Should I change my job, and if so, to what?
May 23, 2015 9:23 PM   Subscribe

Should I change my job, and if so, to what? *Or is it a symptom of something else, and how should I address it? I have my own office on campus, with software I require, challenging and interesting work, huge flexibility, variety, good pay (with 25% casual loading, 9% superannuation) and respect. But it's not that simple.

I have no holiday or sick leave, no supervision or support, no career path, complex/annoying pay claim, no pay for housekeeping tasks (like email). I'm not eligible for staff prizes for excellence or a stand up desk that 30 other people in my school were entitled to).

I currently work for a number of different clients (12 separate jobs at the moment) in a Queensland University. My work includes:
formatting books (final photo-ready product for publishers, including Springer) and international journal for publication, including designing or recreating diagrams
formatting and/or proofing PhD theses
graphic design for PowerPoints, various publications, printed material
Web design (with content management systems) for a variety of academic projects
Data collection, analysis and database design, and writing reports that become academic papers

I enjoy a lot of my work - say 85% of it. The flexibility is both a boon and a curse - I usually work 25-30 hours a week, because I don't go to work if I don't feel like it (and nobody cares) and I don't like to "invoice" for wasted time. This would be excellent if I was using those non-work hours usefully, but they're a bit of toss up with ADHD lack of focus and occasional chronic depression apathy. So I wonder if I would be better off in a forced 9-5 role that I haven't done for 4 years.

It's annoying that I don't get paid for staff networking time that other people do, general maintenance of my workspace email, though I've been told unofficially to "pad" my time sheets for these activities. And the time sheets - argh! I get a different PDF payslip, tax rate and YTD for each that does not match pay period (if the pay period is 1-14, payday is 13th, the cutoff date is around 10th, and you can't submit times in advance. Last pay period I received 6 different payslips, and I will the next pay with at least four days marked as retro, with the only identifier the pay rate - the same for several jobs - but not the client or account.) Some jobs require invoices (as opposed to time sheets) which do not have tax or superannuation automatically paid.

I also support staff in the use of Microsoft office. Every day, someone will pop in with "just a quick question" that I'm the only one who can answer. I don't want to not do that, because having good relationships with everyone is important, but I can't bill anyone for that time. HR has (not surprisingly) been unhelpful. The big boss is sympathetic but has no suggestions.

*But the bigger picture is this: I've had a rough 4 years, ending 20 year marriage, moving 5 times, 3 of those unwillingly. My estranged mother died, and I had to deal with other difficult family members and sell her house that I owned part of. My ex went to prison for child sex offences, leaving our son in their shared residence with three undrivable vehicles, rent and utilities unpaid (he lives with me in a too small unit- arrgh, this drives me crazy - until his father is released - unknown date). My daughter was sexually assaulted and started her PhD and being a young adult has required emotional and financial support. And me, I sometimes struggle with depression, but mostly with late-diagnosed ADHD, and in the last two years, have been in emergency (different times) with pneumonia and broken ribs. I currently have a torn rotator cuff (untreated - the GP said lets wait and see, I have a appointment with a new one because pins and needles in fingers). I'm overweight, but despite deciding to lose it (multiple times) I'm gaining, I abuse alcohol as self medication for anxiety, boredom and loneliness. I'm rather spectacularly unsuccessful at dating, and I don't have a sounding board to work out whether the reason I want to change my job is because of everything else.
posted by b33j to Work & Money (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: It seems to me that the primary thing you need to work out about your current job is whether you need a career path. If you do this same thing until retirement, are you ok with that? And that presumably depends on how long you have until retirement, which you're going to have to think about yourself based on your own age and finances and so on - if it's more than ten years, then even if you think you're fine doing this job forever now, you might change your mind in a decade.

If you decide you're ok doing this forever, then the next thing I think you need to do is talk to an accountant or a lawyer or somebody who is familiar with the university and with your specific position there (I assume you're like contract staff or something, and I'm sure there must be others in other departments - maybe what you want to do is talk to some of them. Do they have a union or something? Maybe they can put you in touch.) You should be able to work out things like how to get yourself a standing desk (maybe you can just pay for it yourself?), how to get paid for managing your email (padding your hours seems fine to me, since presumably all your actual jobs are the cause of needing to do it, but find out what the actual deal is), and how much it'd cost to hire someone to deal with the financial paperwork. Is it possible there might be a benefit to incorporating? I have no idea, but there must be someone who can tell you!

Finally, the main thing to change is your attitude about contracting. You have a different job from other people in the department, right? So you're going to get paid differently and for different things. You don't get a salary, you don't get prizes, and you don't get paid time off, but on the other hand, you don't have to be there particular hours, you don't have to deal with a bunch of departmental bullshit (I know you probably think you do, but I guarantee you the actual employees have to deal with more).

If it helps you visualize things, put aside $X every month for your bonus fund, and when you want to take time off, you pay yourself out of there (I'm assuming when you say you don't get holiday, you mean you don't get paid holidays but can take unpaid time - if you can't take any vacation at all your job sucks and you should find a new one). If you want to give yourself an award for doing an awesome job, pay yourself out of your bonus fund. If you have to spend an hour explaining pivot tables to somebody, pay yourself $20. I think it very likely you'll come out ahead compared to the other employees. If you don't feel like that, then maybe you're underpaid and should think about switching jobs (or asking for a raise! do you have any control over that?), but give it a shot first.

Seriously, it sounds like you have a good job that is a good fit for you. If your life is unstable and you have ADHD and occasional apathetic spells, the odds of finding another job that is so accommodating are not high. This is not to say you shouldn't do it if the current job is meeting your needs, but don't undervalue the lifestyle fit of the current place.
posted by inkyz at 10:15 PM on May 23, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Having spells of ADHD-level lack-of-focus and depressionish apathy is going to suck a lot more in a 9-5 job- you'll end up getting the same feelings but be chained to your desk! This can suck the life right out of you.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:04 PM on May 23, 2015

Best answer: I enjoy a lot of my work - say 85% of it.

This is excellent. This is much better than most people have it. I think the ratio would change considerably (for the worse) if you went for a 9-5 job. Maybe, when you're in a more settled place in the rest of your life, it would be an idea to consider a bit of freelancing on the side, to add a bit more to your schedule and bank account, and gain exposure to different kinds of work and clients.

Also - block off an hour every Monday morning to deal with invoicing, payslips, etc.

It's annoying that I don't get paid for staff networking time that other people do, general maintenance of my workspace email, though I've been told unofficially to "pad" my time sheets for these activities.

Email is work. You've been offered a workaround wrt the issue of billing, why not take it?

I think you should keep your flexibility, and prioritize dealing with the bigger picture issues. (And holy hell, you and your family have been through a lot.) Find a reliable sounding board asap!
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:06 PM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: I was thinking, perhaps erroneously, that in a 9-5 job I would be paid for sitting there through ADHD unfocus, through the 2-3 hours that is claiming, through the technical support I offer staff, and I'd turn up for work more often and be paid for 36-40 hours a week instead of 25. I don't even know what I'm worth outside this environment because the recent jobs I've seen don't have pay range included.
posted by b33j at 11:35 PM on May 23, 2015

Best answer: You might, b33j, or you might be fired for not focusing on your job.

Go to your GP, get a referall to psychologist if you don't have one already; that will allow you to claim medicare on the sessions, at least partly. Also, from what you describe, it sounds like you're not actually an employee of the university? If you are, they probably have an Employee Assistance Program you can take advantage of.

I don't know homie, your job sounds less than ideal - but when you describe all the other shit going on in your life, it honestly sounds like not your top worry at the moment.

I think also people tend to have a real "all or nothing" mentality when it comes to jobs. Rather than dumping a job with lots of things that you enjoy to take a chance, why don't you reorientate and focus yourself around what you can change in this job, the job you have, to make it more like the kind of job you want. Make some plans, talk to someone who can help you with this plan, and break it down into little action steps you can take, so it doesn't appear overwhelming or like it's all going to change at once. E.g "This week I will add an additional 2 hours to my timesheet for emails and stuff."; "Next week I will take to Georgette about how I an shift to being part/full time instead of this ad hoc stuff." etc etc.

For the love of god, do not quit this job before you've got another set in stone. To me, it sounds like you're in a time of huge flux and change, and you're feeling limited in how you can control/respond to that change. Your job may be contributing to these feelings of being handcuffed, but consider also that it seems like an island of stability compared to what else you have going on. And I think you could probably use some certainty and stability about now. Work on developing your sense of agency and control, and these feelings of frustration and adriftness may recede. Best of luck,
posted by smoke at 11:52 PM on May 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You seem to be full of pain and anxiety. A therapist could help you sort out what is causing what. You've been a member here for years and have helped many people on AskMe. Can you turn the same caring onto yourself? Therapy, self care like massage or whatever makes you happy.
posted by Mistress at 1:56 AM on May 24, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The flexibility is both a boon and a curse - I usually work 25-30 hours a week, because I don't go to work if I don't feel like it (and nobody cares) and I don't like to "invoice" for wasted time.

Make sure you are not shorting yourself. I see that you have brought up the issue of not getting paid for housekeeping and support and been told to pad your invoices-- which I wouldn't like to hear either, but maybe it's not really padding? Maybe it's the cost of getting the work done and you are just not following best practices at the moment? Is there a bookkeeper you can consult for this kind of thing? At any rate, you should make sure your rate of pay is reasonable for the number of hours you work. If the money is all coming from the university and/or its various departments, they should be paying a reasonable rate for what you are doing on their campus. Don't go around feeling vaguely like you are being taken advantage of-- get some hard numbers and decide on that basis how or whether to address this.

What I get from the rest of your post is that life feels really unfair for you right now and I totally get why you would feel that way. A whole lot of crap out of your control has happened. On the positive side-- really, it is positive!-- you already know you are coping in some not ideal ways. I think it would be really great if you could find a women's group to share some of this with. You say you are abusing alcohol, so AA would be a possibility too, but they are going to focus on that. At any rate, I get the feeling you are already leaning towards a conclusion that the problem isn't really the job; there are some possibly fixable things about that, and really it's the whole combination of things you are dealing with.
posted by BibiRose at 7:03 AM on May 24, 2015 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I have ADHD and a 9-5 job. I have to sit at my desk even when I've accomplished my goals for the week on Wednesday, or when I'm feeling so distracted or depressed that I am not productive. I often have to work more than 40 hours a week, for which I do not get additional pay.

The structure does help, but I envy the flexibility you describe. I also think you and your family are in a very difficult time of transition. Changing jobs is stressful, and if I were you I'd be hesitant to add another big transition to everything else you are dealing with.

The concern I do have after reading your post is whether you are making enough. If you aren't then yes, look for other work. You can apply for jobs and go on interviews and see what's out there - you don't have to take a new job that is not significantly better.

Good luck.
posted by bunderful at 7:09 AM on May 24, 2015

Best answer: Looking over your post again, your living situation is probably stressful with the shared, too-small space. This is something that might change in the future with more money, but for now, find some enjoyable ways to stay out of the house. Do you have use of university facilities such as the library and gym? Can you take a class?
posted by BibiRose at 7:27 AM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you. You solved this one for me. I feel out of control.

The job I love with 14 different clients, and competing deadlines (that move and move and move, and I'm the last person in the chain and there's no wiggle room but four other deadlines came due at the same time for the same reason and I have no supervisor to complain to or someone to shift the work onto because I'm casual, and won't get more work if I get a reputation for not completing on time, and I have to keep each of the tasks within a time frame when how long is a piece of string and these people are getting a professional product at half or even less the price they'd have to pay if they went externally) makes me feel out of control. The driving lessons I plateaued at, before the shoulder injury ruled them out, and the online (poorly constructed deadline approaching) project management course make me feel out of control.

Living with the adult son who has different (than me) hygiene standards and sleep patterns who will only do shared tasks when asked to, and those with poor grace, so that both asking and not asking is as unpleasant makes me feel out of control. The adult daughter who doesn't live with me but uses me as a financial top up, and an emotional resource (which is good, but hard sometimes) but is strong enough to say she doesn't have the capacity to emotionally support me when I'm in a crisis and who bought a pair of $199 shoes this week makes me feel out of control. The ratbastard ex who left a mess for his kids to clean up, that I took care of because that's what I do, who has ruined any good memories of the bitterly long marriage, and who's fucking shit I'm storing for the sake of my son who will take care of his father on release makes me feel out of control. And the ongoing illnesses I've had, particularly over the last year with the broken ribs, shingles, and in the last month torn rotor cuff , boils, psoriasis and large BCC cut out make me feel out of control. My lovely ex flatmate who has repeatedly tried to kill herself over the last three months, my dear friend who lost her daughter to breast cancer this week, my bro's much loved (to all of us) father-in-law dying of cancer in February, offering support that can only help a little, that makes me feel out of control.

And looking for a partner, between all that, because I want to be part of team that leans on each other, and experiencing the typical crap that dating is at my age and size: this week's correspondent blocking me because I asked him not to call women females, the old flame that I thought things went well with, but who didn't return a post-date call,the date from the previous month who had been promising but had provided photos that were 5 years old, and before he became morbidly obese (did he think I wouldn't notice), the guy I was seeing for 9 months, who's ability to return a text or arrange a date was sporadic, but not as entertaining as his drunken public diatribe on Facebook about me having money in the bank. Yeah, that made me feel out of control too.

So when I see the doctor in 4 hours (insomnia makes me feel out of control too, but maybe not being in control gives me insomnia so it evens out) I'll not only get the shoulder seen to, I'll ask if some of the other symptoms I've been experiencing are anything to do with heart attacks, ask for a referral to a psychologist, and ask about options for dealing with the drinking above and beyond AA.

So yeah, amazing I couldn't see it, but there it is. It didn't occur to me to go to a therapist because I've been getting out of bed everyday. Thanks as always for the insight.
posted by b33j at 11:52 AM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: That said, and with appreciative best answers marked, I'm open to other suggestions if you have any - like if I did run away to Melbourne and start a new life as a McDonalds waitress, my life might be less stressful and all, sort of thing,
posted by b33j at 11:55 AM on May 24, 2015

like if I did run away

To quote the great philosopher, Douglas Adams, there is no problem so big it cannot be run away from.

One of my advantages of not having kids is that I can run away make choices that benefit me without having to think of dependents.

As well as seeing a good therapist (I know one in Bris if you want a recommendation), can you begin to make plans with your children about them becoming independent? Your daughter is certainly ready to be financially independent if she is on a PhD stipend (!) and your son will follow in his dad's footsteps and remain dependent until you pull the rug. This is the choice you need to make. You need to choose to make independent people of your kids so you make independent choices for yourself.

Keep your job, it's better than you realise. But as much as you love them and need them, you need to change the dynamic with your kids.
posted by Thella at 5:20 PM on May 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: There's a therapist on the Gold Coast I found really helpful three years ago - I'm making an appointment with her. I asked my son to step up a little more as a result of this thread and he's not talking to me now. So, fucked if I know what I should do about this. I hope the therapist has ideas. My boss (the dean) caught my crying at work today. She has limited power in what she can do, but she knows, and she's suggested the way around the desk thing (which is a symbol, rather than an issue) is an ergonomic test, especially with my current rotor cuff /back issues. She also was in the background when I lost a 20 hour job due to an unreasonable turn around. That said, I still think it's time to look for a new job.
posted by b33j at 2:49 AM on May 25, 2015

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