities that cost very much).

I am not joking with this, if you really want a low-level job where you're left mainly to yourself and don't really have to interact with people, overnight stocking work may work for you.
posted by cairdeas at 12:43 PM on December 16, 2011


I've worked in blue-collar minimum-wage type jobs for about 10 years before I became a librarian.

Pros of blue-collar minimum-wage type jobs:
* No internal stress. If I didn't make a perfect latte or whatever, I wasn't so invested in it that it felt like a reflection of my personal shortcomings.

* They can be pretty easy to come by, especially if you present yourself well in interviews.

* You may get to goof off with your co-workers.

* Free food, etc if you work in food service (depends on the place, of course).

Cons:
* Money. Have you been uninsured for any length of time? Have you had to rely on clinics and prayer for your medical needs? It's stressful. Also: you get to live on ramen, cut out any excess expenses, sell your car, get a roommate, etc. Living on very little can be done, but if you're accustomed to being able to go out to eat, it will be a huge adjustment (but: I was living below the poverty level for most of my blue-collar time. My dad has a blue-collar job and can afford to go out to eat, so one does not automatically mean the other. Just my experience).

* I often had to take 2 part-time jobs because employers then don't have to pay insurance. The extra time commuting and remembering schedules sucked.

* Are you working with customers? They tended to treat me badly (get snotty, condescending, etc). I have almost never had that problem in libraries, so I think it's a matter of my position, not demeanor.


Personally, my stress comes from feeling invested in my profession. Before, stress came from feeling devalued by my employer.
posted by sugarbomb at 1:03 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you ever had a retail/food industry job? These jobs can get pretty annoying and much more stressful than interacting with people in a professional environment - mostly because your supervisors will not always have the most professional attitude. You will also likely be working with high school/college students who do not take the job seriously(I know this because I worked these jobs as a high school/college student) You will also be nit-picked for things that seem stupid. Since I was working these jobs as a student I wasn't too stressed and was working with other students who were on a similar job stress level. I can't imagine having to take a retail job seriously and rely on it to live.

That said, I think there are other jobs you could get that wouldn't force you to network and interact so much, but I don't think retail will give you what you are looking for.

Not to mention, the retail jobs I had forced us to interact with customers in ways I considered obnoxious like made us badger customers about things like credit cards or up-selling - I didn't bother with any of this because ultimately I didn't care if not doing these affected my performance review, but if I were doing it as a Real Job I would have had to. When I actually had to do this stuff, maybe because my boss was nearby, I always had the urge to apologize to customers because I felt so obnoxious even though I was just doing my job.

All of that plus you will be perpetually low on money unless you have alternate means of support? No thanks.
posted by fromageball at 1:15 PM on December 16, 2011


Are you sure it's your job? Do you like being a misanthrope? Or would you like to change? Life is easier when you like people and learn to get along with them.
posted by anniecat at 1:21 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


in addition to the points mentioned above one of the downsides of retail is the crappy unpredictable hours. Depending on the type of store you could be scheduled anywhere from 9am to 9pm any day of the week with about a weeks notice. That can make scheduling the rest of your life quite difficult especially if your manager is too busy to pay attention to requests for time off that you submit weeks in advance.
posted by oneear at 1:23 PM on December 16, 2011


I thought I wanted to do the blue collar thing, to leave work at work, no responsibility, etc. I wrapped burritos for $9/hr - and it sucked. Life in America with benefits can be very, very stressful and difficult, and I can almost guarantee you that a bakery gig or retail gig will not give you health insurance (exceptions for sure). There is something romantic about being a baker, but from the bakers I've known, and from my time as a pastry icer back in the day, it is romantic in idea only and sucks in reality.

I work as a professional writer in a development capacity now, and it also isn't great. That said, I've come to realize I just don't like working all that much. I will say that if you don't like sitting at a desk, going to conferences, all of that stuff, writing gigs at non-profits are not going to come as any great relief to you.

For what it's worth, I've always had romantic ideas about becoming a librarian (the job market scares me off). So, grass is always greener, etc.
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:36 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


*without benefits
posted by Lutoslawski at 1:37 PM on December 16, 2011


It's not even 9am-9pm in retail; it's more like 7am-11pm if you want to get any hours at all.

I know some people who've gone from teaching or social work to retail and like it, but my impression is that they found the right niche and also lucked into the jobs they got. One guy took a job at Costco as a stopgap and is now some kind of a department manager at the store level and says he's very happy with it. But Costco is a famously good place to work with decent pay and fantastic health insurance. And he got in before the economy really crashed. At this point I think there are a lot of very capable people who would kill for any kind of full-time retail job with benefits.
posted by BibiRose at 1:44 PM on December 16, 2011


My baker friend loves it.
posted by steinsaltz at 1:48 PM on December 16, 2011


It might be easier to reconfigure your job so that it has fewer situations where you're being socially exhausted, and to train yourself so that you are less exhausted and irritated by day-to-day interactions with coworkers and colleagues.

Your complains are about: conferences, networking, presentations, brainstorming ideas in teams, and taking on leadership roles. Can you change your job description so that you have to do less of this? Can you get involved in activities where the sorts of social responsibilities you do have are less painful?
posted by deanc at 1:52 PM on December 16, 2011


You sound like an engineer to me.
posted by fshgrl at 2:10 PM on December 16, 2011


I worked retail in the dismal years right after college when the economy was just beginning to tank. I haaaaaated every minute of it. It was physically exhausting, low paying, and being paid to smile and serve people who frequently made it clear how little they respected me took a big emotional toll.

A successful "retail lifer" worked in my store. She was in her late 40s, early 50s and had worked various retail jobs forever, even while she raised her daughter. She mostly worked in more high end places like fancy furniture stores and kitchen stores, so we're not talking stocking shelves at Walmart.

What she liked about her life: When she when she went home at night, no job stress came with her. If there was something about the routine or people at a store she didn't like, she had enough experience that she could go somewhere else pretty easily. She felt like she had a lot of job security. There will always be stores. The same cannot be said of, for example, tech startups.

What she didn't like about her job: The expense of buying her own heath insurance was huge. Generally, she didn't make quite enough money and knew she'd basically hit her pay ceiling. Medical or dental stuff or work on her house and car frequently had to be put off while she saved up. Because she didn't have enough money to have savings, she basically knew she'd have to work forever, and worried about what she'd do when she was older and not physically up to it anymore. She didn't like having managers who were younger and less experienced, but more go-getterish and butt-kissy than she was.

On the whole, though, she was basically content. She It made me realize that even though it wasn't the life for me, I could see where it suited other people well enough.

Flash forward to last Christmas. I'm in Target, and I run in to her. The store we'd worked at together had closed, and she'd had a hard time finding a new gig. With the economy tanking and people being laid off, suddenly the pool of people wanting to work retail was big and competitive. She was lucky to find temporary holiday hours at Target. She was depressed, scared, and miserable with no plan for the future.

Which is a long way of saying, there's trade-offs for everything. When I started my (rather stressful) current job, I'd sometimes remember my retail days with something almost like fondness. I could suddenly understand the appeal of a gig where you don't take your duties and work stress home with you. But really, particularly in these economic conditions, a stable job with a regular, salaried paycheck and benefits is unbelievably valuable.

I've experienced the brutality of life without money on more than once occasion, and really, until you live it you really cannot conceive of what stress really is. Being poor in a prosperous country is truly terrible. It sounds to me like maybe you think about ways to make the other aspects of your life as happy and fulfilling as possible and be thankful for your economic stability.
posted by mostlymartha at 2:26 PM on December 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


How long have you been working your current job? It's normal to be anxious and unhappy in your job if you've been working it for under 3 years, especially if it's your first professional job. White collar work takes getting used to, if it requires any degree of skill. That's one of the reasons it's high-status and high-paying; it generally requires skills that takes time and determination to master. You are not going to escape that in any profession worth doing.
posted by sid at 3:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think this is black and white thinking. I am sure there is so much gray area. I agree with trying a smaller organization, or getting a job similar to what you do, but with slightly different responsibilities. I would start looking for things that suit you, but don't necessarily have the climbing the corporate ladder aspect to is. Steady and secure. You don't need to drop down to the fast food jobs, but maybe just a step down or sideways in your own job.
posted by Vaike at 3:34 PM on December 16, 2011


Sorry, I meant to add, that the upshot of this is that your job will become much 'easier' and more satisfying about five years in, once you've gotten the hang of it. You will then have a set of skills that will be useful for the rest of your life. Five years in retail will mean you're still competing for jobs with all the fresh meat out there, still with the same earnings prospects, poor job security, crap benefits, and lack of respect from your employer and society at large.
posted by sid at 3:55 PM on December 16, 2011


Thank you, everyone, for your answers. I think the consensus is that it would be rather foolish to dump a reasonably well-paying and not-horrifically-unbearable job for something low-wage. While this may be true, unfortunately it's exactly the sort of thinking that has kept me festering where I'm at for the last 10 years. Any sort of career change or lateral move in my own field would call upon all those professional and social skills I feel really uncomfortable with, such as networking, interviewing, etc. etc. Gah! Stupid economy! Well, thanks again. I appreciate all of your suggestions, stories and warnings.
posted by indognito at 3:57 PM on December 16, 2011


Oh yeah, sid, I've actually been at it for about a decade now! Perhaps a sign that I'm really not in the right field (or possibly the wrong branch of the right field).
posted by indognito at 3:58 PM on December 16, 2011


Oh man, I'm full of empathy for your situation. For mine is quite similar.

When I was still stuck in retail, I spent all my spare time volunteering at a state science museum, hoping I could snag a position there. And I did, as a sort of volunteer coordinator/docent/animal feeder/secretary. I felt like I could do the museum thing for a career, I was so happy

For a while, the job fulfilled several of the items on your wish list -- reasonably solid work parameters, a fair amount of autonomy, acceptance of an unpolished/unique appearance, and the meetings were fine. The pay was truly terrible, though.

Then I got a new boss, and it was clear from the get-go that all of that was out the window. My job expectations because bizarre and arbitrary. No more autonomy. My appearance became a topic of discussion, despite that I put effort into looking presentable and she worked in sweatpants. The job I had loved turned into a continual, painful frustration -- and I wasn't even getting paid a living wage to make it all worth it!

My boss didn't renew my contract, and she went about it in the sneakiest, ickiest way. (Letting me go on a required month off, promising me my job would still be around, and then calling me two weeks in to say "it's nothing you did, you're just not happy here, and this is a starter job anyway, so now you're free to do what you really want!" Yeah.) I've been on unemployment for seven months.

So what I'm trying to say is: It's not worth it to leave a solid job to pursue the hope of a job that may not exist, and may cease to exist the moment you get a new overlord.
posted by Coatlicue at 4:29 PM on December 16, 2011


I hate conferences, I hate networking, I hate presentations, I don't do well with brainstorming ideas in teams, or with taking on leadership roles or anything like that.

Hmm, I'm going to go with jessamyn on this and vote 'wrong branch of the right field.'

I work with ref librarians who don't go to conferences, don't really network, don't work well on teams at all, and don't take on leadership roles. That's all fine. The presentation/instruction part is kind of essential, though. If the thought of being 'on stage' gives you the creepy crawlies, front-line work isn't for you.

There's plenty of really awesome (academic) jobs which don't require a lot of public face time. Whether the position is digital/metadata librarian, electronic resources librarian (does require phone time with vendors), serials librarian, flat-out tech services librarian (are you more detail oriented than a typical ref librarian?), or inter-library loan librarian, they're all automatically less face time than a reference or outreach librarian.

I see that you work in a public library doing reference. That's probably the worst possible place in librarianship for you! Public libraries all too often have the expectation that you'll move up in branch manager and other leadership type positions after a while, regardless of your interest and capacity for such work, and reference work doesn't sound like the best area of fit for you at all.

I would definitely suggest looking to jump into academic libraries, maybe through a community college or for-profit university. Possibly the easier area to do that in is tech services (if you want to drop ref, of course) and what with the RDA stuff coming down the pike, now isn't the worst time to jump. At the very least, give it one more shot before writing off the MLIS!
posted by librarylis at 4:41 PM on December 16, 2011


If you are willing to take a bit of a pay cut, and really want a job where you are told very specifically what to do when, and don't have to take on a leadership role, sit in a chair all day, and give powerpoint presentations, have you considered the military? On the other hand, you might have to actually kill people, which would be a dealbreaker for me.

Another possibility if it's the "being left alone" bit that appeals to you, would be to look for a job as a live-in caretaker of some sort. E.g. a groundsperson on a large estate, a caretaker on an island somewhere, a gardener, a cook, a live-in supervisor at a student hall of residence...? In all these cases you have some of the features of the blue collar work you are considering, without so much of the money problem, since your board is usually provided, and your (admittedly small) wages can go entirely to other living expenses.
posted by lollusc at 4:47 PM on December 16, 2011


You are me, but only 4 years ago. I had a pretty cushy white collar livelihood in the legal realm working on the 46th floor of a nice office. I eventually tired of my position, the stresses, the silliness of it all and decided that baking was for me. My boss was accommodating enough to allow me to go to baking class in the AM and work afterward so long as my projects did not fall behind. Suffice to say, I finished class, married, and started working as a baker.

I baked at one place for a year and was eventually pulled to bake at a larger restaurant with a title of 'manager." I am now back the legal realm. Let me tell you why:

It's a nice fantasy - no really! You get to go in and do what you love day and day out. That is, until your days start to mimic each other. Now you are baking bagels (or, insert task here depending on the blue collar field you decided to enter into) every. single. day (possibly at 5am).

So let's say you are really great at what you do. In white collar world, you may get a promotion with added pay or benefits. In blue collar world (in my experience, YMMV) you just get more responsibilities.

In my experience, in moving restaurants, I made $37,000 (which is not a lot, even where I live, after proving myself). I was looked down upon by my managers because I was hovering between 40-45 clocked-in hours a week (many days starting at 4:30am and a sizable amount of off the cock work at home).

For reasons not relating time spent working, but rather, in addition to, i became incredibly unhappy. People were breathing down my neck more fiercely than when i was being coddled in my law job. The physical intensity of the labor was a hurdle to overcome; never ever doubt that standing for 8+ hours a day is an easy fete, even while wearing appropriate shoes and standing on stress relief mats.

Anyway, what I am saying is, I romanticized the blue collar work I entered into. But now I am back in the legal realm and so so relieved and happy. BUT I am happy to have experienced both sides to know I am not missing out on anything. Give it a go if you can. you will always be able to retain the skills you currently have, OR get a part time gig and see how it goes.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 5:25 PM on December 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can't see a misanthrope being happy at a retail job unless that person is also a masochist.
posted by devymetal at 7:28 PM on December 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why do you need to self-identify as a cranky misanthrope?

At my current job it's frequently expected that I get tasks done pretty fast even if they are out of my comfort zone (eg, asking/badgering other team members for their work). I have found it is really helpful to occasionally have these moments where there is no time to get stuck on "I hate this/I hate people/I can't do this." Just saying, maybe you are needlessly limiting how well you can handle your job or what you can do in other jobs by getting too hung up on this rather negative idea of yourself and what you hate. I even find the writers I admire are endlessly curious about the world and don't waste time on what they hate.
posted by citron at 8:18 PM on December 16, 2011


another of my left field suggestions, and it's quite possible that this wouldn't work out for you personally. but... trades? carpentry, plumbing, electrician? good pay, no networking. i've worked in several fields over the years (retail, construction, IT, musician, overseas entrepreneur) and construction, though it's in my past, still holds an allure for me. lots of job satisfaction, very decent money, low stress, and basically working out 8-10 hours a day for a living, which honestly felt GOOD. and this is coming from a non-athletic geek who went into trades after a retail job (ie i wasn't in any way a strong, fit athletic type when i started. but i was after a year at it!)

granted now probably isn't the time to quit your job and find a new one in a new field, given the economy and everything. but perhaps you could sign up for, say, night classes aimed at becoming a certified electrician in a year or two? brainwork, no office politics, $23.98/hour.
posted by messiahwannabe at 8:34 PM on December 16, 2011


I am not joking with this, if you really want a low-level job where you're left mainly to yourself and don't really have to interact with people, overnight stocking work may work for you.

This.

I'm an introvert that just wants a straight-forward task (or list of tasks, specifically if I can see some sort of progress from the work) and wants to get it done so long as I have my space and so long as you don't treat me like a child. A little bit of change in the routine would be nice too.

During some downtime between jobs I randomly got a gig working the graveyard stocking crew at Toys 'R Us and it was honestly pretty damn fun and I kinda miss it (perhaps I struck gold here, but don't ruin my fantasy). I'm so accustomed to working jobs that require a lot of strategic thinking, it was nice to do something that let me take my mind back while keeping me physically fit.

The people that worked there were really fascinating individuals who had overcome a lot of obstacles and were working such a shift in order to get by. It was nearly impossible to screw up making sure you unloaded everything and it was up and off the floor by 8am. You were usually 20+ feet away from someone at any given time. You would get into grooves, but every day was different enough to be interesting.

The turnover rate given the hours was understandable, and I myself only stayed there for a few months because it was nearly impossible to balance everything I wanted to do. After working the 8-12 hours no one else works, 4-7 days in a row, you kind of just drop off the face of the planet. I found myself staying awake for 48 hours regularly and once 72 over 3 shifts (don't do this) just to hang out with friends.

Another downside was that you were usually there when doors opened in the morning so there was still a 'dress code' and the eager beaver parents or grandparents were going to find you and sometimes ask you a question you weren't trained or knowledgeable enough about that week's sales to answer. It wasn't terrible by any means, but I'm just really not a people person, so that was the most stressful part for me.

That said, if what you want to do is write, a job like this will give you a lot of time to spend in your head. Our schedule was usually 2-3 days off after 3-4 working days working, and sometimes we'd even have 4-5 days off so you could really get into the thick of it while having a job that paid sufficiently enough (13-15/hr), given the hours.

I'm still trying to figure out the chemistry behind a productive flow and what scenarios I work best under, and I doubt I will ever stop, so don't feel overwhelmed; most of us are trying to sort it out too! Best of luck :)
posted by june made him a gemini at 10:53 PM on December 16, 2011


Wow, thanks again, everyone, for your thoughtful answers. If anyone's still reading, I guess I should clarify that I'm aware that *most* people hate things like networking and public speaking and whatnot. I believe, though, that through a combination of life experiences and genetics, that I'm actually worse at these things than most people. I'm the only person in my extended family to hold a white collar job. I have ADHD and often lack judgment (not for lack of trying). I guess if I had included this in my original question, I might have gotten some different answers!

But I appreciate your responses. Jessamyn and librarylis, thanks for your suggestions that I'm possibly in the wrong branch of librarianship. Thanks to all of the issues I've mentioned above, I haven't done a whole lot of networking outside of my library and so really don't know what's out there. And I would LOVE to be an overnight stocker or night watchperson or what-have-you. That's sort of a fantasy that I haven't even begun to try to translate into reality, though, because I have sleep issues to begin with. Too bad there isn't a such thing anymore as lighthouse-keeper. And I can't even tell you the times that I've wished I were a mechanically-minded person rather than an artsy-fartsy one, because all of those fields like computers or engineering or the trades seem tailor-made for someone like me (i.e. not big on social graces).

I know I'm sounding like a yes-butter, here, but will take your responses and mull on them over the holidays...thanks again everyone!
posted by indognito at 4:39 AM on December 17, 2011


And I can't even tell you the times that I've wished I were a mechanically-minded person rather than an artsy-fartsy one, because all of those fields like computers or engineering or the trades seem tailor-made for someone like me (i.e. not big on social graces).

There may be different standards for social graces there, yes, but there are still expectations of working in teams, collaborating, assuming "leadership" in tasks, and many of those other things that drive you crazy.

As I alluded to before, getting better treatment for ADHD, reconfiguring your job to reduce the unpleasant aspects of it, and learning to handle the occasional networking and teamwork better will be a LOT easier than trying to live on a graveyard shift retail stocking job.
posted by deanc at 5:36 AM on December 17, 2011


Hey indognito...as the originator of the comment you linked, I want to elaborate on my situation as someone who went from office to food service.

Some stuff you may find relevant:

- I had an S.O. who was also had a job and wasn't making a huge amount of money, but we had always lived simply and cheaply so transition to minimum wage work wasn't so bad. I did have to start budgeting more rigorously though. If you aren't used to living life as an ascetic (which I've been accused of even during the times in my life when I was making bank), I can't imagine it will be an easy transition. And yes, this was all during boom times, when getting a job wasn't such an issue (and food and gas prices were cheaper.)

- The service work I do now pays more than any office job I've ever had. But that's me. You sound like you have a considerably higher paying office job with many more career opportunities, so there's that! The jobs I had were with small companies in a small town...there wasn't really somewhere new and different I could "go" with my career.

If there is a way for you to go part time or reduce your hours, and find another part time gig as doing something else, I'd go for that option. Is going part time a viable option in your industry?
I've found I can almost tolerate almost any job if I'm working 30 hours a week as opposed to 40. Or course that may affect any health benefits and such that you may receive already.

Either way, best of luck to you.

Oh, one thing to remember is that networking is a requirement that nearly all jobs demand, whether it is officially recognized or not. Wherever you work (flipping burgers or fixing cars), you're making an impression on people, and should one's job disappear or another opportunity arise, most leads arise word-of-mouth from people you know. I'm wondering if maybe you might want to join your local Toastmasters to see if you can derive any pleasure from interacting and speaking to people in a professional way, a fear to be conquered and a skill to be mastered, instead of something to be avoided. You may find you enjoy giving presentations more than you think.

One thing I appreciated about my service jobs were that they threw me into a setting where I had to talk to people, in all sorts of situations, no matter what. And trust me, it's not something that I ever WANTED to do. And my former white collar jobs allowed me to run and hide 50% of the time. But I'm very glad I had to do it, come hell or highwater. You say you hate presentations and networking and brainstorming in teams...maybe you could take this as an opportunity or wakeup call to do something in your job that challenges you. That thing you actively hate because it makes you anxious or you just have "never liked it" can sometimes provide a wonderful source of enjoyment when you find yourself starting to climb its skill ladder.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:53 PM on December 17, 2011


Hey, The___of Justice, thanks for weighing in! Those are all interesting thoughts. I already do work public service and don't mind it. I guess what I dislike at my library is the expectation that I do things above and beyond the basic "helping people at the reference desk"--things like leading teams, presenting at conferences, being the person in charge when the library catches on fire or the angry guy off his meds goes on a rampage. I have a fantasy that I could hide from all that, if only I could find a way to take a step down. But of course, every situation presents its own fun and unique set of challenges. Alas.
posted by indognito at 6:36 AM on December 18, 2011


That's pretty hilarious, actually. Sounds like your adventures would make a good webcomic.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:49 PM on December 18, 2011


Late to the party as always - I was searching for a similar question and came across yours.

Farming might work for you...rumpled is expected (along with muddy), and you'll never sit on the job again. Apprenticeships are the usual entry point for small organic/sustainable farms. Usually these are held by folks in their 20s, but I've met some 30something farm apprentices and a good deal of folks new to the business who are in their 40s. ATTRA is the place to start.

Money will always be an issue. Farmers with really good CSAs seem to get by, usually in the same range of income as some public librarians I know (about $28-35K/year). Health insurance is an issue...perhaps consider Vermont or Massachusetts for the healthcare alone (although land is expensive).
posted by brackish.line at 9:15 AM on March 2, 2012


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