I’m not happy at my job and I can’t articulate why
December 1, 2017 3:47 AM   Subscribe

Or maybe I cannot seem to give myself a solid reason to quit. How Can I figure out what exactly is bothering me and if it’s just other circumstances rather than the job isn’t right for me?

This is technically my first job out of school. I had one that I was working in temporarily before this. I am three months away from my one year work anniversary.

I told myself that maybe after one year of working I would feel better about the job, so I’m really pushing myself through. But every day for the past 4 months I have been dreading going to work. I lay in bed until as late as possible and every once in a while I’ll just cry in the car. I wonder if I have made a mistake when on paper, this job is supposed to be amazing. It fits what I thought I wanted to do after school. It gives me great benefits (I get a lot of paid time off! But I don’t take any out of guilt—partially because I still feel new and also if I take a break, the kids I work with won’t get my classes.)

I cannot exactly pinpoint why I hate my job. I think part of it is me being in a new city with no close friends or family around me, so that has been an adjustment. However, I do have a few friends who I can hang out with for fun, and my partner has temporarily moved up here. When he moves I think I’ll be pretty sad again. I’m trying to add hobbies and working out to my routine.

My coworkers are kind, I like them for the most part.
My bosses are relatively supportive, although I feel like I have no structure or instruction from my direct. She’s very hands off and I think I hoped in my first job I would have more direction and mentorship. I could go above her for help, but I don’t want to look like I’m a dummy for asking a lot of questions.
My pay is alright, although it isnt the greatest. I am patient with this because it’s my first job.
The work is indeed exhausting for me. I’m a certain kind of educator (though I was not trained in education, hardly any of us were.) I work with over 300 kids and am expected to add to my load every school year. I discovered that working with youth is not really my passion, but it’s not horrible. It’s just exhausting. There are days that I’m working from 8am to 8pm, but we are salaried. Even on the weekends I work, or just have to sit and think about all the things I have to do for the kids the next week. Work is on my brain a lot. I find that I dread interacting with certain administrators but I could chalk that up to my non-confrontational, introverted self.
On top of education, we do a lot of data collection and office work and are expected to do extra work with our regional offices. I find myself really really overwhelmed at times, but who isn’t I guess?

I suppose I just came up with some reasons... but they don’t feel solid enough to justify my dread and misery. What is a good enough reason to start looking for another job? I know my parents will be disappointed that I gave up a job with good benefits. I know I will be disappointed in myself for giving up the first job that really seemed like a perfect fit on paper.

How Can I determine if it’s just me that sucks right now or the job that is sucking the life out of me? (I am going to a work provided therapist for two short sessions.)
I’ve been told that no job is perfect and that I could run into the same thing anywhere else (exhaustion, dread, hands off boss) but I can’t help but look at my school mentors who enjoy their jobs and wonder if I can find something like that.

Any help, stories, advice is much appreciated.
posted by socky bottoms to Work & Money (21 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I mean honestly your schedule in itself would make me miserable and want to quit! 8 am to 8 pm is no joke plus weekends? That's just nuts. And what's the point of paid time off if you feel you can't take any?
posted by peacheater at 4:31 AM on December 1, 2017 [24 favorites]


There are days that I’m working from 8am to 8pm, but we are salaried. Even on the weekends I work, or just have to sit and think about all the things I have to do for the kids the next week.

This is not sustainable. It's a problem with this particular job. A good job has hours like 8:30 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. Or if it's the type of job where 12-hour shifts are expected, then you'd work only 3 or 4 days a week. Jobs that expect more hours than that are not good jobs, and even though you may have to take them at first, move into a better job as soon as you can.

In the meantime, you might try to consciously make things easier on yourself at work. You sound like a conscientious person, and I get that this is hard to do, because I'm the same way, but like: let yourself slack off a little. If you were being graded on your work, instead of shooting for an A or a B, do some work that would earn a C. You might see that the world doesn't end.
posted by Former Congressional Representative Lenny Lemming at 4:46 AM on December 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


I was going to ask if you were maybe depressed, and maybe you are, but with the 12 hour days, and working on the weekend, feeling like you can't take off, interacting with 300+ people... I would be overwhelmed, and then feeling depressed in that situation, too! I think it's the job, I don't think it's you.
posted by kellyblah at 4:48 AM on December 1, 2017 [11 favorites]


Agreed that the schedule sounds bad. I also think that "not super passionate about working with kids, even if it's okay" is reason enough to look into different career options - there are other jobs that don't involve this, and you might find them less exhausting. There's something inherently performative about educational roles, it sounds like you're required to be on all day working with kids and then do planning and stuff in your other time, and that combo is going to eat up a huge amount of your time and energy. If you're not super passionate about it, why put yourself through it?
posted by terretu at 4:49 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I agree, your schedule sounds unsustainable. Do other people take time off?

In my experience the first year of a job can be tough. You'd think a year would be a long time to still be getting adjusted, but all jobs have different annual cycles and workflow. It's so much easier to know what's coming by remembering what happened this time last year. Like "ugh I'm so busy right now but I know January is so much slower" or whatever. Also, you've got a whole year of history so there's no "what do we do around here for the holidays?" anxiety.

All that said, though, if you are truly miserable, don't stay.
posted by lyssabee at 5:16 AM on December 1, 2017


Two things:

1. Everyone I know who went into education in all its forms had an absolutely AWFUL first year. There may be a case for gritting your teeth and getting through it. It seems sort of universally the case that everyone has a difficult first year, probably partly because no-one really knows how goddamn hard teachers and educators really work, and no-one (I'm looking at you, society) supports or respects that adequately.

however

2. Early in your career, it's ok to hop around jobs a bit. Later on, it can look fickle, but at your stage it's fine. I had three different jobs in my first year away from home, and no-one ever thought that was weird. Don't stay in this one if you've had enough - part of growing up is finding your boundaries. I think you've grown out of this job. It's not "quitting" to find something that's a better fit for you.
posted by greenish at 5:19 AM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


A job doesn't have to be a bad job to be not right for you. If you're introverted, then maybe a job in teaching isn't a great fit. Doesn't make you a bad person or the job a bad one. Or maybe it's just that a long-hours teaching job isn't right for you.

I am someone who was told I'd be a great teacher for a long time, but I know it would be a terrible fit for me; I'm very extroverted and high-energy, but I'm also moody and when my mood is bad I can have real trouble controlling it. I need a job where there can be days where I mostly don't have to deal with people directly (email or phone is fine, and I can sit in a meeting patiently without saying anything. But on those days, woe betide someone who tries to talk to me one on one about something I disagree with.) I knew a long time ago that teaching was a major Not For Me job, as much as there are parts I would love.

Your job is where you spend most of your hours. It doesn't just have to meet check boxes; it should actually mean you're spending your hours in ways that are often pleasing to you. Sure, sometimes you take a miserable job for survival money, but in those situations, you should be looking around for a better fit. You should be looking around for a better fit. You don't have to just quit; start spending only the amount of time they actually expect (even if all the work doesn't get done) and look around at what other kinds of jobs might work for you.
posted by gideonfrog at 5:23 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


It's your first job out of school. It's really okay that you're not in love with it. Many of us learn a lot about what we need to be happy, or at least not miserable, from our first few jobs. Sometimes you try something and it's not a great experience but afterward you know more about what to look for going forward.

Thoughts:

* For the love of god take a vacation. I pretty much like my job but I'm worn out right now and that's making me feel cranky about my job. Time off is there to be used. If it makes you feel better, suggest to your kids that while you're on vacay they do some kind of optional extra study related to your subject.

* I felt very self-conscious about asking too many questions for a long time. I wouldn't ask about X because "I've been there 3 months, it will look bad if I don't know" and then I found myself still not knowing about X and having been there for 2 years which felt so much worse. At my next job I decided to be very assertive about making sure I had the information I needed to do my job, and asked tons of questions up-front. I got promoted almost immediately. YMMV. Yes, people can get annoyed if they're repeatedly fielding questions about something that is covered in a document that employees are expected to be familiar with. But many things are specific to the environment you're in and you really do need to ask.

* I've always thought I would be a bad fit for education just because I'm very introverted and spending that much time being around and talking to big groups of people would be draining for me. So maybe consider whether you think you prefer working alone, in small groups or large groups, etc. Some introverted people make good teachers, or seem to, but to me it seems very challenging.

* I know my parents will be disappointed that I gave up a job with good benefits. I know I will be disappointed in myself for giving up the first job that really seemed like a perfect fit on paper. -- Your parents aren't working 8 to 8. As long as you aren't asking them for financial help their opinion shouldn't factor in to your decision. Leaving for something better is not quitting. Realizing that it's not what you want and looking for a better fit is a mature, practical, normal thing to do. Somewhere out there is a job - several jobs - that you'd be much happier with.

* My first "real" job out of college was what I thought I wanted to be doing - working for an arts organization. But it was an incredibly stressful, unhealthy environment, much was demanded of me for very little pay, and I was soon miserable. I should have quit after 6 months - I stuck it out until they let me go. My next job - though less interesting and not at all what I wanted to do forever - was a much better experience. My boss was very supportive and helped me further along a path which led me to my current career.
posted by bunderful at 5:51 AM on December 1, 2017 [4 favorites]


Veteran teacher here. Something like 10% of all teachers leave the profession in their first year, then the numbers go up for the next 4 years of teaching until it hits 17% for teachers in their fifth year.

It's fine to decide this is not for you and leave. Really. Not to be all "Captain, my Captain" on you, but it's a calling. If you don't LOVE it, don't do.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 6:27 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


You don’t need a good enough reason to be looking for a new job. I am always keeping my resume and network current and looking for a new job even when I’m pretty happy with the one I have, just to stay aware of what’s out there and be prepared with people / places to call on if things get Really Bad. Always Be Hustling!
posted by sestaaak at 6:51 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I get a lot of paid time off! But I don’t take any out of guilt—partially because I still feel new and also if I take a break, the kids I work with won’t get my classes.

It sounds like you're burning out. Take your time off, as soon as you can and all in a big block if you can, so you don't spend it mentally still working. Even the best job in the world will burn you out with those kinds of hours and no down-time.

After you come back, see if it feels better. If I'm doing the math right, your first five months were good, but the last four have been dread-worthy. If you can get back to how you felt during the first five months, will you consider that a success? If you come back after a break and it still feels awful, there's no shame in starting to look for another job.
posted by heatherlogan at 7:56 AM on December 1, 2017


Thank you all for your advice. Today was a better day, primarily because my kids were behaving great compared to my last class. It can really make a difference. I’m not the main teacher, just a guest educator at about 5 schools, so class management isn’t my primary job (but it becomes it sometimes.)

I think I will start perusing jobs. I want to make it to my one year because I’d like that on my resume. I am going to try my best to adjust my schedule so I don’t work so late on some days and hope that helps in the meantime.

People do take vacation. A lot of vacation. But they are my supervisors and they don’t have classes to teach. I am asking for a week off after Christmas.

Follow up: told my friend about considering quitting. They said “Well, you could find a job you think is a good fit like you thought with this one, how do you know the same thing won’t happen with that new job?” Which gave me pause. How can I ensure I don’t make my first job mistake?

That’s all! No more thread sitting.
posted by socky bottoms at 8:03 AM on December 1, 2017


People do take vacation. A lot of vacation. But they are my supervisors and they don’t have classes to teach. I am asking for a week off after Christmas.

Take your time off - all of it that you're entitled to. I find any job where you're not taking time to recharge gets to you after a while no matter how great it is. If after some time off you still feel totally burnt out, then apply for other jobs, but I suspect after a couple of weeks away you may feel better.
posted by notorious medium at 9:31 AM on December 1, 2017 [3 favorites]


“Well, you could find a job you think is a good fit like you thought with this one, how do you know the same thing won’t happen with that new job?”

You might as well say the same about a relationship, or a dentist*!

Our brains are experts at trying to persuade us to avoid change. Don't let it false-logic you out of this one.


*ask me why I use this as an example I dare you
posted by greenish at 9:39 AM on December 1, 2017 [7 favorites]


They said “Well, you could find a job you think is a good fit like you thought with this one, how do you know the same thing won’t happen with that new job?” Which gave me pause. How can I ensure I don’t make my first job mistake?

You can't, but that's no reason to stay in a punishing job.
posted by rhizome at 10:58 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]


I agree part of your problem can be summed up into one thing: work-life balance. You don't have one right now.

I also think that your problem is one that I had when I first got out of school and started working: I was adding way too much pressure on myself. I was over-promising. I was trying to turn things around too quickly. I felt a constant need to prove myself and it was like being on a never-ending rat wheel. It was draining. I, too, was guilty or scared about taking time off. This is something that I think comes from relative immaturity in the working world and a lack of experience that leads to insecurity.

You'll start to realize this the more you work, but: people won't notice if you turn in that report a few hours or a day or two later (depending). People won't begrudge you for taking vacation. People who are less talented than you will demand more pay and will feel more entitled than you.

What led me to feeling less stressed and happier at work was the realization of two things: 1) Work-life balance. Allow myself to have time where I am not focused on work and I can shut off. If I job doesn't give me that, it's not the right job. 2) Under-promise and over-deliver. I spent first job doing the opposite because I was taking on too much and feeling like I still needed to do more to prove myself. I learned that I have the power to set the right expectations in the work place, and I started under-promising, giving myself more than enough wiggle room, and then exceeding those promises.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:40 AM on December 1, 2017


Joining the chorus: this particular job sounds nuts. Most people cannot work 12 hour days 5 or more days per week; even with 3 or 4 day work weeks it can take its toll. I'd have to know more about the culture (and you) as to why you feel you can't take a day off, but when you say that the kids wouldn't get your classes, that begs the question as to whether substitute instructors are available.

I'm assuming from the way you're framing some of this that it's not exactly a traditional school, and I would caution you that small private schools, church schools/daycares, etc. are sometimes notorious for dumping an insane workload on people and basically trusting that they're good people and they'll turn themselves inside out rather than "let the kids down."

So - this internet stranger gives you permission to take care of yourself: take a few days off (if they really won't let you or try to guilt you out of it once you make a direct request, that's EXTREMELY telling), work on finding another job. It's not you; it's them.

I wouldn't make a judgment about whether you're cut out for teaching or not based on this school.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:44 AM on December 1, 2017


"It’s just exhausting. There are days that I’m working from 8am to 8pm, but we are salaried. Even on the weekends I work, or just have to sit and think about all the things I have to do for the kids the next week."
IMO you're articulating pretty well why you want to quit this job. I give you permission to quit if you want. Not every job in teaching will be like this.
posted by zdravo at 12:46 PM on December 1, 2017


They said “Well, you could find a job you think is a good fit like you thought with this one, how do you know the same thing won’t happen with that new job?” Which gave me pause. How can I ensure I don’t make my first job mistake?

By that logic no one would ever buy a second home, get married a second time, date again after their first heartbreak, or get another pair of socks if the first pair wore out faster than expected.

There are a lot of things you can find out, up front, that will give you a better idea of whether it's a good fit. The thing is, you know more about what a good fit is than you did when you took this job.

There are some things that are hard to find out during the job hunting and interviewing process, but there are some things you can know before signing on - how much you will be paid, whether you will work with kids, whether you will have your own office or a cubicle or a desk in an open plan, what your expected hours are, how much vacation time you'll get, what the turnover is like, what your responsibilities will be, how long the commute is, whether there's a lot of overtime, whether your supervisor is hands off or a micromanager or somewhere in the middle, etc.

Sure, there are always unknowns, and everyone's had a dream job turn out to be an awful experience, but you can't let that stop you from ever trying to get another job ever again. Your next job *might* be worse. But it might not be. And if you're deliberate and use what you've learned from this role in your job hunt, you can have a better chance of finding something better for you.
posted by bunderful at 2:24 PM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]


Jumping in to add my voice to the consensus that the hours you're being expected to work are nuts and would grind anyone down, even if this were your perfect job. In the short term, I'd recommend taking your vacations, and asking to talk to your supervisor about the schedule and also about your need for more feedback/structure. Make your requests specific (e.g. could we have a half-hour meeting once a week, or every two weeks?) and frame them as things that will help you do your job better.

In the longer term, you're developing a good list of what does and doesn't work for you in a job. There's absolutely nothing wrong with using this information to look for your next gig. Try to view this as a learning experience, rather than a failure to pick the perfect position right off the bat. It takes many people a bit of time and experimentation to find out what helps them maximize their performance and satisfaction, and now is the time in your career to be doing just that.
posted by rpfields at 9:48 AM on December 2, 2017


About vacation: you aren't as essential as you think. If you take a vacation day, your clients will miss out on what you offer but it is not like they will just sit and stare at a wall when you are gone - they will do something else and while it might not be as good has having you, it won't be terrible. This is good news - they might miss you but they will survive. On the other hand, if you take the vacation, you will come back feeling a little better, have more patience and enthusiasm and both you and they will get more from your classes.

About supervision: What if you take the attitude that you are probably going to quit at the end of the year anyway so it doesn't matter if your supervisor thinks you are a less than perfect? My first year, I had a supervisor that gave very general advice that I didn't know how to translate into practice. The equivalent of saying "add more pizzaaa to your lesson plan" when I agreed that pizzazz was good but had no idea what to actually differently to make it happen. Last in year, she got angry at me for mishandling a situation and I thought "Fine, she thinks I'm incompetent anyway, I have nothing to lose" so I pushed back - "What EXACTLY should I have done?! what SPECIFIC words would you use?!" I not only got better answers but surprisingly, our relationship got better after that. I found out later that she thought I was more prepared than I was (I interview well and I was an older student) and somehow showing my ignorance helped her understand that I did actually need more active supervision. So my advice is to worry less about making a good impression and ask for what you need. The worse case is that she thinks less of you and maybe you don't get re-hired but since that is probably what you would want in that case in way, it is a risk for taking for the chance that it might turn your job around.
posted by metahawk at 6:59 PM on December 2, 2017


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