How long do I stick with my first good job...which I hate
November 15, 2017 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Will I be hurting my chances of future employment if I leave a job after four months?

As of July of this year, I got my first job that enables me to support myself. It pays a living wage where I live (3k per month), my rent is only a third of my monthly income, and I’m able to put away some savings each month for emergencies and in a 401k. Bad news is, it’s crushing my soul. My role is administrative coordinator for a healthcare company. I’ve only had this job for 4 months and really want to move on. Partly it’s the work -- being on the phone and computer doing highly repetitive tasks all day, sitting in a cube, working for a company and doing a role that I don't find particularly fulfilling. And maybe 30% is that the company is highly disorganized, going through restructuring, and my direct coworkers are not great. I also commute for 1.5 hours every day.

This job has been a challenge for me. Most of my previous jobs have either been related to music or been physically active positions (washing dishes, construction, barista). I also struggle with organization and had to have a talk with my supervisor about how to improve, but have been very open and owned up to all of my shortcomings, and my boss has been happy with how I have worked to overcome these and held myself accountable. He says in each of our supervision meetings that everyone enjoys having me around and likes the way I work, but I wonder how good a reference I might get in the future if I leave now, especially given that I have struggled with performance.

The two people on my team, whom I work alongside in the same room, are negative, catty, have bad attitudes, and frequently gossip about others and myself. One of these coworkers is aggressive and sometimes orders me to do things as though she’s my boss. She is constantly dominating meetings, telling our bosses that the changes they are trying to implement create too much work for us/her. She once confronted me for something which she felt I did wrong, red in the face and with a raised voice, and using swear words to describe how she felt about what I did. I brought this up with our supervisor, who is generally a pushover, and he was mildly concerned but did not seem to do much about it, even though I told him she makes me uncomfortable and I was starting to dread coming to work.

As a young person recently out of college, I worry that leaving a position after four months is going to look terrible. I’ve had a number of jobs in the two years I’ve been out of school and left all of them after 4-6 months. None of them was a good fit. But I also wonder (see my last question about resilience) if I’m being a puss and should stick with it despite the challenges, and in general if I have been the problem with my previous jobs rather than the jobs themselves being the problem (apart from the ones that didn't pay well enough). I'm not sure if I'll be cutting my future opportunities if I ditch sooner rather than later. Conversely, am I much more likely to find better jobs if I stay with this one for a particular length of time? I am especially concerned about this in the scenario that I take a less respected job like selling sandwiches or being a bike mechanic. My ultimate goal is to (I think) work for a non-profit, and I'm looking into pursuing a masters in social work in the next year.

Any advice appreciated. Thanks, hive-mind!
posted by switcheroo to Work & Money (10 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It is very difficult to transition from being a student into working a desk job. That said, the issues you describe at work sound relatively standard to me. You'll find your work becomes more interesting as your labor becomes more valuable, and switching jobs every 4-6 months doesn't give you a great opportunity to make your input become more valuable, hence the repetitive tasks. The gossipy coworkers is just sort of a thing in my experience, especially when the work is not engaging.

Is there a reason you'd want to leave without already having your next gig lined up? I don't think it matters that you've previously jumped around a bit, because you can simply choose to leave some of that off your resume and out of the conversation. Given the short time periods at these jobs, it's not as if they will be perceived as making you a lot better candidate anyway. If I were you, I'd consider looking for better jobs while keeping this job.
posted by bigplugin at 4:29 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

In entry level jobs straight out of university, this is what is known as 'paying your dues.' Most positions have elements of not the most riveting work and almost every one has you with colleagues you'd normally not choose to spend most of your day with. As you get more experienced, you'll be trusted with more challenging tasks and all of this is valuable in helping navigate tricky people.

I'd work on kicking ass at this job and getting promoted out of your role now to a better one within the company. Sure, there might be an amazing position out there for you but gently, I just think adjusting to work from college is hard for everyone. Stick with it.
posted by Jubey at 4:42 PM on November 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

When you say it's crushing your soul, is there any hyperbole there? Because I have had jobs that truly drained life out of me -- I dreaded going and cried at the thought of being there, I was a ball of anxiety at work and I dreamed of quitting immediately. But I've also had jobs I didn't like -- they were boring, I didn't feel like I meshed with my co-workers, I didn't think the job was going anywhere and I wanted to find a new job. Are you more the former or the latter?

If it's the latter, I would advise you to suck it up. It's going to be a lot easier to get another job when 1) you are already in a job 2) you have some experience. Quitting now and *then* looking for a new job is just going to make your job search as sucky as the job itself. I don't think the length of you staying at this job matters as much as having the job while you look. So go ahead and look now for another job if you want. But I would take this as a valuable opportunity to learn how to work in an office and right organization strategy for yourself.

And yes, your co-workers sound unpleasant, but welcome to working in an office. This is a common obstacle -- you often end up having co-workers who suck. But it's a temporary problem because these people don't matter and you won't be working with them in a couple year's time. Learning how to deal with it will be good practice for the future. For me, keeping to my own work and not choosing to fight most battles (especially in a job I didn't care about) was the best way to keep the peace and move along.

I would think long-term here. You want to work for a non-profit and you are in a job right now that is giving you the skills and experience to do that one day. Jobs out of college can suck. I remember having to do some pretty menial labor in my first job out of college and it felt very beneath me, but at the same time, I had no experience and I needed to take my lumps and work my way up. This is just how it goes. You could go back to selling coffee because you prefer to be on your feet and talking to people, but getting a job that pays a living wage or working at a non-profit aren't going to magically appear down the line someday. I would find coping strategies, remind yourself that this job is temporary, remind yourself it could be worse, and look for a new job *while* you have this job. And in the meantime, learn what you can from this job.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:46 PM on November 15, 2017 [10 favorites]

I'm going to give a different point of view based seeing a bit of myself in you, OP, but I'm a bit older than you and have jumped jobs many, many times.

A lot of these ideas are ways to frame or think about your job and stick it out (if you want to), along with ideas about moving forward to other jobs.

Because you mention normally not being a fit and usually jumping within a few months, you probably already realize the possibility that part of the equation is you (as in there may not be the perfect job for you). The other thought is that some of your complaints sound like you are in a typical "out of college" job, so jumping might not change this.

So here are things to think about, and I'm coming from the perspective of reducing my leaping from job to job, although I still do it, but not as fast - and I think it might help you to think about these things, too (and I wish I did earlier in my series of job life):

-The miserable gossiping or whatever it is you might not like and want to quit because of it. If you are already thinking of quitting, then try to negotiate or find ways to make that better. Maybe it means not working with the gossiper, or finding ways to get along with the gossiper, etc. But give yourself an amount of time first and try those things. Because you will probably find yourself in another job with someone like that in the future - try to learn to deal with it now.

-Those things that make it miserable (a commute, a boring job) - you can use those things to push and propel you somewhere else (I use my similar 1.5 hour commute to work on my own projects - its kind of a forced discipline, so to speak). Also, look around at work and ask: What do I want to learn? What can I learn? What can I get for my next job? So if there is computer blah blah to be installed and they need a volunteer and someone to take a class or whatever - volunteer. Check into things like training and funded classes, or whatever.

-It sounds like you have already noticed the benefit you can get, which is savings and funding your retirement, etc. One of the things that I wished I realized much earlier than floating from job to job and needing to wait bc I didn't have the $ sometimes (or if you lose a job - this has happened to many people involuntarily) - you can save that money up. Save it towards a time when you absolutely want to do something different or walk away from a job. You won't have that unless you save it - so maybe you can suffer the boring gossipy gossiper if have X months living expenses saved up.

You also ask about leaving a job at 4 months and whether it = finding another job (and the shame of possible jobs). Here's the trick: A) Don't apply for the jobs you don't want and B) Apply when you have a job and only apply for things you want. The story you tell is not - I am bored and don't like the gossiper - its "I want to work in a nonprofit/I am passionate about XXXX/I am skill X, Y, and Z and want to grow it improve it use it" (or something like that).

You can also leave it off your resume.

To be honest, the job you describe now - unless it relates to what you want to do in the future - I don't really see how it is related unless you want to work in that field (as in, I don't even put jobs on my CV at this point unless they are very related to what I do). I think this would apply to you if you do get that masters and are working in a different field - other than holding a job or jobs, I don't think anyone thinks about it.

Good luck.
posted by Wolfster at 4:51 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

You remind me a lot of me 5 years ago ( fellow music major turned "Real" adult :) ).

4 months seems like a long time when you're fresh out of school but in the working world, it's nothing. Life is going to feel this slow and uneventful until you get into the rhythm of not being a student and having your courses change every 3 months. (I still sort of plan my extracurricular activities as if they were semesters, it's somehow comforting)

In reality, until you find another job, all of this is theoretical, and you really don't have any decision to make until then. Honestly it sounds like you're not 100% sure of what you want to do for a career and that's fine. I'm almost 30 now and only at this age am I starting to know myself well enough from a 360 perspective that I feel confident knowing what works for me and what doesn't.

That being said, you're making good money, and that's not the easiest thing to do. Also, your boss likes you and recognizes the fact that you've made efforts to improve, so if you think you can keep going in the right direction, staying in that job will get you a good reference, which is also not the easiest thing to get.

Conversely, am I much more likely to find better jobs if I stay with this one for a particular length of time?

I would say yes. If you stay there one year, it looks a lot more substantial than a few months.
Also, try to think of what skills you can add to your resume that will help you achieve future goals. You don't need to be 100% sure of what your future goals are, but just make sure you're getting stuff to add to your resume.

Your coworkers do sound like negative people, but you'll find that there are negative people throughout the world. Eventually you realize how to deal with them by either ignoring or taking the high road. Like is there a way you can be some kind of a leader when dealing with the negative coworkers? It's true that certain environments do tend to have more negative people though, and it seems like yours is one where that kind of thing is tolerated. Can you try networking at lunch and meeting other people in the company that are more positive?

Another random piece of advice that might help (or might not): if music is your passion, you're probably not gonna find a job that makes you feel the same passion that you feel for music. (like is it even possible to be more passionate about anything than music??) Like, it took me a longer time than I'd care to admit to figure out that music is the only thing that makes me feel that type of passion. Trying to make your job make you feel like that is like... I don't know....putting the wrong currency in a vending machine??
BUT I have also found that it IS possible to find jobs that are interesting and fulfilling in a different way, and the process itself of discovering what I actually am good at outside music, has been very fulfilling in itself. Just don't forget to nourish your real passion as well (you might eventually realize it's worth it to have a less intense job so that you have more energy leftover for music ).

another tip is: don't expect everything to happen right now, AND don't freak out if it feels like nothing is happening. Things can change really fast. Once you leave this job, you will never have to think about it again. But for the moment, if you're able to show good attitude and character, you will gain something from this experience even if it sucks. Try to find positive people to be around at lunch time and try to make it through at least a year.
posted by winterportage at 4:56 PM on November 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Honestly? I think you are doing pretty well considering. You are earning money, and you have a decent boss who wants to help you improve. That's huge. Decent bosses know it takes time for new employees, especially entry level ones, to become acclimated. There are also skills (e.g. Communication) that must be learned on the job (and aren't taught in school).

You might find that as you get better at doing something, you might dislike it less. However, sometimes work is just work. It's what they pay you to do. And non profits are not immune from disfunction either.
posted by oceano at 9:14 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am so sorry but mostly this sounds sort of normal for the corporate world, if a dreary version of normal. Things do get better as you move up and take on more interesting work. Professionally, I recommend that you stay for 12 months. As a hiring manager, I consider anything less than a few months a bad fit, but given that you’ve already had several jobs of just a few months tenure, that would give me pause. Prove to yourself that you can make it 12 months; that’s long enough to know how an organization works on a yearly cycle and know how to tackle its basic flow of work, and therefore long enough to take away some learnings for your next job.
posted by samthemander at 10:19 PM on November 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

There's nothing to prevent you from seeing the Dentist, and when I say Dentist I mean interview elsewhere. I think there are serious enough issues here that I would look into the possibility of leaving. This sounds like a dead end, and I don't see that changing. Other hiring managers know better than to contact your current employer. Just make sure you have a good reason for wanting to leave. This means saying you love your current job and get along with everyone but are looking for an opportunity in a field you are excited by that you really feel you want to commit to long term. Try and find something where it's not a total lie and you'll be on the right track. Good luck.
posted by xammerboy at 10:47 PM on November 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Spend your free time looking for a new job - when asked at interviews, say "I've always wanted to work in X, and I took this job to get me started/support myself while I looked for that." Bring headphones to work and ignore, ignore. This won't be your life, so listen to some podcasts and maybe keep a diary to vent.
posted by Toddles at 3:16 AM on November 16, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can be so much happier not working in an office. Did you think you were going to go to college and get a good job? You are already trapped by calling this a good job. It doesn't sound like you think it is a good job but still you say that and that will make you insane. Maybe you go do something else that has nothing to do with your degree and use your education in unconventional ways.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 5:39 AM on November 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

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