My job doesn't fit my personality. What should I do?
February 26, 2007 8:26 PM   Subscribe

Update: My job doesn't fit my personality. What should I do?

Two months ago I was hired to my dream job (or so I thought), an entry level position at a top advertising firm working with a well known brand. Over the past 3 weeks, I've realized that it is not what I expected it to be. I guess I had been a bit idealistic about the industry and thought that advertising seems interesting and that I would be happy in a cool job. The office is cool, pool table, espresso machines and all that and the people are relatively young and fun loving. But I'm starting to feel like what I do and what the company does is so meaningless. I don't feel like I'm benefiting anyone and contributing to society by helping a big brand promote itself.

I also find that my personality (INFJ in Myers-Briggs) doesn't fit the company culture at all. I understand very well the type of working environment that is truly suitable for me (independent work, project based, something with results and meanings) but I was naive to believe that a cool job would make me happy. The nature of the work is also too fast and glamorous. Free shows tickets, invitation to big name parties, free dinners and all. I'm just not that kind of person.

Now I feel miserable at work and is becoming bitter and unmotivated. All this stress is making me depressed and its affecting my personal life because I'm behind at work due to my lack of motivation and I can't seem to forget about it when I get home. What should I do?
posted by willy_dilly to Work & Money (21 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Figure out what job would better suit you
look for it
apply for it
take it.
posted by magikker at 8:37 PM on February 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is this your first job out of school? If so, you're experiencing what a lot of people do - the fact is that work/jobs aren't what we expect.
posted by k8t at 8:38 PM on February 26, 2007

What magikker said, and as quickly as possible. You seem to know what kind of job would suit you better. When they ask why you left/are leaving your previous job, you can say you want to feel like you're making a difference or that you're looking for work that's more independent and project-based or that the environment just wasn't a good fit or some combination. That won't sound like you're trashing your current job.
posted by sleeplessunderwater at 8:56 PM on February 26, 2007

you didn't write anything as to the department you are working in and I am not quite sure whether you are within the united states or in a different place (the cultures in our industry vary widely) but from your statement that you work on one account, I will assume you're an account services person and not part of the creative department.

first off: please don't be insulted by this but as a entry-level employee working on a large account, you're not going to get to do a lot of important things anyway. that's just too much of a risk. this is the time to make contacts, observe how things are done, be noticed for potential. you are not being hired because you are a brilliant leader this very moment. you are being hired as, again my apologies, cheap labor with a certain promise.

it might be a bit too early to be depressed about this. three weeks is nothing. consider six months to a year an adequate time to see whether this is your thing or not. there is a vast array of different personality types in this industry. my former writer/partner was a jet engine mechanic for close to ten years before she decided to pursue this. I know a former stripper-turned-brand manager. chat up the planners, they are usually the most fascinating non-creatives.

look at it this way: you are in an enviroment where you get to explore a lot of terribly interesting things. try to go along for a film shoot and post production. if you play your cards right, you could end up with some pretty great stories and have a damn great time. (hint: creatives have the most fun.)

as far as the hours are concerned: bad news. you will have constant stress. this is not a 9-5 industry. I logged 90 hours last week and that's not my record. strange thing is: the more senior you get and the less you are under the gun, the more you force yourself to do it. the paychecks tend to become pretty impressive relatively quickly, perhaps that has something to do with it.

life in itself, both professionally and individually, has no purpose. you have to give it that. if you think you're unable to do that in this industry, then find a different one.

but give it six months to a year.
posted by krautland at 9:08 PM on February 26, 2007 [2 favorites]

Um, what krautland said.

Also, if you're done with it, may I have your job please?
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 9:29 PM on February 26, 2007

This is a really common thing for new grads in entry-level jobs. And it's possible that the job and industry don't suit you.

But don't quit. Start on a plan for your next job. I recommend an exit strategy that allows you to accumulate a year of experience in this current job. Figure out what you want from your next job. Then figure out what you need to get it. If you have any time available, join a professional association, take a course, read books, work on a portfolio..whatever you need.

It sounds like you might be happier as a marcom writer, market researcher, marcom project manager, marketing assistant, direct mail assistant or something like that. You wouldn't need to do all the wining and dining. And you could have small, tangible projects like brochures, ads, research reports, whitepapers, direct mail campaigns, etc.

As for the world of marketing and advertising, maybe you'd be happier helping smaller companies. And perhaps you would be better suited to something like B2B marketing, where you're not dealing with influencing consumers. I personally see my work as a marketing consultant as a means of helping develop a knowledge-based economy, grow job opps in my community, and reduce reliance on the environment.

I wasn't cut out for agency work, so I didn't apply. But I did follow my heart into the world of marketing.
posted by acoutu at 9:51 PM on February 26, 2007

As a side note, a book that helped me a lot is called "Do What You Are", by Paul D. Tieger & Barbara Barron-Tieger. (My copy is from 1992 but check Amazon or Powells for current editions.) It uses Meyer-Briggs personality typing to help you identify those careers that you might be best suited to. It was dead on in its assessment of me as INTP and helped me focus my efforts in the right direction. Many similar books exist - check the Careers section of any well-stocked bookstore or library - but this one worked well for me.

Also, as krautland says, give it time. After three weeks at my current job, I was spending every lunch hour on the phone with headhunters and placement agencies, convinced I was in the wrong place and scrambling to get out. I decided to give it six months though and I'm glad I did - it improved after about three months, and now that I'm almost a year in, I've had a chance to handle some interesting projects, become somewhat of an expert in my own little niche, and I'm in line for a great promotion. If you get six months in and you feel the same way (or even three months, and you're pretty sure about it), then you can move on knowing that you gave it a fair try, at least.
posted by herichon at 10:09 PM on February 26, 2007

It's easier to find a job when you have a job. Also, once you've decided to look for something else and start treating your job as a job and not a calling, sometimes a weird thing happens and you find happiness in your job. Sometimes a path opens up that you didn't know about [you meet someone who works in a different department and you realize this new department would fit you]. Sometimes you start finding satisfaction in different places.

Your life is now, so I'm not going to tell you that you have to stay for a year. But whatever amount of time you plan to spend there, really figure out ways to make your job help get you to the next level. Talk to anyone who seems interesting. Attend some of those lame events because people at those lame events can help you get another job.

If this is your first real job, part of what you may be reacting to is having your day go from being devoted to a range of things, to being devoted to one thing. To combat this, make an effort to insert variety into your life-- join a book club, take a class at the local community college. I suggest this as a general tactic to combat depression, YMMV.

I assume there are jobs like yours where the client is a nonprofit. Maybe see if you can find someone who knows someone who works at that agency. Sometimes it's not about the work you are doing, but on who's behalf you are doing the work.

Your work needs to not suck, and you need to not work for a crazy person. But your work doesn't have to take you all the way through the hierarchy of needs. There are other hours in the day for that. Don't get me wrong, there are clients I won't work for and events I walked away from because I didn't believe in what people were doing. But if I'm not 100% amped about it, that's par for the course.
posted by Mozzie at 12:26 AM on February 27, 2007

You could be a lot worse off. Stick with it and try to utilize your strengths to their full potential. You like working on projects with meaningful results? Find a project at work or at home that does interest you and work on that. I'm sure there are plenty of people who want those tickets and parties, let them handle it and you can earn yourself a reputation as the hardworker who does his own thing.

As others have said, give the job some time and do your best to deal with the parts you don't like. Many people take jobs they aren't crazy about, but if you do your best at this one and start planning for the next one instead of making a snap judgement to leave you will have a much better chance at getting the next job you do want.
posted by sophist at 1:55 AM on February 27, 2007

Talk to someone in the company about how they felt when they first started.

When I started in my first job outside University I was really unhappy. I felt undervalued and that the years I had spent getting into debt and working damn hard for nothing.

Well, I think I was a little pretentious! Then I spoke to a couple of people in my department. Rather than saying that I was not having a good time of it, I was asking them about their experiences, and asking for advise. It turned out that they all felt the way I was, and they gave me loads of tips and ideas. With a bit of flattery you can get all sorts of support.

I would defiantly say stay at least 6 months, preferably over 9 months. It always looks odd if you leave before, and it set alarm bells off in potential employers heads if it is your first job.
posted by informity at 4:07 AM on February 27, 2007

Why not start working to transfer? You sound very certain you won't find meaning in your job if you stay. So why not just admit you made a mistake and basically, just continue your original job search. Just think through a way to quit without hard feelings.

Since you're an NF (idealist), it makes me think you should switch to an agency that does branding or ads for nonprofits. Plus, the I and J mean you're only less flexible about carrying out your NF values than you would be if you were an E or P. You want to do good, and you want to make a plan now for how to do it.

For the short term, can you find ways to harness your strengths within your office? Let's see, reading this INFJ profile, can you support someone else in working through a particularly tricky aspect of their projects?
posted by salvia at 5:07 AM on February 27, 2007

If you want to do something that makes a difference, volunteer. I'm sure there are many organizations in your area that would love to have you. Many non-profits could use some help with marketing. There's no reason your "purpose" has to lie solely within what gives you a paycheck.
posted by desjardins at 6:17 AM on February 27, 2007

Peptalk filter:
Are you doing everything you can at work to make it more meaningful to you, personally? What about the opportunity to learn? That's personally meaningful, even if you don't give a damn about the product. You're not going to know what kind of job is really going to suit you unless you're willing to get some experience and some expertise...which you're not going to gain if you want to give up after two months.

Since you're an NF (idealist), it makes me think you should switch to an agency that does branding or ads for nonprofits.

A word on this: Not everything about working for a nonprofit is idealistically-compatible. We get entry-level people all the time who think that working for a nonprofit means that it's all rainbows and working for the common good, and are horrified! when they find out that, just like in any company, there are people who are lazy or difficult. And that not all ideas will be implemented efficiently, even when they seem like common sense.
posted by desuetude at 6:32 AM on February 27, 2007

You probably worked hard to land that dream job in the first place. If it's not what you hoped for, whatever you do, don't view that as a failure. Everyone I know who really loves their job has been down a lot of different paths.

Some of those paths look like dead ends, but the people who succeed in the end are the ones who can figure out what they learned, not just about the work but also about themselves. And then use that knowledge to try something else.

You sound like you're thinking about the right things. Maybe you can't motivate yourself to do branding, but you can motivate yourself to take control of what you're going to get out of this experience.
posted by fuzz at 6:39 AM on February 27, 2007

Listen to desjardins! I recently left a pretty profitable career as a graphic designer, and the thing that kept me sane in the midst of "Gah, all I do is make mediocre things look pretty!" was meaningful volunteer work. I was making a good living in design, which enabled me to donate time and money to things that made me feel more worthwhile.

Eventually, I ditched the design thing (after a dozen years), and I'm back in school for a degree in nursing. And while I'm thrilled to be entering a field that will feel better to me, I'm also happy that I'll be learning skills I can use in my volunteer activities.
posted by houseofdanie at 8:12 AM on February 27, 2007

I understand how you feel about not getting a lot of personal satisfaction from marketing some faceless big company. That is actually what turned me off from marketing in b-school. What I realized, though, is that I could put my marketing skills to use in a more satisfying setting. I am the PR Manager for a non-profit and I love it. You might want to think of this as your hands-on learning experience before you can find a company or organization that you actually care about promoting.
posted by radioamy at 9:27 AM on February 27, 2007

I'm nine months into a job I hate, and I understand your perspective. At first I was all about giving it time to settle in, and six months was definitely my minimum. As the weeks and months went by, things didn't really improve. My job skills have certainly gotten better, but I often feel as if I was parachuted into a foreign land with only a few language lessons and a phrasebook. It wasn't just the fact that I was new to the job; the people here are very, very different from me: they don't work very well with other people or divisions, and seem preoccupied with financing their lifestyles. While that suits some people, it doesn't suit me, and putting in the amount of time I have has only served to reinforce my discomfort with my current work situation. My goal is to try and get back into academia. There is a need for what I do at plenty of medical and research universities, and my hope is that the environment is a little less focused on the bottom line. Knowing that I'm conducting research that might actually do the human race some good (as opposed to enriching the nebulous "shareholders") might be enough to keep me going day to day. Echoing others here, that sort of satisfaction might make all the difference for you, too.
posted by malaprohibita at 11:14 AM on February 27, 2007

One important point that bears restating - advertising is meaningless and contributes very little, worsens modern life quite a lot. It's a blight on society. There are more useful things you can do.

Of course, if you don't do it, someone else will, so maybe you can use it as an income stream to allow you to do something meaningful, like volunteer, as said above.
posted by wilful at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2007

advertising is meaningless and worse than just contributing nothing it has a negative effect on culture. I'd encourage anyone in the industry to go find something better to do.
posted by subtle_squid at 6:12 PM on February 27, 2007

go find something better to do.
bullshit. I have the best job in the world, hands down.

I am in population control.

I tell people crushing debt is okay, their health is really not at risk and that it's okay to make parents buy you $300 sneakers. that guy who just cut me off? I haunt him even in his dreams and he doesn't even know it.

I haven't just sold out to the man, I have become the man and I enjoy every minute of it. don't piss me off or I'll make 12-inch heels the next big thing.

oh, the fun you can have in advertising.

(but hey, you may feel free to bag groceries if you think that's a better use of your time.)
posted by krautland at 10:30 PM on February 27, 2007

I was in a similar situation to you. Had what I thought was my "dream job" - production assistant at a music TV station I was a fan of. Entry-level, but rather glamorous (TV! Free tickets to stuff! Celebrities! Travel, if you're lucky!) However, things have changed within myself and the company between dreaming up the job and getting it.

I hated the job. I didn't find it fulfilling or social-changing (my two main priorities); I tried my hardest to make it fit my goals more, but kept hitting brick walls. The atmosphere wasn't very positive either: lots of backstabbing and little camaraderie. Nearly everyone who's worked there felt the same.

After 3 months, I left. Best thing I did. The company actually liked me, but I couldn't take it anymore. It was too soul-sucking.

There are better opportunities out there. Take them.
posted by divabat at 1:48 PM on February 28, 2007

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