What I thought I wanted to do isn't what I actually want to do
May 20, 2008 2:09 PM   Subscribe

So I want to quit my first real job. What's next?

Here's the situation. I'm one year out of college and have been working at the same company since pretty much right after graduation. By all accounts, I've been pretty successful, quickly standing out in my position and being promoted into a new department with more responsibility a few months ago. But after having worked in this new job for the past couple months I've slowly come to the realization that I hate it. Most of my day consists of constant phone calls with people who are either confused about or angry with what my company is doing (everything is perfectly legal, but the way my company does business is not necessarily respectful), so I'm constantly answering the same questions and trying to calm down the people who've called (the fact that I'm somewhat of a introvert doesn't help matters). It feels miserable to go into work everyday to face the same situation over and over. So the simple answer is to quit and find a new job, but that's not the easiest solution. A few complications:

1. As I stated, I'm just out of college and I have a lot of student loans to pay back, so going without a job for a period of time could be difficult.

2. I stupidly chose to complete a major geared toward the field I am working in (entertainment industry business), so my job options aren't very wide ranging. This is further complicated by the fact that this area of the entertainment biz is such a small community that I'm pretty sure that if I look for another job in the same industry I'll still be dealing with many of the same people (lots of Type-A personalities/lawyers).

3. The vast majority of the jobs in my field are located in either Los Angeles (where I currently live) or New York. After spending the last half decade in L.A. I've grown completely sick of the city and would prefer to move back to a smaller city like where I grew up.

So that's where things stand right now, but I'm not really sure where to go from here. It sucks to realize that the thing I've spent the last several years (and ridiculous amounts of college tuition) working toward is not what I thought it'd be and it feels like I wasted a lot of time. I've thought about moving back home for a while to try and figure out what to do, but then I'd have to admit to all my proud parents and relatives back home that despite my success in my job that I'm just not cut out for it. Any advice out there from people who've been in a similar situation?

(Posted anonymously because some of my coworkers know my MF name. If you'd like to contact me directly for any reason, email me at throwmetafromthetrain@gmail.com)
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
For some weird reason, the world conspires to frighten college students into believing that it matters what they major in. But it doesn't. I don't have any advice about transitioning into something else, but you didn't spend ridiculous amounts of college tuition working toward a job in the entertainment industry - you spent ridiculous amounts of college tuition working toward a college degree, and that'll be useful whatever you want to do.
posted by moxiedoll at 2:32 PM on May 20, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm curious as heck as to what you do. In L.A., the entertainment biz is a much larger community than it seems.

Have you considered temping after quitting? It seems you at least have administrative skills, which will carry you pretty well. Then at least you'll have cash flow while you figure things out. All of the big entertainment companies hire temps all the time. Also, your college major does not determine what kind of career you are destined for, in my experience, no matter how specialized it is (as moxiedoll says above!).

But if you want out of L.A., you're going to have to bite the bullet and let your parents in on it, right? If you like small towns, New York probably won't be much better.

Good luck.
posted by jabberjaw at 2:37 PM on May 20, 2008

Two words: informational interviews. Two months ago I was pretty much exactly where you are today, except for the industry. Right out of college, excelling at a job I disliked. Do what I did:

Make a list of jobs/industries/companies you want to work. Find 5-10 mid-to-high up people, and send them polite emails to this effect: "Hi, this is my situation right now, but my real interest is in doing [what they do]. I'd really love to learn more about your company, your industry, and your work. Would you be interested in meeting with me for a kind of informational interview? How about coffee or lunch next week? I'd really value the opportunity to hear about your experiences, and any advice you might have for someone in my situation."

Every single person I emailed, many of them extremely busy project managers and executives, were happy to meet with me. Some of them had only their experiences to offer, which is valuable too, but several were very eager to help. They spread the word and kept their ears open, and within days I had two personal references to the same job posting that was being circulated within the (very small) industry I was trying to break into. I start next week. In the end, it was a hell of a lot of work, but it brought about the result I had been waiting and praying to fall into my lap.
posted by boots at 3:01 PM on May 20, 2008 [33 favorites]

So the simple answer is to quit and find a new job

No, the answer is to find a new job, then quit. At least, if you are concerned at all about being able to pay your bills in the interim. Even though you hate what you do right now, it has to be better than 6 months of unemployment, then working in food service to keep from losing your car.
posted by cabingirl at 3:25 PM on May 20, 2008 [1 favorite]

I'm on my third career here and I think the advice boots offers is really great. If you do indeed move on you'll want to make some contacts prior and map things out.

This is kind of rhetoric, but keep contact with your bosses and stuff. You may be wanting back in six months.

Good luck!
posted by snsranch at 3:30 PM on May 20, 2008

1. You can get a deferment if you're out of work, have financial hardship, etc. It's not hard to qualify, in my experience.

2. Most people who have a college degree (unless it's a specific or professional degree) don't work in the same field as their interests/studies.

3. You can move to wherever (Podunk, USA) and make a living doing something---work at the local newspaper, freelance, etc. You sound like a creative person. You can make it work.

Something I've just realized in the past couple of years, after getting out of school and applying to get back into school, realizing I don't really know what I want to do with my life---if anything, career-wise: it doesn't matter what other people think. If you want to move back home and grow potatoes---do it! It's your life and yeah, so maybe you have a lot of debt for a degree you might not ever use, but you did learn a lot while you were in school, I presume, so it's not a total loss. Just do what you think will make you happy!
posted by hulahulagirl at 3:59 PM on May 20, 2008

Not every town has Hollywood. (If you were to stay here, might I recommend looking into becoming an assistant coordinator of some sort? You'd get to answer questions and direct workflow all day, organize people, and use Excel to your heart's content.)

Lots of towns have ad agencies, small graphic design firms, etc. who could use traffic managers, account reps, etc. There's a lot of entertainment out there-- considered video games? Visual effects? Local TV station? Alternate reality games? Work for the film board in your home state/ hometown, helping bring productions to the area? Fuck off entirely, find a bored FCP nerd in your hometown, and start a wedding videography business?

I'd find something to do before you quit, if possible, though, just for safety's sake. Even Starbucks-- at least then you've got an income and it's not taking up all your strategic brain cells.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:32 PM on May 20, 2008

Recent college graduates disillusioned by the private sector are perfect fodder for AmeriCorps*VISTA.

Small towns are always in need of VISTAs. The volunteer stipend isn't much, but qualified student loans can be put in deferment or forbearance during the service year with the interest reimbursed and the other benefits tend to even the score as well.
posted by Skwirl at 5:51 PM on May 20, 2008

Get out! You're young and can do anything. Your major is not an albatross. Few people really care what your major is. If you're applying for a job as a chemist, you do kind of need a chemistry background, for example. But most places it's just people using common sense and a little training and learn-as-you-go experience to solve problems. The illusion for college students is that their major really counts for much in those situations. In the several places I've worked, somebody's major has just been a sort of interesting side note. "Oh, history huh?" we say. "Neat, well what we'd like to know is what you think about..." blah blah blah. All of that work in college, all of that buildup, all of the expectation, and what winds up mattering more is simply who you know and how you present yourself in a conversation.

I'll tell you what you don't want. You don't want to be having these thoughts at this same company 10 years from now. Start developing the habit right now of steering your life away from things that make you miserable and towards what naturally energizes you, even if that means venturing out into the darkness when you don't know what it is that energizes you. You worry about losing ground and "wasting" time that you've spent on some wrong turn, but the illusion is that what you gain by not (as it appears) losing ground and by sticking with things you don't like somehow outweighs eventually getting what you really want. It doesn't. It's like the well-worn concept of throwing good money after bad, or the rules of hole-digging. Just stop. Cut any losses or perceived losses and move on, the sooner the better. Each day spent dithering here is a day you won't have at your eventual Sweet Spot.

The driving force behind the urge to stick with this path that hasn't panned out is what someone mentioned upthread - caring what people think about what you are doing (OK and the possible trough while you retool and pick up momentum once more). This includes your family. Even they don't know what's right for you as well as you do. Don't let their opinion or your imagination of their opinion be what drives you. Follow your voice and just let them say/think what they like. Any other path will leave you resentful at some point. I'm speaking from experience on both the staying and the leaping so I know that it's much easier said than done, but you can do it and you'll thank yourself.

Be smart about leaving by doing what others upthread have said - don't burn bridges, keep your contacts, try to leverage them, try to line something else up before quitting, etc. But get out. Set a goal, set a date, and take active steps toward your new life each day. Even though you're miserable, it's easier to stay than leave because it's a known. Unknown is hard and scary and unpredictable, but never looks anywhere near as bad in hindsight. And it's where the goodies are. Good hunting!
posted by Askr at 8:07 PM on May 20, 2008

I don't recommend AmeriCorps programs (or Peace Corps for that matter) because it pays practically nothing and is just about one of the biggest wastes of federal money ever.

Don't leap into the next new thing, but maybe try to spend another year at your current job. People will wonder if they can trust someone who only stayed a year somewhere.
posted by onepapertiger at 11:06 AM on May 21, 2008

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