Going back to a part-time job -- How do I get through this?
February 9, 2014 10:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm in my mid-twenties with big career dreams and a history of underemployment and emotional struggles. In order to get back on track, I need to go from being unemployed back to a part-time service job that I hate, and I need coaching on how to get through it with as little emotional agony as possible. I'm estimating that I'll be in the job for four months. More snowflake details inside.

During the time I was unemployed, I was still having challenging but positive and direction-building volunteer experiences. Returning to this job feels like going backwards. The part-time job is a terrible fit for me and very stressful, dealing with great amounts of multi-tasking, yelling, constant engagement with customers and cooking staff and their demands, and a manager who behaves very aggressively (to me too), cuts people down, is rude, gossips about staff, and shouts and curses at/around me. But it's probably only for four months, 3-4 days a week. Then, I hope to switch jobs, start taking classes, and get onto a meaningful (though challenging) professional track that will one day result in good job prospects and pay.

Thinking about going back is making me deeply anxious and unhappy, but I really need the money. How can I make this high stress service job better? How can I get through it? What are some self-care suggestions for me?

(One aspect of this question is that I was in therapy for quite a while with this person I really liked. I don't think I have any mental illness now, but feeling all of this stress again makes me wonder if I should go back for a few booster sessions. But, seeing this person is expensive (for me) and would be at least 10% of my part-time income, and also would come with more feelings of going backwards, which is alarming. I want to feel like I'm going forward.)
posted by Tulip to Work & Money (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Why on earth do you have to return to a job you hate when you could apply for others right now? The number one thing I learned in therapy is to stop going back to things that made me miserable. You can do the same here!
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 10:18 AM on February 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

It's a restaurant job?

Unless you live in a one-stoplight town, chances are there's more than one restaurant in town. Go find someplace else to work that doesn't have such a toxic culture. There are restaurants where you can work without being abused.

I'm familiar with the idea that restaurant work often involves yelling, swearing, "strong language", etc. To me, there's a fine line between tension during a rough shift, general "swears like a sailor" language, being aware that yelling happens, and outright cutting people down/gossip/backbiting/catty type stuff. I think you might need to grow a thicker skin about yelling and swearing and multi-tasking, and recognize the catty toxic shit for what it is and look for a work environment where that's not a factor.

Also, what about part time jobs that are not in restaurants? I hated retail (my part time job during high school and college), so when I had to go back to a part time job temporarily as an adult, I made sure to do something different so as to not go right back to the type of work environment I hated back then.
posted by Sara C. at 10:44 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just to respond to this quickly >> The issue is that I've held 10 jobs since high school and am only in my mid-twenties. I've had a couple of jobs for 2+ years but frequently have had to supplement the income with various part time work. I am hesitant to find a new job for such a short time period because that, plus whatever new job I may take in the next 4 months, could make my job history a red flag for anything I do in the future.
posted by Tulip at 10:55 AM on February 9, 2014

You typically don't put 4 month part time restaurant gigs on your Professional resume. Nobody is going to care that you worked part time in a restaurant for four months, and even if you did put it on your resume for some reason, having worked part time in a restaurant for six months or a year rather than just four months is not going to be a big difference. Neither is it going to be a big deal if you worked in Restaurant A for four months, and then Restaurant B for another 4 months.

They're day jobs. You're not expected to work at a restaurant or a video store or a boutique in the mall for five years, unless you intend to pursue that as a career path or something.

The only way I would even remotely let this be a concern is if you plan to make a career in the restaurant industry. And even so, I'm pretty sure this stuff doesn't matter that much.

Don't let what somebody might think upon seeing your resume at some unspecified future time weigh more than your baseline mental health.

(Seriously, though, liberate yourself and just don't put your shitty restaurant job on your resume at all. It is weird to me how many people think you're like, not allowed to not mention some job you had for a couple months one time.)
posted by Sara C. at 11:29 AM on February 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

You need to stop putting all your jobs on your resume, then. I have held 10 jobs too since high school and I'm 26, but I only put 4-5 on my resume because that's genuinely all that matters. This is called tailoring or curating your experience because employers don't want a laundry list and they don't need to see that you filled all your time since graduating with work of some kind. Plus, it's okay to have short job stints. This happens a lot in a variety of industries. You can say that you were looking to develop skill sets in a variety of areas and the jobs were largely seasonal anyway, or you can redirect the conversation to how you've been able to determine what it is you really want to do and that you're ready and excited to apply all the things you've learned thus far in your chosen field. You're becoming an obstacle to your success here by presuming all these things that aren't necessarily true. Apply for another job that is not the one you don't want to return to. Seriously. Don't make any more excuses.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:35 AM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Only ever refer to jobs if they're relevant to what you're doing in some way.

The feeling like you're going backwards is an ego thing. The reality is that it's four months and it's money, and if you don't do it, you'll be further away from where you're wanting to go. So it's helping you to move forward.

If you think that the therapist will help you as a support base, then do it. Seeing them is not going backwards; again, it's helping you to move forward by giving you the support you need to do that.

Beyond that, pamper the crap out of yourself for four months. You know you don't want to stay in an environment like this forever, so use that as motivation to get in, get the job done, get out, and move on to the next thing.
posted by heyjude at 12:19 PM on February 9, 2014

Can you try temping or find something different through Craigslist? There's got to be something better than this crappy place that you can get into for the short-term. However, if you need the money like whoa, and you know that you can get back into this restaurant immediately, focus on stress-reduction as much as possible.

If you know you have a shitty 4-hour shift to get through, and it will be a high-stress, high-turnaround 4 hours, your goal is: reduce stress for the remainder of your day. Night before work: do everything you need for the next morning. Heck, even game-plan your after-work time, too; this could be things like pre-planning dinner, hitting errands on the way home, etc. Leave the rest of your after-work time, once you get home, for de-stressing and relaxing.

Try not to plan any other stressful activities for the days that you have to work. Leave yourself enough time to get to/from work, and maybe have a 10-15 buffer before starting work and after leaving work. If you can bring or borrow something to listen to music with, bring a smartphone, m3 player, etc. and listen to something like Buddhify or some other mindfulness/calming meditations or music. Listen to that on your 10/15-minute break.

It's hard, but if the manager's a dick, try to see if from their perspective: they are responsible for organizing chaos and might not be well-suited for it, so they are coping by taking the stress out on everyone else. If possible, be firm with this person without getting yourself in trouble...sometimes bullies will back down if you stand up to them a little or just make it clear that you won't take their shit just because you're the closest person in range of it.

About the therapy: ask for a sliding-scale fee, especially since you're only going to be working part-time. They should be willing to work with you on this.

As to moving forward vs. going backwards...eh. You know it's only temporary. You know that you have plans for the future. Don't psych yourself out. Set a firm deadline for getting out of this short-term gig. Celebrate every weekend when you are one week closer to your goal. Find things to do in your off-time that put you closer toward your long-term goal: read books related to your field, look for internships, find a career mentor, get your class stuff figured out and scheduled (if possible), whatever.

Overall, I think you've got this, honestly...it sounds like you have a clear idea of the steps that you need to take to move forward. You just need to get through this short uncomfortable patch. But seriously, do as much as you can to find something that is a not-this-restaurant job, bc your future mental health will thank you. You'll feel a lot better going into your classes mentally refreshed vs. having to deal with the emotional hangover from working in this shitstorm environment for 4 months. Good luck!
posted by cardinality at 12:23 PM on February 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you're in a popular city and do go the "new job" route, you might try Poached Jobs.

Emphasize skills on your resume, not a strict work timeline. That way you can fill in undesirable gaps while still being honest about your abilities.
posted by fritillary at 3:54 PM on February 9, 2014

The restaurant stuff won't matter at all for your professional resume, agree.

A series of 2-year gigs is no problem at all . It's typical.

In case you decide to apply for office temp work (this is specific to that situation only): recruiters may want to see the dates line up. (Anecdata: I have used a functional resume for temp work, and did get called in but had to answer a lot of questions around dates. Recruiters hiring for full-time jobs were much less confused by the functional resume. So. Anyway.) For a temp resume, re times you had both an officey job and a supplemental gig, leave the latter off completely. Only mention service work when there was otherwise a gap. And when you do, describe the actual serving (or what you did if not serving) in one bullet point, and in another bullet point, emphasize an aspect of the job that ties in with the message you want the rest of the resume to give (e.g. you're great at customer satisfaction, or organization, or management). And no more bullet points after that for those jobs. (And more bullet points for non-service jobs.)
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:49 PM on February 9, 2014

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