Looking for the one, have you seen her? Employment edition.
May 13, 2014 6:02 PM   Subscribe

Just three months at a new job and I'm miserable. Help me sort out if it just plain ain't right, or it deserves more time and effort.

I’ve worked in my industry, the plant nursery world, for around eight years. In that time, I’ve changed jobs to different concentrations; for example, I went from managing a retail garden center to being a grower in a wholesale greenhouse. Because of the transitions, I feel like I’ve done a lot of “starting over” and while I certainly have transferable skills that have landed me increasing roles of responsibility, I’ve been exhausted by feeling like I don’t know what I’m doing. I feel like I’ve cultivated being totally average at everything, and good at nothing.

My deepest dream, is to work for myself on a very small scale in this industry. I know I am not capable of doing so right now, and I want to be making smart decisions over the next five/ten years to get me to a point where that dream might become a reality.

Three months ago I landed a good job – a large amount of responsibility, a prestigious name association (when I’m in my work clothes in public I literally get stopped on the street by strangers who tell me how lucky I am to work where I do), and potential for the acquisition of a ton of new knowledge. However - and I feel intensely ungrateful for this – I hate it there. On my end, I’m totally overwhelmed by how completely different my work is from things I’ve previously done. I’m in a totally new climate: I’ve moved, so this is going to be a fixed issue, but this business only works with niche plants, which highly compounds the “previous experience” problem, which wouldn’t be as much of an issue in other places. Furthermore, this is a non-profit, public garden, which a type of work I’ve never done. On my employer’s end, it’s a completely disorganized, critically understaffed, hobby-turned-business disaster. It’s the least professional place I’ve ever worked, with little to no chain of command, and extremely poor delineation between employee responsibilities. Everyone wants to tell everyone else how to do their job. Nothing is organized; there is no standard protocol for anything. I am struggling with the lack of structure, despite knowing how good it would be for me and my career to be successful at this specific job. I dread going to work, and while I DO know with time I won’t feel so overwhelmed by the new plants/climate, I worry the institutional problems will never stop making me miserable.

Compounding this trouble is that the primary responsibility of my job – I manage their retail facility – is a side of this industry I don’t want to be in. I also am not interested in working with these specialty, niche plants long-term despite how prestigious my employer is.

I work extremely hard, am interested in learning everything I can, and most of me is telling me to suck it up, start learning on my own time, let the organization issues roll off my back, and do everything I can to make this damn job work. I am normally a person who loves being an employee, and I love my industry for fulfilling me personally as well as professionally. This job AND my last were really terrible workplaces, and it’s made me question that I’M the problem, and that I am incapable, and inflexible, and it is all my fault. This feeling of not believing in who I am and what I’m doing has been extremely hard for me to deal with. I almost feel like such a huge failure that I should forget it, and work some totally other, entry-level job because I’m too dumb to make it in this industry.

My question is: Do I keep going with this job? I’m not sure what else I could find. I would be very happy even taking a step backwards in terms of responsibility, if it meant being closer to my ultimate professional goals (being a grower, working with different plants). However, I’m mindful not to start over AGAIN, doing something a different, and losing again the opportunity to do one thing, and do it well, even if it’s not what I want to be doing.

I’m so unhappy, but a job is a job. Do I start looking and try to move on, or give this job even more of my heart and muscle to see if I can make it?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What stood out for me in your question is that nowhere did you say what you LIKE about your industry. What's kept you in plant industry for 8 years? What landed you there in the first place? Do you love green growing things? The environmental focus? The seasonal schedule? You say it's "fulfilled" you...but how?

There are crappy workplaces everywhere (probably more than there are healthy ones), but if the work is meaningful enough to you, you can stick it out - at least until the next good thing comes along.

I think if you can sort out what parts of plan nursery work are the most important for you, and how they are (or aren't) present in your current work, the answer will be clearer.
posted by pantarei70 at 7:57 PM on May 13, 2014

I've been in a similar position before and it makes me want to give you a hug.

Give yourself three more months. Three months in which you can't leave unless someone spits in your face. Three months to bust your ass, learn all you can, and see if you can create a satisfying space for yourself without the limitations of a rigid structure. Refer to this short window of time as "The Experiment" in conversations with friends (preferably while sipping your alcoholic beverage of choice).

In mid-August, revaluate. You might surprise yourself with what you were able to accomplish. Or not. Either way, at this point you will know you did all you could, and that you didn't run from a challenge that may have been worthwhile just because it made you feel uncomfortable at first.
posted by jessca84 at 9:28 PM on May 13, 2014

Some workplaces suck because someone in a position of power makes it suck--the person is toxic, or their way of running things is effective but horrible, or they insist on controlling everything but don't have the time or energy to do it right.

Some workplaces suck because no one is in charge, everyone is taking care of their own business, and no one has bothered to clean it up.

The first kind of workplace usually only gets tolerable with experience because you acclimatize to the horrible person--which isn't good. Learning to live with beasts is useful but guaranteed unhappiness over the long haul.

The second kind of workplace, though, can get tolerable because you have a surprising amount of autonomy to make it a good workplace. You can learn your own area, and make it run smoothly, and then start cleaning up relationships with other areas. You can't control the whole workplace, but you can control your corner of it, and modeling excellence usually makes a big difference around you as well. In the long run you become one of the leaders, and that usually pays off very well. In an environment like that, being positive and helping others is unusually beneficial for everyone--people who bring order to chaos by doing it, rather than telling others how to do it, make a much bigger difference.

If your problem is toxic people around you, plan as graceful an exit as possible, especially if it means going to another job you've already obtained. But if it's just that no one around you is making it a good place to work, then consider the possibilities of growing professionally there if the crappiness of your situation isn't too much to bear.

And if you decide it is too crappy, leave and don't look back. Don't regret choosing not to suffer--people who talk about how suffering builds character are usually masochists trying to justify their own lack of will to make a positive change. Sometimes suffering is worth enduring because the rewards seem worth it, but never for its own sake.
posted by fatbird at 10:09 PM on May 13, 2014 [6 favorites]

Do the same thing that everyone else does: stay in the job until you are fired or find another job, job hunt in the meantime. Put up with it the best you can but look for ways out. Especially since job hunting seems to take years these days. If you hate it THAT MUCH after three months, you might as well start looking for exits now, but bite the bullet in the meantime.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:22 PM on May 13, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've been where you are and, man, it sucked. I agree with trying three more months. Not on the notion that it will get better but with the idea that you will learn everything you can in the next three months to secure a different job in a different place. Keep your resume updated, however, and keep your eyes open for anything too good to pass up in the meantime.

Make plans to leave. In the meantime, try immersing yourself in a new hobby you've always wanted to try. Make your free time count, you are going to need it to keep yourself happy.
posted by Foam Pants at 3:29 AM on May 14, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to work for yourself, you're going to need to get comfortable with less structure and less standard protocols, and you're going to need to be flexible.

I would do your best to get out of this job whatever you intended to get out of it when you took it, whether that's new knowledge, experience, or just a good reference.

Don't discount the fact that you've moved as well - you're undergoing big changes, more than one at once. Give it some time.

There's a lot to be said for having a broad range of knowledge and experience before you're an expert at something. Of course you don't know everything about this new job or these plants yet - but if you're doing your best to learn and asking good questions, then you're halfway there. Make some work friends there who can help you learn, or help you enjoy work more.

Unless there's something serious (e.g., abusive) going on, you should suck it up and start working with what you've got with this job.
posted by mrs. taters at 6:53 AM on May 14, 2014

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