How to job search for a job when most jobs bore me?
January 12, 2017 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I don't know how to find a job that doesn't drive me insane with boredom. I also don't have a "passion" that can actually translate into a job...

I realize that I am asking this question at the risk of sounding like a lazy jerk. But this situation is causing me a lot of stress, so I need some input.

Since graduating a few years ago with my Master's degree in English, I have worked as an adjunct instructor and a tutor. I left those jobs because of the extremely low pay (I made $20,000/yr before taxes--less when I was just a tutor.)

Currently, I work at an office. I am salaried, make double what I made as an adjunct, have PTO, and am able to get health insurance for my husband and I. With this job (and a strict budget) I am able to aggressively pay down the debt that I have and plan to be debt free by the middle of the year. I also have super awesome co-workers that I get along really well with and have great conversations with.

These are all good things and I am very grateful to be in a position where (combined with the similar income my husband brings in) I can pay rent on a decent-sized apartment, payments on a car (we drove our 20-year-old car until it died) and afford healthy groceries, etc. Our standard of living isn't luxurious, but after living as grad students for years, it is very comfortable to us.

The only thing is my job is INSANELY BORING. I was hired to do mainly graphic design work and the days where I actually get to do that I'm generally okay with my job. Not super thrilled, but it's fine. But there are often months at a time where there isn't design work so I get assigned boring, dry technical writing or QA assignments--basically, whatever needs to be done that my English background and/or general ability to follow directions qualifies me to do.

The larger problem is that I don't care a bit for what we produce. In my (worthless) opinion, the stuff our company produces is inferior and in an industry I don't actually care about. I don't care about the company. I HATE CORPORATE ENVIRONMENTS. I hate the buzzwords, the mandatory adoption (and eventual discard) of whatever productivity app is trendy, and the excessive meetings and the weird office drama. I also hate that everyone is my company is constantly anxious about losing their jobs due to "reorganization," etc. (The company has periodically laid off large groups of people as C-level people run around trying to blame everyone and everything for unmet goals).

I walk into work, sit at my desk for my shift, and go home. I did not start working here because the company was appealing to me. I work here because, compared to adjuncting, it was a relatively stable position with decent pay and I had been unemployed for 2 months. But after a year, I have reached the point where I feel like every day I spend at my desk is a day completely wasted.

I know that I do not have to love my job. I do not have to be defined by my work. I know these things. But I've reached the point where my job makes me cry. I dread going in, especially after the weekend. The prospect of returning to my desk on Monday is enough to make Sunday a mopey, dreary, slog. In fact, I feel like my entire existence at work is pointed toward the weekend. Like "just get through today, just X hours until I can go home, just X days until the weekend." etc.

I have considered finding a new job, but I don't even know what to search for. I don't really have a passion...? I went to school to become a professor (ha!) but I cannot find work other than as an adjunct. Design work is cool, I do enjoy doing it but I think I lack the advanced skills that pure graphic design positions seem to demand. Another thing I worry about is that a design job would be another office job full of corporate BS.

I wish I could have a job I enjoyed. But the things I enjoy--drawing, painting, reading, playing video games, crafting--don't really translate into "real" jobs. I also worry that there is something wrong with my character--most of my peers have career goals with distinct paths to follow. They want to advance. I have no desire to achieve promotions, manage people, negotiate deals, or anything like that. I just want to spend my time doing creative things.

I do not feel that I can switch to something like part-time work to free up more time to do creative activities, because very soon I will be the primary breadwinner in my household. My husband is going back to school to get his PhD. He will be working at the same time as a GA and hopefully some other jobs on campus, but I will be the only one with an actual salaried job. This is also a reason that I am hanging on to my current job--we will have to move several hours away for him to attend this school. My job will allow me to continue working, remotely.

I am more than willing to spend time trying to improve my work situation. One of my plans for this year is to build up an illustration portfolio this year. I enjoy drawing but have never organized myself enough to put together a portfolio and work on commissions for people. So this year I will be working on improving my drawings, drawing more often, putting my work online, etc,

But other than that, I have no idea on how to improve things.

I apologize many times over if I sound like I am not grateful for what I have, but this is what I'm actually feeling a year after working here. I am not planning on throwing it all away when I have bills to pay. I know many people have it much harder than me. I feel very guilty for wanting a job that I enjoy when I am lucky to have a job at all.

I would just like some advice on a game plan for the future. I do not feel good about doing this same job for the next 5 years (or until they decide to lay me off...)

Thank you very much for your time.
posted by galaxypeachtea to Work & Money (21 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
 
A friend in a similar kind of situation got into scientific illustration as a career.
posted by gudrun at 11:28 AM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


I'm a librarian at a college and I am never bored.
posted by mareli at 11:30 AM on January 12, 2017


I was 100% with you up until this point: " But I've reached the point where my job makes me cry. I dread going in, especially after the weekend. The prospect of returning to my desk on Monday is enough to make Sunday a mopey, dreary, slog. In fact, I feel like my entire existence at work is pointed toward the weekend. Like "just get through today, just X hours until I can go home, just X days until the weekend." etc. "

I have an objectively totally boring job at a great place that I basically support the mission of. I have good coworkers. I am pretty good at my job. All these things, for me, make the difference between "eh, it's work" and crying Sunday night. I've had both kinds of jobs.

I guess what I'm trying to say is: you don't necessarily need unicorns or a job where you save the world. For your next step, look for what I have: a job you don't hate that doesn't make you hate yourself and cry every Sunday. I have been there and I am so so so sad for you. Just look for something a little better, and then maybe you can look for something a little better than that, and so on. But right now, your job is ruining your life, even if it is giving you a comfortable salary. You can't enjoy it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:31 AM on January 12, 2017 [21 favorites]


once you pay off your debt, could you take some courses that will bring you up to speed on the design elements you feel you are missing? this will allow you to be more competitive. Or, have you considered a design job in government or the cultural heritage sector? not necessarily more secure, but possibly more interesting. a bonus about museums, for example, is that many people who work in them tend to love museums and their work, so the atmosphere is often very pleasant. Same with higher ed (don't all jump on me!)
All large universities (and many small ones) need designers for their communications, alumni development and press (as in actual academic publishing) depts. Often these jobs actually pay pretty well. Or is there a sector/field that interests you a bit more, even if not passionately, that might also use designers? the bottom line- and I realize this is very much a privilege- is to ask yourself what you enjoy most, like best or dislike least, and then explore the possibilities in those subject areas. Finally, I once attended a free vocational counseling session- best thing I ever did! Is there any such beastie- maybe via a non-profit or school nearby- that offers this? Best wishes- you CAN do this without sacrificing the money you need!
posted by mollymillions at 11:32 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, also: don't beat yourself up if you're not doing as much drawing as you'd like right now. Your psyche is taken over by this shitty job. It eats away at everything. You'll be able to be so much more productive in your off time when your job isn't destroying every bit of joy in your world.

I get not wanting to complain and to be grateful. There's something to that, and I'm glad you recognize that. But this is not the job for you. Big hugs.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:33 AM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


work here because, compared to adjuncting, it was a relatively stable position with decent pay

Definitely a trade off between compensation, position, location, etc. Your portfolio idea sounds great, though.

One idea may be taking a personality test and matching your type to a profession? Then pursue that route. This worked for me in the past.
posted by mountainblue at 11:35 AM on January 12, 2017


Is there any chance that the change to working remotely (when you move) will bring your job away from the brink, back to merely boring? It's almost certainly going to change your exposure to some of the inanities of a corporate business environment. If so, I'd try to stick it out while you work on your portfolio or take classes as the others are suggesting.
posted by janell at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]



I do not feel that I can switch to something like part-time work to free up more time to do creative activities, because very soon I will be the primary breadwinner in my household. My husband is going back to school to get his PhD. He will be working at the same time as a GA and hopefully some other jobs on campus, but I will be the only one with an actual salaried job. This is also a reason that I am hanging on to my current job--we will have to move several hours away for him to attend this school. My job will allow me to continue working, remotely.


I feel like you've buried the lede here. Pretty soon everything in your life is about to change, a lot - your combined income is going to drop precipitously, you're moving to a different town, your husband is going to be in a whole different world - your job is practically the only thing left that will stay the same, and it sounds like, because of your husband's decision, you're now going to be trapped in it for the foreseeable future. No wonder you're feeling ambivalent! Even if you and your husband talked it out extensively, and he was very grateful that you were willing to make this sacrifice for him, I think it's totally understandable to be feeling a bit panicked.

I think the first thing to remember is that you are not trapped in your job because your husband is getting his PhD. I did my PhD without a partner supporting me, and so do most people. You may choose to keep working so that you can keep living a comfortable lifestyle, but if an amazing creative or intellectual opportunity comes your way - well, you've lived the starving grad student life before, and you can do it again. That ability - knowing that the nice car and fancy apartment are choices, not requirements - is in and of itself a huge and freeing gift.

Also, here's a small thing: you may find working remotely a huge improvement over having to go to the office everyday. Think about it: since you're smart and (it sounds like) overqualified, I bet you can carve out a lot more free time for yourself and your creative pursuits than you otherwise would. Make yourself an amazing home office, full of art and books and plants; set up cool little projects to do during breaks, scout out nifty coffee shops (you're moving to a college town, presumably)...you might be able to fit a whole lot of creativity into your life.

Finally, if what you want to do is illustrate, when you move to your new town, introduce yourself to people as an illustrator. Yeah you're still building your portfolio - so what? You're working to pay the bills while you build the life you want. You can claim a creative identity as part of doing that
posted by pretentious illiterate at 11:37 AM on January 12, 2017 [18 favorites]


You might look in your area for a software development company looking for an office position, and then laterally sneak into programming, graphics, or UI/UX work. When you are that person who can "draw an icon, image", or fix an element in X, it could grow from there.
posted by nickggully at 11:42 AM on January 12, 2017


I lack the advanced skills that pure graphic design positions seem to demand.

This is fixable. Once you switch to remote working you will find you have quite a bit more time to pursue this sort of career development. Either do an online course, or start going through Youtube tutorials or books (depending on your learning style). Do a few projects on the side to showcase your new skills. Look into UX/UI positions as well as pure graphic design. If you learn some basic coding you will be even more employable -- in SF this is like an $75K+ a year job.

a design job would be another office job full of corporate BS.

Every job involves BS. Even if you switch to doing freelance illustration, the closest thing to "spending your time doing creative things", you'll have to deal with accounting, marketing, managing your online channels, dealing with clients, etc etc. Even drawing for a living can get tedious.

Also, don't compare your insides to other peoples' outsides. It may look like your peers have passion and trajectory and all that crap. It's simply not true. Most of it is a thin veneer of competency overlaying a maelstrom of self-doubt and apathy.

Best of luck :)
posted by ananci at 11:43 AM on January 12, 2017 [11 favorites]


Consider changing companies without drastically changing your career. I'm a technical writer and I was bored to tears for long stretches of my 10+ year career. I was considering a drastic change that would cut my earnings in half, just to get some relief. But when I landed at a company that kept me busy and interested, everything was different. In just a few months, I went from "my whole career was a mistake and I've wasted my life" to "I enjoy what I do and I'm glad to be doing it". Having been through that, my belief is this: it's probably going to take you a while to find your passion. Years, maybe. So in the meantime, why not try doing the same thing at a different company? It might suck, but things already suck. And at least then you'll get to experience different corporate cultures. More information = easier decisions about your future.
posted by neushoorn at 11:47 AM on January 12, 2017 [4 favorites]


Have you looked into instructional design? I work as an instructional designer for a large university and it takes a lot of the skills you have-- editing, design, teaching, etc. I actually wish I had more of a background in graphic design to be able to do more, but most of my job is working with instructors to build online courses in different learning platforms like Blackboard. I know a lot of instructional designers who have worked or are currently working freelance or remotely. There's always going to be the boring parts and the political BS, but the job requires a little more creativity and sometimes a new environment can shake some of that dread and fill the necessary money gap until you're able to move on.
posted by thefang at 11:48 AM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


And at least then you'll get to experience different corporate cultures

YES. This makes a HUGE difference. I can't oversell how much of a difference this has made for me.
posted by fiercecupcake at 11:57 AM on January 12, 2017 [2 favorites]


What does the company need that you can do that would be different? Look for a project that needs attention, and see if project management would be not boring, or maybe training. The company values you, recognizes that you have diverse skills, and will likely give you opportunities if you ask for them.
posted by theora55 at 12:15 PM on January 12, 2017


You are getting some great practical advice, I just wanted to address this:

I also worry that there is something wrong with my character--most of my peers have career goals with distinct paths to follow. They want to advance. I have no desire to achieve promotions, manage people, negotiate deals, or anything like that. I just want to spend my time doing creative things.


This is me, right down to the master's in English. (except that all I want to do is read books, which perhaps is not quite so creative as you) Please do not worry that there is anything wrong with you -- we are all, as I think Dickens said, fellow passengers to the grave, and there is no big scoreboard in the sky, no report card on How You Did waiting for you. Think of people, now and in history, that you admire -- they're not all CEOs are they? There is nothing wrong with not wanting to be a Corporate Rock Star if that isn't what you like, and people/media who tell you otherwise are just trying to get you to buy things.

Me, it took years of trial and lots of error to find a job that I could live with without wanting to cry on Sunday nights (it's in state gov't; not sure I can recommend that for you -- being bored doesn't weigh on me so much). But I still hate going to work. I will never enjoy going to work.
posted by JanetLand at 12:30 PM on January 12, 2017 [6 favorites]


You sound a lot like me, and I think you would thrive in the public sector, for several reasons:

1. Most public programs have a purpose beyond "let's meet this quarter's sales goals". Public health, safety, transportation, you see the benefit of your work in tangible ways.

2. Planning, program management, program evaluation and in general running programs is interesting and fun. There is never a dull moment, and there is always room for improvement. You are never in the (sometimes tedious and repetitive) side of actually implementing, you are always on the planning side. I personally love that.

3. Since it seems you are at heart an academic, you would enjoy the fact that the public sector tends to have a lot of opportunities for formal and informal research, and a lot of the work is theoretical.

4. Because of the organizational complexity within most agencies, there are a million opportunities to advance your career without actually having to supervise people or hold power or have intimidatingly important responsibilities (which I kind of hate as well). You can be a contract monitor or an auditor and make a solid living.

5. The public sector can be really good in the work-life balance department. I have time to do grad school, do some crafting and play video games.

All these things vary from agency to agency, but at least in my experience they tend to be at least partially there for all public sector employees I know.

Also, in general, it's perfectly fine to not be passionate about your job. But to not be miserable you have to find an interesting angle in what you do. Maybe you love efficiency, or maybe you really enjoy the challenges of public relations. You can sort of guide your own career towards the aspects of your current job which actually matter to you. For example, when I was doing direct-service work, I put a really heavy emphasis on evaluation and data gathering (what I like), and sort of automated everything I didn't like so it wouldn't take up my time. This started a sort of confirmation bias in my office, where obviously I was the evaluation person, which in turn meant I was given most of the evaluation stuff. Eventually an evaluation position opened, and I was the obvious candidate for it.
posted by Tarumba at 12:37 PM on January 12, 2017 [5 favorites]


Please make sure you read grumblebee's comment about finding your passion in a job.
posted by purplesludge at 1:07 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


Not having a passion for anything suggests depression to me.
posted by Bruce H. at 1:28 PM on January 12, 2017


First, I hear you, very much relate. I've had those kinds of jobs, jobs that objectively aren't terrible but feel like death, and when I think about going back to anything like that, it's always in caps or screams. So I've also been thinking about this, and I think if you don't happen to have the skills du jour, and just aren't up for jumping through the (more) hateful hoops, entrepreneurship's really the only way out. It's the only way to escape buzzwords and bullshit, and to get to relate to people in a normal, intuitive way, and do (at least some) things you care about (to some minimal degree. Or at least do them your way). I don't know how that would fit with what your partner's doing. Or how it would work in the US, wrt medical insurance etc. But you could spend a little time thinking about services/skills you wouldn't completely hate providing/using for 30 hours, that fill a need prevalent enough to have a value of at least (for example) $30/hr, which need a minimal overhead. Things that wouldn't need more than a short course to put you in a better position in terms of market value. Services, skills, things people need, that have some kind of connection to things you kind of already like. Look to longstanding interests and hobbies, things you have a knack for, or translate to things you already do, that maybe you wouldn't have thought of before. Keep an open mind. (That's what I'm going to be doing.)

But practically, if the first half of this year is going to be about getting rid of that debt, maybe the second could be about saving for the Next thing. Decide that you'll spend this year figuring it out. Meanwhile, yup get that portfolio done, but also think about other business ideas. When you're bored at work, use that time to think it through and focus on how the money that angst is earning you is going to help set you free, soon.
posted by cotton dress sock at 1:36 PM on January 12, 2017 [1 favorite]


I wish I could have a job I enjoyed. But the things I enjoy--drawing, painting, reading, playing video games, crafting--don't really translate into "real" jobs. I also worry that there is something wrong with my character--most of my peers have career goals with distinct paths to follow. They want to advance. I have no desire to achieve promotions, manage people, negotiate deals, or anything like that. I just want to spend my time doing creative things.

I hear ya. I have similar issues except that my work isn't boring but it's incredibly stressful and I'd trade you any day for "boring." You could have worse reasons to cry. I sadly don't have a solution for you because I've never found one. However, I will say that writer, maker and crafter types like you and me don't tend to be super ambitious personalities. Like, what would your ambition be as a maker? Make bigger paintings? "Ambition" is for people who have a ladder to climb up, and it doesn't sound like your job or your interests really do have a way of progressing in a way that you'd be into.

I think I concur with your idea of trying to boost your skills so you could get a better design job. Or just work on developing any skills that might get you into some other kind of job or field.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:49 PM on January 12, 2017


You don't hate "corporate jobs", you hate *your* job. Your post doesn't say to me that you are a special and delicate snowflake who can never be successful in corporate America -- it says to me that your current job sucks. Hating a job where you don't care about the company's mission, you spend most of your time doing menial work outside of your job description, and there are frequent unexpected layoffs is normal. Not especially caring about promotions or climbing the career ladder is also normal, especially in creative fields. Get a different job. If you don't yet have the graphic design skills to get the job you want, develop them, or find a job that will help you train to get them.
posted by phoenixy at 7:45 PM on January 12, 2017 [3 favorites]


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