A reader writes:
I did everything right. I went to a very well regarded, top-ranking university where I excelled in a major field I love, history. When I graduated, I spun my experiences analyzing 19th century French literature into “marketable” skills and landed a job at a top tech company known for quirky hiring practices (believe me, my parents were shocked).
2.5 years in, I absolutely hate it. I do fine, but I’m depressed as hell and can’t overemphasize the extent to which I hate sitting for 10 hours a day staring a screen. I’ve tried searching the company for other, less seated/screened roles, but I’m coming up dry, and it seems like every job everywhere else that would hire someone like me requires an office. Assuming I don’t want to become a cop, park ranger, or medical professional, what can I do with myself? More importantly, how do these people do this all day — sitting in front of a screen for hours and hours in the same 12×12(ish) space? What class did I miss where everyone else apparently learned something I didn’t?
Well, first, are you sure you hate sitting in an office and staring at a screen, and not just sitting in this particular office and staring at what’s on this particular screen? Keep in mind that you’ve only tried one job and one company, and there’s a ton of variation.
Also, what you loved enough to study in college doesn’t sound like it bears any resemblance to what you’re doing now — and while that’s true for many perfectly happy people, it sounds like you might have followed the money rather than the work you actually liked. So before you eliminate offices from your life altogether, it might be worth trying a different field, one more in line with what you enjoy spending your time doing
But if offices are truly out, there are all kinds of other jobs that won’t park you in front of a computer all day. Not just the three you listed but tons more: teaching, sales, event planning, cooking, counseling, training, real estate, landscaping, hospitality, museum work, some library work, mechanical things — the list goes on and on. Some of them would require going back to school, and some wouldn’t.
My hunch is that you put yourself on a very specific academic and professional path that you were socialized to follow and see as the norm, but it might be worth looking outside that path for something you like more. Don’t worry about what you’re qualified to do; figure out what you want to do, and then you can figure out the path there.