I don’t want to sit in an office all day

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.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    A lot of friends of mine who were history majors in college went on to become teachers and lawyers, if you’re looking for suggestions and you did in fact enjoy studying history.

    1. Pauline*

      Being a lawyer involves sitting in front of a computer for a very, very, very, very long time.

      1. another lawyer*

        and if you’re really lucky, it involves sitting in a cube surrounded by stacks and stacks of paper

        1. LL100*

          and probably staring at a screen all day too–at least that’s all the lawyers at my office since everything is “paperless” now

          1. Katie*

            Yes to all of the above re: lawyer. Even litigation attorneys. Not to mention paralegals (which I am).

    1. Anonymous*

      +1 my friend had one 2 years ago, quit her job, and moved to Spain to teach English. She seems very happy from what I can tell by Facebook, but I am curious as to what happens when she returns.

      1. Anna*

        Assuming the 19th century French literature was read (if not actually analyzed) in French, you might consider doing the same in France or another French-speaking country. If your French is a little rusty, maybe you could teach English conversation in a school where having such classes taught by a native English speaker would be valued.

        1. Anonymous*

          I agree. If you’re young enough not to have anything you’re tied to, go for it and stay a few years.

          1. danr*

            Or join a small, specialized firm, and you’ll be in court before you know it. The small firms also like 2nd/3rd career folks.

      1. Kelly O*

        Nope. I had a similar feeling around 25ish. Just thinking there had to be more to being a “grown-up” than this.

      2. Lanya*

        Quarter life crisis is real. I wouldn’t call it as much of a “crisis” as much as the slow but certain realization that you are indeed mortal and that your 30th birthday is coming up faster than you thought and you are still unmarried and not on the career path you thought you would be on by now.

      3. Esra*

        It’s hard when you look at your parents and they had homes and kids and no school debt at your age. Because post-secondary education is so expensive and the economy is so crap, people are carrying more debt, having kids later, delaying buying homes, etc.

        It’s difficult not to feel when you are approaching 30 that you haven’t accomplished what you should so far in life.

        1. Amouse*

          I think the quarter life crisis just like the mid-life crisis is also largely a construct of society. Western society I can say for sure, i don’t know enough about whether this happen in other societies to comment on that. We are fed an idea that we need to have accomplished a certain laundry list of things by a certain age and some of us (myself included) buy into it. Hopefully we shake ourselves out because being stuck in negative defeatist thinking patterns are no fun and sometimes if you can’t get out of them for a prolonged period of time it’s worth hiring a good therapist.

          1. Ivy*

            I’m in the midst of my own quarter life “crisis” and I have to say I disagree.. Mostly because my “crisis” has nothing to do with what I’ve accomplished and more to do with where I’m going. I.e. will I really be happy going down this path? What if there’s something better? etc…

            I don’t think wanting to be happy is a social construct or related to western society.

            1. Amouse*

              I probably generalized too much. I’m sorry for that. All I was trying to say is that ideas of what makes us happy or what constitutes “success” as a person are often heavily influenced by social expectations. Not for everyone but for many people.

              1. Amouse*

                and if you’re calling it your quarter-life crisis you’re relating it to your age so where are you getting this idea that at your age you should have already found the thing that should make you happy?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It was a term popularized a few years ago when a book by that title came out, and the idea is that some people get out of college, look around, and freak out when they realize that it’s not going to be the neat, fairly easy path they’d envisioned.

                2. Amouse*

                  In reply to AAM’s last comment:
                  I guess I’m thinking more of the “dilemma” of turning thirty then than of the “Quarter Life Crisis” I’ve heard that term used by my peers in the context of not feeling like they are where they think they should be and consequently as happy as they think they should be by 25ish.

                3. Amouse*

                  what I’m describing sounds similar to what others above me have said as well about turning 30 etc.

          1. Esra*

            Haha, no! You’re supposed to tell me it’s all sunshine and roses and as soon as I hit 3o some kind of epiphany hits and everything is zen.

            My birthday is coming up, so please, lie to me. Lie so hard.

              1. Jamie*

                Definitely. Old enough to have some credibility and money…young enough not to make that weird grunting noise when getting out of a deep cushioned chair.

                Fwiw – the 40s aren’t too bad, either. :)

                1. LL100*

                  I’m in big trouble cause I’m already making that grunting noise and I’m not even thirty *sigh*

              2. Beth*

                I just turned 40 and I have to say I loved my 30s, definitely the best decade of my life. More money than i had in my 20s to enjoy travel and hobbies, more self confidence and respect at work, still in reasonably good health, etc. I had a blast!

              3. Natalie*

                For the life of me I cannot remember where I read this, but apparently people generally consider the decade they are currently in to be better than the previous decades they’ve lived. So everything’s always getting better, I guess.

                1. Jamie*

                  I like that. It’s certainly better than the alternative of either always thinking wistfully of the past or planning for the future and never enjoying now.

                  I’m been desperately looking forward to the time in my life where I can just spend my days curled up in an afghan on a soft couch where people will bring me soup. With any luck that will be tomorrow afternoon.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              I don’t have to lie to you, Esra. Each decade does get better. Thirties is a lot better than twenties- a lot less floundering/blindsiding/etc. Life starts to make a little more sense. Your interests start to branch out and you start to realize you are gaining ground. By the time you hit forty you realize you are using your twenties as a comparison: “Is this as bad as what I went through in my 20s? HECK NO.” hahaha.
              It’s not all sunshine and roses but it is better.

            1. Hope*

              Also in my 50’s and loving it. The most. But 40’s were pretty awesome too. Just keep swimming…

        2. Anonymous*

          I am your parents’ age. Apparently, I was a screw-up since I had student loans and only dreamed about a house (interest was at 18% – yes for a home loan). The economy at that time was crap though.

          I know it’s tough, just keep at it. You will get there! If you are only 30, you have 2/3 of your life left. Cut yourself some slack!

          1. Andrew*

            People now in their 50s (like me) came into adulthood in the crappy economy of the late 1970s and early 1980s. My degree in government got me a one-room basement apartment in Brooklyn and a job that ran from 10 AM to midnight most days.

            Maybe people born in the 1930s and 1940s had it easier in terms of jobs and housing, but they had other things –like Vietnam–to deal with.

            If you are in your 20s, please don’t automatically envy older generations. It’s usually a difficult age to be, and things do improve with time.

        3. Laura L*

          Huh. I had that feeling at 25. As I get closer to 30, I’m more comfortable with not having everything figured out and having little adventures throughout my life rather than just between 18 and 25.

      4. Mike C.*

        Thanks for the clarifications.

        It all seems rather silly because it implies there is something going on with the person in question, rather than the economic conditions and social expectations going on around them.

  2. Bonnie*

    I am someone who spends over half of her time sitting in her office and half her time working with others (internal meetings, client meetings, field work, etc) and love it. It can be very specific. There our other jobs in my field where I could spend the same ratio of time sitting in my office and hate every minute of it. I just found the niche that works for me. I love it so much that I have become not only the office expert in my field, but my name is actually recognized within my state in the same field. My current niche wasn’t taught in college, I couldn’t have found there. I found it because like you I was bored. I looked around at what some of my co-workers they were doing (not where they were doing it). And I managed to find something I loved without having to start over again.

  3. Zee*

    Out of the three professions you mentioned, only a park ranger can resemble anything for history majors. And that isn’t all that bad either; unfortunately though, you usually have to start out as a seasonal and work your way up (and you may have to move out of state for that short period of time or commute long ways).

    Have you tried museums? Sure they have “office” jobs, but from what I understand, you are not always stuck in front of a computer for 10 hours out of the day. There are various types of jobs in a museum from the education department to archiving and curating. And this does not necessarily have to be in a museum. Some places, such as the Army, hire civilian historians to work in the history office. Depending on where you are, some historians will hire interns who aren’t in school to get experience.

    There are other related fields such as archaeology. The pay is not great, but you’re out in the field, literally, digging. Yes, it’s manual labor, but you’re not in front of a computer screen, unless you happen to dig up a computer!

    Those are just a couple of suggestions. Have you ever gone back to your university’s history department and sat down with some former professors for advice? They can sometimes have insight into the field that you may not have, and they sometimes can come across with a job posting.

    To be a teacher, you more than likely need to be certified. If you want to teach college, such as being a history adjunct, you need at least a master’s in history. Others have gone on to graduate school or law school.

    1. Julie*

      On the flip side, pretty much no one I know with a history degree is currently doing anything even remotely related to history, except maybe teaching. (For which you need either an advanced degree or a teaching certificate, depending on the level you want to teach.) And I say this as some with a master’s in history — I know a *lot* of historians. Most of us keep up with history as a hobby or past-time, but I don’t think anyone I know uses it in their jobs.

      1. Amouse*

        For my best friend who is a high school teacher, because her degree was in history she was able to use it as one of her “teachable” subjects. I’m not sure how it works in the US but here in Canada a teacher has to have two specialist subjects they can use. So it worked for her that way.

      2. Anonymous*

        A relative of mine has a degree in history, but is a recognizable college basketball coach. Go figure.

        1. class factotum*

          My dad was a history major, focusing on Russian history.

          His career was as maintenence control officer in the air force (in charge of making sure the airplanes were in running condition).

      3. LA*

        My sister has a history degree and ended up doing background checks for a government agency. They hired her specifically BECAUSE of her history degree because they knew she could dig deep in research. She spent almost no time at a desk in front of a computer because she was always in the field interviewing and when she was behind a desk it was at her house as she typed up notes….course she moved to DC for that…

      4. Rana*

        Agreed. *holds up now largely useless history PhD* – All the people I know with history degrees are either in academia (and beat the odds if they’re working anything other than adjunct work) or something that uses the analytical skills that go with the degree, but not the specific knowledge. Most of the history-specific fields I know suffer from a glut of qualified candidates and not enough jobs.

    2. EM*

      I work with historians a lot in my field as part of the pre-construction clearances process (NEPA process, if you really want to look it up). Contact your state historical society and maybe ask for an informational interview with the director to find out what some of your career options are. The historians I work with are out looking at sites, taking photos, doing research etc. There is a desk component, but it’s not 100%

    3. Kou*

      As someone who’s worked both in museums and on excavations, the majority of your job in both instances is indeed sitting in front of a computer or otherwise sitting in a small room doing highly menial tasks. Artifacts and collections have to be cataloged, sorted, stored, etc. Loan and intake paperwork is abundant. In a museum a lot of your time is also spent trying to convince people to give you money, and in archaeology it’s spent trying to do research that will impress someone into giving you money.

      1. Zee*

        Seeing that the OP is relatively new to the workforce, in archaeology, she’d be out in the field rather than trying to impress someone with research.

  4. Julie*

    OP, I’ve been exactly where you are. Seven years out of university (also in history), and I *still* hate sitting at a desk all day. For me, part of the problem is feeling like I don’t have control of my time — in a lot of white-collar jobs, the work can be done anytime, anywhere with internet access, but workplace cultures and regulations, in general, haven’t caught up to that reality.

    Another problem for me was the repetitive nature of the work, doing the same thing day-in, day-out. As a potential solution to this one, you might want to try looking for a company or a job where you can have a lot of variety in your tasks. Small companies in particular are great for this: because there’s so few people on staff, everyone wears a lot of hats, and you *do* get to go outside occasionally. (If you need supplies, or something mailed or delivered, *someone’s* gotta do it, and odds are decent that it’ll be you.)

    Finally, just know that a lot of people feel the same as you. Just because they don’t voice it doesn’t mean they’re not experiencing the same thing. The transition from college to office work is *huge*, just as huge as the transition from high school to college. In many ways, it feels like you’re regressing — going from a milieu where you’re in control of your time and work habits to one where you no longer are. It takes time to adjust, and some people never do. (As I said, I’m still adjusting, seven years later.)

    1. Bee*

      Seconding this. I’m four years out of college, working at a small non-profit. Ostensibly I’m in HR, but because there are so few people, I also get to work IT, marketing & graphic design, recordkeeping, community outreach, basically whatever is needed. And a lot of that is at a desk, but I have to get up often enough that it’s not too monotonous. So definitely consider small companies who could use someone multi-talented.

  5. Amouse*

    Alison’s advice on this question is precisely how this blog helped me get the guts to really ask myself some tough questions and figure out what I wanted to do with my life.

    OP the first thing that popped into my head was museums or teaching. You’re already ahead of the game in that you have a degree in a field which you love. Your current job does sound unrelated to this field which makes me think as Alison said that it might not be desk jobs in general that you hate but this particular desk job because it’s not in your field. There are a tons of options for you. My best friend studied history and she’s a very happy high school teacher. That might not be for you but explore all the avenues.

    Look at this as an exciting time. This is the beginning of doing what you really want to do. There will always be better and worse days in any job but what I frequently hear from people who love their job is that even on their worst days they never regretted choosing it. That sounds realistic and inspiring to me.

  6. Mike*

    I feel similar to the OP (I’m a theatre major, but the theatre world was too difficult and burnt me out and made me bitter), and now I have an office job that I don’t particuallary care for. It’s very repetitive. It’s also entry level data entry, so I know there are places to grow. My suggestion is to try to get involved with company meetings, events, trainings, clubs, volunteer projects, so that you are on the clock still but breaking up your day with things that are contributing to the company. We have a GLTB employee group here that I’m intersted in volunteering my time to coordinate an event. I might find a way to use my skills and interests in a different way that makes me more excited about my day to day role at work.

    In this enconomy, though, and listening to the news and only hearing woes about the job market, it’s scary to follow the “do what interests you even though it doesn’t pay as well,” path. After working in theatre education for 5 years, it’s more important for me right now to have savings, health insurance, the abibility to eat out at a restaurant if I want, working twoards a retirement plan, etc. than to teach kids the magic and wonder of theatre . . .

    Then another frustration is that I talk and network with people in mid managment or even senior positions and they always say, “Oh gosh, I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life.” Yet they are the first ones to ask when you are looking for entry level work, “Well what interests you? What do YOU want to do?” Well how the hell am I supposed to know if you don’t even know yourself?! Can’t I just have your $75K salary and we’ll call it a day?

    1. Amouse*

      ever thought of teaching music and then doing theatre work on the side? Or writing musicals? Lots of theatre majors I know perform and teach on the side. It’s not an easy road but it might be way more fulfilling. If you can’t make ends meet that way you can always do part-time temping in the mix so you never have to be at one job for a super long excruciating time.

      1. Mike*

        I was acting and teaching theatre at the same time for a good while. As well as waiting tables. It was very draining and frustrating to piece together a career bit by bit, contract by contract. Also, there was nowhere to go. As a freelance theatre teacher you were always going to be that. Education director positions were rare and extremely competitive and the person was usually picked before the job positing went public. I was always paid the same amount and I couldn’t afford to buy my own health insruance, private investmenst (like a retirement plan), etc. The politics were incredibly frustrating; though you were a contractor you were really at the mercy of the organization and they were usually more willing to go with someone young and fresh who was willing to put up with their tomfoolary (and low pay) rather than to pay and listien to someone who was seasoned. If you tried to negotiate a contract they would just go to the next person on their list. Even though I play piano, they would rather have the kids sing along to a CD rather than pay a real musican/actor to work with the kids. It was impossible to market myself that way becuase it’s just “not in budget.” Finally, you hit a glass cealing with every company. They have a list of 50 freelance teachers, and even if you won the lottery and didn’t have to have any other jobs and had an completly open schedule you couldn’t only get a little bit of work at a time becuase they had to “spread the wealth,” instead of giving the work to their better more commited teachers. I tried to stay positive through it for many years but it wasn’t working (and hasn’t worked for many of my colleageus either).

        As for the acting part, like doing shows, you think corporate politics are bad . . . Everything is pro bono for these small start up theatre companies. The minute you ask for gas or bus money you are selfish or not a team player. When you desperatly want rehearsal to be productive and a JOB, it’s social hour for everyone else. I’m done with all of that.

        As for writing musicals. I’m not a composer. And for that matter I’m not really a writer either so I’m not a playwrite. Anyway, in trying to make a career those things don’t pay well and when you’re already teaching, doing a show, and trying to have a social life (that you can’t afford), writing a play or musical seems like the last thing on my mind. Thanks for the thought though!

        I promise, I really tried to make this consise . . . Eek! Thanks for your encouraging comment though, but I’ve come to the decision that anyone who tries to make a career in theatre must be crazy.

        1. Amouse*

          I’m a singer/songwriter myself so trust me I know how it goes. We needed to be born in a time when artists were commissioned and given years to create works of art or hired just to entertain the kings. Granted those were probably the sweet gigs. If you were to do a year of teacher’s college you could teach drama at an arts school? Anyway, good luck in whatever you decide to do. I know the arts are not an easy path. For myself I’m going into music therapy. I saw that as a way to combine my musical love with jobs (lots of different avenues, hospitals hire them or you can go into private practice and it seems to be a growing field. I’ve worked desk jobs for ten years and I can’t do it anymore. I can’t wait to audition for my program :-) I’m learning German classical stuff right now and it’s great.

          1. Mike*

            That’s awesome! Good for you! My friend is finishing her masters in drama therapy which is really exciting. You are right we are in a different time and place for artists. There are more arts programs at colleges now and days too and the market is saturated with young artists (at least in the theatre world). I think right now I’m deal with the question of how I truely value the arts and what they really do. I’m looking into a master program in public policy where I would focus on arts and culture sharing oppertunities, but they investment may not outweight the payout (finacially at least). It would be a perfect program if I had 30K to spare.

            1. Amouse*

              aw thanks! Drama therapy sounds really interesting too! I love the combination of using the arts in a psychologically applicable way and how many different types of people it can impact. I’m not sure how well-paying your current job is but one thing that definitely has helped/is helping me get through my current job is having this exit strategy and knowing I’m slyly saving my money to be able to afford University. Shop around for your program or similar programs if you haven’t yet and maybe somewhere else offers it cheaper and just a reputably. That sounds like a very useful masters that would really help to get a career in something concrete and where you maybe can really make an impact on the arts and society. Very interesting! I say go for it if you can! Good luck :-)

            2. Mike*

              Also, I have to comment on getting a teaching licence. There are more freelance theater teaching positions right now than there are licenced drama teachers and many schools cut those programs. I would need to get an additional licence to make it worth it. I looked into licencsure, but I don’t know if teaching kids is really my passion.

              1. Amouse*

                hmm I’m not sure where your located geographically but the high school I went to every student had an actual arts major and drama was one of them. So that’s kind of what I was thinking of rather than a public school that offers drama courses. You definitely have to be passionate about it. You sound more passionate about the public policy degree from what I can gather of this limited conversation.

                1. Mike*

                  Yeah, I think what I’ve learned through working in theatre and education in the community development and leadership aspect that is really engaging to me.

          2. Elizabeth West*

            OH YEAH having patrons would be so nice! I’m a writer and I just have to do it when I’m not working. Unfortunately, when I’m unemployed and have all this time to write, my brain shuts off because of the stupid stress! I actually work better when I have something else going on in the background of life (something to ignore, as it were).

    2. Jennifer*

      Every time I ponder doing something else, I always come back to “there’s nothing else stable and well paying enough with insurance to do that isn’t data entry office job.” Every time. I am not cut out for freelancing and piecing together work. It’s a shame to spend my entire life not using my talents, but what else can I do? Starve or be bored, those are the options. Or at least they are as far as I can see since I don’t have the entrepreneurial skills to DIY that.

      1. The IT Manager*

        That’s patently untrue. There’s lots and lots of stable, well-paying jobs with insurance that aren’t data entry or office work. Musician and actor don’t fall into this category, but there are lots more than data entry out there. It might be hard to get a new job in this economy, but if you hate it that much you should try to get out of data entry.

        1. Mike*

          I’m sure I can speak for Jennifer on this one and say “We’ve tried.” Well, honestly, I haven’t considered a job on a factory assembly line yet, but if I’m going to take that job, why did I go to college? I think what Jennifer is getting at is that without a hard skill or degree, like marketing, or law, or computer science, or medical assistant, things that are quite specific, we have a very hard time finding entry level work that we can move up in. Data entry is usually the start for most, but we are usually gonna be beat out with the kid with the BA in Marketing for that promotion.

          1. Jamie*

            It’s not for everyone – but just wanted to toss out there that you can move up in manufacturing from the line.

            Almost every manager and engineer I work with started on a line. It can be an entry to a good paying job – depending on your path.

            It doesn’t sound like it’s what you’re looking for, but I wanted to mention it for those reading.

            1. Mike*

              Thanks! I didn’t want to put down anyone who works in manufacturing, so thank you for putting more perspective on that.

          2. Natalie*

            ” Well, honestly, I haven’t considered a job on a factory assembly line yet, but if I’m going to take that job, why did I go to college? ”

            I think we need to divorce the idea of going to college as being some sort of protection from certain classes of job. That’s really not what higher education was originally designed for, not does it function that way now. (And yes, I’m well aware that the only thing high school kids ever hear about college is “you have to go to college or you’ll work at McDonald’s the rest of your life.”)

            Ideally, the purpose of college is becoming a more well-rounded adult with stronger critical thinking skills and a broad, albeit shallow, knowledge in many different areas. The experience isn’t wasted because you don’t use it in your career. In fact, I’d put money down that most adults don’t directly use their college degree in their careers.

            1. Mike*

              I wouldn’t generalize about why people go to college. Many go for different reasons, and there are plenty out there who get the degree to earn the money. I’m also not sure I can say what higher education was designed for specifically, but I think I’m accurate to say that it’s a place only the rich could afford while the rest of the population worked as laborers (we’re talking 1800s here). But anyway, even on the liberal arts side though, when you put thousands of dollars into an education, yes part of that is the satisfaction of become more well rounded, thoughtful, and worldly, but most also expect that you are work at a job and are paid at a rate that recognizes that you are well rounded, thoughtful, and worldly becuase you took the time and years to develope that. In this current market of all these kids with hard skill degrees, it’s harder for us soft skill folks to find our way.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                “most also expect that you are work at a job and are paid at a rate that recognizes that you are well rounded, thoughtful, and worldly becuase you took the time and years to develop that.”

                This is the problem. Colleges are encouraging people to think that, and it’s certainly what they’re selling to people. But it’s not well aligned with reality. Most employers don’t see it that way, and very few recent grads are actually worldly; they get that way after many more years in the … well, in the world. Usually the work world.

                1. The IT Manager*

                  I got a technical degree from an engineering school so I really didn’t witness anyone studying for a BA in college, but I the picture I have of a steriotypical hard partying college student studying for a history, pyschology, or English degree and doesn’t include the words “well rounded, thoughtful, and worldly” or intellectual.

                  Now I don’t think that the average engineering or computer science grad is particularly intellectual or wordly either, but they’re hired for the skills they learned and not simply because they learned to think.

                  I just don’t think most colleges are actually teaching people to think any more so why would a compnay hire someone for the sake of a degree, any degree?

                2. The IT Manager*

                  Oops! Somehow that came out wrong like I was bashing those particular degrees. I’m not. I used the most general examples of BAs I could think of. I would have liked to study these subjects more. I was very disappointed that college did not allow for me to study more of what I wanted for the fun of it, but as it was I finished quickly in 4 and a half years without taking extra hours outside what was required. Most engineers took five years. My univerity had: freshman, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and super-seniors.

                3. Amouse*

                  I really didn’t witness anyone studying for a BA in college, but I the picture I have of a steriotypical hard partying college student studying for a history, pyschology, or English degree and doesn’t include the words “well rounded, thoughtful, and worldly” or intellectual.

                  wow yeah you may not have intended it but those are some pretty salient sterotypes you got there. Some people don’t get an english degree because they want an easy degree so they can party, they get an english degree because from the time they were a child writing is soemthing they had a natural gift at doing and soemthing literally could not not do. Honestly on behalf of artsy people like myself I’m pretty offended by that. Regardless of the degree there are hard partying students, hard-working students and everything in between. Of and do you know how much reading and memoraization is required in most liberl arts programs? If you don’t stay on top of your course material you will fail.

                4. The IT Manager*

                  It apparently also came out wrong that I think the steriotypical hard partying college student are studying a particular subset of degrees. That’s what I get for trying to use an example I guess. The stereotype (image in the media) is that all traditional, full-time students straight out of high school are there to party no matter what their degree (and I know its not entirely accurate). And believe me, I know that engineering majors can drink with the best of them.

                  But I am still of the opinion that very few people go into college without life experience and come out 4 or 5 years later as wordly, intellectual, deep thinkers. I don’t think very many undergraduate programs are actively trying to teach their students to think deeply or make them worldly or intellectual. (Maybe that happened in the past, but not now.) However many people do go to college and put themselves in debt simply because they think a Bacholors, any bacholors, is a going to magically get them a great job. That’s a misunderstanding that puts a lot of people in a financial and emotional hole when they start their post-college life.

                  The point I was trying to make is that companies are not going to hire people or pay them more just because they have a degree, any degree. If a student wants to get a good, better paying job when they graduate, they’d best learn and demonstrate some marketable skills in classes and during internship or part-time jobs while in college because a college degree does not make one well-rounded or thoughtful and employers know it.

                  I’m sorry you got offended Amouse, but that’s because we has a miscommunication which often happens on the Internet and in written communications. I am a reader, and I think the world of authors who create characters and worlds I enjoy.

                5. Amouse*

                  OK that completely makes sense now IT Manager. I agree that very few graduates come out of university worldly. I was one of those who did a year of university and then decided to take a year off (which turned into several) because I felt that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do with my degree and it was an awful lot of money to spend “finding myself”.

                  You’re right, I just misinterpreted you to be saying students studying the “softer” subjects were more likely to be partyers. Thanks for clarifying.

                6. Mike*

                  Allison, I understand what you are saying, but I dislike the “that’s reality,” argument. Reality is only in the moment and has the potential to change drastically at any moment. If we didn’t have our thinkers, artists, and philosophers then our reality may become stagnant. If we all buy into this cultural perspective that life is all about work, money, economy, finances, technical skills, etc., then I fear we will lose the essence that makes living on this world unique. It’s what turning us into 60 hour work-week warriors, frozen and fast food dinner consumers, and people who think the only way to leave a legacy is through money. Before kids were coming out of college with a BA in Marketing, they were hiring people just like me with a liberal arts degree to think creatively, outside the box, but also with a practical edge. Hardcore academics will always praise thinking skills and an open mind in a college setting rather than a “marketable skill,” I think. I refuse to believe I’m less capable of a technical skill just because I went to college to develop my critical thinking skills, among other things.

                  My point being, yes, we must absolutely recognize the reality of our moment, but we can’t just lie back and accept what we perceive is inevitable.

                7. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Mike, I think we’re talking about two different things. No one is saying that only work and money matters. What I’m saying is that college is misleading students into thinking that a degree will open doors for them that it doesn’t actually open. They need to be more up-front about what they’re selling, so that kids don’t come out of college expecting their degree will get them a job, when in fact it won’t.

                8. Anon for this*

                  Mike – I hate to tell you, but your liberal arts education program sold you a bill of goods. Sorry you are learning the hard way, but yeah, most companies would totally hire the kid with a BA in Marketing over the one with a BA in Theater, all else being equal. A BA in Marketing tells me the person studied psychology, accounting and business administration and has an overall business understanding. Now if I had a theater major with a business minor or coursework in business standing in front of me that might be different, but I’m not going to take the time to teach basic business to the theater major, no matter how creative they are. So instead of whining about how the person with the BA in Marketing is getting the jobs over you, why don’t you take some classes in basic business and make yourself more marketable? I’m not talking about going back to grad school, I’m talking about classes at the community college or technical school. Your company may even have a program that would pay for relevant continuing education.
                  And I’m not picking on just you. I have a family member with a degree in theater and zero business sense and he wonders why he can’t get a job. If you do in fact have business sense in some way, find a way to market that, because a degree in theater isn’t going to mean much in most business environments.

                  Alison is right, colleges should be held accountable for what they are selling to their students, because very few liberal arts programs have any kind of employment data to back up their claims they are making to students about how business need people who are “well rounded and worldly” .

                  And good for you OP, for being able to spin your major into a “real job”, I hope you can find a way to hate it less, or another position that makes you happier.

                1. Mike*

                  Ok, yes, I see. Yes, we are kind of on two different facets of the same topic. Although, like Jennifer, I never experienced my liberal arts college trying to sell or convince me that my degree will get me a job. I think my frustration is more with employeers who think that just becuase I don’t have a BA in Marketing, Communications, Accounting, Managment, etc. that I’m incabable of entry level work in those feilds. Now, obviously I’m not going to be an engineer or a doctor with my BA in Theatre, but I think there’s too much emphasis with the employers on the choice of degree for many feilds.

                  But you are right, college gives you some tools and thinking skills, but you have to be the one to use them to get a job, develope skills, etc (that is if you aren’t a compter science major).

                  And becuase I graduated college 5 years ago and there’s no point for my crying over spilt milk, I will thank everyone for engaging in the part of the thread I started. It’s been really interesting to hear your perspectives. And thank you, Allison!

              2. mh_76*

                I can’t speak for why others went to college (varying reasons, I know) but my own reason is that, in 1995, people finishing H.S. were “supposed to” go to college and were supposed to finish almost exactly 4 years after finishing H.S. If I could re-do that part of my life, would I go? Nope…not immediately, anyway. Or I’d go for 2 years full-time and finish the rest part-time while working full-time for the Univ. (there were jobs there in the late 1990’s) like one of my colleagues-turned-friends did. I’d say more but it’s after my “commenting curfew” and my brain just shut off.

              3. Natalie*

                You’re exactly right that many people expect that college will open up better career doors – I don’t disagree with that at all. And I don’t fault students for believing that college will secure them a good job – practically everyone from colleges to parents to high school counselors says “go to college so you can get a good job.” But I think we’re doing youth a disservice to promote college in general, and a liberal arts education in particular, as solely valuable because it will get you more money in the workforce.

                1. Jamie*

                  To be honest, I’ve never heard anyone in my personal life promote a liberal arts education as the way to make more money. But then I come from a long line of pragmatists who lean toward the hard skills areas.

                  What I tell my kids is not that college will guarantee anything – but having a college education will give you more options.

              4. Natalie*

                I should also clarify that I don’t think higher education should again become the province of the upper-middle class and the wealthy, as it historically was. Like all history majors, I think historical roots help us understand current issues.

                A lot of items in the standard college curriculum are traditional because colleges were originally places for the wealthy and upper middle-class – this is why so many colleges require students take philosophy or religion, study a foreign language (of course, it used to be only Latin & Greek) and take general education requirements. At the time, middle class people who wished to be what we’d call professionals today would apprentice, or possibly enroll in a training college (i.e. a teachers college or a nursing college) that was closer to what we would call a technical school today. College did not begin to become widely available to the middle class until after World War II, and even more widely available in 1965 with the Higher Education Act.

      2. Mike*

        It’s frustrating, not to get too political, that our status quo doesn’t support people who take the road less traveled. You are rewarded and protected if you get the office job, the house in the burbs, the wife and kids, the mini-van. I had some really depressing instances with the welfare system when I was between jobs, and I was working hard! And I certianly pay my taxes too. I’ve heard some business people talk about how they are missing college grads with liberal arts degrees becuase that 22 year old with the BA in Marketing really has no abstract thinking skills and has been taught from a very technical standpoint. Maybe we’ll see that creative types are more in demand in a few years? I don’t know . . .

        1. Jamie*

          It isn’t that one type of person is valued over another. One could argue that in Hollywood, etc. the people who manage to make it into the nth percentile of creative types are paid more for 6 weeks than some of us will see in a lifetime.

          It’s important to keep in mind that the market isn’t setting rates on the value of anyone as a person. It sets rates on positions based on the positions which add value to the companies.

          The end result is frustrating for those looking to find their niche, no doubt, but it is important to remember it’s all based on economic principal – not moral judgment.

          1. Amouse*

            it is important to remember it’s all based on economic principal – not moral judgment.

            I agree with this, however, I would say that the concept of what adds “value” to a company or what services are “valuable” is part of the issue. No matter how many studies are done on the positive impact that music can have on someone’s psychological health, try being a facilitator of a music program trying to convince a corporation that you working with their employees will be valuable, make them more productive etc. Many companies seem to define value mainly in terms of capital and sometimes miss the bigger picture of how the arts and “softer” skill sets can actually lead to the improvement of the bottom line. Part of the problem, I’ll concede is that these things are much harder to qualify than dollars.

            I’m quite tired and my thought is a bit garbled so I hope you kind of were still able to follow that.

            1. Jamie*

              I do understand what you’re saying. I don’t think we disagree in that value improves the bottom line.

              I won’t argue that it’s harder to quantify and prove worth (in a business sense) for some things, which may very well add value. However, that is changing. Businesses give a lot of perks that aren’t legally required because they see the value in happy, productive employees. They tend to stay and less turnover = less costs.

      3. Colette*

        I have a degree (Computer Science, actually), but I’m working in customer service, which does not require a degree (and isn’t data entry). When I was in software development, I worked with people who started working at a telephone company doing switch maintenance and then moved to testing at the company I worked for. Depending on where you look, you may also be able to find jobs like shipping/receiving, event planning, or receptionist without having any specific qualifications.

        Of course, it depends what your talents are, but data entry is definitely not your only option.

      4. anon*

        A stable data entry job with insurance? I haven’t seen one of those since 2003, and the temporary ones I’ve had have become fewer and further between.

    3. mh_76*

      people in mid managment or even senior positions and they always say, “Oh gosh, I’m still figuring out what I want to do with my life.” Yet they are the first ones to ask when you are looking for entry level work, “Well what interests you? What do YOU want to do?” Well how the hell am I supposed to know if you don’t even know yourself?! Can’t I just have your $75K salary and we’ll call it a day?


      Another one that irks me: People who expect you to have had a career plan beginning with the college application process yet when asked “how did you get to where you are” (or some variant) say that they just fell into it or happenstance or… That’s awesome for them and I’d really like to just fall into something too…

      1. Mike*

        Right? And I’m kind of tired of hearing, “Well, you’re doing all the right things. Just keep doing what you’re doing.”

        Well obviously not since I’m still worried about how I’m paying my rent next month.

  7. COT*

    If you’re feeling so depressed that your hatred for your job is affecting the other areas of your life, maybe you can also reassess what happiness you’re finding outside of work. Channel your love of history, French, or whatever else into a hobby or volunteer gig that will help you explore new careers/workplaces and build relevant experience. Make sure you’re exercising, socializing, and being generally healthy.

    None of that will erase the fact that this current job isn’t right for you, but you can ease the pain while you seek the right fit–and gain insight into what you want next.

    1. Cindy*

      I think Alison picked up on an element of your background that might be coming into play here. Is having a job at this awesome company a big part of your identity? I think of a lot of middle-class kids were raised with that mindset, that being a person who lands an impressive job at Google or Apple or the New York Times or whatever would automatically make you into an interesting, fulfilled, complete person. But you grabbed the brass ring and life still feels empty. You’re still just… you.
      So figure out what would make you feel good about yourself. Producing creative work, helping others, promoting a cause? Then shift your identity over there. I had a liberal-arts dream job as a book editor but I felt like you did. I found that volunteering my time to help other people is what actually made me feel good about myself, and I started to consider that my real identity, my real work. It made a huge difference. Good luck!

  8. Laurie*

    “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?”

    Awh. I feel bad for the OP. For a different perspective, and an answer to the question above, I can sit in front of a screen for 9+ hours and absolutely enjoy myself, because my brain is being stimulated by the work I’m doing. I love figuring out what the problem is, or coming up with an efficient solution to something, or analyzing what a given set of numbers means and how that might affect the whole business – not everybody has to love that, but I do, hence the sitting-in-front-of-screens-forever is bearable.

    But mind you, not every job that has the same title as mine is just as fun. It also depends on what industry you’re in, how regimented the processes are (which means you can’t innovate, and if you’re just pushing buttons, that’s boring) and how much autonomy you have in doing your work your way.

  9. Emily*

    “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.”

    Really want to second that! In your 20s you still have SO much time to course-correct. Even if you think, “Ugh, it’ll take me another 5 years of school/training/experience to be able to do that!” you’ll probably still be in your 20s 5 years from now and you’ll be equipped to be that much happier for the rest of your life. You’re not locked in yet!

    And also echoing you can absolutely find office jobs that give more autonomy, if you look for them. My current workplace issues laptops to all staff, and it’s not uncommon for folks to take their laptop outside and work in the courtyard or a nearby park on a nice day. We officially have a 7-hour workday with 1-hour paid lunch to add up to 8 hours, and I often use my lunch hour to go to yoga class or grab a few coworkers for an hour of Frisbee in the park. We have a lot of meetings to hash things out across the team, (and everyone on staff has actually received training in how to lead effective/non-painful meetings) so a couple times a day I get to get up from my desk, go to a conference room, and sit down and talk face-to-face with coworkers to talk out and solve problems. We have “Beer Friday” at 4pm every Friday where everyone chats and drinks while we wrap up our work for the week. We have a culture where people come in at 9 and leave at 5, not a culture where people come in at 8:30 and stay until 7:00. And the best part? We’re insanely productive because our staff is kept engaged and happy. On the surface it might seem like we have a lot of down-time, but because we have the down-time, stretch-our-legs-time, have-a-chat-time, when it’s work time everyone works with laser focus.

    This is my third job out of school so it took me a while to find it, but I plan on staying here for a long time. Things are just really, really good here, and I know there are other companies out there like mine! You just have to screen for this sort of culture in your interview process. Search now, while you have a job so you can afford to be picky and choosy about your next job. Ask your interviewer questions to find the kind of office culture you want to be a part of.

    1. Amouse*

      I think this is really good advice but I just have to say one thing. As someone who almost let being in my late 20’s and still wanting to have kids in the next few years, etc. stop me from changing my career path and for anyone who isn’t 25 reading: don’t let age stop you. We don’t have to buy into this mapped out belief that it’s only OK to change your life’s situation before a certain age. There may be more challenges or different challenges but don’t ever just accept stagnation because of some idea that past a certain age you can’t change paths.

      I don’t think that’s what Emily was saying but I just wanted to put this in because it could be read that way and I know what it’s like to read: “You’re still in your 20’s you can still do anything” over and over again in various places.

      1. Emily*

        Yes, I do agree :) It’s just especially crazy to me to see such young people feel locked in when they’re barely starting out! If a 45 year old can switch careers midstream (and I’ve seen it!) then a 25 year old definitely can!

      2. Natalie*


        This idea that everything needs to be laid out by the end of college/age 25/age 40/whatever drives me crazy. It does absolutely nothing except cause people distress when they don’t meet the imaginary timeline.

        A few months ago I had a conversation with a friend of my family, a wildly successful professional who has had many different jobs. In 55ish, she was just settling into a new position in our state’s public health department. I’m in my mid-20s, and just hearing about her career was enormously reassuring.

        1. Jamie*

          As someone who also had an unconventional career path that got me…where ever it is that I am…I can vouch for this.

          The whole career thing, like life…it’s a journey. Just be self aware enough to make sure you’re generally headed in the right direction.

        2. Amouse*

          I’m in my mid-20s, and just hearing about her career was enormously reassuring.
          Yes! And by not following that prescribed mould we can create frames of reference and be sources of reassurance for other people trying to do the same thing like your friend is to you. I love that.

    2. LL100*

      I want to second this advice,”You just have to screen for this sort of culture in your interview process. Search now, while you have a job so you can afford to be picky and choosy about your next job. Ask your interviewer questions to find the kind of office culture you want to be a part of.”

      Before AAM and my current job, this isn’t something I would’ve thought of, but it’s important. Watching Grey’s Anatomy the other day reminded me of this. One of the doctors is very competitive and innovative, but she took a job at a hospital where they frown on competition and prefer the old way of doing things. I thought to myself, if she asked the right questions, she wouldn’t be in that situation.

  10. Anonymous*

    I graduated from college in 1996 and just hate sitting at a desk. I’ve learned to deal with it by getting up about once an hour and walking somewhere: restroom, coffee pot, water cooler, even just taking the stairs down and then back up. These are micro-breaks, only one to two mintues. It’s helped.

    I also found that getting up and talking to people, instead of calling or e-mailing, helps as well.

    And yes, I try to stand during meetings – if possible.

    1. fposte*

      That’s good for you physically as well, so it’s an excellent model even for people who like their jobs.

    2. lindsay*

      Even if it’s just one small change while you figure out what you’re going to do… sounds like you’re a good candidate for a standing desk. See if you can get one at your work. At least that will take care of one thing that’s making you unhappy while you try to sort out the rest of it.

    3. Kelly O*

      Not to sound too old lady here, but I also park my car at the far end of our parking lot so I have to walk farther, and I also take the stairs down. (You can’t get in at our floor from the stairwell – some sort of thing our CEO does for “security” even though every other floor opens in. Otherwise I would take them up at least once a day. Faster than the elevator…)

      I also try to get up once an hour and walk to the restroom, or to the break room, or somewhere, even if it’s just making the loop around our floor. It’s not much, but it does get me up and get my eyes off the screen.

      That’s one thing I liked a lot when I was in a more administrative support role – I had things that got me away from the desk, so I wasn’t as tied to the desk as I am now.

    4. LL100*

      Also, I make sure to take both of my 15 minute breaks to walk outside the building, or if it’s bad weather out going up and down the stairs.

      They also make these mini steppers and mini cycles you can use under your desk, but I haven’t tried any of these.

    5. NicoleW*

      I also hate having a desk job. If I’m working on a big project, I get to travel and participate in creative meetings, but then weeks or months go by when it’s truly just a desk job. I still haven’t figured out what my next step is. I’ve known since my first desk job in 2004 that I wouldn’t be happy cooped up in an office all day, but I still haven’t figured out a better path. I’m certainly too nervous to leap into something without a steady paycheck and benefits.

      For the OP – while you’re still there, find something to make you happy. Like others have said, I get up from my desk about every hour, leave the office at lunch, etc.

    6. Rana*

      That’s a really good point. I’m a fidgetter – it’s hard for me to stay in one place unless what I’m doing is really engrossing (and then I forget to eat) – so I have my computer set up so it automatically blanks the screen for a few minutes every half hour to an hour or so, and I use that time to get up, stretch, pick up the mail, tidy my files, grab a snack, etc. It helps a lot, especially as the day gets long and the amount of time I’m able to pay attention diminishes.

  11. Meaghan*

    I think that’s it’s important to underline that you only have one data point. I would probably hate most office jobs, but I love mine because the work is so specific and interesting, and it takes place in a wide variety of interesting environments. It might be worth looking for something that interests you topically, even if the format is similar.

    Of course, you could just need a complete shift, in which case there are tons of options for doing more mobile or physical work. You could also look into working independently – my partner consults from home, and as much as I love my job, I’m very envious (and appreciative) of the fact that he can walk the dog, go for a run, or grab some groceries pretty much anytime during the day, even though he does his actual work at a desk (or, okay, probably on the couch).

  12. public librarian*

    Most public library work is more like retail than anything else. Mingling with people (both nice and nasty), helping them with computers or research, pulling items off the shelf, putting them back and so forth. Jobs that require the masters (“librarian” job titles) are the same sort of mix with working with performers or presenting to groups added in. The problem is that people love to work in libraries and libraries are losing budget dollars every year, so there aren’t a lot of jobs and they don’t pay very well. I would not recommend going into debt in order to get a masters in library and information science.

    1. Suzanne*

      Agree, public librarian! OP, you’d probably love library work, and so would all the other unemployed librarians for whom the economy has taken their positions. After 20+ years experience as a librarian, the economy took my job and I’m now working a part-time no benefit job just to stay in the field. There isn’t much out there.

      Good luck. If you find something, let us all know where and how. I have an art history undergrad degree…

  13. Beth*

    Have you considered a job in an archives, such as archival processing? With you background in history, it may be of interest to you, and while sorting through boxes of all sorts of material (correspondence, diaries, notes, etc.), there is little sitting in front of a computer.

    However, please note what Public Librarian above said about not going into debt for a Masters in library/information science, since it is very difficult to get a job in the field.

  14. Janet*

    I sympathize and really have no advice. I’m in my late 30s and I think I just hate working. I’m on my second career and I dislike it as much as my first career and at this point I’ve given up figuring out what the hell I want to do or be when I grow up. But yeah, I pretty much am working for the weekend every week of my life and it is draining and exhausting and I get really jealous when people talk about how they love what they do.

  15. KarenT*

    When I first started working I found working in an office frustrating for many of the same reasons–it’s isolating and draining to sit in front of a computer for hours a day, 5 days a week. However, I switched to a company that was more involved in conferences and did a lot of B2B. I found this made a HUGE improvement on my work life. I was travelling a little, at a lot of out of the office meetings, and having meetings with people from all sorts of companies. It really made me appreciate my at-the-computer time more, since I welcomed the quiet!

  16. Carin*

    No one’s mentioned sales after Alison did, as I expect most people think “used-car salesman,” but it is something you should think about. For two years I was a sales rep in book publishing and I drove around New England, visiting bookstores and museums and other shops that sell books, all day long. In some ways it was a dream job (aside from the weather.) Specifically look for jobs that are described as “road warrior” which generally means 75% or more of your time is spent on the road. At my company most reps would go out Tues-Fri with Monday as an office day. As I did not live in my territory, I went to New England every other week and therefore had to be sure to squeeze in as many appointments as possible. Many people in publishing have history degrees (really, it doesn’t matter what your degree is in as long as it’s liberal arts) and if an English major can successfully do sales for two years, than anyone can. You can never entirely escape the computer as you still have to do masses of emails, expense reports, sales reports, plan your itinerary, and make appointments, but getting paid to visit bookstores and talk about books on Martha’s Island and Maine really at times didn’t feel like a job at all.

    1. Anon.*

      Yep! Also sales for higher education publishing, which I did for three years – you go around to colleges and universities and talk about textbooks and learning resources. Not without its stress, as its a very competitive market, but you dont have to work in an office. Actually, I’m thinking about going back to it after working in an office for the last year.

  17. Anonymous*

    Perhaps you need a hobby. Lots of jobs require interacting with a computer, and you’re going to have a hard time getting away from that completely. Use a hobby to fulfill your need for activities that don’t involve screens.

    If you don’t want to spend lots of time in front of a screen, the easiest way to accomplish that is to go into a field with lots of manual labor. Some of those pay well. Do you have any interest in being an electrician, plumber, or car repair person?

    1. Lore*

      Nope. Two-thirds of my office got reassigned to 5 x 5 cubicles last year, and I pine daily for my former 8 x 10 office.

        1. Lore*

          Indeed. They’re call-center-type cubicles. Which would be really uncomfortable and annoying even if a major part of my job did not involve proofreading. I had to learn how to use my mouse left-handed because if it’s on the right side of my computer it’s not possible to lay out the documents I need to work on. (And even so, I end up resting stuff on my keyboard and accidentally creating a 42-page email composed entirely of the letter M on a semi-regular basis.)

          Honestly, in a job I otherwise mostly like, this one factor has me seriously considering leaving.

        2. Kelly O*

          We’ve joked before about that. Prisoners also get better health benefits. No pedicures though, so I just remove myself from that one.

          I look at it this way, at least I have a cube and am not sharing a folding table in a conference room. (I had that once, and it was not a whole heaping bunch of fun. We were two to a table, shared a computer, and had filing boxes all around us. It was for a few weeks while they installed cubicles in another conference room that was being set up for us, but it did inhale with great velocity.)

    2. Jamie*

      I have such poor spatial awareness that I can never, ever, estimate size or distance in numbers. I don’t know what it is, but it’s a really weird defect. Yesterday at work I had to spec out where to drop some Cat5 from a switch and told the guy it was about 1500 feet. Turns out when you measure it that 123 feet is not the same as 1500.

      It’s a joke with people who know me that the part of my brain responsible for directions never switched on – I wonder if the two deficiencies are related? So while I like to consider myself reasonably intelligent and self-sufficient if you take me out of my current environment I never know where I am or how far away anything is.

      They should put me in a little cubicle and just tell me it’s 20×20 – I wouldn’t know the difference. (I also have this weird impulse to measure my office now)

      1. Kelly O*

        Don’t ask me if something is on my left or right, unless you’re willing to wait for me to think about it.

        1. Amouse*

          I can relate to this. I’ve always thought it might be because I’m left-handed but if someone tells me to go right, my immediate impulse is to go left. It makes any kind of dance class really hard to follow.

          1. Jamie*

            Me too! I will always – always – have to look at which hand my wedding ring is on to determine left/right. Without it I have to imagine picking up a pen – this never became automatic for me.

            1. Amouse*

              It’s a running joke with my boyfriend. He’s said before that he’s going to tell me right when he means left and left when he means right so that way I go in “correct” direction.
              I wrote correct instead of right to avoid a “who’s on first etc. situation)

              1. Kiribitz*

                Another leftie here who at times has to look at my thumb & index finger spread in a 90* angle on both hands to figure out which is left and not-left.

                1. Amouse*

                  ha! This is great :-) I always feel like the odd person out. My mixed up sense of direction may be why I still haven’t learned to drive (Yep I’m 29). That and growing up in a huge metropolis in which public transportation was just too easy.

        2. Rana*

          I learned a weird trick in dance class that helps with this. My teacher had us tug the earlobe on the side that we were supposed to move towards (like the right if we were supposed to turn towards the right).

          The odd thing is that this carried over to how I remember right and left in general. For example, just now, I caught myself doing it. (I no longer pinch my ear – I shrug a shoulder – but it’s a similar thing.) So when I’m thinking “Oh, I need to tell someone to turn “that way” and I’m not sure whether it’s right or left, I shrug my shoulder on that side and suddenly I remember the correct word for it.

          It’s very weird, but it works.

  18. Nikki J.*

    It’s only natural. The human body was NEVER meant to sit as much as life requires. My guess is even if you found a job in your field that required you to sit you’d still hate it. Be an advocate for yourself and others and start pushing stand-up desks.

  19. Anonymous*

    I, too, was once a history major. I minored in Cultural Anthropology and English. I HATED teaching- too much politics and I hated my life being divided into 50 minute increments signalled by a bell.
    Reader, I went into manufacturing. I took a job on the factory floor and speedily worked up to a technician position, where I stayed through various moves, layoffs, etc.,until a long-standing genetic health problem became problematic.
    I LOVED manufacturing. I never spent a fortune on clothes, if I worked late, I was paid overtime and I was able to combine critical thinking skills with doing manual work. I was frequently on the floor, so I got plenty of exercise. And , best of all, there are no laws preventing me from indulging my history hobby!
    I think there are many people working in offices who would be much happier working with their hands and I also lose patience with folks who think that once you leave school you aren’t allowed to have intellectual hobbies.
    The economy is tougher now, but there are still well-paying, interesting manufacturing jobs here in the US.

  20. Jamie*

    “The economy is tougher now, but there are still well-paying, interesting manufacturing jobs here in the US.”

    Yay! I second this – thanks for saying it.

  21. Jenkins*

    Welcome to the world of recession and doing a job you don’t necessarily love. I’m sure hundreds of people will be lined up vying for your job if you don’t want it.

      1. Jamie*

        I like this point. Sometimes I feel guilty for thinking about the big picture or how things can be improved and where I’m going. The mindset of just being grateful to have a job would lead to my being more content…I’ve just never been able to develop it.

        I appreciate you making the point that it’s okay.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Me too. I HATED the way Exjob was going, and while I’m not happy to be unemployed and wondering if I’m going to lose it all, that stupid place was literally making me sick. I didn’t realize how ill I felt until I was able to stay home and rest for a while. The layoff was actually a blessing in disguise.

          Okay I’m done resting now and ready to get out of the stupid houuuuuusssse….

        2. Kelly O*

          Thank you guys for saying that.

          I cannot tell you how many times I hear “oh just be grateful you have a job to be miserable at” and I completely understand it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily something I should have to settle for in the long run.

          It’s okay for something to be not right for me, but okay for you. (And honestly I’ve thought about putting a sympathy card on my desk for whoever will eventually get my job when I finally find another and move on.)

          1. Amouse*

            (And honestly I’ve thought about putting a sympathy card on my desk for whoever will eventually get my job when I finally find another and move on.)

            ha! depending on the personality of your job’s successor they may either find that darkly hilarious or very depressing. I would find it hilarious personally.

      2. LL*

        Thanks for this comment, Alison. My husband is going through something similar right now (dislikes his current job, yet feels he should be grateful he even has a job in this area). Your comment is good advice to remember.

      3. Rana*

        Thank you.

        I’ve seen this “other people are worse off than you so you should be grateful and shut up” message in lots of different contexts, and it almost always works out to remaining silent in the face of suffering, while doing nothing to address the larger issues.

        Yes, there are children starving in Africa. But forcing yourself to eat your unwanted dinner won’t make them any less hungry.

  22. moss*

    I used to work for the circus and what I learned is this: If you are an adventurous type, you can pretty much just show up and they will take you on. If you are a woman and have a decent amount of control over your body, they will teach you acrobatic work. If you are a man and have a CDL, they will hire you on the spot.

    CDL = never unemployed.

    The pay is shite, the working conditions are shite, the food ain’t so great but you meet cool people and travel.

    The other thing is, 10 hours a day at ANYTHING is too long. You’re in the wrong place. I work 8 hours a day and I still think that’s too long but the internet gets me through the day. I think 6 hours would be ideal. So I’d start by putting reasonable limits on how long you will ‘work’ each day.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I work 8 hours a day and I still think that’s too long but the internet gets me through the day. I think 6 hours would be ideal.

      +1000 … I’ve developed this opinion myself. I also think perhaps a 6 hour day, 4 days a week. Unfortunately I haven’t found an employer to test my theory with yet.

      Honestly my employer doesn’t get 8 hours of real work from me every day. Perhaps with fewer hours, they’d get closer to 100% from me. I also suspect they’d also get more if I didn’t feel chained to my desk for 8.5 hours a day, but that’s another topic. My half hour lunch break usually takes place at my desk more often than not during a teleconference. However I accept that I choose to work for a non-flexible employer because they have good benefits and are least likely to implement layoffs.

      1. moss*

        Exactly so. I would finish things immediately if I could go home when done. Since I am here whether or not I’m finished… I spread things out.

        My favorite days are the busy ones, when I have a nice big chunk of work to do. The worst are the slow ones, when I’m constantly F5ing AAM.

        (And yes I hustle work from my coworkers etc when things are slow but sometimes, things are just slow.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          How cool. I nearly ran away and joined a carnival once. Chickened out at the last minute though. I have regretted it ever since.

          What you describe here is so common in office jobs. The butt-in-seat mentality is really so far behind much of the actual work people need to do. Except for answering the phone and sending out shipments, most of my work at Exjob could have been done in only a bit more than half the time. Which is probably why they laid me off, now that I think of it. :P

          1. Omne*

            I did that for a year during my college days. While it’s fun to look back on I wouldn’t want to do it again. Too many nights sleeping under trucks and trying to make enough to get something to eat.

            Of course it’s also useful to surprise the people that know me at work and can’t picture me doing something like that at all…..

    2. Jamie*

      “The other thing is, 10 hours a day at ANYTHING is too long.”

      This is a real YMMV issue – it’s really an individual thing.

      Everyone has their personal productivity wall that they hit. I know for a fact that I get up over 65 hours and I become …let’s just call it “less approachable.” Also – if I’m heading into week three without a day off and you really want to have a reason before you bother me with something as I’m walking to get more coffee.

      That said I’ve done 85 hours in a week when the office was closed and didn’t feel it half as much as 60 hours with constant interruptions. Not that I could do 85 hours often – but the couple times a year it’s needed I’m still up for it.

      The key is knowing yourself and where your limits are. I’ve gotten much better at making sure after a marathon week or three at making sure I take a long weekend. Or do a couple 7 hour days. It’s all about balance. In the beginning I didn’t do that and would just power through…and well, I stayed unapproachable for a lot longer.

      I totally get that other people hit the wall earlier or later than I do – it’s just important to know where your own limits are.

    3. Amouse*

      I have to give a shout out to the cruise ship industry here too. It’s another unconventional environment that isn’t for everyone but I know people who’ve done it and loved it and made pretty good money. With a history major being a tour guide could work for you too OP.

    4. Nikki J.*

      AGREED! Being tied up at work for 9 hours is just unproductive. Flexible work days based on work load would be best for a lot of people. Anyone that tells me they work 12hrs a day 80 hrs a week is lying. Brain don’t work that way.

      1. Jamie*

        Just because you have a certain experience doesn’t make those with a different experience liars.

        There are fields and industries where 12 hours a day is normal and expected. It’s not for everyone – but you can’t extrapolate your own experience to everyone else.

  23. LCL*

    Hah. You sound like you might have a technical streak, whether you know it or not. If you can do college level algebra you can handle the math found in trade apprenticeships. MANY tradespeople have college degrees completely unrelated to their trade. The one thing most of the tech people I know have in common is an unwillingness to work in an office. Your local community college or unemployment office can be a source of information on technical job training.

  24. mh_76*

    Could you add something interesting into your non-work hours, like volunteering for something “in the field” (even if it’s not related to what you think your professional interests might be – I say “you think … might be” because it sounds like you’re uncertain)? Maybe sign up for an intramural sports team and/or join a community music group? Is there a history or French club in your area? With the election coming up, the various campaigns need all the volunteers they can get and a lot of that is “in the field”.

    Just some thoughts from someone who’s been bored in jobs and bored in-between-jobs. I’m in a couple of community music groups, help out with campaigns, run an in-the-field vol. team for Large NonProfit (and currently help out in the office until the next job comes along), do some volunteer ushering, vol. security (for a major race that goes right by my home, hence blocking off most of the sidewalks & streets), and a couple of other things here & there… all outside of “biz hours” except for the race (one monday per year). When I’m working, it can get busy but it’s worth it.

    1. mh_76*

      One more note: When I decided to volunteer for various things, I stayed away (mostly) from in-office vol. because, well, my jobs have been in office settings and I need variety. On that note, off to rehearsal soon-ish.

    2. mh_76*

      One more note:, for clarity: by “field”, I mean not-office, not necessarily your “field” of degree or work

    3. Natalie*

      This is a great time to volunteer to register people to vote! Any candidate you support probably has a registration drive going already. And, the volunteering usually happens in the evenings so it’s easy to work around a standard office schedule.

  25. AmyRenee*

    My question to the OP is this: what bothers you most about “sitting for 10 hours a day staring at a screen”? Is it the physical sitting? The claustrophobic feeling of being in your office? The lack of seeing the sun (assuming your office is windowless)? Being alone and not talking to anyone? Try to nail it down further so you can address it. For instance, if it’s the sitting – could you put files to read onto a Kindle or iPad and read while pacing around? If it’s being indoors, make a point of taking a walk every day at lunch and pop outside for daylight breaks a couple of times a day (or at least get to a window). If it’s being in your office, can you take the advice of one of the above posters and take a laptop somewhere to work? If it’s being lonely – can you schedule lunches and breaks with a friend? Reserve a conference room and have a “meeting” with a colleague , even if that just means working side by side and chatting occasionally? Figure out what small changes you can make in your day to make it less miserable while you try to figure out the bigger “where do I go from here” picture.

  26. Kou*

    I bet I’m around the same age as the OP and I could not be more the opposite. I’ve done too many jobs that were too atypical for me to ever not be “on” and it’s exhausting and not really any more interesting than sitting at a desk. Especially working for the parks service. I am trying desperately now to get back to a place where I could come in, sit at my desk, work at whatever pace felt ok that day, and with no one actively watching me. It offers way less stress and more freedom than “fun” jobs, really. The key here is that what I’m doing at the desk is important to me.

    My suggestion to the OP is to look into nonprofits. I would probably feel the same way if the point of my job was to make a lot of money for a lot of other people who already make a lot of money. When you’re sitting at a desk but what you’re doing is something that actually inspires you, it’s a great balance in my opinion.

  27. LL100*

    This could have been written by me. I have been at my current office job for the past couple of years and before it, I never realized how much I would hate sitting at a desk and looking at a screen all day. Before I started my current job, all of my experience was teaching/tutoring and hospitality. Sure you sit sometimes as a teacher, but for short bursts.

    It’s very different when you have to do it all day. I like to be active and being sedentary for 8 hours a day actually drains and saps my energy and the computer screen makes me sleepy. I never had that problem when I was on my feet all day!

    Until I can go back to school for a physical therapy program, I’m trying to find work as a trainer, but it took me awhile before I figured out a new career I could excel in that would not chain me to a desk.

    My advice to the OP is to pay attention the things you are good at and research jobs that use those skills. Once you’ve identified a few possibilities, you can start researching related occupations to find even more. Initially I was thinking chiropractic or massage therapy for myself, but I learned that to really make enough money it would be better to be self-employed. Since I have no interest in that I looked at related professions that didn’t include that aspect.

    The book Career Match: Connecting Who You are with what You’ll Love to Do, was a good starting point for me. Many of the suggested careers for my personality were job I have done, or jobs I have considered. http://www.amazon.com/Career-Match-Connecting-What-Youll/dp/0814473644/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349400536&sr=1-1&keywords=careers

    http://www.onetonline.org/ and http://www.careeronestop.org/ were helpful as well. I used these sites to research careers related to the ones I was interested in.

    In the meantime, I make sure to always take my breaks because they really help. Good luck on your search!

  28. Not So NewReader*

    OP, I agree with those who said try to figure out what is going on with the job. I am seeing that you were willing to sit and study for a degree in history. My associates is in history. I KNOW you did a lot of sitting.
    I am thinking its the outcome/results of the sitting that are getting to you. A degree is moving forward, this job sounds like Stagnation City.
    Manufacturing was suggested above me here- that is very rewarding IF you enjoy/need measurable results of your work daily. It is not as boring as it sounds, and it does take a clever, thinking mind.
    My last thought is have you thought about a life coach? I am suggesting that because a career coaching can be helpful sometimes, but sometimes a life coach can help build a big picture perspective by drawing out your personal interests/hobbies/groups and finding the common threads. Once you find these common threads it is easier to figure out which direction to go in your career. You pick jobs that are more in alignment with who you are.

  29. Pam*

    I didn’t read through all the comments but I’m going to suggest something I haven’t seen yet: finding a job with travel requirements, if that is an option for you.

    I felt the same way you did in my last job, and the precious days I got to go out of the office for meetings or site visits were cherished. My new job is 50% travel, and its so nice to have that balance of in/out of the office. Just when I’m itching for some change I’m off to the airport, and then usually by the end of my trip I’m so thankful to be going back home. It also means that the time spent in the office isn’t so boring- I’ve got a lot of work to do in my short time back at home base.

    I agree with other posters about the nature of the job, but having a job with lots of travel may help soften the blow of spending time in an office environment when you have to.

  30. Anonymous*

    Perhaps stating the obvious, but have you had your eyes checked lately? Staring at screens all day with less-than-perfect vision will make anyone crabby.

    1. Anonymous*

      Forgot to mention: it’s also very possible to be nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other, so don’t discount this even if you normally see well.

    2. LCL*

      and, if you tell your eyecare Dr what you do all day and the distances involved, they can come up with a slightly different prescription for on-the-job. The prescription safety glasses my Dr. dispensed for me are fantastic for work.

  31. Kathleen*

    Not only would teaching be a worthwhile and noble choice, you can go teach abroad, people who live overseas as expats frequently send their kids to schools that mirror the education their kids would get if they lived in the States.

    1. Kathleen*

      Contact the State Department and ask if the government still has schools abroad for federal employees overseas.

  32. Jackie*

    I was always looking for a job that was a better fit. I never liked being confined to an office all day. I changed jobs for what I thought made more sense for me in the pursue of happiness (always with a raise in pay). Some jobs were worse, some better. I had a degree and was always going back to school to pursue more education in something that I thought would make me happy at work. I have a wealth of experience now but never found that “ideal” job. I think society overall has not evolved to keep up with the technology we have today. After all, weren’t we meant to be hunters and gatherers? Find a good hobby and just move forward. A job pays the bills and things could always be worse.

  33. Frieda*

    This happened to a friend of mine. He attended a top-ranked private liberal arts college, got a degree in political science, and then after graduation got a job in a major city at a respspected nonprofit whose mission he supported. After a year of sitting at a desk, wearing a tie, and dealing with office politics, though, he became extremely depressed–he had been a “success” in every way he’d be told to be, but now was really unhappy.

    So he quit is job, moved to rural New England, and started as an apprentice to a furniture maker. Now he has a studio/workshop in Booklyn making high-end chairs, and he loves every second of it.

  34. Anonymous*

    After literally many years of searching online for a job I might not totally despise…I’ve heard time and time again about these jobs (that people hate) where they just sit in front of a computer doing the same thing every day. My question is: What the heck are these jobs and how do you get them?

    I found this blog by doing a google search on “job where you can just sit at a computer all day”. And just like every other website I see on the subject, people seem to hate these jobs and want something different. This job sounds IDEAL for me. I would LOVE to just do routine work at a computer. But no one ever seems to say what exactly these jobs are and how a person can get them.

    I’ve asked the question before, of course, but am usually told IT jobs, programmer, etc. But the problem is those jobs require degrees in which you need to be able to pass courses such as Calculus and Physics. I’ve tried that route and am just not good enough at higher level maths and math-based sciences. The person in this article landed a ‘boring’ job that was just sitting at a computer all day with just a History degree…how? What kind of job was that? I might be willing to go get a History degree if I could get a job like that.

    I’ve heard data entry tossed around as well, but have never been given a clear answer on what’s required to get a job like that and where those jobs are located. I’ve never seen a job listed as “data entry” in the area I live. I assume most jobs that would require that type of work are lumped in with general office duties that are performed by secretaries. Are there such jobs where you’re just typing stuff into a computer and not having to answer phones, etc. as well? Are those jobs just located in bigger companies in large cities? At this point I may even be willing to move to get one of these so-called ‘boring’ jobs.

    If anyone can offer me any help on this, just reply to this post. Any help would be much appreciated.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I think data entry is the best description of what it sounds like you’re looking for. Computer programming and IT operations are absolutely not what you are looking for because they are challenging, involve problem solving, and are definately not mindless.

      A lot of time people complain because the job is described as something else and ends up being data entry so its probably not usually advertised that way.

      I don’t know for sure, but maybe medical records/billing is what you’re looking for.

  35. jdop*

    I had this same problem when I was 27. Hated, hated, hated my boring office job sitting in front of a computer at all hours. It wasn’t so much being on the computer, I can move around on a laptop, it was the nature of the work, as well as sitting in one place doing *repetitive* tasks at the job. Is your job doing the same thing over and over? I went out of the country for awhile and took a year sabbatical to “figure” things out because I definitely didn’t think through these type of issues when I was in college, just went for an Information Systems degree which was definitely NOT for me though the skills I learn definitely now give me the leg up over my peers because I can get things done faster than them with my tech skills.
    After coming back from volunteering abroad and traveling for a year, I decided to go back to school for a different degree in a completely different field. I’m now a journalist/writer and enjoy what I do so much that I spend all my time on it even when I’m not working. Basically investigating stories, researching, traveling around to different cities, writing, and creating. Before I was just doing business tasks, accounting programming and database programming… So terrible for my personality. I would advise to take some time off like me, get out of the work mode for awhile, volunteer, and start to hone in on what you really like. If I would have stayed in my former field I would without a doubt be making more than I am not but I wouldn’t be near as happy.

  36. Rachel*

    I am with ya. I have a desk job where I make good money and I am completely miserable. When I was in my twenties I cleaned houses for cash and was SO MUCH HAPPIER. I have gained 30 lbs at this desk. When I’m at home, I don’t sit at all until it is bedtime. Something’s go to give. I cannot do this for the rest of my work life.

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