Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Shock: you deserve to not hate your job

One of the really weird things about my new job is that I don't hate it.

Now, that might sound like boasting, but it's mostly given me so much-needed perspective about my old job, my first real 'graduate' job. I was there for three years, and it's very weird the awful, awful things you start to take as being both normal and entirely acceptable. It wasn't quite full on Stockholm Syndrome, but there was an element of pushing things to the back of my mind and pretending that they were a-okay.

You see – and I speak for a lot of graduates, I think, of the last five years or so – is that we have been made to feel quietly worthless. Not being NEETs, generally speaking being childless, having a public perception (whether true or not) that we have parents to fall back on and not having mortgages, etc, there was a sense that we were constantly at the back of the queue. We're all useless, with our silly degrees and no hard experience, expecting to walk into an amazing job. We should be grateful for any kind of paid employment we should have because we deserve no better.

Which has led to some employers, frankly, taking the piss.

I'm not going to go too far into details, mostly because my old employer is litigation-happy and liable to withhold references, but basically I put up with a long list of crap. I casually mentioned in my newest job that there was CCTV at my old work, which took in our computers and the boss would occasionally watch it on his laptop at home if he was running late. Stunned horror met this statement. I... sort of didn't realise that wasn't normal? There's CCTV in many workplaces, I realise that, but in an office was that strictly necessary?

That's just one example, and a rather specific and non-graduate one at that. The point is that I was willing to put up with everything, despite the fact that I was deeply unhappy and often fantasised about somehow crashing my car in a non-fatal way in order to miss work that day.

Graduates, you will have to put up with some crap in your working lives. My last job had some good things about it, and got me some much-needed office experience, but in the end I was too scared by the economy to move on.

Let's get some things straight: my new job isn't perfect by a long stretch. New people are scary, and these are a lot of new people in a very technical field that I mostly don't understand yet. Some of the work is a bit monotonous. The Tube is still a challenge most day, and the day is a significantly longer one. I don't look good in proper office clothes, either. But I don't wake up unhappy, and I've remembered that actually I am a rather intelligent human being, I have worked hard, and I deserve a job where I can proudly say: “I've earned this.”

Graduates: you will almost certainly have to put up with crappy jobs, but don't stay with them forever because you think you should, because you think you're no better, because you're scared. My new job is not a perfect job, but it's a damn sight better and life feels like a better place.

Most of the above is not particularly enthralling blog material, which is why it's been a few weeks to put together. However, I think I may be getting some more material together soon, and you can always rely on the government to say some face-gnawingly stupid things before too long. So there's something to look forward to.


  1. I'm so depressed at my graduate job it's unreal. I can't quit because of a number of reasons i.e. my flat. Life really wasn't suppose to turn out like this. :'(

    1. I know exactly how you feel. Stuck! Looking back this is not how I imagined life at all.

  2. Refreshing read - too many people are one dimensional about jobs. For many people in my family any issues with job are automatically filed under the title "but it's good experience". Even when I explained in one job to my Dad that I was working on the wrong asset class he still comes out with "I know, but it's good experience". Had I not recognised that I was working on the wrong asset class and stayed in that firm I would have had a failed career (possibly been UNEMPLOYABLE). His statement essentially amounts to "I know it's bad experience but it's good experience" which doesn't make sense and I'm glad I didn't dismiss the stress I was going through as just "good experience" based on what someone with no experience in my sector had said.

    Reality is you have to be discerning - one example is where in my chosen profession (quant) some graduates try to be clever and get a job in a financial firm and "work their way up" when they can't find a quant job straight away, only to find that strategy never works as quant is a very specialised skillset. On paper this expands your opportunities, in reality if you start off in something unrelated to what you want to do you won't transition easily into your desired job (unlike what used to happen in the 1950s). Also nowadays being in the wrong job goes hand in hand with being sacked eventually while the whole world tells you you're just being a prima donna until the shit hits the fan. Thing that makes it complicated is that there are still professions where taking that "falling in" and "working your way up" approach (or whatever the fuck that means) can work - especially practical professions where degrees aren't relevant.

    Lessons here are 1. Learn HOW to think, it ain't enough to just think, an understanding of cause and effect is essential when understanding careers. Most career advice is anecdotal and usually doesn't take changes in market into account or allow for realities outside the advice bearer's company (or even their team/department). I mean are you so sure one person's success is the WHOLE truth? 2. Keep on top of markets and assessing how you're doing - contacts and good recruiters are essential. It's all and well being appraised by employers - but is it too soft? Too hard? Or is your boss on top of the game and looking after you? Are you doing tasks that other firms either outsource or automate? Are your tasks too company specific (e.g. using software only your company uses) to be useful when you move on? Or are you simply doing stuff that's useful in a transferable skills way. Or is it just stuff you have to suck up? Should you be doing courses? Or are courses in your field useless? In my experience all of these things are possible so it ain't simple anymore - e.g. One college classmate struggled finding a new job when it turned out most of his responsibilities were automated by other firms in his field and that he hadn't been trained properly. But on the other hand in any firms I've been in my bosses always ensured admin work was used wisely so that it didn't interfere with essential training and development was maintained while any admin that was done served to show workers' attention to detail (important when working for a Japanese firm). The classic trick in the City is to interview and see how you do - beats getting shitty advice or finding bad news out when it's too late.