should I just be grateful to have a job, even though I’m bored?

A reader writes:

I started my job about eight months ago, and I’m so, so bored with it. It’s customer service/phone type work at a shipping/transportation company. I only work about 15 hours a week because I’m a full time student. The company is great to work for; they really treat their part time employees well. My manager is great, and my coworkers are mostly great.

My issue is that I really am not suited to working in customer service. I’m naturally an introvert, and although I’m good at my job and don’t HATE it, it’s just not really for me and it’s a lot more draining and stressful than it would be to a non-introvert. Also, it has nothing to do with the focus on my studies (a social science field). I just feel like I answer the same questions from customers over and over again, day in, day out. There really isn’t much variety, and I never feel like I accomplished anything. They can’t really give me any additional jobs/responsibilities either because I’m just here part-time. The unfortunate thing is that I’m not really qualified to do much else until I get a BA or higher.

I talked to my manager yesterday and said that if there WERE any projects she could put me on to assist with, that I’d really appreciate it because I think my talents are really better suited to working with data, reports, etc. She agreed with me about that and said she’d consider it and see what she could do, but there are rarely projects like that.

The other issue for me is that since I’m working in a field that has nothing to do with my actual field of study, I feel like I’m missing out on opportunities to get hands-on experience in my future career, but I haven’t come across any paid internships yet either. I’ll have my AA in a couple weeks, and I’m transferring to a university to finish my BA in the fall. I just feel like I’m missing out on valuable opportunities by working here, and I need the hands-on experience for grad school (my field is one in which grad school is basically a requirement to work in it professionally).

So what should I do? How can I try to maintain interest in my job and deal with the fact that I’m stuck with a bad fit due to a lack of credentials? Am I just being totally ungrateful that I have a job that treats me decently?

If I understand correctly, the following is true:

* You have a paid job because you need money, but you find the work boring.
* You would prefer to work in your field of study, but you’ve been unable to find a job in your field that you’re qualified for and that pays.

If those things are both true, then you resign yourself to staying where you are because you need money and there aren’t currently options to get it in more interesting ways.

Or you decide to pursue an unpaid internship in your field — either in place of your paying job if you can afford that, or in addition to it.

But paying work isn’t always about fulfillment. Sometimes it’s about earning a necessary income, and it sounds like that’s the case here.

As for how to maintain interest in it, you maintain interest in because it is paying you, and you are interested in having an income.

However, if you need experience in your field to get into grad school, and you’re sure that grad school is the right path for you, then you need to work with your school to find ways to help you get that experience. That might mean taking an unpaid internship. If it does, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to you to do that in order to meet that prerequisite for grad school.

(And just to freak you out further, I’d be cautious about this line of thinking: “The unfortunate thing is that I’m not really qualified to do much else until I get a BA or higher.” Your BA probably isn’t going to qualify you to do much else in and of itself either. And by that, I don’t mean that you need a graduate degree — I mean that a degree on its own isn’t much of a qualification for anything. You need work experience, and you need a demonstrated track record of achievement, and you need the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, and all sorts of other things that a degree won’t give you on its own. So make sure that you’re being really realistic about what it will take to get a job you’ll be happy with, so that you can start positioning yourself well for that now and aren’t blindsided after you graduate.)

As for your last question, about whether you’re just being ungrateful that you have a job that pays and treats you well: I’d don’t know that it’s useful to think of it as ungrateful (although it’s certainly true that many people would simply be glad to have a job that pays right now), but it’s perhaps a bit unrealistic to think that you should be able to find a job that’s fulfilling and interesting when you admittedly don’t have many qualifications. Being really honest with yourself about what you are and aren’t qualified for right now will probably help you make better decisions and see what options you do or don’t have, as well as point you toward a path that could eventually take you somewhere you’d rather be.

{ 129 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie

    This jumped out at me:

    I just feel like I’m missing out on valuable opportunities by working here

    If you are turning down interesting, paying, relevant opportunities in your field to stay here than you are missing out on them. If you haven’t been offered those opportunities you aren’t missing out on them as much as you are missing out on being unemployed or having a different part time job which may be worse.

    But you can’t missing out on anything unless it’s actually an option.

    1. Kaz

      “But you can’t missing out on anything unless it’s actually an option.”

      +1000

      People often confuse “I’d rather be doing X” with “I could actually, feasibly be doing X right now.”

      1. Jessa

        Oh yes, and there are probably things you can be doing (even without a specific job or internship) to learn some of those things. Online courses can be found for free. Volunteer work (even short hours, can sometimes help if you can squeeze them in.) Talk to your counselors/advisors and tell them what your goal is. They can help you fit in things that will help you reach it.

  2. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog

    I don’t have advice, but here’s my experience. I majored in a liberal arts field with limited job applications. In college, I either had jobs that paid the bills, or unpaid internships, never both. Some jobs were truly terrible and mind-numbing, but I saved money for books and travel, so I stuck with them. Toward the end of college, I figured out I could not have the kind of life I wanted if I pursued work in my undergrad major field. I eventually went to grad school in my current and fell into a niche that I find somewhat rewarding, and that has some demand from employers. I like the work well enough, it pays the bills, and I have enough left to travel. While I was in grad school in my current field, I found a part-time internship in my field. The pay was fair, they needed my skills, and I liked the job. I never had that kind of experience in college.

  3. E.R

    I don’t think the OP is ungrateful, but I do think jobs that people have while working towards their degree (especially an undergrad degree) are often boring, or just plain bad. Mine definitely were. But you can make the most of them – get more comfortable dealing with the public or your customers, and build some sort of track record for success to use when go off to get a “professional” job. Make friends. Enjoy having a job you can forget about at the end of your shift.

    1. Jamie

      My teenage son worked in a nationwide sandwich shop chain until it was taken over by new management…now he’s looking for another part time job and his main criteria is one where he doesn’t come home smelling like pickles.

      Paying dues.

      1. Chinook

        Ugh…pickles. And I thought coming home smelling like curdled milk and stale coffee was bad.

        1. EngineerGirl

          I had to clean up vomit in the hospital. But it paid the bills. OP, At this point in your career you actually have a pretty good job.

      2. Runon

        Beer and sometimes vomit. Though the beer made your arms and legs sticky and smelly at least it wasn’t the pervasive stench of grease. I actually liked the bar better than the sit down food place. I could get my hair to smell good after the bar.

        1. Chinook

          Believe it or not, the idea of not wanting to smell like grease is what made me decide to work at a coffee shop that doesn’t fry its donuts. Atleast when I came home smelling like coffe and spoiled milk, I didn’t feel like it was clogging up my pores. That and I still liked the coffee after serving and smelling it all day.

      3. ThursdaysGeek

        I worked in a shoe repair, and the shoes of the people who worked in fast food smelled the worst. Stale grease is a lot worse than pickles (I think). Plus, I could never smell the wonderful leather smell because my nose had adjusted and filtered it out. :(

      4. Sydney Bristow

        I worked at a sandwich shop and always smelled like bread. I couldn’t even put my uniform down anywhere in my room because then my floor or bed would smell like bread. Unless I sliced buckets of onions that day. Then that was the only thing I could smell.

        1. Chinook

          OMG…you smelled liked fresh bread? Did you have poeple randomly sniffing you on the bus and sighing?

          1. Sydney Bristow

            Haha I did have people tell me I smelled good, but to this day I cannot stand the smell when I walk into the shop.

        2. Ellie H.

          The campus center at the school I went to had a food court with a Subway in it and the ENTIRE large building reeked of Subway. I’ve always hated that incredibly strong Subway smell – I feel like I can actually smell the chemicals in the bread.

          1. Julie

            I worked in a small library during summer vacations that was right next to a Subway. The back corner that shared a wall with them always smelled soooo bad.

      5. Marina

        The part time college job where I came home smelling like beer and burnt popcorn was the worst. The part time job where I came home smelling like waffle ice cream cones was the best.

      6. Victoria Nonprofit

        Horse poop!

        Although I was (and am) a crazy-for-horses girl, so I honestly thought it smelled awesome.

        1. Anon

          Blurgh, I don’t envy y’all those unpleasant smelling jobs. I’m fortunate enough that my part-time during college job is selling soap and bath products…

          1. Chinook

            Hearing about all these smelly jobs definitely brings a different perspective to the “fragrance free” debate. I completly understand that it is all about allergies and nasty reactions to chemicals in various products, but I always wondered if those with these allergies are able to work in some of the places we are all “fondly” remembering.

            1. GeekChic

              I work in a fragrance-free work place and am glad due to allergies. I can stand many of the smells described here though the popcorn would trigger hives. I react to the chemicals in perfumes and many lotions.

              Others of my colleagues would become ill at any strong smell no matter what the source.

        2. KellyK

          Better horses or cows than pigs any day! (I don’t know what it is about pig manure, but just growing up across the street from a farmer who had pigs has put “pig farmer” on the list of jobs I would never, ever want.)

      7. Waiting Patiently

        Omg stinky smelly jobs. My bf in college worked at a slaughter house. The smell was horrific and could literally stop traffic.
        I did work study in the gym but it was in a office above the pool. I reeked of chlorine not only because the office smelled but I poorly scheduled my swim class right before work study. I was lucky if I got enough time to shower and wash my hair. I was a mess.

      8. Stryker

        Long time reader, and I know this was a long time ago, but had to say it–in the summer between college and high school, I worked a 12-hr night shift at a factory that made plastic cups. Top coming home smelling like burnt plastic…

        But it was definitely paying my dues! Good luck to OP; I hope she finds fulfillment. :)

    2. NCL

      My last job was delivering pizza… I always reeked of pizza grease and dirty dishwater. So yeah, this is definitely a step up. lol

  4. KayDay

    A few things to put this job in perspective and help you decide about an unpaid internship:

    *This is just a part-time job while you are in school. It’s not the end of the world if it isn’t relevant to your career path. Plenty of people have a job that’s just for the money while in college, and still get a job in their field when they graduate.
    *Are you learning something, anything from this job? Do you know have a track record that will help you get an entry level job in your field? really think about this, and look at what types of experience entry-level jobs in your field want.

    If you are learning things, your job is probably a good one, at least for a part-time, making ends meet job while in school. If you really, truly aren’t learning anything at all, then it’s probably best to start looking for something different.

    As for the internship, yes, a lot of grad schools do like to see relevant work experience. But you still have 2 years to do this, so I wouldn’t stress out too much at this stage. Start looking, pay attention to what you need to do in the next semester, but don’t panic.

    1. COT

      Customer service and administrative skills are very useful to have in many fields (and employers hiring entry-level candidates will often look for a track record of these skills). You might be surprised, OP, at how transferable these skills are. Maybe you could do some informational interviews with people in your chosen field. Ask them about their college jobs and career path. What basic qualities did they need? Then find PT paid work that builds on those even if it’s not directly in your field.

      You’re very early in this career path. It’s okay if it takes you a little while to get there, especially given that paid internships aren’t easy to come by in some social-science fields (depending on exactly what you’re studying). Hang in there!

      1. Michelle

        Yes! This is an excellent point. Later you might also find you need a part-time job to get by while you are in school or looking for full-time work, but having transferable skills like the ones you are learning will be tremendously helpful. Some students graduate with a BA and no work experience, and it’s a lot harder for them to scrape by while looking for work in their fields because they don’t have any training.

        No one will think less of you for this job– everyone understands that students need to get by with something.

  5. KimmieSue

    OP – I think we can all relate to your situation. I don’t know many people that haven’t had a job or two that we found boring and lacked challenge. Perhaps you can create some daily or hourly goals for yourself? Here are some examples:
    Track the number of times that you have error free shipments.
    Begin reporting the topics or natures of the calls that you are answering….perhaps there are trends that might later create a project?
    Assign time goals for mundane daily tasks. Did you beat your time from yesterday and raise the quality of the work product?

    1. A

      This. A thousand times this.

      My first job out of college (I relocated after school in the midst of the economic recession so it was slim pickings) was as a temp receptionist. Definitely not where I wanted to be. I have always been a very proactive employee, and this was no exception. After asking for more work, and receiving all that could be deligated I was still bored and unchallenged. So I took it upon myself to evaluate the efficiency of certain processes semi-related to my position (in my case I sorted through our showrooms samples and established an efficient and on going system and process for replacement and upkeep as well as redesigned our barcode system – of course I pitched it to my boss first, I don’t recommend just going in and making changes!). As a direct result, after 8 weeks I was offered the position full time (with raise) as well as a higher level position in a different department.

      I took the higher level one that offered more room for growth, did the same thing (this time redesigning our coding system for materials within our software) and got promoted to my current position.

      Amongst my friends I am the only one who has moved beyond the entry level, and I credit it entirely to making the best out of a not-so-challenging role. I have many friends who passed these types of roles over because they felt it was ‘beneath them’ or they couldn’t learn from it – and here in the not-so-distant-future they continue to struggle with perpetual unemployment while searching for entry level gigs in their ‘dream’ industries.

      My point being, you’d be surprised at how many opportunities can present themselves simply by going above and beyond in lower level positions. Even if it isn’t your intended field – you can always learn new skills as long as you are willing to seek them out.

  6. mollsbot

    It sounds like OP is working in an office in customer service, why not find a job in an office in administrative/secretarial work? The work will probably be no more fulfilling but they might be able to get out of the customer service that they seem to dislike so much. I see ads on Craiglist and job sites for part time reception/admin asst type office jobs all the time.

    Or, get out of the office all together. Try to get a part time job working for a landscaping company for example. I know a lot of friends that worked light manual labor through their undergrad and found it fulfilling, challenging and a much needed break from their studies.

  7. Colette

    Liking your manager and your coworkers is a huge plus. I’m in Customer Service and frankly, I would be huddled under my desk if I had to answer the phones all day. Having said that, there are many positions out there (including in your field, whatever that might be) where understanding how to explain things to customers is really valuable.

    As others have said, if you can find something that you like better or is more closely related to what you want to do, you should quit. However, there’s nothing wrong with taking a job to pay the bills.

    I did a co-op program in university, and in one of my co-op jobs, I didn’t have nearly enough work to do. It was excruciating – but it still got me experience that I used to get a better job next time.

  8. inkyeagle

    It may help to think about how this job is helping your skills, so it won’t seem like a waste until something better comes along. Customer service roles usually involve dealing with a variety of people, being able to communicate really well, being able to stay calm or positive in negative situations, maybe some problem solving. I’ve done some customer service and those kinds of skills definitely helped me in my other jobs.

    1. LMW

      This is a great point. At some point in your working life you will probably be asked questions like “Tell me about a time you solved a problem” or “Tell me about a time you had to deal with a difficult person or situation.” I’m betting you probably already have some answers.

      In college, I worked as a cashier, babysitter, reading tutor, infirmary aid and office assistant (mostly copying and filing). oh, and I called people to ask them to donate money to the school. I also picked up some side gigs doing more office-type work. But every job has something you can take away from it. You’re learning how to work in an office and help people solve problems. Those are vital skills.

  9. Daisy

    I don’t think you’re ‘ungrateful’, but you seem to have slightly unrealistic expectations about what kind of jobs undergraduates have. Everyone I knew worked in pubs or supermarkets; your job sounds like a decent step up from that. Finding part-time work in a particular specialised ‘field’ when you’re a student just seems unlikely.
    It also seems a bit unrealistic to ask your manager for ‘data’ and ‘reports’ work. I’m sure you do feel you’d be better at that, but presumably they hired you to do customer service because they need someone to do customer service. I can’t see how what you were proposing would be at all to the company’s advantage (particularly because you’re obviously not intending to stay long-term).

  10. Chinook

    Since you are studying in the social sciences field, maybe you can take the opportunity to apply some of what you are learning to the people you are interacting with while still doing an amazing job (I will get to that point in a minute).

    Think about it. You have an opportunity to interact with people who may or may not come from different backgrounds than you. Maybe play a (mental) game of trying to figure out their “back story.” Depending on call expectations, you may even be able to casually chat with them while getting them the information you need.

    For example, I once had to cold call new clients to let them know that they are now our clients because we just acquired their previous supplier (it was poorly managed and we were trying to fix this customer service disaster). I was the EA for the president and had no info on who I was calling other than a contact, a number and a town. Depending on how rushed they were, I could find out a lot about them, their business, the weather and what they needed from us as a supplier by just casually chatting with them and being honestly interested. It was a horrible task to be assigned, was quite boring as I was sually leaving messages or playing phone tag, but it had some good moments.

    Now, back to my point about doing an amazing job. Another commentor once mentioned how, at the very least, you should look at your current job as building your references. True, it is not in anything related to your career goals, but it is a real job and, when you are starting out, future employers will care about things like work ethic. The good ones will call up your previous employers and it is up to you to create a reputation for them to check up on. If you are slacking off because it is borrowing and doesn’t really count as part of your professional plan, I can guarantee that all the person hearing that reference will hear is “slacking off.”

    And as for it not being part of your future plan, you can’t be too sure what that really is. All you have to do is check out the comments in “How to answer “where will you be in 5 years”” to see how things can change, often for the good, in ways that can’t be foreseen.

  11. Nutella Nutterson

    “I just feel like I answer the same questions from customers over and over again, day in, day out.”

    OP, you don’t specify which social sciences field, but doing the same work, “day in, day out” is the heart of almost all work, even social sciences.

    Try reframing your interactions: each person has a need that you’re trying to help them meet through your product or services. You can help them by providing excellent service.

    When it comes to turning a job into something that resembles “relevant experience” the simple fact that you’re learning how to peacefully co-exist in a workplace is actually a valuable skill. The times I’ve had input on entry-level hiring decisions, I valued *any* workplace experience. There is an enormous learning curve when it comes to the skills of simply being an employee. From that perspective, sticking with this job is excellent experience.

    And, eventually, if you’re planning on working with people accessing social services (just a guess, for all I know you’re an economist) having “real world” job experience is a valuable thing. It’s a lot easier to empathize with the challenges of work when you’ve done it yourself.

    1. Chinook

      Nutella Nutterson typed”And, eventually, if you’re planning on working with people accessing social services (just a guess, for all I know you’re an economist) having “real world” job experience is a valuable thing. It’s a lot easier to empathize with the challenges of work when you’ve done it yourself.”

      This x100! Due to how the police in red recruit mainly those who have graduated university, many of DH’s coworkers with similair seniority are working their first “real job” in life as police officers (DH was a college dropout who went through the military first before signing up). We both can see how this affects how they interact with their clients (no joke – that is what they are required to call them) because his colleagues don’t seem to understand that realities of the lives of us civilians. Some literally went from their parent’s home to university to police training and now are alone on our streets, interacting with people who are struggling to survive addictions, abuse and the many bad choices they made. as a result, I see very little sympathy from some (though they are not all like that).

      Many of them see a lack of university education as a strike against your intelligence. One of them once asked DH how he “learned to spell so good” while playing a game. If this is how they treat a colleague, I can only imagine how they treat someone on the street who actually meant to hurt them.

      What I am saying (and I do seem to belong winded today) is that learnign what it is like to have a boring job with no larger purpose than paying the rent can teach you empathy to people you may have to interact with in the future. Can you have this empathy without the experience? Yes, but it is harder to come by.

    2. Jennifer

      I’d rather answer the same questions all day than get tons and tons of WEIRD questions that I don’t know the answer to, which is how my job works. When you don’t know the answers, people get pissed.

      I can understand your hating this job because it has phones and customer service. I don’t like the parts of my job that make me do that either. But honestly, this job you have right now is as good as it gets in 2013, with your qualifications. You are practically a lottery winner by youngster job standards. Or ANY job standards any more. Sorry.

  12. Kate

    I’ve hired paid interns before, and a BIG plus is “has done grunt work.” I turned down the president of the student body for a sophomore who’d worked part time at a real estate office answering phones and filing. Not exactly thrilling tasks, but it meant she understood office culture, managed her time well, was trainable, and didn’t complain about less interesting intern-level tasks like data entry. She was AWESOME and given more responsibility than the average intern.

    I know your job is boring and not directly related to your long-term goals, but don’t underestimate its value in helping you develop as a professional. And it might even help you stand out as an internship candidate.

  13. Zahra

    Most of us know that there is what is called a “hidden job market” of jobs that are not posted but are filled through contacts, which is why you should always let your contacts know you are looking for a job and to pass on your name (or the job description to you) if they see anything interesting come by.

    I’m sure the same exists for internships. Talk to your professors. Tell them that, although you are working part-time right now, you would very much like to have hands-on experience in your field. It may not make sense to do it now, since you’re changing to the university this fall. So starting in the fall, try to cultivate meaningful rapport with your teachers. don’t focus only on the ones you like, but also on the ones that seem to have the most contacts. Tell them to let you know if there’s anything that comes up.

    I just finished my master’s degree and, although my field is hiring right now, I’m having trouble finding a job. However, a teacher in my department (a member of my jury, in fact) asked me to help her out on some tasks for her doctorate dissertation. She never posted the position anywhere and, in fact, offered it to me when I told her I was looking for a job and not having any luck so far. It’s not long term, but it helps pay the bills and gives me enough free time to look for a job (any job at this point, our finances need the influx badly).

  14. Beth

    I put myself through college working for a motorcycle dealership. I am presently a C-level employee in the medical field (can you say one extreme to the other?). The dealership had nothing to do with my academic focus but gave me a thousand things beyond a paycheck. I learned what teamwork meant. I learned how the customer is always right (even when they are not). I learned loyalty. I learned computer skills which gave me problem solving skills when I got older. I learned how to manage my time and responsibilities. I made lifelong friends. I learned the value of blue collar work in a white collar world. I learned kindness, generously and honesty. BTW, I am also an introvert but that does not mean I cannot speak to people that just means I need to recharge by being alone. Be thankful you have ANY work. They owe you nothing other than your paycheck. YOU need to look for more in what you’re already doing in order to apply those skills to your future.

    1. Kelly O

      I also classify as introverted, and I’m fairly sure I know people who would question that – but as Beth pointed out, many times it’s about how you recharge.

      Part of my challenge was even recognizing that’s how I am, and learning how to balance the requirements of my work with finding that time for myself. (Despite what the book title says, I eat alone more often than not, and that little break in the day helps.)

      Maybe you could challenge yourself to find ways to look for that where you are now? I look at it as being “on” and “off” – not necessarily that light-switch drastic, but when I’m at work, I have to be on. I had to practice faking it when I didn’t feel it.

      And, as others have pointed out, there are day in, day out parts of everything. Even astronauts and marine biologists have mundane things.

  15. Another Introvert

    I’m not sure what field you are working towards, but you may end up still having to do things that do not come easily to an introvert during your career. I am an introvert who worked in customer service for the first few years out of college, and it was a challenge. BUT I have such good practice now at pretending I’m not an introvert that I don’t get as nervous or uncomfortable in situations that used to bother me. I teach classes to the public in my current position as a reference librarian, and they don’t even bother me anymore. I know it is hard to do this kind of work when it goes against your nature, but it may be a good experience for you in the end.

    I also second the recommendation for an internship if you can afford it, but a part time job in college that is not in retail is not the worst thing you could have to live with. I worked at a movie theater until I graduated and still found employment in my field (even though it took me a few years after that to get exactly where I wanted to be – away from the public).

    Even though everyone (except AAM) says to follow your passion in work, it is OK to do something to pay the bills while you are in school – or anytime really.

  16. Kay

    I think this post is a great example of why I love this blog. That was one of the most perfectly crafted answers to a question. Just sayin’.

  17. Corporate Drone

    I had a job as a receptionist in the office of a biotech firm when I was in graduate school. This was about a hundred years ago, when we still sent a lot of stuff through the mail. Operating the postage meter was not only boring and tedious, but it required a certain mechanical skill that I did/do not possess. Answering the phone and directing calls– also tedious. Ordering lunch for executives–not really using my graduate studies at all.

    However, when I went to market my liberal arts graduate degree out in the business world, that receptionist job–NOT my M.A.–is what potential employers were interested in. Just the experience of working in an office and understanding that dynamic were indispensable. My first “real” job was in direct marketing, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten it if I didn’t have the experience with the postage meter.

    1. Meg

      I lol’d at “about a hundred years ago.” My work-study for two semesters was in the admissions office of my college. Nothing but stuffing envelopes, really. Oh, and stalking prospective students on Facebook, particularly the ones with athletic scholarships to see if they were doing anything that would “make the college look bad” – like under-age drinking and partying and wrecklessness.

    2. Scott Woode

      Really? I am a waiter turned receptionist who is now looking to move on and out of his current role. How long did you stay a receptionist before you moved up?

      1. CaffeineQueen

        I also was a temp receptionist for a few months. I did well and though it wasn’t what I saw myself doing, I did like my manager and coworkers a lot, plus many former receptionists were able to move up where I was. However, due to funding, I was unable to secure a full-time position. So, I kept searching, working with agencies, reaching out to my network and got some good interview advice, all of which led to my current role as an administrative assistant in my field.

        Customer service and receptionist work are surprisingly very helpful in the world of employment. I think we do undergrads a huge disservice by making them feel it’s not “meaningful” enough. To be honest, as a person who cares about meaningful work (highly subjective by the way, but in my case, work that contributes to the betterment of society), I find that a good work ethic is what you have to rely on when you’re still inexperienced. Good managers know they can train you-work ethic and a willingness to learn speaks for itself.

        Also, to the OP, I’d say to try to meet people in your field (through info interviews, happy hours-you said you were in your twenties, connections through friends or family if possible) and talk to them about how to best position yourself. When you go to school, if your professors have spent time in the workforce (as opposed to being ensconced in academia), talk to them about opportunities. And remember, even some unpaid internships are willing to work around a paid job-I asked for and received that flexibility at my first internship-so don’t turn them down if that’s what gets you in the door.

  18. Excruiter

    I’ve never worked a job in my field nor have I ever had one that I particularly enjoy. Bad job market for new grads + needing to pay bills = working to live. I doubt I’ll ever enter my field now, I’ve been out of school and bouncing around not-careers too long.

    I know none of that sounds great but lowered expectations would really make my current (lack of) career path more bearable.

  19. Ashley

    I’m going to say some things that may not be the most encouraging to hear. From your letter, you should like you’re still young (not having completed your AA yet). When you are young, you work crappy jobs. They aren’t stimulating, challenging, or fun, but you will learn SO many things from them.

    Customer service is essential (ESPECIALLY for introverts, where it may not come naturally), and you absolutely will need it at any job in your future (even if your customers are your co-workers). Learning how to answer the phone professionally is super important, and answering the same question over and over again with a smile (this is about half of my days usually, and no, I’m not in a call center or receptionist or anything of the sort!). Learning how to function/communicate/network professionally as an introvert, since this may be outside of your comfort zone (I know it’s outside mine!).

    Look for ways to challenge yourself, like a commenter above mentioned. And you may not want to hear this either, but with a social sciences degree, you may not end up doing what you think you’ll be doing, so these skills will be even more important. And in all honesty, if this is your first real job, you may not even know what your strengths are yet!

    You may not think you’re learning anything now, but I promise you are and it will come in handy in the future. If I hadn’t worked in customer service all throughout college (and beyond), I wouldn’t be where I am today (in a professional administrative office job that is still 90% internal customer service). You have a long way to go, and dues to pay along the way, but what you pick up now will be useful in the future. Good luck!

  20. Rachael Marie

    I think the OP has a legitimate concern. In this hyper-competitive job market, it’s never too soon to start planning a career strategy. In my own experience, I found that my first jobs defined me in ways I had never anticipated. I had to work long and hard – and then get very, very lucky – to break into my field, and everyone else had a five year head start on me. Since the OP wasn’t specific about which social science field she wants to enter, I can’t give any specific advice, except to be very wary about jobs that will never do more than pay your immediate bills.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Except that sometimes you need to take a job to pay your bills. And sometimes those are the only jobs available to you. That’s especially true when you’re only a couple of years into college.

      I don’t think we do any good by stressing out the OP and others like her, insisting that they need to find meaningful work this instant. Plenty of far more qualified people are struggling to find meaningful work in this economy; it’s perfectly feasible that it’s really not an option in this case.

      1. Rachael Marie

        Points taken, AAM and Runon, but what will the OP do five or six years from now, when she has her Masters and a resume filled with pay the bills jobs? It’s precisely because there are so many qualified candidates for any halfway decent job that she needs to start thinking now about what she’ll do then. I didn’t say she shouldn’t take a bill-payer for the present, just to be aware that that’s all it is, and that she needs to be actively seeking truly relevant work as soon as possible. As AAM frequently says, you get the job by being the outstanding candidate for the job.

        1. NCL

          That’s exactly my thought process, Marie. Going to college in this employment environment, I’m really sensitive to the competition I’ll be graduating to.

          There is NOTHING wrong with paying my bills. I need to pay my bills. But I also like to think long-term and strategically.

        2. fposte

          You don’t generally get deeply fulfilling jobs without doing pay-the-bills jobs to qualify, though. This job makes the OP more likely, not less, to move into a position more suited to her. There’s nothing about doing this now that commits her to never moving out of it.

    2. Runon

      I think you can only be wary of jobs that never do more than pay your immediate bills if you have the luxury of not having to worry about those immediate bills.
      I’m not saying you can’t start looking for work in areas that might be career oriented.
      And yes some people get lucky, some people have the right family connections, some people live in the right neighborhood, some people have the right professor to get into a job early on. Some people don’t.
      But sometimes the jobs you don’t expect to shape your career can and in really meaningful and rewarding ways.
      My 20 hours a week answering phones and filing temp job turned into a very unexpected (and great) career path. So I don’t think that you can dismiss the need for paying the bills today, and I don’t think that you can say those jobs that pay the bills today are all bad.

    3. Natalie

      “everyone else had a five year head start on me. ”

      I wonder how many of those people started their careers with the goal of going into whatever your field is, and how many of them ended up with a “pay the bills job” after college, liked it fine, and just decided to stick with it and grow in that particular career.

  21. nyxalinth

    I know how you feel, OP. I’m introverted, too, and admittedly, once the novelty wears off and I’ve mastered the particular call center position, boredom sets in rather quickly. They aren’t very fulfilling, either, but I’m good at it. I get through it by keeping in mind all the stuff the boring job of boring allows me to have beyond survival basics: money for hobbies, going out, shopping etc. I tried basing my life on my career life, and it made me miserable. Now work lets me have a life, and I’m happier (or will be once I’m working again).

  22. KellyK

    I don’t think saying you should be “grateful” to have a job is a helpful line of thought. You might be thrilled beyond belief that you have a job that’s paying your bills, but that doesn’t make you any less an introvert, nor does it make repetitive tasks any less repetitive.

    Jamie had a good point that you’re not missing any opportunities unless you’re actually presented with them. If there are jobs that you’d be more suited to, that would get you experience closer to your field, absolutely, apply for them.

    If the biggest negative about your job is the fact that it’s emotionally draining to do customer service, then probably the best way you can make things better for yourself is to give yourself plenty of opportunities to recharge after work. Quiet time with a book or walks in the park or whatever relaxes and reenergizes you.

    Also, if you feel like you’re not accomplishing anything, try thinking about your role from the customer’s perspective. If they call with a problem, and you get them what they need, then that’s a definite good thing. And add to that that happy customers are good for business, which is good for the manager and coworkers that you like.

    Getting a better idea of how what you’re doing fits into the big picture might help too. Don’t bombard your boss and coworkers with a billion questions or anything, but if you have opportunities to find out how things tie together, that might really help your motivation.

    1. NCL

      How do you go about putting customer satisfaction on a resume though? That’s hard for me. I mean, customers tell me all the time that I’m a “lifesaver” and “the best”, but they don’t tell my boss that, and we don’t do surveys. So I don’t know how to turn that into an accomplishment on paper. Know what I mean?

      1. Marina

        Start writing it down. Keep a running tally of how many people per day compliment you. Calculate what percentage of your callers end the call satisfied per day or per month.

        1. NCL

          That’s a good idea. I’ll make myself a special spreadsheet for that. I LOVE spreadsheets. <3

          1. CatB

            There’s also the NPS – Net Promoter Score. A quick question at the end of the conversation that you can ask even if your company doesn’t do Customer Satisfaction surveys. Google it, the metric is interesting.

          2. LMW

            Keep in mind specific stories you can tell too. Was there a customer situation that was particularly difficult, but you found an inventive way to resolve it? Just the experience solving problems for people is experience, no matter what you end up doing.

            My sister worked in a call center during college. But she really learned how to deal with unhappy people, crisis situations, and find compromises that would work for everyone. And now, in her current career as an accountant and team leader, she’s a go-to problem solver for her department of a global company.

          3. Kat M

            You sound like you were made for quality assurance. My husband started out on the phones too, but got promoted to QA and can now spreadsheet to his heart’s content. :)

      2. KellyK

        I like the suggestions below. Also, if you don’t end up with actual metrics for it, I think it’s fine to say “Received frequent praise from customers for speedy and effective resolution of X and Y issues.” It doesn’t *have* to be quantifiable to be specific.

  23. CatB

    OP, since social science involves dealing with humans one way or the other, maybe reframing the way you look at your work might help. Each customer is a different and unique human being whom you help accomplish whatever goals they pursue. If you ever called a client service (say, of a major cell phone company or computer company) you see what I mean, As tedious and boring as it may seem, your answering the phone has the potential of lighting up someone’s otherways dark day.

    I met once a guy selling sewage parts and piping / toilettes stuff. “Eek” I said, “not a line of work I’d be fond of”. The guy replied “If it weren’t for guys like me the whole town would be writhing in illness and reeking. I work to keep it sanitized and clean”. Same work, different viewpoint.

    In my customer care days (and even now, when cold calling) I try to put a face, colors, clothes and other details to the voice. It makes a vivid, colorful world.

    Plus, I lost count of the sales and customer care guys (the top ones) who were recruited by clients for whom they went the extra mile. If my experience is of any use, you’re in a good position at the start of what could be your fast track to employment success. Use it well.

    Also, listen carefully to chinook and Nutella above. Those are words of wisdom.

    1. Chinook

      CatB you are right about the person answering the call with the right attitude makingsomeone’s day. I remember having cellphone issues while driving across the country. It was stressful having no cell coverage in the middle of nowhere. I was depressed and tired but actually smiled when someone asked me where I was, what the weather was like and how I enjoyed the drive. They couldn’t fix my issue either (it had to do with carrier services not being available) but I hung up the phone much happier because the other person sounded like they actually wanted to talk to me and that I wasn’t boring. It may have been no big deal to her, but it made my day!

  24. Ron

    I also worked a job answering phones all day. I hated it. I hated even being in there for one second, knowing the phone could ring at anytime and I could be dealing with a grumpy, unreasonable person with no way to get rid of them. I was also doing incoming sales calls, so getting people to buy things felt uncomfortable for me. So I feel for the OP. It’s tough when a job doesn’t match your personality. There were some positives though. I learned a lot. Pay attention to who really excels at their job and why, and try to copy their behavior on the phone. These communication skills and assertiveness techniques will help you for the rest of your life. Another biggie is making friends. Just having someone to joke around with or to chat with about TV shows made my job so much more bearable. Other jobs I moved on to actually involved a lot less interaction with my co-workers because we were all separated in different offices, and I missed this aspect of my call center job. Find the bright spots for you and amplify them, whether it’s making better friends with a few people you like or learning how to be better at something that is challenging for you. Good luck!

    1. NCL

      Yeah, that’s the crappy part. It’s stressful just never knowing what kind of person you’re going to get on the other line. A few weeks ago, had a lady harangue me for 20 minutes about a package and say she was going to sue me personally, and god was judging me, and asking me personal questions about my religious views, etc. I kept trying to politely take control back of the conversation and move in a direction where I could help her, but she wasn’t having it.

      I went and hid in the bathroom for a few minutes afterward to get a few minutes alone. Heh.

  25. NCL

    OP here.

    Thanks for your answer, Alison! I appreciate you taking the time. And thank you all for your feedback and putting things in perspective. I especially like hearing from other introverts who’ve had to do this kind of work. It’s so weird feeling both bored and stressed out by your job at the same time.

    Just so y’all know for a little background info, I’m studying psychology. I do well with people one on one where I can build a relationship, as opposed to a constant stream of strangers; I don’t want to be a therapist, though. I’d rather do research and deal with social statistics, and perhaps work in government agencies like the VA, etc. So you pretty much have to go to grad school for psychology to work in the field professionally.

    I’m really good at my job. My boss has told me so. It just sucks the life right out of me. I’ve been doing call center work since I was 18 (I’m 24 now), and as much as I’ve tried to get out of it, I can’t seem to find anything else but retail or food service, which seems worse. When I read the advice to list my “achievements” on my resume, I’m kind of at a loss because the only achievement in call centers is not rage-quitting or flipping out on the customers. lol. Basically, just showing up and doing the work reliably and with a decent attitude.

    And due to the fact that I am good with data, organization, and problem solving, my boss DID put me on a project temporarily for this semester due to a schedule change of another coworker who is also a student. I like it more than talking to the customers, but I won’t be able to do it after this semester because my schedule’s changing again. Basically, my extra duties involve tagging missorted packages in our system, ensuring they get organized and sent to the correct station, and contacting customers to inform them of the delay. It also involves a high level of communication with my coworkers in other sorting stations all over the state. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any other projects like this, so I’ll be back to just taking calls.

    I’m really hoping that once I transfer to a university this fall, I’ll have more opportunities to be doing hands-on work, like being a lab assistant or something like that. There just aren’t really positions like that at community colleges, since they don’t tend to be research-focused. Just gotta try to stick with this job in the meantime.

    Anyways, sorry. That was long. Just wanted to give a little extra info so y’all understand where I’m coming from. :)

    1. PPK

      I’m an introvert and if I never had to talk on the phone again, I would be happy. But my job requires talking on the phone at various times (to coworkers, large groups, small groups, customers, etc) and it’s never as bad as I think it will be. I think you are learning super valuable skills as an introvert in an extrovert world.

      Now that I’m older, I really appreciate my assorted “non-field” jobs. Both in high school and college. Like many others have said, they round out skills you wouldn’t necessarily pick up if everything was strictly in your field. Even if you don’t know it at the time. Plus, if you have any crazy customer stories, they’re great for parties when you don’t know what else to talk about. I love hearing about people’s crazy customer stories.

    2. Marina

      You like data and statistics and problem solving… and your job doesn’t keep track of achievements like customer satisfaction… I see a potential project here. :)

      1. NCL

        It’d be really sweet if they’d let me design a survey and run the statistics on that, but I doubt they’d let a 15 hour a week worker do that, even if I have the skills to do it.

        The company culture at my job is just very laid back, so they don’t really care about metrics like other call centers do. Also, kinda old-fashioned. They don’t even have a Facebook page. I was asking around about that recently, to see if maybe I could suggest/run an FB page. Apparently, it’s been under development for over a year, and they just never bothered to launch it. lol. You know your company is a bit behind the times technologically speaking when it takes a year or more to develop a FB page. Haha.

        1. Another Introvert

          “You know your company is a bit behind the times technologically speaking when it takes a year or more to develop a FB page. Haha.”

          Well, if you are considering government work, get used to slow development of new services and technologies. I went from the financial industry to municipal government (libraries), and the extremely slow pace of change was something I definitely had to get used to. We had to form a committee to even talk about whether we should create a Facebook page.

          1. NCL

            That’s definitely something for me to consider. I just know that academic research jobs are relatively rare considering the competition for them. I’m trying to be open-minded though, and psychology is a field that can be applied to many different sectors/industries.

            I could even see myself working in a statistics consulting firm, which is where a professor of mine told me that a lot of psychologists and sociologists end up.

          2. Nikki

            So it wasn’t just me? All I wanted was for my team to have a Facebook page. It took meetings and presentations and six months. Though I think it was because they didn’t really understand the concept…good times.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              For what it’s worth, deciding to have a FB page can actually be a bigger decision than it looks on the surface. You have to decide on things like who’s going to create the content, does it need to be approved by someone and if so who, what’s going to happen when the person managing the page leaves the organization or is out for two weeks (because it looks bad to create a page and then have it sit abandoned), how are you going to handle complaints posted there, is it worth making a concerted effort to get Likes or will it be passive, etc.

              That shouldn’t take six months of meetings, but it’s not as simple as “let’s have a Facebook page.”

              1. Kelly O

                Second this. Social media needs to be planned, and the implications of that taken into account.

                When I worked for my current company in another position, I tried making the case for it, but they weren’t ready on a lot of fronts. Six months ago they hired someone with a degree in Emerging Media and Communications. She’s made a huge difference in the small presence we had, mainly because she understands it better than I could ever dream.

                And I sit next to her, so I hear her dealing with the issues she encounters – things I would have never even considered – and it makes me sort of glad they didn’t take me up on it three years ago.

        2. Natalie

          If you have any free time during your shifts (a big if, I know) you could always do something like this on your own, just for funsies. And it might provide you with some resume points.

    3. FD

      If you are looking for more hands-on work that doesn’t require so much people interaction, is there any factory or back office type work that you might be interested in? It’s true that food service *can* be difficult–but there are genuinely great places that I bet would be happy to have you as a bus-person or kitchen staff.

      Food service and retail get a bad rep, but truthfully, it’s like anything else. With a great manager, it can be awesome; with a terrible manager it stinks.

      Oh, and in terms of achievements–never underestimate the value of learning to hold your temper; having the patience of a saint (which you have to to work in customer service–and especially at a call center!–for more than a year or two) is a really valuable trait. For example, an entry on your resume might look like this:

      Chocolate Teapot, Customer Service Representative, 2009-2013
      – Regularly resolved a high volume of customer issues via the phone, including calming frustrated or irate customers in order to provide workable solutions

      1. NCL

        I’m not really cut out for fast-paced physical type jobs like manufacturing. I mostly want more mentally challenging work that’s less public-facing.

        I honestly am surprised I’m doing as well as I am in a job that’s known for high levels of burnout, even for non-introverts. I guess it helps to have a cool boss and mostly cool co-workers to vent to. :)

        1. Jamie

          Don’t ever underestimate liking the people with whom you work. It makes a huge difference in how tolerable any job is.

    4. Elizabeth West

      Hang in there. It sounds like you know what you want to do; sharpen your skills as much as you can at this job (even if you don’t think they’ll be important later. You’d be surprised what you might have to pull out of your hat then!), and just do the best you can. This won’t be forever, most likely, even if it seems like that now. :)

  26. km

    Not to pile on the bad news, but I haven’t seen many other comments underscoring how unrealistic it is expect a paid internship in a social science field. I feel like most social science fields of study lend themselves to internships with non-profits, and non-profit internships are unpaid, like, 99% of the time. I think the tight job market squeezes the internship market, too. Before you were only competing with other students still in school, now it seems like you’d be competing with folks who are post-BA and unable to find a full-time job either. Good luck, OP!

  27. Marina

    Are there people working in your field locally? Presumably they need support staff, right? (Somebody needs to answer the phones and sort the mail.) And that support staff doesn’t all have graduate degrees?

    If you really want to get a job that’s seen as more relevant to your field, that’s what I’d explore. You’d be doing similar work, so your experience would translate on a resume, but you’d see what the work environment of your ideal career is really like, and you’d have more opportunity for growth.

  28. MovingRightAlong

    There are skills to be learned from every entry level job, but I think that’s something we forget most of the time. If you’re succeeding as a customer service rep, you’re proving that you can

    A) Interact with people in a helpful, professional manner
    B) Problem solve
    C) Communicate information effectively

    Those a soft skills that can transfer to any job.

    As for being bored, that’s a risk in any field, even your chosen career path. Repetition absolutely can get tiresome, but it can help to remember that your customers are probably learning this information for the first time. They’re coming to you with a puzzle and it’s your job to help them put together the pieces. Thinking of each question from the customer’s perspective may help you feel like you’re doing something new each time.

    What gets me through my boring, meaningless job is remembering that my work has helped people and that giving them a great experience has made their day a little better. It may mean nothing to me or you, but it could mean a whole lot to them.

    Signed,
    An Introvert Stuck in Customer Service

  29. Ann O'Nemity

    Let me offer another perspective. Do not let yourself get stuck in this dead end job that does so little to help you achieve your long term goals. If you are serious about pursuing a career in psychology, you need to be doing something related NOW. Not next year, not when you graduate – NOW. Keep this job while you’re looking, but start looking immediately.

    OP, consider entry level jobs that are more aligned with your career path. Data entry, receptionist at a counseling/psych clinic, or lab assistant. Or an entry-level research assistant if you know SPSS, STATA, or SAS.

    And definitely look for college jobs when you start pursuing your BA at a 4yr university. Lab assistants, research assistants, undergrad graders, library assistant, and tutors are obvious choices. If you have trouble landing one of these, seriously consider volunteering for a psych professor *who has grant money for research.* It will help you get a foot in the door. If you want to go to grad school, which I agree you will need for your career path, you need to get experience and make academic connections asap.

    Best of luck!

    1. NCL

      That’s the plan! I started looking at the requirements for lab assistant jobs at the university I’m going to in the fall (which, fortunately, is a gigantic research university). I can’t apply until I register though. So I’ll have to wait in the meantime.

      I haven’t learned SPSS yet, unfortunately. I took social statistics, but this particular class didn’t include a lab portion for learning the software. We did every. single. problem. by hand. As you can imagine, the homework took hours every week, but I feel like I have a stronger grasp of statistics because I had to do it in excruciating detail. lol. I should be in a class in the fall that will either teach me SPSS or Minitab. I’m a quick study of software, though. I’m generally talented at computers and other technology, so it should be easy enough.

      And you know, every time I think of grad school, I cringe a little bit. I mean, I think it’ll be exciting, but the idea of being in school for so long is kinda crazy. lol. But, I did my homework, so I know I have to, unlike other fields where it’s optional. One step at a time in the meantime!

  30. hamster

    OP, thanks for chiming back in. I do not live in US but rather than in a poor part of the EU, so my situation may seem a little different.
    I know what you mean about being stressed and bored simultaneously. While i’m no introvert , i work in tech customer service but i feel i might not be a good match since i’m sometimes quite laconic. This was my first full-time job after finishing my masters. During college i worked part time as a developer in various projects( 3 years, two companies) . But I found out i loved data structures and the architecture/technical side more than coding and debugging After finishing with school , i started to look for jobs in database administration ( i studied that for my masters). Definitely not an easy search, since my experience and my studies were not really matching and i was used to decently pay by now. I found a position of entry level in my field with GREAT pay and great benefits . Super team. Also really really boring. And the part that i was hired for got smaller and smaller, and the customer support one, the really repetitive , non troubleshooting one got bigger and bigger. Now I am willing to take a virtual paycut ( almost the same money, but less benefits and more oncall work) because some other company offered me the chance to go up a level, to the technical part that i love doing. It was hard, i was used to money, but i say at 25 i am to young to not have tried to work in something more fulfilling, and also , i feel more secure and marketable if my skills are more in-depth and the experience i will gain here will help. So my advice is keep your eyes open, and know that if you wait/search long enough some company will make the leap from “with vaguely related work experience but with know-how and academic credits” to let’s hire them.
    Also, can you network up with your colleagues/alumni who got on the track you want? Perhaps they can offer a lot more ideas about how your field really works.

  31. Athlum

    NCL: You’re going to pursue psychology, but your real interest is research and stats, as opposed to clinical/therapy? You, my dear, are a gold mine in training. I know it has to be hard to hear this now, facing down your BA and a part-time pays-the-bills job, but that particular combination of skills is an unbelievably hot commodity and will never go out of style.

    Ann O’Nemity had some great ideas for you to pursue now; in conjunction with those, I would add, do whatever coursework at the BA level you can to prove to future grad admissions committees that you have the math chops (because so few applicants do, shockingly enough). Think about work you can do now to become attractive to the schools with strong quantitative components to their psych training — UW-Madison, ASU, UNC, UBC, maybe UCLA. And then write those applications with a story from your current job — maybe implementing the ‘positive comments spreadsheet’ idea mentioned upthread, or something similar — that shows your interest in and dedication to a strong research approach, even in the most mundane of situations.

    Alas that the rest of my advice is better suited to someone at the stage of applying to or having gotten in to grad school, but rest assured, I’d hire someone like you in a heartbeat once you’re out. (And judging by the number of offers I get, so would a lot of other people.) :) Research skills are so important in a wide variety of fields, and yet so scarce! Keep the faith, long slog though it may yet be.

    1. NCL

      Thanks, Athlum! I really appreciate hearing that and the encouragement. It’s so depressing being a student in 2013 sometimes, reading all the news about how dreadful it is out there for new grads. Maybe things will improve by the time I’m done, and maybe they won’t. I’d rather be prepared either way.

      I love psychology because I really do care about people and want to help, but I’d rather focus on the big picture instead of one-on-one work. They’re both so important, though!

      I was just accepted to UT-Austin. Even their undergrad program is highly research-oriented, so I feel it’ll be a great fit for me. I haven’t decided on a minor yet, but I’m thinking about doing Statistics and Scientific Computation, which will get me a certificate to tack on to the BA. It’s a ton of math classes, though. Might take me awhile to get caught up.

      I never thought I’d even go to college because I have a GED. I had to take some remedial math, but I made an A in college algebra and stats. Stats is way easier for me; it just makes sense. My biggest challenge is the math anxiety. (Incidentally, my psych classes help me cope with that, too. lol). I always thought I hated math, but the better I get at it, the more I enjoy it!

      Do you mind telling me what type of work you do and what your background is?

      1. The gold digger

        When I was at UT, the IRS had good (twice minimum wage back then) seasonal jobs processing taxes. They were also second shift, which is good for someone in school. It might be a little late for this year, but check with the service center next year. (I think there is still an IRS service center in Austin.)

        1. The gold digger

          Again, this is old info, but also when I was in Austin, IBM had a lab where they tested their products. I went in as a one-day temp to test a user manual and walked out with a $15/hr temp job working in the lab, which was run by a psychologist. I have no idea if they still do that, but it’s worth a shot to investigate.

          (And yes, I know it’s hard to believe that IBM tested its user guides.)

          1. NCL

            Thanks for the info! I’ll check into it for sure. Seems like it might be right up my alley. But it’s hard to believe most tech companies test their user guides. :P

            And yes, there is still and IRS processing center here. I had a former coworker at my current job who worked there. It’s already almost May though, so I doubt they’re looking for anyone right now.

            1. The gold digger

              Try to take a class from Tom Sager. He was my stats prof in b-school and one of the best teachers I have ever had. To this day, I see him spreading his hands gracefully to describe a bell curve.

                1. the gold digger

                  No way! Hook ’em back atcha! (Although my first loyalty is to the Owls.)

                  I owe all my understanding of P&S to Prof Sager. He is the reason I snicker every time I think of that line from The Simpsons: “What?! Sick on a Saturday? What are the odds of that happening? Like one in a thousand?”

                  (Although I would hope that I would have seen the fallacy in that statement without his class.)

            2. Jen in RO

              I write user guides for a tech company and no one tests them… even if we keep begging them to :(

              1. the gold digger

                I told the IBM guy that their problem was that the manuals were written by people – probably engineers – who already knew how to use the product and that they needed English majors like me who knew to write, “And now press ‘Enter'” instead.

                1. KellyK

                  Oh, my gosh yes! When people ask what I do, and I say I’m a tech writer, and they ask what that means, I tell them I translate programmer-speak into layman’s English. It’s so easy to take so much for granted when you’re familiar with the topic.

      2. Kaz

        Please please become a statistician. Any hospital with a research center will hire you. Ours just took almost six months to find a good statistician with an understanding of how to work with others and create a useful project. This is medical science, not social, but it all ties in.

      3. Athlum

        To NCL (though as an aside, I love where this thread wound up going – such a small world!) –

        I’m currently running a behavioral research department at an academic medical center (hospital affiliated with a major university). I double-majored in math and psych in college; the math degree (and corresponding GRE scores) were what convinced my grad program to accept me – as I later found out my advisor was kind of dubious about my psych plans alone :) Got a PhD in (experimental social) psychology, and picked up a master’s in statistics on the side since I was fully funded through my 6 years of doctoral studies. Got hired by my present employer as a biostatistician, was promoted to manager in a year and a half, and then promoted again into my present role which is a mishmash of managing a team of research assistants and analysts, training interns/fellows/faculty, and doing actual project management work and the occasional analysis (mostly ‘fancy stats’ though, I try to offload the basic bivariate and multivariate modeling). And, of course, writing manuscripts, giving conference talks, and grant preparation, because we’re technically a non-profit and I can’t fund my staff otherwise.

        If that sounds like a ridiculous amount of work, a) it really is; and b) this is exactly why we need more people like you in the workforce. The pure math/stats people don’t know how to talk to investigators and understand the theoretical models and underlying questions; the pure psych/content people don’t want this kind of work (too applied/not theoretical enough) or don’t have the methodological chops to do study design and data analysis outside their own research area. People who can handle both the content and the methods are rare indeed, and highly sought after/fought over :) FWIW, I had no prior biomedical experience at all before taking the biostats job, but at the time I took it, I was weighing it against a postdoc and an offer from a school district. Did I mention this combination of skills is REALLY rare?

        (Oh, and I’m an extreme introvert too, but I find I love the mentorship and management aspects of my work. Hated teaching in a classroom setting, but one-on-one, watching someone learn and develop and excel from your guidance, it’s awesome. I still come home exhausted, but it’s so fulfilling; so maybe just keep an open mind about that as you ponder future possibilities?)

        Incidentally, one of my best friends in grad school did his undergrad at UT-Austin, albeit in computer science. You’re in good hands there.

        1. NCL

          Thanks so much for that info! That really gives me more of an idea of what I can do with the focus of my education. Most people talk about being a therapist with a psych degree, but don’t have much info on the more research/applied side.

          I haven’t yet decided what flavor of psychology to focus on. I really love social psych, but I think I could also really like biopsych or primarily focusing on mental illness/abnormal psych. Just going to keep taking a variety of classes and decide which one I like best. :D

          What type of math do you suggest I focus on? Mostly stats stuff, or do you think I should try to get some calculus under my belt too?

          Also, like you, I do best in a one-on-one situation with people or a small group. I just hate large crowds, like most introverts. Heck, I even love public speaking. :)

          1. Athlum

            If you can combat the math anxiety long enough to withstand calculus, I do highly recommend it. I don’t think you need much beyond that, but regression analysis will be more intuitive if you have the foundation for understanding where the OLS estimator comes from :) You will get a basic stats training in graduate school no matter where you go, and some programs (such as those I listed) offer or require more than others, so I wouldn’t worry too much about mastering all that content before you even finish your BA. Just make sure you have a solid enough foundation in the fundamentals to get a really good quant GRE score, and have enough coursework that shows mathematical aptitude (whether pure math, stats, or computer science) to convince them you’ll be strong in it.

            Again, good luck! You have a great attitude, and as long as grad school doesn’t beat that out of you, I think you will have a long and wildly successful career ahead of you :)

      4. dancinglonghorn

        I am a UT alum, pursuing a PhD after reviving my masters and undergrad degrees (4) from UT Austin. I am now in a top 5 PhD program and I have to say that the UT psychology department coursework alone will not prepare you for an academic/research career.

        You should really be aiming to do a dual degree in either math or statistics. The UT psych statistics course sequence is actually really just basic. If you want to go to grad school (or be competitive at top 50 programs), I would aim to add at least a math minor (if not separate degree). It will really help you stand out from the rest of the applicants. It seems that you are already thinking about doing this, which is great, so I would strongly encourage you to pursue AT A MINIMUM the minor in statistics.

        Also – if you go into grad school interviews seriously thinking that SPSS is “programming” or that the psych research methods is real statistics – you will be outing yourself in the process as someone who doesn’t really know anything about real research. Which is okay, because right now, you really don’t know anything! But this is just a tip for later on, when you are applying to grad schools.

        Looking at your current math skills, you need to come to UT prepared to struggle with math. I would recommend you check out the Sanger Learning Center once you arrive at UT – they do free math tutoring for all types of math (all the calculus courses and some higher level courses as well). I used to work there all through college – if they don’t tutor a specific course, you still might be able to find someone to tutor you (I used to tutor the Pysch stat course even though its not on the list). Again, the tutoring is free, and generally the tutors have a really good idea of what is expected to be covered on exams, so it can be very time-productive. They even have drop-in tutoring for math so you don’t even need to make an appointment (just don’t wait until the night before the homework is due or the place will be busy!)

        Also, not to rain on your parade, but A’s in community college math classes are not comparable to A’s in math courses at UT Austin (where the AVERAGE grade is expected to be a C and about 15% of students will fail each course). So be prepared for a big change in the rigor of the coursework.

        FWIW- my area of research is a social science, not psychology but I have a psychology degree from UT Austin (as well as the 3 other majors and 2 minors) and I have to say that the rigor is just not comparable to a degree in either economics, statistics, or math. My Phd has a minor in psychology which means I have taken all of the first-year Phd coursework in psychology so I think I’m fairly qualified to speak about psychology research careers. (Some of my work is published in A- Psy journals).

        Again, I don’t mean to be negative – I just want you to understand the huge disadvantage you are at mathematically speaking and encourage you to be proactive to address it! Also UT is a great school with some amazing professors, so any connections you can forge will really help you in your career.

        1. NCL

          Thanks for your perspective.

          I do know that the social stats classes are extremely basic, so I am going to take as much math as I can. I don’t think I could double major, though; at this point, I’m already halfway through an undergrad, and trying to double major in math and psychology would extend my undergrad by quite a bit. So I think minoring in math or statistics would probably be my best bet to get the minimum skills I need and not extend my BA much longer than I need to. I know it’ll be extremely difficult for me. I never learned math when I was younger because I was home schooled and my parents apparently didn’t think it was important, so I’m having to catch up now as an adult. I certainly don’t think that making an A in college algebra makes me a math genius; it was just a big accomplishment for ME, since it’s a huge improvement in my previous math skills.

          I’m just trying to stay positive, be realistic about what I can do in the time I have, and do the best I can while I’m there. :)

  32. Anon

    If you are an introvert and this job is forcing you to come out of your shell it is probably teaching you some valuable lessons you might not get elsewhere. Personally I learned how to deal with crazy angry people working in a grocery store in high school. You might be surprised just how transferable the skills you are learning are.

  33. Anonymoose

    It’s interesting, when I look back on my 20 years in the workforce, how many of my early “useless” jobs provided me with skills and experience that later proved useful or marketable in one capacity or another. And it’s also interesting to note that sometimes you get put where you need to be as opposed to where you’d like to be, in order to develop said skills/experience. I am speaking specifically here of you being an introvert yet here you are, in customer services, forced out of your shell and into interacting with people. This is good for you. Someday you’ll be glad for every uncomfortable call that made you a tiny bit more comfortable talking to people you don’t yet know yet still have to interact with when you’d really rather not.

    If you can’t change your job, then work to change your perspective on your job. Embrace these opportunities to grow…and remember: this is not forever, it’s just for now.

  34. Joey

    Op,
    Mind numbing work sucks, but as a hiring manager I’d much rather see a candidate with your type of experience than typical part time college jobs. Your job will give you far more skills that transfer to the business world.

    I think if you just see it as a means to an end you might feel better about it. Fulfilling jobs in college are rare. You have no idea how lucky you are to have good people working around you.

    And as for being an introvert, once you get out into the business world you will appreciate having a job that forced you to do things you weren’t comfortable doing. Its much better to deal with it when you’re starting out than when you’re older and the stakes are higher.

    1. EngineerGirl

      Thank you for saying exactly what I wanted to say to the OP!

      Talking to people all day is an introvert’s bane. But learning to master it will take you far.

  35. Amanda

    I just graduated last year, and it’s certainly true: people with more work experience, no matter how irrelevant it seemed, fared better after graduation with their job hunt. You could be fostering valuable connections at this company, not to mention that customer service is a very transferable skill that not all introverts easily develop. Keep your head up, OP!

  36. pidgeonpenelope

    I almost started asking if I wrote this awhile back. Prior to being laid off, the best outcome for me, I felt precisely the same way sans bachelor’s but add lots of great job experience. I worked hard because I loved my coworkers and boss and didn’t want to let down the team but I had to find things to motivate me. I don’t think it’s a bad attitude that OP has. It’s a natural attitude. The realization of our job market status and the fact that so many people have been misled to think that as soon as one gets their bachelor’s they’ll get a nice high-paying job in their field. My husband graduated from Harvey Mudd College and got a job working for Washington Conservation Corp restoring salmon streams for minimum wage. He was so mad about it but he worked hard and kept looking for jobs in his spare time. After a few years, he made it into Boeing and is ridiculously happy about his job. Moral of the story, ya gotta wait but things will eventually fall your way. In the meantime, work your butt off.

  37. Penny

    I agree with others that, if there are no paid opportunities in your field at the moment, then there’s nothing wrong with doing a little grunt work, especially in customer service. All experience will end up doing some good somewhere down the road.

    I work retail and am currently looking for office work. All my interviews recently were very curious as to how I’ve handled customers. So that retail experience will lead into office work (hopefully). And I’m looking for office work right now because the jobs I want one day in the future require office experience. So my office experience will one day lead into the jobs I really would like to do the rest of my life (hopefully).

    No matter how mind-numbing the job is, you should be able to find some good in it, some experience, that you can take for future jobs.

    Good luck! And let me assure you that you’re not alone in this situation! Nearly all of my friends and myself are right there with you :)

  38. Kat M

    When I was a social science major in college, I worked 10 hours a week in an after-school program for girls. I found it to be a great place for me to mentally apply the theories I’d been learning, and it was constantly interesting and creatively challenging. It was basically minimum wage, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. That being said, I knew I never wanted to work in an office environment. Otherwise, I would have looked for something that would have prepared me to deal with that.

    Unrelated note: to my surprise, I ended up working in early childhood education for about six years before going back to school and getting my massage therapy license. I still use my social science background to help me make sense of the world, but it doesn’t explicitly have anything to do with my work life anymore.

  39. Tinker

    As kind of a side note, I note that the OP seems to be contemplating the assertion “You should feel grateful to even have a job.” It’s not an assertion that is worth contemplation, assuming that it’s being used in the usual sense of that one daren’t even internally experience negative feelings or observations about one’s work given that one’s employer has deigned to hire one’s lucky self.

    I think that such an overly deferential attitude is counterproductive to solid decision making in much the same way that an overly resentful attitude is. A job is not a favor to the person who has it, but rather an exchange — the person is providing value to other people that they consider worth thus-and-such compensation, and the person is also having experiences that they may capitalize on for their later benefit. It’s common for some parts of this exchange to be less than satisfactory, and reasonable for a person to contemplate them, name them for what they are, and make decisions accordingly.

    As far as the OP goes, I’d agree that it would probably be a good idea to chill a bit regarding the perceived alignment of their job with their perceived interests and gifts. Being an introvert, for instance, doesn’t mean one has to refrain from interacting with other people when that’s what they have in front of them — and I say this as a strongly expressed introvert. And, as people have said before, there’s a lot of scope for useful learning in any job. However, that’s a different matter than asserting an obligation of “gratitude”.

  40. Ryan Chatterton

    Alison, I have a few questions for you:

    Why do you think students (or people in general) put SO MUCH weight on getting their degree? As in: “I don’t have qualifications because I don’t have a degree.”

    Why is it that they are blindsided when they get their piece of paper and companies still won’t hire them?

    I know to people like us, the writing has been on the wall for a while now (you need more than a degree; you probably don’t even need one at all for some fields), but I’m constantly astounded that people let this hold them back.

    I and my colleagues have been able to get great, professional jobs without a college education. Are people lying to themselves?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      It’s because their parents, teachers, and society in general all tell them that. I think it did used to be true (people older than me, feel free to correct me if I’m wrong about that!), and the parental/societal messages haven’t caught up. When you’re 18 and every authority around you is telling you this, you believe it.

      1. Ryan Chatterton

        In that case, what do you think would be a way to engage with those authority figures, especially parents to help them tell a different story?

        In my experience, older individuals take pride in their college education. My own mother is very protective over my criticisms of the college system. It’s like you’re stabbing them in the heart.

        How do you think we can soften the approach and really engage parents in a different conversation of “if your child should go, instead of when…”?

  41. Jess

    Even with a BA/BS or higher jobs are hard to come by so there would be no way of telling if that will help you. I’m having the same issue with an MBA

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