Should I quit my job so I can find a job?
February 13, 2015 11:29 AM   Subscribe

I only ever hear that it’s easier to find a job when you already have one but I’m beginning to think that I might be better off without mine. What should I do?

As a background I have a BA in anthropology and an MLIS. I moved to Southern Ontario almost two years ago because I had finished my degree, needed a change, had money saved up, and knew someone who needed a roommate there. I ended up taking the first job I was offered after a couple months of looking because a job is better than no job, right? It was also in my field. I knew it wasn’t ideal because the pay was just above minimum wage and it would be about a three hour commute round trip to Toronto everyday but I figured it would give me an in to a new job market and my employers said they were fine with me staying for however long (or short) I needed. That was a year and a half ago.

The job itself is incredibly repetitive and mindless. So much so that I listen to music and podcasts and watch TV shows and movies all day while doing it. I even take MOOCs and have been learning Python on Codecademy although it’s a bit like rubbing your belly and patting your head at the same time in that I end up doing neither very well. There is no possibility for upward movement because there are two supervisors and then everyone else is on the same level and has been doing the same job for 8, 9, 10 years. Also the job doesn’t really require a lot of talking among coworkers. Most days I only talk to the Tim Hortons employee while ordering coffee. Everyone just comes in, plugs in, and gets to work. It’s a strange environment that’s led to me feeling anonymous and disconnected.

Recently the hours have been changed so that we do an extra hour four days a week and then have a half day on Friday. This would be great if I lived nearby but, as it is, I have even less time at home to do the things I need to do (applying for other jobs, etc.) and the things I actually enjoy doing (I miss all my yoga classes etc.). I also have to come all the way into town for four hours of work on Fridays. I should mention that it costs me $22.60 a day to get to work and that I make $11.25 an hour. I’m stretched so thin and spend most of my work days holding back tears from frustration, boredom, and worry. I can't move closer not only because I wouldn't be able to afford to on my own on that wage but also because I hate this job.

Over the past nine months, I’ve had six unsuccessful interviews. With each failure I become more and more hopeless. People tell me it’s just a numbers game but it hurts so much.

When I have a lot of time to just sit and think, I tend to spiral into a morbid, neurotic, life-is-pointless kind of mentality. And I have 12 hours a day of this now. I feel like I’ve become more timid and aloof because I feel so removed from the people around me. Compounding this is the hell of commuting: being another grey face in the shuffling herd of humans. Everyone seems more adversarial than cooperative, jostling for seats and first place in line, walking so slow up stairs that I miss my train.

I have enough money in savings to sustain me for a few months but I’m terrified that I will deplete this resource and then worsen my chances for finding anything else. I know I’m probably a fool for taking the job in the first place but am I throwing more foolish behaviour at this problem by quitting?

In short, I am miserable. Would I be more successful (mentally and time-wise) at finding a job if I quit my job? Or am I just being a big, ungrateful baby who needs to pull her socks up and get on with it?
posted by rollingdoughnut to Work & Money (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Can you talk to your boss and point out that your half-day ends up making you less than $20 after transportation and taxes? Maybe ask for alternating full-time Fridays or some other arrangement?

But to answer your question: job-hunting sucks, but job-hunting when you're looking at your dwindling savings sucks even more. Quit your job if you hate it and would rather be making zero, but don't quit because you think it will make job-hunting better or easier, because it won't.
posted by Etrigan at 11:36 AM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

Could you move to Toronto, or plan to move to Toronto once your lease ends, or evaluate the cost of moving to Toronto vs being unemployed?
posted by steinwald at 11:41 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

Ok, here are some different approaches you could try, together or separately:

1. Move to someplace closer to the city and reduce your commute.
2. Find a temp job unrelated to your degree (or less-related) that pays better and has better hours, so you don't spiral into despair so quickly. Is that an option? Temp jobs have the benefit of paying your bills but being easy to leave or short-term.
3. Get involved with some kind of organization related to your field (a nonprofit or volunteer thing) and use it for networking/mental support. Isolation is part of what's eating you
4. Take a hard look at the job market where you are and determine if maybe you need to move elsewhere for a better chance in your field. It's not enough to interview elsewhere, you are more likely to get jobs you are local to.
posted by emjaybee at 11:46 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

How does the current job keep you from applying for other jobs? You don't mention any, other than lack of time, and in my experience, searching for and applying for jobs doesn't take more than a few hours per week. Can you search for jobs while at work?
posted by metasarah at 11:53 AM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you can watch TV show and movies while at work, you can certainly find time to search for and apply to jobs while at work.

Having a paycheck (no matter how small) while you continue to job-search is better than none at all.

Also, ask to go back to a regular 9-5 on Fridays, or work alternate Fridays (banking your 1/2 day off one week and cash it in the next) to cut out that commute expense once every 2 weeks.
posted by trivia genius at 12:05 PM on February 13, 2015 [5 favorites]

You took this job out of desperation, and now you're miserable. If you quit before finding another, you'll quickly find yourself in a similar position again. As much as this job sucks right now, having it allows you to be selective about your next one.

Start job hunting at work, during your lunch break, or whenever there is downtime, and preferably on a smartphone rather than your employer's computer. Bookmark job openings that you come across, email them to yourself, and apply when you get home.

Unless your industry has a very strong job market where you live, I would not quit, or else the next job could be just as bad.
posted by alligatorman at 12:20 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

I know I’m probably a fool for taking the job in the first place but am I throwing more foolish behaviour at this problem by quitting?
Or am I just being a big, ungrateful baby who needs to pull her socks up and get on with it?

You're being very hard on yourself. You weren't foolish for taking the job - you needed a job, you knew it wouldn't be ideal, but you didn't know it would be this much of a grind or make you this miserable. And you aren't being an ungrateful baby at all. It is totally reasonable to want a job that you like (or at least find tolerable). And this situation - no interaction with coworkers, mindless work, extremely long commute, low pay - would make many people unhappy.

You absolutely should quit this job. But I don't think you should do it yet, without another job lined up. A few months' worth of living expenses isn't enough. But you CAN get out of there and into a better situation, you just need a little more planning and luck. Don't jump into being unemployed and broke. That is not going to be better.
1. Agree with above posters that you should ask your boss about possibly working every other Friday for a full day or something instead of half-day Fridays. If people most work alone, that shouldn't impact others too much.
2. Yes to looking for temp positions. It'd probably be ok to quit this job for a temp position if it wasn't super-short. Plus once you get in the door and do a good job at temp placements you tend to get more and better (and longer) placements afterwards.
3. Stick with this job for a little longer and save as aggressively as you can. It's not forever, there is an end coming and you are working on changing your situation. Remember that to help keep the misery at bay.
4. Maybe read some CBT books to help manage your bad feelings about this job.
5. Figure out where the jobs are and whether you do need to eventually move to the city to be closer to job opportunities.
6. Not sure how you've been finding the jobs you've been applying for, but if you don't have time to apply for tons of jobs, maybe you need a more targeted effort. You'll have a much better chance of getting jobs that you find through networking than jobs you just find on job boards. Tell all your local friends and acquaintances that you're looking and ask them to tell you if they know of anything. Find someone doing work you are interested in doing, and ask them if they'll take 20 minutes to talk to you about how they got there and how you be more competitive in your field.

Hang in there! You will be in a better situation soon!
posted by aka burlap at 12:22 PM on February 13, 2015 [4 favorites]

One thing I'd ask for is either a four day, 10 hour per day week. It'll be hard, but you'll get one full day back. OR, just 36 hours per week and you don't commute in on Friday.

If you're only making minimum wage though, wouldn't you be a LOT better off with ANY crap minimum wage job near where you live, rather than schlepping to Toronto everyday? That's lunacy.

I'd look for a temporary receptionist gig, or some other office work that you can do while you're looking for a full-time gig, and I'd insure it was within a 10 mile radius of your house.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:28 PM on February 13, 2015

I do not know if this is as true in Canada as it is here in the U.S., but many employers here will not even consider applicants who aren't already working. This was a serious issue during the 2008 recession, when so many people were thrust into this situation unwillingly. My wife, who was working in HR at the time, had direct instructions from her company's management to simply throw away any resumes from people who were not currently employed. Again, YMMV.
posted by briank at 1:04 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

Ask to work from home one or more days a week. I am a manager and I do not think the above request would be unreasonable. Not every manager is tuned in with every person's specific circumstances, though, so they truly may not realize how much time and money you spend commuting versus the very small amount of money you make. So be explicit about that. If you are able to work from home, you can do all those little run-around tasks like laundry and meal prep so the time in the evening is truly yours.

Also, honestly, I would stop doing the stupid Friday half-day thing because it is unreasonable to spend three hours in transit for four hours of work. If you truly can't come up with a better solution for that day (work from home, work every other week) with your manager just stop working that day completely (and lose the 4 hours pay). Then you'll have more down time, more time to apply for jobs and probably a happier overall feeling.

Despite how miserable this job sounds I wouldn't suggest quitting it without anything lined up unless you have outside support (parents, partner) who truly can float your living expenses for 6-12 months. It's just too risky. I am sorry. I feel for you.
posted by kate blank at 1:06 PM on February 13, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm just gonna back you up a bit and point out that, while unemployed, you are completely at the will of the job market. I quit my job to relocate with my partner back in 2008, armed with nothing more than my degrees, experience, and a few leads. 8 months of terrifying unemployment later, I took the first job I was offered (which is wonderful, but low-paying relative to what I left) and have struggled to get back to the level I left, voluntarily, to look for better digs.

Granted, I left just before the biggest economic collapse in recent memory kicked into high gear, but that's my point and probably the wisdom behind the adage of looking for work while employed. However difficult it is looking for work around the requirements of your current situation, having an income is not one of those problems to work around. Be patient with yourself and keep looking.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 2:36 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've been where you are re: miserable, soul-sucking job that you had to take. You are not being a baby and you weren't being a fool to take the job--you needed to, and like everyone here is saying, you're more hireable being currently employed. It also sounds like you are like me in that the emotional drain of the job hunt is what is the issue more than, for instance, lacking the half-hour a day you need to keep applying to jobs. If that is the case, it probably won't be any easier if you're unemployed--when I've had to live off my savings I just felt even more spiraling frustration and depression at every interview that seemed to go fine but never paid off, let alone the dozens of applications that were just ignored. I strongly recommend this method ( for avoiding emotional drain.

Second, keep being proactive and realistic about the need to make something of all those useless hours doing your soul-killing job. I had a couple temp jobs in a row where all I had to do all day was listen to podcasts; a lot of the time, I would listen to different Zen temples dharma talks (this was a huge help), or listen to the daily news program from multiple sources. More specifically, I would divide these things up by my break times, and then during my break I would stretch or meditate. You're already trying MOOCs, so you're interested in that kind of thing, right? If videos at course-speed are just one step of mental focus too far and stress you out, admit it, and try to consciously experiment with what sources of input and in what ratios make you feel better afterwards rather than worse. If you have creative outlets (writing, sketching), that is a great way to consciously differentiate between work time and break time or commute time. The most important thing is that you help yourself feel human despite an inhuman job.

Again, you haven't done anything wrong and it's not your fault that this was the best option you had and have. You're doing the right thing by admitting that it's unbearable when culturally you're just supposed to be grateful to have a job at all. Good luck with the job hunt and good luck with finding ways to not be miserable in the meantime.
posted by C. K. Dexter Haven at 5:58 PM on February 13, 2015 [2 favorites]

You took this job for seemingly no reason other than you needed a job and it was there. If you take another job under the same conditions, you can assume a similar outcome. So take some time to carefully consider what you want to do next. If you quit now your financial situation will force you back into that pattern.
posted by deathpanels at 4:44 AM on February 14, 2015

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