It's both me and the job, help me fix both.
November 19, 2012 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Nearly everything I liked about my current job has evaporated, and I am left with stress and anxiety. In addition, I've always been indecisive about what my career should be. At this point should I try to build a career at my current company or leave and try something else?

I've been a part of my company for over 5 years and a part of the IT department for the last 3. I've been in the same position in IT (help desk), and I'm tired of it. Throughout the last few months I've tried to reignite interest in my work by trying harder, taking more ownership for my assignments and applying for new positions, but nothing seems to stick. The same typical boom-bust cycle develops:
  1. I tell myself to do better and focus on one or two aspects of the job. For example, I tell myself to improve the way I talk to people on the phone, or I try to keep up to date on emails, or I try to track tickets better.
  2. I work on this for a couple of weeks to a month and manage to catch up or even get ahead.
  3. I face a small setback. Either I slip up and/or my boss calls me on it, and I get a bit anxious about what I'm doing.
  4. I slack off/disengage, get behind, and just call it a good day if I can sit still and take the calls I need to take.
And the cycle repeats. And this rut seems to be the result of a few different problems all happening around the same time. The first is that the job is getting more difficult. A lot of things are changing in our department and we're being asked to do more with about the same pay.

The second is I don't like the people I work with anymore. A big reason I decided to work in IT was because I enjoyed the people I work with. In fact, sometimes I think they don't like me at all or think I'm weird, which feeds into the feeling that I'm never going to get promoted. My opinion of my supervisor has especially changed this year. He now sends out frequent emails criticizing people for their work. There are no names mentioned, but it doesn't feel good to be the example he uses. Sometimes I feel he throws people under the bus. Other times I feel that I'm being overly defensive and petty, that I should be able to take this criticism.

I'm starting to show signs of stress including gnashing my teeth in my sleep and just staying up late browsing the Internet. It's only recently that I've actually started admitting that there is something wrong with me (either stress, anxiety, or maybe even depression) and I hope to get help for it from the company's employee assistance program. I also have been dieting and exercising for the last couple of weeks with some modest success. For this year I've tried to apply for a couple of positions in my company, but was not successful. I took the Johnson O'Connor test, and found out I had tested well in a few aptitudes (divergent thinking, convergent thinking, spatial, numerical, memory, finger dexterity, vocabulary) but nothing seemed to jump out at me. I was studying for a basic IT certification exam in May pretty intensely, but lost motivation and have delayed the test repeatedly.

The big thing is I still don't know what I want to do with my life. This company was the first to offer me a job and I joined five years ago because it was a bad economy and I felt I was lucky to have a job. Not knowing what to do with my life has kept me on the merry-go-round decision of whether I should double down in this job in order to get promoted into something I probably won't like OR if I should just get out and get another job. I've been passive with my career since graduation, thinking that something will come along. But it hasn't and now I feel stuck and very vulnerable.

The thing is I don't need the money from work. I have enough saved to remain unemployed for a long time, and I make peanuts anyways. A part of me would be hugely relieved to quit and not have to deal with the constant barrage of problems, emails, and co-workers. But a part of me wants to tough it out and prove it to myself and my coworkers that I still got it. I mean, there are annoyances with all jobs and by just getting another one doesn't mean I wouldn't have to deal with email for example. Maybe, like this Study Hacks article is saying, I'm approaching things with the wrong mindset. I don't know what I'm doing, so I'm not sure I would be able to find a better job for myself.

For these last couple of weeks I've been in a better mood than I have been in a long time. I want to ask this question before I lose my nerve or I enter a bad mood. Thanks for AskMe for providing this place, and I will be grateful to anyone that even reads this.

Throwaway email account would be
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have a solution for you. But one piece of advice I've found very valuable:

You don't have to decide what you're going to do for the rest of your life. You just have to decide what you're going to do next.
posted by Lady Li at 6:54 PM on November 19, 2012 [9 favorites]

Not having read more than your front page blurb, get out.

Having read the rest, get out. Very few people know what they want to be when they grow up. Most of us never do. Just find the *next* thing you're gonna do for a living. You're not gonna "prove" to your coworkers.
posted by notsnot at 7:01 PM on November 19, 2012 [3 favorites]


You desperately want out, so get out. It's clearly time for something new. Go do something new.

Rereading your post, I mean, it doesn't even seem like you're getting anything out of this job (and there's no prospect of that). You're only getting a paycheck. So, if you can get one elsewhere, and that elsewhere may be more tolerable, go.
posted by J. Wilson at 7:22 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

Why don't you start by looking around the company for a job you'd actually like to have, whether you're qualified or not? If you find one, then you can see if you're qualified, and if so, go for it. If not, then you have to move on to be happy, but at least you tried.
posted by davejay at 7:34 PM on November 19, 2012

I agree with davejay, except I would expand your search beyond your company. 5 years is a good length of time to stay with 1 company and 3 years is a good length of time to stay in 1 position. Go see if the grass is greener on the other side of the fence -- it can't hurt and might help.
posted by elmay at 7:47 PM on November 19, 2012

Yeah, if you can live off your savings for a while, quit and do just that. The mental space that will be freed up by not worrying about your coworkers or your boss or whether things will get worse will help you figure out what you want to do next. You'll be better able to make good decisions without all that stress.
posted by Angharad at 7:58 PM on November 19, 2012

I recommend career counselors a lot. A good one can be so helpful. Membership in the National Career Development Association is a good sign that a career counselor is likely to be on top of the latest resources and data.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:12 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

It doesn't sound so much like you don't like what you do (IT) but it's the environment and people you work with that are causing you to feel very anxious and unhappy. You aren't very motivated to get a new job and I am guessing it is because you believe people tend to be the same everywhere and therefore you won't be gaining much by leaving your current company? I would agree with that to a point. Here's the thing: you can have a room full of easy going, likable people, but put one asshole in the mix and it changes everything. A workplace asshole has the ability to make a lot of people hate their job, but in reality they just hate that asshole and the rippling affect of their asshole presence. When I started a new job last year, a couple of people (one being a manager) were pretty vocal about how fucked up the company is, how management sucks, and they really tore into a few people personally, etc. Well, after a few months I realized that these two people, especially the manager, were the source of a lot of conflict in the company. So, rather than being the victims of a shitty environment, they were actually the perpetrators. I got to know the people that these two criticized incessantly and found them to be quite normal and non-drama oriented. Most people in the small company are normal and nice, but if one were to listen to these two assholes one would think the whole company was a fucked up nightmare. I believe these two are immature and don't know how to take responsibility for their happiness so they commiserate and blame, and really just live in a fantasy world where they are victims and have a field day wreaking havoc on the work environment for their own gain. Anyway, I guess my point is that it may be a good idea to pinpoint the person/people who are creating a bad vibe and isolate them from everyone else in your mind. You will then be able to compartmentalize their negative effect. This will help you realize that the company is not necessarily bad, most people are good, and changing companies will not be necessary. Given that it's your boss who is giving an negative vibe, at least knowing that he is one person and not the whole company might help you not feel overwhelmed.
posted by waving at 3:32 AM on November 20, 2012

I agree with everyone here that you should leave. Personally, though, I'd really recommend using your free time now to think about what you'd rather do and find a new job. I just find it stressful to live off savings (perhaps you wouldn't), and it's also usually easier to get hired when you still have a job. In terms of figuring out what you might like to do, is it that you don't like the type of work you're doing, or just that you don't like the people you work with?
posted by three_red_balloons at 6:05 AM on November 20, 2012

While looking for a new job, don't take your current job so much to heart.

Do just enough to keep them off your back, but stop killing yourself to be perfect in it.

Your boss sounds like an ass. You can't please him, don't try.

Write a list of things at work that are important to you:

1. Nice co-workers
2. Excellent benefits
3. Comfortable desk/chair/cube
4. Easy Commute

Whatever floats into your brain. Don't focus so hard on titles, when you look for jobs, focus on function.

Tighten up your resume, but make it fluid enough to customize for each job you're applying for.

For sure, apply for jobs within your current company, but search everywhere.

The world is your oyster. You don't have to settle.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm starting to show signs of stress including gnashing my teeth in my sleep

Yes, look for a new job and don't stress on what to do for the Rest of Your Life too much. But do, before you quite your job and maybe lose your dental coverage, get a mouth guard for your teeth. You will not regret this if you've been grinding your teeth at night.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:58 PM on November 20, 2012

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