Need help navigating my next steps with my job
January 16, 2014 8:22 AM   Subscribe

I'm unhappy, and I'm planning to leave this city as soon as I can get things straightened out.

I've been there a year, and it wasn't easy to get the job. I started out as a temp, and am now on my third temp contract with them. I don't get benefits, but they treat their employees well (ie: they paid me over the two-week holiday).

It's been a great learning experience, and I discovered the field of Communications, which I want to pursue. It's really been an ideal entry level job for me.

I started out as Administrative Assistant, and then when both the admin assistant and the Executive assistant quit, they told me I would be performing both functions (see my previous questions). I was not really interested in the Executive assistant job, but I didn't have a choice. Now they still haven't hired another admin help person, and it's been 5 months. At first, I liked having both jobs because I felt valued by the organization, and I was never bored. But when crunch times come, I have trouble coping. I'm starting therapy soon.

I really do like the job and the environment, but I've been finding it hard to deal with all the uncertainty of the seemingly endless temp contracts. Plus, I have a very sensitive personality. I'm introverted and I need to be left alone in order to get my work done. Since I am the receptionist, that is not possible. I have been doing a good job of getting everything done on time, but my mental health is suffering. I tend to be a "giver" rather than a "taker". Which means, I always say yes when someone asks for help. And, I sacrifice my mental health in order to get the work done, but at the same time have a lot of trouble speaking up for myself.

Lastly, the HR lady is very abrasive and it's like a personality clash with me. Imagine a hockey defenceman (her) working with a lamb (me). Her office is right beside the reception desk so I have to interact with her all day long. Yes, I know I need to learn how to deal, but in this situation there is nothing I can do since she is in a much higher position than me. She seems to be trying to impose as much of her will on the organization as possible, so she has a lot of power. So in that case, speaking up for myself is a moot point because she will just impose her will either way. My actual supervisor rarely speaks to me because he is too busy, and I don't feel comfortable opening up to him.

I don't see this as a long term job like I once did, even though some aspects of it are so wonderful. One thing that is scaring me is they are making all the staff go on a retreat and stay in a hotel together for 24 hours. This is a nightmare for me, and seems like a total waste of money. That's taking place the third week of March. I'm also applying for grad school this year in a different city (the one I want to settle in).

I might be freaking out because I had a terrible day yesterday and called in sick today and feel guilty about that. The bad day was triggered by me having to organize lunch and take minutes for the senior staff meeting yesterday. Adding that on to my regular tasks pushed me over the edge, and I was unable to smile at the visiting staff members.

So, tl:dr:

1) Should I quit before the retreat in March? It seems like the honest thing to do since the point of the retreat is to have some sort of "group therapy" session for staff, and if I don't intend to stay why would I participate?
On the other hand, it kind of sucks for me to have to quit early just for that reason. I need to save as much as I can before moving to another city and/ or going to grad school.

It seems like March would be a logical time to quit, but I don't know if I'll have time to find another job before then. So on the other hand, it seems like a stupid thing to quit in March.
For what it's worth, the current temp contract I'm on goes until April 31.

2) I really really ( ie with a burning passion- see my question from 10 months ago) want to live in the other city. Trust me when I say that. I know what I want.
Is this a good enough reason to leave my job? Ie: when I go for my next job interview and they ask me "why are you leaving your current job", can I say: for the purposes of relocating to the city I intend to settle in?

Lastly, I foresee someone coming on here to tell me that one year is not long enough to stay in a job, and that because I'm from the Millenial generation, I can't commit to anything. I've already thought about that, and I see it in a different light. The more one commits oneself to things that are unfulfilling but safe, the easier it is to forget what fulfillment feels like. Please respect this point of view when you answer the question.

Also, please trust me when I say I've been putting my heart into this job. I don't want to give the impression that I'm trying to flake out on it.
posted by winterportage to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It's a temp job and you need a permanent job, that's reason enough to quit. Nobody should fault you for that, especially if you leave it to move to another area or to go to grad school. If you know that you plan to quit by summer you'll be more relaxed about going to the retreat and it won't stress you out as much.
posted by mareli at 8:39 AM on January 16, 2014

Best answer: They aren't treating you very well - they've condensed two real positions into one benefitless contract position, probably because they feel that they can walk all over you. This is the kind of thing that unions, for instance, forbid in our contracts because it is so bad. And honestly, asking a temp to go on time-intensive retreat is pretty lousy too, unless they have some reason to believe that the temp wants to go or there's some specific benefit to the temp.

Don't quit, though, until you have something else lined up. Suck up the retreat - it's unfortunate, and I would totally absolutely loathe it with a fiery passion myself, but you're right to say that you should not have to quit over something like this.

Back in the nineties when I was your age, we thought of temp work as bad work, not the norm or a long term possibility. You would temp until you found something full time, or you'd temp-to-hire, or you'd temp because it let you work on your art/tour with your band/etc. Lots of people had to temp for long periods (the economy wasn't actually that great) but it sure wasn't like it is for you kids today.

You aren't being treated well and it's a very junior job before graduate school - you aren't going to look like a job-hopper or insufficiently motivated or whatever when you do quit, but don't shoot yourself in the foot financially.

I would also say that you need not to feel like you have to put your heart into something like this. That's a thing that a lot of women (especially young ones, especially your generation) are socialized to believe - your work should be your passion, you're always on call because of the internet and cell phones so you never really get any separation, you should find your fun at work because you should be "passionate" - this is capitalism bullshitting you by applying the standards that would apply if you were working an adequately compensated dream job to jumped-up service work. It's an ideological thing - a shift that you could see happening in the nineties as more and more internships were created and "management theory" crystallized in a new form.

You aren't getting benefits. Your benefits would cost so much more than two weeks of low holiday pay. Sure, that's better than poking you in the eye with a stick, but it's hardly some kind of Boss Of The Year Award thing either.
posted by Frowner at 8:47 AM on January 16, 2014 [12 favorites]

Best answer: You're on the right track, I think you just need some encouragement to keep doing what you're doing.


it kind of sucks for me to have to quit early just for that reason. I need to save as much as I can before moving to another city and/ or going to grad school.
Yes, you're right about this. Be selfish. Cash their checks. They wouldn't hesitate to dump you in a heartbeat if that was what they felt the need to do.

Is this a good enough reason to leave my job? Ie: when I go for my next job interview and they ask me "why are you leaving your current job", can I say: for the purposes of relocating to the city I intend to settle in?
Yes, this is a great reason. It's always great if you can say you're leaving a job for personal reasons and not bring anything negative about your last job into the interview.

Lastly, I foresee someone coming on here to tell me that one year is not long enough to stay in a job, and that because I'm from the Millenial generation, I can't commit to anything.
I'm glad you don't buy into this Millenial bullshit. It would make zero sense, in any generation, to commit to something that wasn't working for you.

I had a job a lot like this one with a similar boss. The one time I said something to one of the higher-ups about how uncomfortable I felt they were surprised that anyone was taking this lady seriously; they were used to thinking of her as a blow-hard, and were apologetic that I was suffering. So, you know, you can take her behavior with a grain of salt. I don't know if I would say anything though if your objective is to keep cashing their checks until a certain time. Just try to remember that you have a future and a master plan and it doesn't involve any of these people. It will help you keep your head up.
posted by bleep at 9:05 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just wanted to focus on your point that the workplace is stressful for you as a introvert - it's great that you're seeing a therapist to provide some objective assistance in processing this. But as an extroverted introvert I can honestly say that some workplaces, like some groups, will just be a better fit for you and you likely won't feel the same level of stress and burning need to get away to recuperate. And the uncertainty that goes with temping (not to mention doing two jobs for the pay of one) is not really a conducive environment to feeling relaxed and comfortable at work.

You sounds like a thoughtful, logical, good person. This workplace sounds like a bad cultural fit for you. Don't beat yourself up too much about it. You may not be "entitled" to the perfect job, but you damn sure have permission to change your situation of it's not making you happy. Good luck.
posted by rockpaperdynamite at 9:22 AM on January 16, 2014

All jobs are going to have plusses and minuses. I'd stay as long as possible to save up enough money to move. Why limit your possibilities in the city you want to live in? Sure, the HR lady is overbearing, and you're an introverted receptionist, but the checks cash. Don't take it so seriously--I'd do what you have to do, and concentrate learning as much as you can about your new city and/or grad school. Take advantage of whatever you can at this place (going to the retreat? Stock up on hotel shampoo!) and do something after work that helps you cope with the stress.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:34 AM on January 16, 2014

Here's the thing, you are exchanging your hours for money. Don't invest in this job and it will be a LOT easier to take.

Don't quit before the retreat. Go, if they even invite you. You can even have a short conversation with your manager, "Since I am a temp, you may not want to invite me to go to the retreat because for the hours that I'm there, I'll need to be paid my temp rate." Call your agency about that first, but trust me, if you are hourly, and they want you to be somewhere 24/7, and you're a TEMP, they better pay you for each hour you are there.

Work the job, don't let it work you. If the HR lady, or anyone else asks you to do something that you don't have time to do, be sweet and say, "Oh gosh, with my current workload, that won't be possible."

Don't come early, don't stay late, act like a freaking TEMP. Invest NO emotions in this job. Just do the exact number of tasks a normal person can accomplish in 8 hours per day, and no more than that. They have invested exactly NOTHING in you.

You are not a victim of your situation. Just because you are introverted, it doesn't give you license to give up your power. You are not a lamb, you are a person. If you don't want to go on the retreat, as a temp, they can't make you. Besides, you can stay behind and mind the phones. Alternately, go and participate as little as possible. I do that. Who cares what they spend, it's not a thing you need to worry about.

This is just a temp job. Have it serve YOUR purpose and let the job worry about what it's doing.

But, I'll be SHOCKED if they expect you to go to the reetreat.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:48 AM on January 16, 2014 [8 favorites]

Response by poster: Ruthless Bunny, I appreciate your comments, but you're very blunt. It's not very helpful to say "They've invested nothing in you." I get what you're trying to say, but you make it sound like I'm worthless. Also, it's not possible to invest no emotions in a job. Am I supposed to walk around like a zombie everyday? That sounds worse. I get that you're trying to help, but you make it sound like everything is my own fault, which it isn't. Oh, and I'm not with a temp agency. I'm just on a temporary contract.

Anyways, thanks everyone for your comments. Please keep them coming
posted by winterportage at 10:09 AM on January 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you think that "They've invested nothing in you" means that you are worthless, then you don't get what I'm trying to say. What I'm saying is: You are a person who does the work they need done, capably. You are worth the money they pay you.

If you are on a temporary contract, that means that at the end of the contract, you can go your way, and they, theirs, and you both can exercise that option. You can even leave earlier if you want.

Of course you can invest no emotions in a job. You can enjoy the work, you can enjoy the people you work with, but the minute you start to believe that the things that happen at work somehow reflect on you, are defining you and are making you stressed out and sick, then this is problematic.

Not investing emotions doesn't mean , "be a zombie," it means find other ways to validate your worth. You are worthwhile because you are kind, you are worthwhile because you are competant, you are worthwhile because you have lovely friends, you are worthwhile because you sing beautifully, you are worthwhile because you give up your seat on the bus to pregnant ladies. Having this job does not contribute to your worth. This job just contributes to your bank account.

You have choices in every step of this situation, always remember that. If you can find another gig that pays more, I suggest you take it. But I believe that you can change the things that bug you about THIS gig and have it serve you until you are ready to leave and go to grad school. But, that does mean making changes in how you approach things and in your worldview.

One of those things is that there is a difference between, "It's my fault" and "I have no power to change my situation." One of those is a value judgement, no one said that the situation is your fault. I will point out that you DO have power to change your situation.

It's up to you to decide what will work for you.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:22 AM on January 16, 2014 [14 favorites]

Best answer: At various points in my life, I've worked three part-time jobs, been underemployed, temped, and took jobs (within reason) because rent.

In some cases, the best decision for me was to quit jobs. I really related with your introvert-slotted-into-one-size-fits-all-job misery. It's not just bothersome, it just feels like my skin is crawling every day, and the stress and effect on my mental health were not worth it.

In another city, I remember thinking long and hard about quitting a full-time job, and heard this on the radio. It's okay to quit. I'm sure you know this, but it truly is.

While your job doesn't sound like a "sick system" per se, it is making you sick. Whenever I felt that a job was having a net negative impact on my well-being, I have agonized for a while about what to do, but more than not ended up leaving the job.

It's a bad fit. Many a time, I've scanned AskMeFi posts where people answered with "your job isn't worth your well-being," or variations of that message. It buttressed me for that inevitable decision to close out my time with a job. Although I did try the "try to make the job fit and do everything you can to make the job role into what you want before quitting," that's not always possible, and I've also been admonished by friends and well-meaning people alike to "not quit until you find another job!!!!" Easier said than done.

You're right. Nobody can compartmentalize their personality and basic personality such that they don't let anything in. Find a job where being an absorbent person is an asset. It may take some time to find a job where you get that elusive balance of time to do your work and a "good enough" work environment: not too stressful, and not too difficult to deal with, as all work places come with their own quirks.

Like you, I hate multi-tasking. Cognitive scientists agree that quality work cannot be done without singular focus, but many work places are antithetical to this idea. So, it takes many jobs before finding a good fit.

I'd say quit in March. It will make you feel empowered. Right now, it sounds like you don't sound like you feel like you have many options. Remember: you are more important than any job you have. It will be hard sometimes. You know this already. And it will sometimes be nerve-wracking, the not knowing. You know this, too. Sometimes, worst-case scenario-ing in your head makes sense, and sometimes you have to go on the fact that most things end up working out in the end. Very rarely are things unfixable, and you always have options.

Choose the decisions that make you feel like the world is open and full of possibility, without undue endangerment or financial difficulty to yourself.

Remember that everything is possible. I am glad you are open, feeling, and that you are aware of what does and does not work for you.

It means very good things, it says much positive about you.

Back to the radio piece I earlier linked to: remember that any risk is linked with reward. That is to say, without risk we cut ourselves off from reward. Okay, that's it.
posted by simulacra at 11:02 AM on January 16, 2014 [7 favorites]

The "not investing in you" statement has to do with the fact that they are keeping you in temp-limbo rather than making you an employee with full benefits. That arrangement is entirely to the company's advantage. It was good of them to pay during the holiday shut-down, but I'm sure that was in part (or mostly) a calculated move on their part to make sure you'd be back in the office when work resumed, vs. off to another gig.

They have you doing two roles for the price of one; they are getting a great deal.

Ruthless Bunny's advice to learn to draw internal boundaries between sense of self-worth and work product is 100% sound. Consider this an excellent training ground for flexing that muscle and building it up. You'll need it for the rest of your career. Since you are planning to be out of there soon-ish anyway, you can experiment with exerting your power to stand up for yourself. Say no to unreasonable tasks, or ask for more time to do them. Stay with the job until it is strategically time to move on to bigger, better things (on your terms).
posted by nacho fries at 11:06 AM on January 16, 2014 [10 favorites]

Hey OP,

I'm dropping in to give some other perspectives. In some ways, I was/am like you (ie, introverted, an in my younger days, it was difficult to negotiat for what I wanted at a job). So I think that some of these ideas may work for you, but YMMV.

2) I really really ( ie with a burning passion- see my question from 10 months ago) want to live in the other city. Trust me when I say that. I know what I want.
Is this a good enough reason to leave my job? Ie: when I go for my next job interview and they ask me "why are you leaving your current job", can I say: for the purposes of relocating to the city I intend to settle in?

If this perspective helps, I have changed jobs/job hopped frequently in my life. I have absolutely said "to relocate to this city/town/state", but for the record, I have said that during interviews when I did not even live in those cities. So there is no reason that this sentence can't become part of the reasons that you cite for applying for a new job, and you don't have to leave a job to use this sentence (unless you need time off to physically relocate to the new city). I tend to also try to come up with other reasons, too (ie, reasons that I want the job that matches the job description and to work at that particular company), but YMMV.

One solution if you are being told to do all those tasks and feel that you can't manage them all, is email your supervisor either at the start or the end of the day. In bullet form, just mention. These are the tasks that I have been assigned (bullet point task A, bullet point task B, etc.). If you know that 2 people are asking you to do a task that will compromise everything else, as a sentence mention - I have been asked to do task A and task B, if I do both, it will compromise these other timelines. For now, I am prioritizing task A, please advise if I should do something else. So basically, it is your manager's job to manage the tasks and workload. Throw it back on them, but politely and succinctly. But you walk in and out at the scheduled work hours, they can figure out how to balance the other tasks. I have done this at jobs and have not gotten pushback. They can reprioritize, but don't kill yourself trying to do 100000 tasks.

I initially had a very hard time doing this in work places, but 1) if you do this by email, it is easy/immediate, you can take the emotions out and 2) at the end of the day, you have to learn how to meet your needs at work places, too. At this point, it sounds like you have nothing to lose since you are considering quitting. So, you can take that small risk/step.

You could just try to negotiate this and see if things change. If not, then you can pull the lever and quit.

Now if you don't want to negotiate this and just quick.

As anecdotal evidence, I've walked out of jobs if I thought it was a cost or would be a cost to my health. It sounds like you may be at that point.

When I have done actions like that, I also use it to push myself to what I want to do next. So if it is your goal to change cities, then you can look at all the factors and plan out what to do and when. So you can plan 1) give notice in X weeks 2) give notice for your apartment and 3) start dong research for next town (so you will have energy going towards something else that you want vs. running away). This has usually worked for me because you also think about what you want next and plan for it, and have the space to take it on. So you could look for a job that is at a communications company (you identified this as a desired place in your post) or one that does not involve face time and phone time if you are an introvert, etc.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 11:28 AM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't quit until it makes sense for you and you have your ducks in a row. Don't push up quitting just because they have a retreat planned. For all they will know, you didn't expect to be leaving. It's easier to find work when you have it. If they offer you another contract and you still have no job prospects or plans, just take it and buy yourself a few more months. If you hate the job that much, you need to devote as much time as you can to finding a job now. I absolutely wouldn't quit without another job or without plan, unless it really is vital for your mental well-being. You need to just be selfish. You are working on short-term contracts with no benefits -- you are allowed to feel you deserve more and expect more. You need a real job that is long-term and includes benefits.

That said, get that resume up to date and start reaching out to your network and people you know. Start looking for a new job, for real. Depending on your career, there are job websites and email lists and so on. Find all of those and check them everyday. If you no longer are interested in this job, it should be easy to shift your energy toward finding a new one. I don't think you should have to settle for hoping every four months you're allowed to stay. You went in there without real experience, but now you have it. That's what people do -- they garner experience at one job and then use it to get their next.
posted by AppleTurnover at 12:16 PM on January 16, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't know... what's your financial situation like? I think that since you could be starting grad school in September, and since your current job is technically only temp until the end of April anyway, you shouldn't let not having a job lined up prevent you from quitting now if that would be better for your mental health.

I've definitely walked away from a bad-for-me workplace with no next job waiting. I tried to job search before leaving the job, but it just wasn't working--I couldn't put enough energy into it and it was very difficult to go to interviews. Once I left, it took me about 4 weeks of intensive searching in a city where I don't speak the main business language (IIRC, the same city you want to move to?) to be in my chair at the next job. If you can afford to support yourself without work for, say, one or two months, maybe consider just leaving now. Focus really hard on the job search (which, by the way, you're now more prepared for, since you've been working as an Exec Assistant and Admin Assistant at the same time... make sure that shows on your resume!) and on your grad school application.

As for the whole "job hopping" thing... your job is temporary. When you leave, it will be because the job was temporary. Doesn't matter if that's because it was temporary and it ended, or because it was temporary and you left to find something permanent. Temp jobs don't count in terms of job hopping.
posted by snorkmaiden at 5:00 AM on January 17, 2014

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