It's not you, it's me working for you
January 6, 2013 9:34 AM   Subscribe

How can you tell when it's you or the job?

I'm about four months into my first real professional career job (previously I've worked varying levels of service jobs) and I'm immensely dissatisfied. I've been suffering from a bit of seasonal depression, though, and I can't tell how much of my dissatisfaction is based in my depression or based in the actual work & workplace. My instinct is to get out of this job and find something else, but I'm worried that if it's just me, I'm never going to find a job that satisfies me, and that picking up and running every time I'm dissatisfied is going to hurt my long-term career returns.

What sort of objective factors do you look at when you evaluate how satisfying your workplace is?
posted by girih knot to Work & Money (16 answers total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
Wait a year. Unless there's something truly heinous about the job (abusive boss, totally bad fit, terrible coworkers), it can take up to a year to get into the swing of things. Four months is just about enough time to feel like you're doing everything wrong, and that (to me) is a sign that you're getting into the things that require real skill, as opposed to the things that "anyone" could do.

If you have SAD, then I'd definitely wait until Spring. See how the change in seasons helps with this. It may be that you're unsuited to the position, but a few months in is generally when I've found I think I'm totally wrong for any new job, and I've almost always gotten through it.
posted by xingcat at 9:41 AM on January 6, 2013 [9 favorites]

Yeah, I would try to stick it out for a little bit longer. I never feel confident that I know what's going on in a new position for at least six months.
posted by something something at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2013

Best answer: I'm immensely dissatisfied.

With what, specifically? In general I've always found that there are three things to consider at any job: the value of the work/company, the people/relationships/environment, and the money. If you are getting two out of three then you're in good shape as long as it fits in with your desired career path. Look at some discrete aspects of your situation and consider them dispassionately:
- compensation (even if it's not enough for you, is it fair for the position?)
- physical work environment (noise, interruptions, overhead/natural lighting, space)
- social work environment (negative/neutral/positive wrt gossip, complaining; amount of chitchat/going to lunch together/professional bonding)
- hierarchy/culture (is there a clear line between those whose opinion matters and those whose doesn't? e.g., banks/law firms are old school and very status-oriented)
- workload (enough? too much? do you have the tools to do your job? is training/advancement an option?)
- meaning/value (does your work contribute to something you view as positive or something neutral/negative? even if you are not directly involved, it's important to see your work as having meaning, and even cubicle-slave-cogs have reason to feel good at the end of the day if they agree with their employer's mission)
- visible ladder (is this position something that makes sense in your path toward your career of choice? are you paying your dues or spinning your wheels? does it make sense to have this position/company on your resume moving forward?)
These are just off the top of my head. In any case it's a good idea to stick with something a year or two unless it's really awful. Flesh out your resume, get some experience, make connections that outlast the job, etc.
posted by headnsouth at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2013 [41 favorites]

Sometimes, it's a combination of both. I've been depressed and I've been in jobs I've hated, and each can exacerbate the other.

If you aren't sure whether it's you or the job, work on you first. Get treatment for the depression, do some anti-SAD self-care (getting outside for a few minutes at the sunniest point of the day helps a ton, as does exercise), and work on being healthy and kind to yourself. Look for things you can do at work that you do enjoy, and if there are any tedious parts or things you dread, try to streamline them or work on a system to get them taken care of quickly. Try cultivating some work friendships - you don't have to be close, or talk to each other outside of work, but having someone to say hi to can make the workday a little better.

If you get to a spot where you've taken good care of yourself, you'll have a better idea of whether or not this job is a good fit. Plus, you'll be in a better mental state to work on the long-term goal of getting a job you do love, instead of taking a less-than-ideal offer just to escape quickly.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:58 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

If this is same job you asked about last fall and the problems are still like that, it's not you, it's them.
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on January 6, 2013 [5 favorites]

If you question your own opinion because of inexperience and SAD, you could make a short list of the things you find particularly dissatisfying about the job and let the hive hash it out a bit - You'll still get mixed results, but might at least get some outside perspective on your concerns that helps you figure it out for yourself.
posted by pla at 10:51 AM on January 6, 2013

I found this link a while back, about characteristics of the company that indicate it might be time to leave. If many of these are true, then it could be the job and not necessarily you.
posted by Fuego at 11:42 AM on January 6, 2013

I want to add on to headnsouth's excellent post with the suggestion that as you take stock of your situation, consider if there are ways in which you can make it better or position yourself for a better position. Figuring out what will satisfy you is much easier to do when you are already working and therefore don't feel the pressure to get something, anything, right now.
posted by sm1tten at 12:10 PM on January 6, 2013

Unfortunately you don't say what you're dissatisfied about. If this is an entry level role and the sort of work you are asked to do is a contributing factor read on. In most professional jobs the newbies are not allowed anywhere near even remotely interesting work for a while. It takes time to find your feet and become suitably proficient at the basics to be allowed to work on more interesting things. And that's something a lot of bright, highly educated graduates find quite hard to swallow. So if your dissatisfaction has anything to do with that realise that 4 months is not enough time to progress to more exciting stuff.
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:13 PM on January 6, 2013

What sort of objective factors do you look at when you evaluate how satisfying your workplace is?

What it ends up coming down to for me is a gut feeling, an inner drive where I know it's time to move on. When this feeling comes along, I support it with observations of what is going on around me at the company, how that stuff impacts me in my specific job there, whether or not I really have anything to gain - financially, skill-wise, general experience - by continuing to work there, and what kind of future (both long term and short term) I have to look forward to if I stick around.

Since this is your first career-type job, it would probably be worth it to stick around for at least a year unless it's truly unbearable or you can't afford to support yourself. It may be easier to tolerate this if you set a specific goal for yourself, e.g. "keep doing what I'm doing and start looking for a new job at X time," and in the meantime focus on polishing yourself up for future, better opportunities.
posted by wondermouse at 12:51 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A friend who is a recruiter has always said: People don't quit jobs, they quit management. If you are not aligned with the people managing you, you're going to have a very difficult road ahead. Most people, given a choice between a great role with terrible colleagues or great colleagues with a terrible role, would choose the latter. If you enjoy the people you are with, pretty much anything can be tolerable. If you don't enjoy the people, even a great role can be very painful.

Beyond that, there's two things to keep in mind. The first is that if you've come out of a university track (which you don't say), there's a level of managing expectations. In university, the point is for things to move quickly, and for students to ascend constantly. In many job roles, there is not the same track of ascendancy. The process is slower. It can be a bit grating at first, but in job roles, it's all about momentum.

On that point, you should always be looking at where you can go next within the company. If there is not a clear career path, timeframes for advancement, criteria for promotion, etc., it can be tough to stomach a role you are not enjoying. On the other hand, if there is a clear path of progression, then you have to sack it up and get there. Every job is different and this sounds like something it would be worth working out.

The second thing to keep in mind is fit. There are as many corporate cultures as there are companies. Some promote quickly, some promote slowly. Some enjoy innovative thinking, others prize routine. Four months is a bit premature, but if you're getting those rumblings now and there's no red flags (bad management, lack of career path, etc.), it could just be a case of bad fit.

Again, four months is relatively short. If you decide to quit and move on, remember, it's always easier to find a job whilst you have a job. If you decide it's the wrong place for you and you need to move on, the clock starts ticking. It will show to your managers when you flip from new employee to clockwatcher. There's nothing wrong with that at all – everyone does it at some point (even them!) – but if and when you make that decision, immediately start looking for the next thing, with your new knowledge about the advice in this thread in hand.
posted by nickrussell at 1:32 PM on January 6, 2013 [4 favorites]

Whether I dread going to work and how often (and the same for being excited to go to work), whether the work is interesting, whether the work is beneficial (to others, and for building my résumé), how I feel about management (personally, to an extent, but more in terms of professionally -- are they good managers), whether I like my coworkers and work well with them, whether I am happy with my compensation, how long I've worked there -- and, crucially, what my other options are.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:54 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

As rtha said, if it's the same job you asked about last fall, with the same problems, then I think it's them, not you. I think it's worthwhile to start looking around now. You can start applying for jobs even if you haven't made a definite decision to leave. If and when you get past the first interview with another company, you'll have to decide whether to stay or go - but for now, there's not much downside to looking around. Unless you are too busy with work or other commitments, and a job search would take too much of your time.

If you do change jobs now, I think you'd want to stay for at least a couple years at your new job - otherwise your work history might look bad on your resume. But I don't think a single 4-month position is unreasonable. (I'm a software developer - I'm not sure how much this varies by profession.)

The only thing I would advise against is threatening to quit :).

Here are some of the things I look for in a job:

- Do I have the opportunity to do interesting work that matches my education and experience?
- Is my salary reasonable for my job role, education, and experience?
- Does the work I'm doing matter to the company? Or am I working on something that the company sees as unimportant?
- Do my coworkers respect me, and respect each other? If I'm working in a team, do we work together and help each other?
- Is it a high-stress environment? Is there a lot of overtime? Are there always fires to put out?
- Does management respect and listen to employees? Is it possible to raise concerns? Do they genuinely listen to and act on these concerns?
- Do I have any ethical concerns with the business of the company? (For example, I wouldn't want to work for a tobacco company.)

I've worked at six different jobs in the software industry, and I wouldn't rate any of them as perfect using these criteria. But some have been much better than others.

Good luck!
posted by problemspace at 4:49 PM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Really great advice here! I would add that inspiration is a really important quality to have in your early jobs. Even if you are at the bottom of the totem pole, the organization's work and mission should motivating to you. You should have some close contact with mentors who you really respect and who do excellent work. You may have plenty of other problems with the job (pay, stress, boring entry level work, even personality problems with your boss/mentor) but you should always be able to sit back and say, "hey, I am proud of working here and we do really good work." This is particularly important in your first jobs out of college, because it is a sign you are in an appropriate, apprentice-like position that is setting you up for future jobs.
posted by yarly at 4:29 AM on January 7, 2013 [1 favorite]

yarly : Really great advice here! I would add that inspiration is a really important quality to have in your early jobs. Even if you are at the bottom of the totem pole, the organization's work and mission should motivating to you.

Er... I apologize in advance for responding to another answerer, but I think you've missed the gist of what most of the responses so far have said.

Work sucks. Plain and simple. All of us would rather sit at home and play video games, or go for a nice hike, or hell, just about anything else, rather than go waste 8-9 hours of our lives every Monday through Friday making money for someone else so we can pay the bills. I love what I do, and I'd still rather do just about anything else to fill my time.

So the asker here needs to understand that - Work sucks. Even work you like. But some work sucks quite a lot more than s/he should put up with.

Which category this falls into, we can't answer without more information. But virtually every answer so far hasn't talked about whether or not the asker has a supportive mentor or not, a stimulating environment or not, a "motivating" mission or not; but rather, whether or not this work sucks more than normal.

I'd put it more bluntly - Can you see yourself alive five years from now in that job? They do get better, as you grow more numb... But not by much.
posted by pla at 4:52 PM on January 7, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for all the great answers. The job is a graphic design position for a very small studio (I am one of three.) The hourly rate I earn is well below median for my area which I was fine with when I accepted the job - because I wasn't aware that I wouldn't be compensated for all of my hours at the office. I've been given projects well beyond my scope of experience and then been belittled by my boss when I failed to meet his expectations.

After reading these responses and thinking about it a while, I applied for a job tonight and will continue to do so until I find something better.
posted by girih knot at 12:00 AM on January 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

« Older What can I seed or mirror on my server to help the...   |   Help me choose a protein powder, please! Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.