I’ve messed up my work history and now can’t find a job

A reader writes:

I am a 24-year old in need of serious job advice.

I have short work histories with previous employers (10 or more in 7 years). The longest I’ve worked for a company has been about year and a half: Dairy Queen when I was working in high school. The second longest is a year and a month, 2012-2013 for a security company. I have burned most bridges with previous managers. I blame my personality type, INTJ, and quit most positions without having another job lined up, so I have a lot of gaps in my employment history as well. I have been through four or more staffing agencies, but cannot hold a job long enough to get on through the companies in which they had me work. I am unable for re-hire through two of these staffing companies. Basically, if I am not presented with a daily challenge (a challenge which I believe is challenging), I get bored very, very, very, easily!

I am not a team player. I prefer highly challenging positions in which I work alone or with one to two other people. I have had some college but didn’t manage a degree – because I dropped out. (I dropped out because I did not work well with my professors, and got stressed out with work added in the mix.)

I am currently looking for work, but believe I cannot find it due to companies that primarily hire based on online and personality applications, lack of a good structured work history, no achievements, and my inability to interact with societal norms. Can you give any advice to how I may proceed in finding work?

It’s pretty unlikely you’re going to get a job that you find challenging with this work history or this approach.

But let’s back up. This isn’t about being an INTJ. Most INTJs hold down jobs just fine. This also isn’t about not being challenged; loads of people have jobs that aren’t particularly challenging and they hold on to them anyway because of a work ethic or sense of responsibility or or because they’re working toward something better or because of a basic interest in having a paycheck and a stable work history. And it’s not about being stymied by online applications either, because other people are getting hired with those just fine.

What this is about is how you’ve handled yourself in the work world so far. Most employers rightly believe that a person’s past actions are the best predictor of their future actions, and so your professional past counts for a ton in the hiring process. You’ve built up a past that’s now functioning as screaming warning sign employers. They don’t want to become the next job you leave in less than a year, and right now your resume says pretty clearly that they will be.

Having a stable work history and good references is a prerequisite for most jobs, and especially so for interesting, challenging jobs. Interesting, challenging jobs have lots of people applying for them, and employers will rarely hire someone with a spotty work history when they have loads of qualified candidates without a history of job-hopping. (Moreover, this sounds like it’s not just job-hopping; it sounds like it’s also about leaving on bad terms, which means that you’re not going to have great references either, so that’s additionally prohibitive.)

And the longer this goes on, the harder and harder it’s going to be for you to find any job, let alone a challenging one.

What all this means is that if you want to create the conditions to eventually get interesting, challenging work, you’re going to have to engage in some serious reputation repair, and that’s going to mean sacrificing for a while. You’re going to need to work at jobs that you don’t find especially challenging while you’re building a stronger work history, and you’re going to need to appear to do it cheerfully and enthusiastically so that you can build up references. You’re going to need to stay at those jobs even when you want to quit, because you need long stays on your resume now, to counteract all those short ones. (Fortunately, at 24, you can drop a lot of those earlier jobs off your resume altogether so they won’t be haunting you for years — but you do need to replace them with much longer-term jobs.)

If you build up a sustained period of stable work where you demonstrate a work ethic — whether you like what you’re doing or not — over time you’ll erase some of the damage that’s currently making you unappealing to good employers.

If you don’t do that, it’s highly likely that you’re going to paint yourself into a place where you’ll never be able to get the challenging work you want.

So, your basic choices:

a. unchallenging work now / staying at jobs you’d prefer to leave so that you have a chance at challenging work later
b. unchallenging work probably forever

I think A is the better option, but you’re the one who will have to make that call.

{ 497 comments… read them below }

  1. Celeste*

    I agree with Alison’s advice to tidy your resume, find a spot and stick to it. But as far as the nuts and bolts of staying, I think you might need some assistance since that is not a tool you have in your toolbox. It might be worth some time in counseling to see if you have any issue that can be treated. Sometimes depression shows up as irritability and explosiveness in relationships (quitting work on bad terms) and sometimes ADD shows up in having no tolerance for boredom or authority. If you could get evaluated for these or other issues, and treat them at the root, I think you may find it easier to rack up that employment history.

    Best of luck to you, and I hope you will update.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      +1. Even if there’s nothing clinical going on, it sounds like you could use some assistance—either from a professional or from a friend with VERY good judgment—to help you manage stress, frustration, and boredom at work. I don’t have depression or ADHD, but I do have a friend who helps me practice conversations with my boss before I have them, and that has been a huge help for me.

    2. Manders*

      This is a really good point. A lot of people deal with some disappointment in their early 20s that they’re not in challenging or interesting jobs, but this cycle of quitting on bad terms so uncommon that there may be something else going on physically or psychologically.

    3. Natalie*

      Counseling would probably help no matter what. OP might not have a specific condition (or might not want to know) but there is clearly a pattern here that is not working for OP. A good counselor could help change that pattern even if you aren’t especially interested in learning why the pattern is there, or don’t think why matters. Dialectical behavior therapy or cognitive behavior therapy are two options to look into.

    4. TOC*

      I also agree with the therapy suggestion. OP, therapy isn’t just for people who are “ill” in some way or have a serious diagnosis. It’s for people who find themselves stuck in patterns that make them unhappy, but they need some assistance to recognize and break out of those patterns.

      Are you familiar with the concept of “locus of control”? You seem like someone who has an external locus of control: things just happen to you, you can’t help it, it’s just the way things are and that will never change. People who don’t believe they have any agency over how their life goes tend to feel helpless, beaten down, and adrift.

      A therapist can help you shift to an internal locus of control, which makes many people happier. Once you believe that you have the power and agency to control what happens in your life, you’ll be able to get closer to the career you want.

      It’s not that taking control of your life and responsibility for your decisions will automatically make life go your way. You can’t control the universe. But what you can learn to control is your reaction. Work is boring today? You’ll have the tools to keep working anyway. Having a conflict with a manager? You’ll be able to see your role in the situation and learn how to respond more effectively so you two maintain a positive relationship.

      You can still be “yourself” and have better relationships with others and a better relationship with your job. Seek out someone who can coach you along the way.

      1. stellanor*

        I like to describe therapy as “coping skills school”. If there is some situation in your life you’re systematically having trouble dealing with, e.g. not being able to tolerate boredom, therapy can help!

        1. Helka*

          I’ve described therapy as having a “professional wise friend.” But “coping skills school” is also a really good description!

          Either way, yes, it is very good whether or not you have something diagnosable going on. A good therapist can really help you turn things around.

        2. Noelle*

          That’s a good way to describe it. I went to a therapist for about a year when I was working in a dead end job at the height of the recession (and my boss was terrible so I wanted to quit every day). My therapist did a great job of giving me advice and skills to cope better and manage the relationship. It didn’t magically make the relationship better, but it gave me more control of a situation that I felt powerless in before.

      1. WorkingMom*

        I agree with all of this. Another thing that might help you OP, is to find an outlet for energy outside of work. It will be tough and very challenging to bear a boring and unchallenging job for a year, no doubt about it. Maybe if you can find a hobby or sport that allows you to channel your energy into a challenging activity outside of work, that might help you cope with the job while you “pay your dues” and build up your reputation and resume.

        Something that has helped me in the past, is to recognize that work isn’t everything. It isn’t my whole life. It doesn’t have to meet every need – there will be negatives and negative people in EVERY job, no matter how perfect, challenging, and well-suited is to you. If you can learn to accept the job for what it is, find the positives, and then find ways outside of work to meet your other needs (to keep you mentally/physically challenged, etc.) you’ll be better equipped to accept that job for what it is, because you’re not relying on it to meet all of your needs. Good luck!

        Also, I want to say that I think your acknowledgement of your past struggles proves that you are capable of moving past them – because you recognize them already.

        1. fposte*

          I like this point, and I also think a lot of people find meaning in their unexciting jobs because it means they can pay for their cats, or skating practice, or biking gear. The job can be a throughput and not an end.

        2. Sally*

          Agree wholeheartedly with this, that a job cannot meet EVERY need and also that the OP has arrived at a place of self awareness which is great!
          Good luck OP!

    5. Trevor*

      Hi There,
      This is all absolutely not your fault !. Companies in the UK are spoilt to death for choice when it comes to workers. A vast over supply in the workforce now exists in the UK. This situation has been created ON PURPOSE by the politician’s and the financial elite. Hence, companies now treat people like dirt with poor working conditions and ridiculous targets. Ever watch undercover boss ?. I lost count of the number of times a CEO realized that targets were quite frankly impossible. The CEOs in question should have sacked themselves for being so useless.
      Bottom line. Work for yourself and don’t waste your life working for some cost cutting CEO who would prefer to pay £2.00 per hour and have his workforce on 23 hours a day if he could get away with it.

    6. mplo*

      Here’s the rub, however:

      Since these neurological, biologically-based developmental disorders are so poorly understood, it has often cost people their autonomy, either in not being hired for steady work, or the afflicted person(s) who have neurological, biologically-based developmental problems are often the last hired/first fired when times are bad.

  2. Zahra*

    OP, what you’re saying resembles a lot of ADHD symptoms. While I’m not armchair diagnosing you, I think it would be worthwhile for you to read books for ADHD adults. They would have strategies that would most probably apply to your current situation. Also, I’ve just started reading “Reality is Broken”. The gamification strategies outlined in the beginning of the book are firing all sorts of possibilities for my own work. The tangible reward being that achieving some milestones gets to build up my “brag file” that I can use as argument for promotion/salary raise/job search. The more indirect reward is that challenging yourself to reach daily/weekly goals is likely to keep you more interested in your work.

    1. BRR*

      I have ADD and I was getting some of that out of the letter. I think there are other things but it might be partially medical.

      1. BRR*

        Not arm chair diagnosing either but I just recognize some of my own issues. Finding an entry-level job not challenging enough though is common though.

        1. Adam*

          I think it’s fair to say most adults of any age would find your average entry level job pretty boring after the initial newness has worn off. So I agree it’s really a matter of him mediating that common fact of the career ladder and setting his sights on working higher down the road, maybe by giving himself some more stimulating hobbies outside of a his professional life.

  3. sittingduck*

    OP It also sounds like you are trying to find ‘legitimate’ reasons why these jobs just don’t work for you, as if it is all on the company, and your personality type, (meaning things you can’t change) that is causing you to not work out at jobs. I completely agree with Allison though, to get where you want to be, you have to work for it. No one is given their dream job right off the bat, they put in years of hard, usually tedious work, to get to those more challenging, higher up, more satisfying jobs.

    I think you need to stop looking for outside excuses to why things aren’t working for you and look inside. Something it took some time for me to realize was that even though I knew myself so well, and I knew what would make a good work environment for ME, employers can only see the bare surface of who I was through my work history, so it doesn’t really matter what kind of person I knew I was, or what kind of work I knew I could do, its about proving that to employers by doing things you probably don’t want to do.

    Good luck!

    1. BRR*

      This is what I was thinking. I want to add that the LW found it difficult to work with professors. I had this realization (well am still having it), if I’m having problems with everybody it might just not be everybody else.

    2. AdAgencyChick*

      This. As a hiring manager, when I see this kind of a work history, the only way I’m going to let the candidate advance any further is if I know that she a) has done the introspection necessary to figure out why she couldn’t stick with a job, and b) understands that the job I am hiring for probably has some unpleasant and boring aspects and is ready to take those on without running away.

      OP’s post doesn’t make me think this kind of introspection has taken place. “I blame my INTJ personality” and wanting a more challenging job before having proven herself in an entry-level spot are not promising. If I knew that’s what a candidate in front of me were thinking, I’d write her off. I’d want to hear more of “This is how *I* screwed up and how I plan to do things differently in the future.”

      1. Moo*

        I couldn’t agree more.

        Further, as a flag flying ADHDer myself, while I do see traits of possible medical reasons, ultimately OP has an attitude problem, not an unemployable problem. First take care of the attitude (like you suggested above), and then start taking the steps toward fixing it.

        OP, we ALL know our own potentials. But what keeps us from reaching our potential is our drive. Right now you have the capability but your drive gives up and gets in your way. I really like the advice above about having weekly goals. Also, take some online ADHD quizzes, ask those you trust to give you feedback, and take this info to your GP (or psych if you have one). Take care of YOU. Everything else will start to fall into place.

        Good luck! :)

      2. catsAreCool*

        I’m an INTJ, and I’ve got a very stable work history.

        You’ve gotta think long term – maybe what you’re doing today isn’t much fun, but maybe a bunch of those days will add up to a better opportunity.

      3. Trevor*

        And I guess you pay £6.50 per hour with legal minimum holidays and no breaks in the jobs you “Hire” for right ?
        All this holier than thou garbage misses the point that the labour market is simply in vast oversupply. Hence people are expected to suffer in the workplace because there are thousands of others desperate for a job. Let me tell you that if you offered these working conditions in the 70s, you would have ZERO people working for you. Before we he hear everyone say “Oh yes but the country was in trouble in the 70s” guess what. Check out the UK MASSIVE trade deficit. Our country has been living in the red for over a decade. In the 70s the trade balance was in fact much better. The 80s saw the destruction of the manufacturing sector and the destruction of jobs. Since then we have drifted back to the Victorian era. Wouldn’t surprise me if people started telling jobseekers to doff their caps and call everyone Sir if this labour oversupply continues.
        Self employment is the way to go, that way people don’t have to deal with dumb HR “managers” who are great at telling people what to do but cant do anything themselves. LOL.

  4. Madtown Maven*

    This is a challenging post to answer! Nicely done, Alison. The circular reference–get a stable work history, get better jobs–can be an upward sprial, instead of the most likely downward/go nowhere one the OP is considering at this point.

    I wonder whether the AAM readers might be able to brainstorm ideas for jobs that might suit this person! I thought of cab driver, package delivery person, and bike messenger. Being part of a competitive sales force may be a good option, too.

    1. Blue Anne*

      Being their own boss sounds like an option they might find appealing and learn a lot from. Here in the UK, a lot of the parcel delivery companies like Yodel work on a franchise basis (and I’d think some of them would be set up that way in other countries?) so that might be an option if package delivery is interesting to the LW.

      1. Arbynka*

        I don’t know. I have a friend with similar struggles as OP. So he thought being his own boss would be the way to go. Year later, nothing much changed, just instead of jumping from job to job, he was creating and leaving his new businesses. He thought of something. Did it for a while then got bored with it, or it did not end up as challenging so he moved onto the next great thing. Unless OP deals with the underlying causes of this problem, not much will happens when she switches to being her own boss.

        1. Jennifer*

          One of the things you have to learn as an adult: coping with interminable boredom. You can’t just jump to the next interesting thing when it comes to a work career, ADD or no ADD.

          1. MK*

            I cannot think of any work that doesn’t include at least some mundane tasks or a certain level of routine. I even remember a Star Trek episode in which Captain Kirk complained about paperwork.

            1. Leah*

              Even stars have to do extra takes on movie sets. The president has to attend functions and pretend to be interested in boring speeches. There is no job on Earth that only has interesting work.

          2. Blue Anne*

            Yeah, to be completely frank, this is why I mentioned they might learn a lot from it. Maybe it turns out the OP is someone who just functions best as their own boss. Or, maybe by being in the situation where they can work in the way they want to, and make the job as challenging or otherwise as they want, they find that actually these are issues they still need to face even when they have complete control over their own employment.

            Which wouldn’t solve all of their problems, by any means, but would be a serious learning experience.

      2. Mena*

        This person demands challenges be presented to him/her – doesn’t sound like a self-starter willing to create his/her own challenges. I don’t think self-employment is an option.

        1. heloise walker*

          a “selfstarter” jesus christ what does that even mean? the managerial speak is overwhelming.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t see why not. The under-26 thing has more to do with increased insurance liability than anything else, and these days most young adults can rent a car as long as they buy an extra insurance package.

      2. danr*

        Sure, get the Commercial drivers license and a whole bunch of jobs open up. Get extra endorsements and even more opportunities open up.

        1. James*

          Not unless you go OTR. I have my “A” and fully endorsed minus passenger and good luck with getting a driver job if your not an immigrant that isn’t an OTR position. Most local gigs want at least 2 years of experience OTR before they will even look at you.

    2. Manders*

      I was just about to suggest something similar. Would the OP be happy starting their own business or freelancing, or would having to deal with all the administrative issues that come with that sort of work be even more boring or frustrating?

      1. EarlGrey*

        I’d be hesitant to suggest freelancing or starting a business without a couple solid recommendations/endorsements. From the information in the letter, the OP would have a hard time answering “why should I invest in your business?” or “show me you can be relied on to finish this assignment” at this point.

        That said, working solo like that could be a great long term goal. A couple years of work experience to figure out if you can put up with the admin aspects + exploring classes/hobbies/side projects to find a challenge you like seems like a good start.

    3. Folklorist*

      Can I just say that this entire comment section (esp. your response) is exactly why I love and come to AAM over and over? I feel like, in many other places on the internet, people would have jumped all over OP and started tearing her/him down for their job approach so far. I love that this place actively works to help people with their issues rather than rub their faces in them.

      1. Moo*

        Oh, don’t get it twisted. Had OP been legit arrogant about it, this group likely would have. I think it’s the honesty and clear want for help that ‘saved’ OP from judgement.

      2. snuck*

        I was looking for this comment – because YES! This is exactly the sort of thing AAM can be great for!

    4. Lamb*

      I was trying to think of something that stays challenging/never boring at entry level (my first thoughts were medical-type direct care or a busy fast food restaurant) but a lot of those things require customer service/interpersonal skills that would require OP to “interact with societal norms”.
      OP, if you can studiously follow strict policies and procedures, and withstand verbal abuse from strangers, (and have no criminal record and probably decent credit) maybe debt collection would be a fit for you. Every case is a new challenge, there’s no down time, and while there can be some cooperation (i.e. I’m off Monday, can you call this guy again for me?) it’s all about what you personally do rather than the larger team.

      1. Panda Bandit*

        I’d like to see what types of challenges the LW has in mind. I’ve done my share of extremely busy workplaces and even with no downtime and constant new things going on, still finding it all very boring.

        1. frequentflyer*

          I’m INTJ too. Also had trouble at work initially but it’s become a game to me, and a game that I’m winning, because I look at the huge amount of social interaction my job requires as a challenge. OP complains of not being challenged – I guess it could help if you reframe your situation to find daily challenges. Even when I face a lot of petty politics in my job, a challenge I have is to bite my tongue and find another constructive way to rise above it. It’s pretty fun to me and Askamanager has lots of good advice which I have fun applying and then seeing the results. If OP finds such little challenges at work… you could make it work.

    5. snuck*

      Depending what the OP wants to do… inside or outside work? Doing some long term voluntary work could also be a good step – show come continuity of service over time with something like a teen program or community gardens or similar – well over a year.

      I can think of various things, maybe the OP can come back and give us some idea of what they enjoy doing and what they have some experience in… hobbies as well as paid work? I struggle to see how this OP would fit into a corporate office junior position with the current attitude and work history – mailroom, simple data entry, basic reception etc are usually channels for gradual promotion through the company and I would hesitate to hire the OP for this knowing they were probably just going to churn through – sure the training / investment is low at this end, but why take the risk when there’s 50 other applicants who all are bright, eager, hold down nice customer service or whatever jobs and willing to gradually climb?

      I’m thinking active & outside stuff like:
      Working with teens – youth worker sort of stuff – building over time into study in a Human Services field possibly
      Community gardening (either in community food gardens, or for the elderly/infirm, or paid landscaping work)
      Labouring – being the offsider to brickies, construction workers, shed or fencing specialists etc (and learning the ropes to gradually start your own gig)

      Service sort of stuff like:
      Sales – mobile phones, internet plans – high staff turn over areas that you can show you can stick it out at for future employers (ditto fast food etc – any low skill entry level jobs that have high turnover – show you CAN stick it out.)
      Truck / delivery driver (get whatever the US equivalent of a heavy rigid licence is)
      Forklift operators/stores person
      Packer for parcel delivery
      Postie – not sure how this works in US but in Australia they sort and then deliver their own areas – great autonomy – and I’ve had friends move on from that up into a range of high variety data crunching type of jobs.
      Web hosting and design, PC repairs (or photocopiers, or other simple technical repairs)
      Janitorial work (can be really great to listen to your iPod and mop floors – you’d be surprised!)

      Do any of those for a while… or others… and build your reputation back up… while you are there learn a few new people skills tricks and a bit about how to get along with others (because we ALL need to learn that all the time, it’s not a static skillset) and develop some new passions too!

  5. cheeky*

    I am an INTJ, and the situation the LW describes is not something that can be blamed on your MB type. That’s a lazy excuse. Learning to be professional and handle yourself appropriately in a job is a learned skill, and if you don’t put effort into developing yourself, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. Perhaps your challenge is learning to be okay with “unchallenging” roles in your job. This might be a good time to look at going back to school and finishing your degree. Start with community college courses first, if you need to. Going back to school and learning to work in groups successfully will help with your longer-term goals. You will have to work your way back to a good standing.

    1. LizNYC*

      Fellow INTJ here (who loves to work alone and without much oversight), and I completely agree this is not about personality type. My last job lasted 6 years until I started at another company–and had that job lined up before I left.

      OP, this is time for soul searching and not blaming others that they can’t work with your “type” of personality. You have to meet an employer halfway — but agreeing to show up on time, do the work and contribute to the company (even if that’s ONLY by showing up and doing your widget-working). I can’t imagine many places that would say, based on your work history so far, “You’re a diamond in the rough and we’re going to devote major hours to making you more marketable and easy to work with and of course you’ll get the most interesting proejcts.” It’s just not going to happen.

      Most people want challenging work. You have to find your motivation every day, whether it’s “I’m going to sort these widgets even faster than yesterday” or “My goal is to work without getting overly flustered today.” That motivation comes from you, not a manager. And when your track record of doing amazing work at these basic levels is good enough, THEN you’re given the more challenging projects. Trust me, I’ve been there. Sometimes, my motivation was “I want to get paid today instead of burning a personal day.”

      1. frequentflyer*

        Totally agree (INTJ too). The motivation could be simple. I mean, if there’s something that irritates you in the office, that makes you want to quit your job, why not view it as a challenge. I’ve wanted to quit my job a million times impulsively, but then I calm myself down and look at the problem with a 3rd person point of view, and reframe it as a challenge to myself. Like, every single time, I realise the problem can be solved and I move past it even better and stronger. With every tiny challenge you can improve yourself and build a good work persona.

    2. TOC*

      I’m an ENTJ myself, but INTJ is the most common personality type in my office. 20 percent of my coworkers are INTJ (yes, we have a chart) and they are all successful at their jobs. Their job level and duties vary, but they are all reliable, easy to work with, and happy at work. Some have worked here 15-20 years.

      OP, your Myers-Briggs type is supposed to be a positive, helpful insight into how you function best and why you see the world the way you do. You’re using it as an excuse and a crutch to avoid having to do more self-reflection about why your career path isn’t what you want it to be.

      1. SophiaB*

        Definitely this. I’m also an ENTJ and while it’s been useful to understand a bit more about why I get frustrated, it doesn’t mean I get to hide behind my MBTI and not deal with my frustration. I’ve learnt it’s all about how you frame things. I can sit and wish my boss would get to the point, or I can just ask at the start what it is we’re trying to achieve so that I can focus, because I’m aware of my weakness and stessors. I wish someone had taught me that trick sooner.

        (I really want to make a chart for my office now! It would be fascinating to see the trends in Project Managers versus Consultants, for example. I might have to start quizzing people.)

      2. Yet Another Allison*

        +1 about using the personality type as a crutch.

        I’m an INTJ too, but with a very stable work history.

    3. RG*

      Fellow INTJ – I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that OP is using Myers Briggs as a copout. It’s like TOC said below – MB is designed to help you understand how your brain functions, but it is not responsible for what you do or don’t do.

      That being said, since you know you’re an INTJ, use that to your advantage. INTJs tend to enjoy learning and problem solving, so see if you can find jobs that utilize that. Or, if neither of those are your thing, then spend some time thinking about what you did actually like (not what you’re “supposed” to like as INTJ) and see if you can find jobs that include that. Look for jobs that may be well suited to you dominant and auxiliary functions. Just be sure to use it to support your actions, not as the reason for your actions.

      1. Mena*

        AGREE (and fellow INTG). OP is using it as an excuse, and seems to imply s/he is somehow a victim (of high intelligence? low bordom threshold?)

      2. JayemGriffin*

        Yep, I’m also an INTJ, and “problem-solving” and “challenges” aren’t just high-level or technical things. One of my first jobs was in retail, and I developed a reputation as the person who could figure out the best way to display a lot of merchandise in limited space, or to arrange transfers of merchandise between stores, or (eventually) to allocate the people and hours we had available to complete the store manager’s to-do list. Did that experience serve me well when I eventually moved on? You bet!

        Additional tip: as someone who’s struggled with comprehending social norms, I’ve found it helps to think of human behavior as a big, complex puzzle. It might not be the most efficient or most realistic way of doing things, but it’s interesting to figure out why people behave the way they do.

    4. Serin*

      Another INTJ here!

      It’s certainly true that many/most entry-level jobs don’t pose much of an intellectual challenge. Still, beginners have to get workplace experience, and entry-level work has to get done by somebody.

      In your early work life, it’s a good idea to cultivate two attitudes: “No useful work is beneath me,” and “There’s a difference between intelligence and competence, and I’m here to cross that gap.”

    5. Hmmm*

      Another INTJ checking in. I’ve held my first job post-B.A. since graduation, and will only be leaving it once I finish my M.S. (which is a barrier of entry for a full time position in my field).

      While your personality type certainly is relevant when it comes to the type of work environment you value, it certainly does not force you to job hop or leave on bad terms. Blaming INTJ for your problems is a poor attempt to rationalize and justify your own bad decisions.

    6. MsM*

      Yet another INTJ here to cosign. There are a lot of ways in which my job doesn’t fit with my personality type, but I don’t see those as things I *can’t* do. They’re just areas I need to work on or find ways to compensate for using the strengths I do have. Myers-Briggs and other personality tests are supposed to be a tool for understanding yourself, not a rigid guideline. (Frankly, based on some of the descriptions I’ve read over the years, I don’t see how textbook INTJs would be able to interact with anyone ever.)

      1. Casey*

        Thank you for alleviating some concern; I do think I impose too much blame on INTJ. I just learned what type of personality I have about 6mo ago. I wanted to know why it was so hard for me to get along with other people, and after reading the “textbook” description, believe I may have taken it too literally (and not to blame the INTJ description again, but … ). I do believe I need people skills training – that’s my biggest weakness. I am very analytical and “turbulent” in my actions. If I can’t get someone else to agree, I tend to avert all my intellectual prowess on destroying them. Which I understand is a bad habit – I’ll just have to find someone who can help me break down these actions. It’s more of a natural reaction than a calculated one.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          um, was this how you were treated at some point? A lot of times we do what we see and never think twice about it. I know I have.

        2. Fish Microwaver*

          The MB personality types are not set in stone. They are not like your genes that you can’t change. In fact they might not even be true at all. I certainly don’t think they are meant to be an excuse for difficult behaviour.

          From the MB website: The purpose of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) personality inventory is to make the theory of psychological types described by C. G. Jung understandable and useful in people’s lives. The essence of the theory is that much seemingly random variation in the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent, being due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use their perception and judgment.

          So you see, its’s all about preference and perception and judgement. Things that are very much under the control of the individual.

          1. OriginalEmma*

            It’s been fun for me to re-take the MBTI every couple of years or so, and see how my answers differ. I’ve been ISFJ, ISTJ, and ISTP (just barely P over J). Seems like I move between feeling and thinking, judging and perceiving but am firmly Introverted Sensing realms.

        3. catsAreCool*

          Good for you for listening to our input.

          “If I can’t get someone else to agree, I tend to avert all my intellectual prowess on destroying them.” That is going to cause you a lot of problems in life if you don’t work on it. I don’t think “destroying” is in most descriptions of INTJ’s. I’m an INTJ, and yeah, sometimes I have great ideas that people don’t agree on or that people feel like aren’t a high priority. That’s life.

          People skills are usually an INTJ weakness, but there’s a difference between being awkward at small talk and not always knowing what to say and feeling a little awkward socially in general (which describes me) and being turbulent.

        4. Treena Kravm*

          I’m another INTJ and it definitely shows in my life/work. But I’m in a super public role that requires me to educate the public and a lot of empathy and social skills in really delicate situations, which I’ve spent years developing and improving. That’s not easy for me, but I love that my skills have developed by leaps and bounds.

          “If I can’t get someone else to agree, I tend to avert all my intellectual prowess on destroying them.”
          This stuck out to me soo much. This was my entire adolescence. I don’t really assert anything unless I’m absolutely sure about it, so when people argued those things with me, they clearly needed me to explain to them why they were wrong. I eventually learned that this is literally the least effective method for “winning” the argument, and that’s what led me to public health education. That became the challenge. What/how/when can I say something to get them to do what I want? It requires subtlety, precise word choice, and above all, accepting baby steps. That challenge is one that will never be solved, so I am looking forward to spending my entire career working on it =)

        5. ella*

          If I can’t get someone else to agree, I tend to avert all my intellectual prowess on destroying them.>

          This sounds like so many commenters on the internet (this lovely site excepted, of course). Internet comment sections may be a good place for you to start learning to control that aspect of your personality. Say something, say a couple things, and then walk away. Nobody’s going to agree with you all the time, or even a lot of the time; and people who are hell-bent on being right all the time tend to end up in very lonely places.

        6. Eric*

          This intj type is human reaction. Alpha is supposed to be quiet and manipulative.

          These people are the most successful.

          Steve jobs, Bill Gates etc…

          If this person does start their own job, they are going to be a very successful person.

          Fact be facts…

      2. catsAreCool*

        “They’re just areas I need to work on or find ways to compensate for using the strengths I do have.” This!

        As an INTJ, there are some things I’m not so good at and some things that I get bored doing. The trick is to figure out how to deal with those things.

    7. hnl123*

      Wow, a lot of INTJ’s here :) Me too!
      I can relate to OP. I’m several years older, and have a spotty work history. (though no burned bridges – a lot of it was due to layoffs, getting married and moving far away).
      I can identify with getting bored EASILY. But the difference is, I was able to effectively and productively communicate this need with my managers. This in turn led them to get me to try new responsibilities, etc. But I had to take initiative, prove I could do similar work well, and “create” opportunities for myself.
      I know it’s hard OP, but the people here have your best intentions in mind. It may sound harsh, but I urge you to dig a little deeper about why you exhibit some of your behavior and bridge burning.
      You are still young. There is much you can do to turn it around. But you must decide you want to.

  6. The IT Manager*

    This is a case where you can see that Alison writes the headlines.

    LW, as Alison said you have messed up your work history and burned a lot of bridges. The reason you can’t get hired is that potential employers have an excellent reason to think you won’t stay long. I think you need to accept the responsibility for this problem – own it – first before you will be able to find a job. It’s not online apps/personality tests keeping you from finding the next job. If you can get to the point of submitting a cover letter and get to a phone interview, you will need to be able to talk about how you’re working to fix the problems that keep you from becoming a long-term employee. It’s about fixing you and not finding a job that fits your terms because that’s super unlikely.

    And I’m a INT, and don’t haven’t had this problem. I struggle with people skills and verbal communication, but I continue to work on them. And I don’t think that struggle makes me a bad team player at all. Also I have never quit a job in a huff so don’t blame that on being INTJ – which is something you can’t really change. Is it a problem with temper/impulse control? If that’s the issue, you should work on them.

    1. Turanga Leela*

      I was just thinking about how all MBTI types have strengths/weaknesses at work. I’m an ENTP, and people skills and verbal communication come easily to me—but my follow-through on projects is something I continually have to work on. If you find MBTI useful (and I do), your personality type can tip you off to possible pitfalls at work, but it’s not an excuse for falling into them.

      1. TOC*

        “Your personality type can tip you off to possible pitfalls at work, but it’s not an excuse for falling into them.”

        Yes, exactly this. OP, if your MBTI is giving you some insight into why you’ve found it challenging to hold down a job, use that information as a positive insight into how you can overcome that. Don’t use it as an excuse.

    2. Koko*

      I agree with your advice generally, but wanted to point out also that MB types can shift over time for some individuals. I was INFJ from my teens through my late 20s but now at 30 have reliably tested as INFP for a couple of years. (The differences between these two types also reflect the impact that major events I experienced in my 20s had on me.) The types are descriptive of your current orientation, rather than prescriptive of how you must always be oriented.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        The types are descriptive of your current orientation, rather than prescriptive of how you must always be oriented.

        True. Circumstances and time can change a lot of things. We did the DISC thing and the instructor talked about how one guy tested as very insecure and anxious, but he took the course a year later and his test was exactly the opposite. He had a lot of stress going on in his personal life at the time (family stuff, impending parenthood, etc.) that had since resolved. She used this as a warning for us not to take our coworkers’ results as gospel.

  7. Bio-Pharma*

    I think the very first step would be to get help (either on your own or with a professional) to fully understand what happened and why (regarding relationships with colleagues and boredom issue). Then, finally ready and confident with the new stance/skills, and with calm acceptance that the job history is what it is, move forward.

    1. dawbs*

      I’d echo this, getting help. Because sometimes, a way of coping with boredom and not challenging and all of the other ‘stuff’ of jobs makes it bearable.

      That said, I have a job I like. It does *not* challenge me every day. It challenges me many days, but there’s a lot of ‘grind out out’ work, punctuated with challenging and exciting (not always good exciting) moments/hours/days. And honestly, that’s generally how it works.

      If I just got to do the exciting challenging stuff, then I’d do it without getting paid and it wouldn’t be work. They only pay me to do it because parts of it are mind-numbingly dull and boring and I wouldn’t do it for free.

      1. Kerry (Like The County in Ireland)*

        And this is exactly like what life and work is like in your 20s. I hated college too, but I finished because it was a prerequisite for what I wanted to do. I finished it fast, and I didn’t get As across the board, but I finished. And work is often boring, but you do it so you can demonstrate the skills that makes people want to trust you with more interesting/challenging projects.

        1. Natalie*

          And honestly, for a lot of people this is what their entire working life is like. Being able to find motivation for work outside of the job itself is a skill worth cultivating – you never know when you might need it.

          1. fposte*

            And the better you can deal with the unstimulating parts of it, the more money you’re likely to get in recompense for it. There are plenty of people who may not love their jobs but sure love their paychecks.

      2. Emily*

        This is so key. I love my job. If you asked me about it, I’d tell you that I get to do creative work that satisfies my right brain, but in an environment where different creative approaches are rigorously tested and compared on their objective merits, which satisfies my left brain, and that it’s the first time I’ve ever had a job that satisfies both of those components. I’d tell you that I’m given just enough autonomy I really feel ownership of my projects’ successes and know that my substantive decisions directly led to those successes.

        But sometimes I don’t get to spend as much time on creative planning because I had too much rote work to do that week. Sometimes I make too much work for myself by taking on too many “fun” extra projects even though I still had a lot of “not fun” projects I was responsible for. Sometimes I don’t feel creative and I have to hand in something that isn’t my best work because I don’t have another day to wait for a better idea to strike me. Sometimes I spend my entire day in boring meetings. Sometimes I spend an entire day cleaning up someone else’s mess, cheerfully because it can’t be undone now and I need to continue having a good working relationship with this person. Sometimes I spend an entire day cleaning up my own mess.

        All jobs will have plenty of time that you spend doing boring, rote, unchallenging work. The truth is that for something to be challenging, it has to be difficult. But your company hired you to do something that you have a track record of doing well, which means it’s probably not difficult to you anymore (in broad strokes, specific situations may still be). You’re looking for the company that is happy to have you churning out your bread and butter 80% of the time and lets you push your limits 20% of the time–not the company that is going to turn you lose to experiment with stuff you’re unfamiliar/unproven with 100% of the time. You probably have to start your own company to get that.

  8. Colette*

    It sounds to me that the OP understands that her job history is problematic, but doesn’t want to make any changes in what she’s doing.

    The reason employers pay you for working is because you might have to do things you don’t like – boring tasks, getting along with people you wouldn’t choose to be friends with, behaving professionally, sticking with a job for longer than you’d like. Those things may be uninteresting or hard, but that doesn’t mean they’re unreasonable, or that the OP is going to find an employer who will pay her to do things that interest her without interacting with other people.

    I’d suggest that she focus on getting a job – any job – and doing it well for at least 2 years. She needs to concentrate on interacting professionally with her coworkers, and get her need for challenge and solitary time outside of work hours. (Maybe a demanding hobby would help.)

    1. Ann without an e*

      The problem is qualifications. Most challenging things professionally require a challenging degree, and the OP couldn’t stick with that “because [s/he] did not work well with my professors, and got stressed out with work added in the mix.” So the OP was presented with a challenge, a need s/he claims to be a necessity but then quit as soon as things got challenging.

      Honestly OP, you need to either join the military or the peace core.

      Military: There will be forced structure, you will get yelled at, forced to work at ‘boring things’, if you can stick with it for four years you will come out the other side a much better changed person. Study the ASVAB and choose and MOS that translates to civilian life and you will have the rest of your career to look forward to. Job history fixed.

      Peace Core: Will give you lots of interesting options, once you ship out you have to make it work, lots of interesting traveling options, you will be helping those less fortunate than you (which always makes you look good), and if you stick with the peace core for a few years (two or three) you will have the rest of your career to look forward to. Job history fixed.

      1. TOC*

        The Peace Corps is competitive; I don’t think they’d take a candidate without a track record of being to stick with things long-term.

        OP, whether you start your own business or work in a major corporation, whether you’re the boss or at the bottom of the ladder, whether you’re at home or in a distant country, you need to have the ability to stick it out when things get uncomfortable or boring. Even entrepreneurs (perhaps especially entrepreneurs) need to be patient and hardworking even when they don’t like the task at hand. And everyone needs to have some basic “plays well with others” skills even if most of their workday is solo tasks. You might find some jobs suit you better than others, but no job out there is going to magically fix all of your problems.

          1. Zillah*

            Yep, particularly for someone with a limited work history – Jane Smith who’s been doing this since 1985 might be able to get away with not having one, but younger people? Different story

            1. Kat M*

              How about AmeriCorps?

              I served with City Year (a challenging, very structured AmeriCorps program for 17- to 24-year-olds), and it was life-transforming. It was my first full-time job, and the work and life skills I got out of it were invaluable.

        1. the gold digger*

          Returned Peace Corps volunteer here: Yes, as far as I know, the only types of people PC will take without a college degree are people who have spend years becoming expert in something like beekeeping or farming. That is, they have a desirable skill to share.

          But for younger people, I think a degree is required. We had nobody in my program (in Chile) who did not have a degree or even work experience. Almost everyone in my year had an advanced degree and most of us had several years’ of experience. (Our oldest volunteers were 69 and 70: the 69 year old was a retired wood expert and the 70 year old was an accountant who had managed refugee hospitals.)

          Not sure the military wants people who can’t stick to it, either. Today’s soldier is more than cannon fodder: they need to be able to learn and apply different skills. (Said by someone who gets a little annoyed at the idea that the military is the place of last resort for those who cannot hack it anywhere else. Nothing personal, Ann – you just hit a sore spot. :) )

          1. Ann without an e*

            I work Civil Service on a base I’m a GS 9, I don’t see the military as a place of last resort. I do see it as a wonderful place where young people can get out on their own but still have adult supervision, be around their own peer group without racking up lots of debt, take aptitude tests that will help with job placement and learn discipline all things the OP seems to need. Some people shy away from the military so I suggested the peace corp as a more gentle alternative.

            1. little Cindy Lou who*

              I second this. Both of my parents are former military. They often suggest it for young people who struggle with discipline and direction (and heck they both were those types when they enlisted), but they would never only recommend it to those people. The reason the association of it to “young and stuck” types is so common is because it’s super effective in creating structure and imparting knowledge/life skills and for building skills to take with you after service, so if all else seems to fail, this option probably won’t.

          2. The Strand*

            I didn’t read Ann’s comment that way. My brother famously said that the military saved his life, for the same reasons Colin Powell (an admitted screw-up with bad grades when he entered) has said.

      2. Anomanom*

        The military is not a magic fix. I hate hearing people use it as this. Like most things, you get out what you put in. I know PLENTY of former military who got out and couldn’t find a job, or job hopped, or had numerous problems with professors and supervisors.

        I am a veteran, got out in the last decade, and interestingly enough INTJ as well. I dealt with enough people just like the OP while in the military that were sent there to “find themselves” or leave their gang/drug dealing/other screwed up path. Guess what, unless they wanted to change, they were still selling drugs and they were still not focused on their jobs. Now it was just more difficult to get fired.

        I am proud of my service, and it did good things for my life, but please don’t treat it like the answer to problems. It can exacerbate them just as much as it can help them.

        1. Anonymous Ninja*

          Agreed. I know someone that joined the military who was similar to the OP: not a team player and easily bored. After a few months it was agreed that he should leave. (I don’t know the legal mumbo jumbo behind what it was called – it was not a discharge though, so no “dishonor” attached).

          It took a few more years of hopping from job to job and living with parents before he went to community college and was truly able to focus. But he did. He then went to university, got a 4-year degree and got an office job where he has remained for over 10 years. So it can be done. It’s just more of a struggle for some people than for others.

          1. Ann without an e*

            There are people that fail to adapt, maybe the OP is one of them, maybe not, s/he won’t know until s/he tries. Also as someone pointed out below, job prospects won’t change for the better until OP changes for the better. I suggested the military b/c of what I have seen it do for people, especially people that WANT to change a structured peer group environment might be what the OP needs to do that, the military provides that, its something the OP should consider.

          2. The IT Manager*

            It was a discharge although not a dishonrable one. There’s also honorable discharges and other-than-honorable discharges (which isn’t as bad as a dishonorable discharge).

            Most likely your acquaintance was separated for “failure to adapt to military enviroment.” That is not a dishonorable discharge.

            1. Heather*

              Hey, now I know the official term for what would happen to me if I ever tried to join the military! ;)

      3. PCV*

        I have to really strongly disagree with the Peace Corps suggestion for this OP. You don’t have “interesting options,” you have an assigned location, likely in the third world, with an assigned task and goal. Early termination from Peace Corps is discouraged – they spend a lot of money to train and locate you. If you have difficulty respecting the authority or feeling challenged by your assignment, you have very little support structure to back you up. It’s literally the last thing I would suggest for this person as they’ve described themselves.

      4. Colette*

        I don’t think the OP is in a position to look for challenging work – she needs to find a (probably boring and menial) job so that she can develop a work ethic and the ability to stick it out.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Yes; this is the current challenge. OP will be ready for more substantial challenges upon meeting these basic ones.

      5. The IT Manager*

        The military is less picky than the Peace Corp about who they let in (who knew?) and that bad job history won’t keep the LW out of the military, but if the LW doesn’t change then she won’t make it through four years in the military. Highly likely she’ll be discharged within the first year with a “failure to adapt to military enviroment” discharge. The miltary requires teamwork, and there’s tons of boring things you have to put up with especially as a new recruit in training. With the attitude described above, she wouldn’t make it through speciality training (which immediately follows basic training).

      6. EarlGrey*

        one thing about both Peace Corps/military: either one would put you in an environment where you have to learn a whole new set of social norms, and take direction from people who know them a lot better than you – and it’s truly a skill you learn, not something conformist pushovers or something just do. One of my first thoughts about a career recommendation for OP was “work/study abroad? Every day is challenging, and the challenge is conforming to social norms!”

        No specific recommendation, especially since a lot of those paths might be out of reach at the moment, but putting yourself in a situation where the culture is different and you have to learn it could help build that skill/help you see it as a skill, while providing the challenge you want.

      7. Meredith*

        AmeriCorps could be an option. There are some positions there that only require a high school diploma, and there are a wide array of service areas all over the country. The OP could work on a year-long domestic-based project, gain some skills, etc. The living allowance is poverty-level by design, but it’s possible to squeak by while living frugally, particularly if you have a roommate. There is nominal health insurance, and you get an education stipend at the end that will pay up to about $5700 for college tuition/loans – a good option for OP if they are considering finishing college.

        Word of warning to the OP, though – do not enter into this service lightly. It is a commitment, and you need to be in it for the full length of your term. If you do not believe that you can make a commitment of this kind, do not seek a position with AmeriCorps or any of its affiliate programs.

        1. Meredith*

          PS – OP, I just re-read your letter, and noted that you mention that you’re not a team player. If that’s the case, and you truly can’t bring yourself to work with other people, I take back the AmeriCorps suggestion. It’s a highly challenging and rewarding position (at least, in non-monetary ways!), but you absolutely must be able to work well with a wide range of people. There’s no getting around that, and you won’t be a good fit if you can’t approach it with a strong spirit of teamwork.

          1. Meredith*

            That’s not true. There are plenty of programs that are aimed at 18-24 year olds with the minimum requirement of a high school diploma – particularly the NCCC. NCCC will even help someone get their GED if they’ve not completed high school. Each individual project has different education requirements, but you can absolutely do an AmeriCorps program without being enrolled or having a degree. The minimum age limit is usually 18.

      8. Casey*

        I would have loved to join the military; that was a life-long dream of mine, until I spoke to a recruiter, did all the necessary paperwork, and got told I couldn’t proceed – join – due to items on my juvenile history. I think I’ve been on a downward spiral ever since I got this notice.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Casey, I think you’re the OP (original poster / letter-writer). Assuming I’m correct, I just wanted to clarify that for others who may not realize it! (If you’d like, you can use OP for your comments on this post; that’ll signal to people who you are!)

        2. fposte*

          Sorry, I responded to you downthread not realizing you’d been posting upthread as well.

          I totally get why this is a setback. But I also think you probably don’t realize how much time being 24 gives you; you can have 70 years of glory and content from now on that will make this downward spiral a brief blip on a chart. So I hope you don’t let that setback drive your narrative too much going forward; instead, maybe you can be a guy who didn’t get his first choice as a young man and knocked around a little, but then found some traction in his twenties and created a really satisfying life for himself. You’d be in good company on that one, too.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              You know, it’s kind of funny/odd. But I find that people who were “a mess” end up being the wisest people in life, OP. They are forgiving and understanding of others. If you tell them you did x or y, they don’t scream until the ceiling falls in. They simply talk you through how to get out of the hole. You could become a person like this, OP. You could become someone that has the respect and support of people around them. You can put yourself in a place where you like yourself better than you do now.

            2. Dan*

              Same here. I didn’t start my professional career until I was 29, so I really haven’t been at it that long. Those who know me think my background is “interesting” (I’ll admit, it kinda is) but the reality is that I was working $10/hr-$15/hr jobs for 7 years split between LA and DC after getting my BS (in a good paying field) and before going to grad school.

              I’ve got a really challenging (and rewarding) job now, but it really took a lot (of screwups, patience, and planning) to get here.

              Sometimes I get jealous of my 25 year old coworkers who have their MS and cushy professional job. Or my old boss who was younger than me but getting paid well over $100k.

              But that’s just life. We all have to learn to live with the one we’ve got.

              1. kelseywanderer*

                Sorry, I’m coming to this discussion rather late but I want to second this. At 24 you have SO MUCH time left. I’m 30 and only *just* got my first full-time job after nearly a decade of part-time, minimum-wage jobs after college. It might take some time (a lot of time, really) put in at boring, menial jobs you dislike but eventually you will get where you want to go.

                I also want to second what other commenters have suggested above about going abroad to work or study. I’m INTJ also and share some of the same challenges, such as introversion and lack of people skills (I’m very socially awkward). Now I live and work in an extremely challenging environment (Afghanistan) and have had to learn to overcome many of my personality quirks when dealing with many types of people (from PMCs to ambassadors) from all over the world, while also learning to respect and abide by local customs. If you have to learn to adapt, you will. Being in a foreign country somehow makes that possible in a way that staying home where you’re comfortable and everything is familiar rarely does.

                Also, if you need a constant challenge to stay involved and keep from getting bored, moving to a new country will also do that for you. Everything is new and 10x harder, so one thing you won’t be is bored.

          1. KJ*

            I want to echo this sentiment. These setbacks can be when things begun to spiral or they can be when things started to turn around for you. There’s a lot that’s out of your control, but there’s certainly a lot that’s within your control. Best of luck to you! :-)

          2. saro*

            This is such a good point. I changed my life rather drastically in my mid-20s and it’s SO much better now. Don’t let this be your only narrative.

        3. KarenD*

          Casey, we were very much alike and I can tell you for sure, it CAN be overcome. After a very rocky start, I have 25 years of work in a challenging, fun and demanding job that has never bored me.

          One thing I did NOT have that you mention here is a juvenile record. But you said you talked to “a” recruiter. You should know that different branches of the service view juvenile criminal issues differently. What’s important across the board is that you are 100 percent honest with your recruiter about every bump and blemish on your record.

          Check into other branches of the service. Try to find a recruiter who seems willing to advocate for you (not all are; right now, many are just picking off the low-hanging fruit, but there are some awesome recruiters out there). And do not lie. That is an automatic, across-the-board disqualifier from what I’m told and from experience of friends and family (it used to be my friends applying, now it’s their kids, lol.)

      9. Amanda*

        Big no on the Peace Corps, even without the college degree requirement. It’s challenging all right, but just like any other job, there’s periods of boredom (my country office, for example, didn’t let volunteers begin projects until we had had a chance to assess community needs). Also, volunteer live and work with people whose cultural norms often differ vastly from the US norms and the job is just plain difficult. Ability to get along with people and stick with things are crucial for a volunteer.

      10. OriginalEmma*

        The military might be an option. It’s one of the few places I can think of that really will train you for a job (either one you want – or one you don’t, but the business needs it). I’ve worked with a National Guardsman who joined the military to save his life and after doing the grunt work, worked his way up in a discipline he found he loved. There’s more to the military than just deploying overseas and shooting. It’s like its own ecosystem in a way, and you can contribute to that ecosystem.

    2. SJP*

      +1 on this.
      Especially the hobby. Works is not always going to be fun and games. We have to do the boring stuff so it’s weighed up with the challenging and exciting stuff. If you did challenging and exciting things all day every day i’m sure they’d get boring too. Or you’d get burnt out!

  9. Wacky Teapots*

    To OP: I”m not being snarky, truly, when I ask this question but, how do you pay your bills and live? I don’t think everyone loves their jobs but we gotta make ’em work. We force ourselves to have those conversations with collegues and roll up our sleeves to work.

    1. Short and Stout*

      I was going to suggest that Alison missed off option (c) — long-term unemployment, especially if the economy takes a downturn. Please listen well to AAM OP!

    2. Elysian*

      I don’t want to make this a stereotypical generational problem, because that is not how I feel, so I want to phrase this carefully.
      I feel like there came a time in recent history where the messaging about work changed from “get a job to pay your bills” into “Find a Fulfilling, Meaningful Career which gives you Purpose.” I am in my late-20s/early 30s, and I have a lot of friends who really bought into this message and have had trouble holding down jobs. I don’t think this is entirely a fault of the messaging; it would be awesome to have meaningful work. But I individuals take it too far when they refuse entry-level work because it isn’t meaningful and personally fulling. Sometimes you just need to pay bills, too, and aren’t ready to change the world yet.

      OP, other posters and Alison have said it better than I can, but I think you need to take personal responsibility for position you’re in – ie. it’s not because of your Meyers-Briggs type or “society” or your professors – it’s you, your actions and your choices. At this point you need (1) do some self-work and (2) do some boring work that you probably won’t like until you build up some professional credibility. Remember, too: people don’t have to be defined by how they pay the bills. You can be fulfilled and interested in things you do outside of work, and for now that might have to be where you focus your creative attention.

      1. A Non*

        Yeah, this is a thing I’ve seen happen a few times. People decide what job they want – the one that sounds interesting and pays well and has the fewest drawbacks – and then pursue it to the exclusion of everything else. They don’t realize that everyone else wants those jobs too, so it’s people with 10-20 years of experience that get them, not newbies. Unfortunately colleges tend to encourage that mindset. They want you to be dreaming about that high-status job, and are preparing you for that goal, and sort of neglect the process that it takes to get there. They market the idea that with a college degree you can do anything, which may or may not have been true in the past, but it’s sure as hell not true now.

        Not everyone struggling to find a job is falling into this trap – far from it. But sometimes you have to shift your focus from what you want to what you’re qualified for.

        1. Creag an Tuire*

          I blame Hollywood as well — so many stories are about leaving your “soul-crushing” job to go -find yourself-.

          To be fair, I suppose nobody wants to watch a movie about someone who’s dream is to raise a family and pursue some interesting hobbies without having to stress about bills, and is fine with working in an office 9-5 to achieve that. :P

          1. Not a rocket scientist*

            After watching many of my peers burn themselves out and end up in terrible situations following their ~*~dreams~*~ that is exactly what I want! Seriously, the roster of kids from my high school college-prep-track peers reads like some kind of dystopian YA novel. One guy is homeless an ddrug addicted on the streets of San Francisco after burning out of med school at age 21, another guy has been in and out of inpatient programs for life threatening bulimia for the last ten years, one girl cracked halfway through her PhD program and joined a biker gang in Wyoming, another guy had four suicide attempts in his first two years working on Wall Street and is now living in his parents’ basement and hasn’t held a job since 2009. I feel like I got off lucky: barely graduated college, played startup roulette for years until I went broke and simultaneously had a nervous breakdown, started seeing a shrink, pulled myself together enough to get a master’s degree in a related field, and now have a reasonable office job. I’m not pursuing my ~*~passion~*~ or ~*~changing the world~*~, but I have great coworkers, a happy family life, and time for all my hobbies. I really recommend it!

        2. The Strand*

          To be fair, this attitude evolved out of the one that people of older generations – baby boomers and the silent Generation – were rebelling against, where you were to become an organization man with a steady job At All Possible Cost. “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit” and the soulless corporation seen in “The Apartment” weren’t *that* long ago.

      2. Ezri*

        This x1000. I just graduated college, and I’ve seen many of my peers struggle because they want to find a job that’s fulfilling and challenging, etc., and they feel like a ‘boring’ job is dooming their professional development. This is not the case, particularly in technology fields. There’s so much you can do outside of work to channel off your passion and your energy.

        I enjoy my job. Some days it’s exciting, some days it’s incredibly tedious. But it satisfies the basic requirements of a good job in my mind – steady paycheck, room for future development, doesn’t destroy my very soul. So it’s not necessarily the most exciting thing to do all day, but it leaves me feeling (usually) positive for the stuff I want to do outside of work. Maybe thinking about work from that mindset for a while will help?

        Oh, and interacting with people sucks. I’m no good at it, and I constantly have to be aware of what I’m saying and doing around my coworkers and bosses. I hate hate hate dealing with people, and I’m jealous of anyone it comes easily to! So I do get where you are coming from on that point, but being difficult to work with will never do you any favors professionally. It benefits you in the long run to work on that.

        1. OriginalEmma*

          As a fellow social dunce, I’ll say: It doesn’t come easily…but it becomes easier. It takes practice. I’m always reminded of an interaction between Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy, from Pride and Prejudice, when I think of how difficult it is for me to interact with people.

          “I certainly have not the talent which some people possess,” said Darcy, “of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done.”

          “My fingers,” said Elizabeth, “do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women’s do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault—because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman’s of superior execution.”

      3. Z*

        This is where I land. I had a job that I thought was my vocation. I lost is during the Recession. Now? I in my 30s, have my master’s, and am a glorified secretary. Seriously. I print envelopes and answer the phone. I might do research once a month that makes me feel good about my job. It’s just so boring.

        But I like my coworkers. And I like having a paycheck (especially one that’s significantly larger than my “vocation”). And I like that I’m not going in to work every day wondering if I’m still going to have a job at the end of the day. The bathrooms are always clean and the elevators run quickly. We get free coffee and snacks in the office, and the building gives us donuts at Christmas and a picnic in the summer.

        At some point you’re probably going to have to settle for just not being miserable and look for personal satisfaction outside the work place. (I have a couple “old lady” hobbies that make me happy.)

        1. JB*

          I envy your job based on the “elevators run quickly” part alone. The elevators in my building are neither speedy nor reliable.

          Also, you have a fantastic attitude, and I’m going to try to adopt it tomorrow. I usually like my job, but I’m recovering from being sick, so I feel crummy and everything is the worst, so I’m sure that I’m going to be grumpy when I go back to work tomorrow. Maybe this will help! After all, isn’t it great that I have a job that lets me stay home sick from work for a few days and I know it will be waiting for me when I get back?

        2. mortorph*

          I am in your shoes Z. I have my Masters degree, and 2 years later following graduation, I was hired at the exact same type of (unrelated) job I had before returning to grad school.

          I am still working through my frustration of spending all that money on an advanced degree, without a job in my field to show for it. (I’d be happy for boring, entry-level work in my field).

          I wish I had your attitude, and it is a goal of mine to be more positive. I’ve always stayed at my jobs long-term but finding it hard this time around. Sometimes it’s all about perspective.

          1. mortorph*

            These types of struggles also remind me of the show Northern Exposure, and how Dr. Fleischman struggled internally about not being where he imagined he should be (Alaska vs. Uptown New York).

      4. Manders*

        This is really well said. I’m almost exactly the OP’s age, and I got this message from a lot of the people I looked up to as authorities about how to get and keep a job. I also wasn’t aware of how much “boring” work goes into even the best jobs, because I hadn’t spent much time in a typical office. I figured it out eventually, because I needed money a lot more than I needed the personal fulfillment. A lot of my classmates from college are still struggling with this.

      5. Formerly Bee*

        I really relate to what you described. I haven’t bounced from job to job, but I’ve felt that way about mundane day-to-day work. Your advice is pretty much what worked for me.

      6. april ludgate*

        I definitely agree with this. As someone who is slightly younger than the OP, I’ve seen a lot of my peers falling into this way of thinking. I actually read an article not too long ago about “special snowflake syndrome” and how “millennials” have been basically coddled their whole lives and now there’s an entire generation who expects things to be handed to them, just because they’re so great. I hate the generalization that it makes because there are plenty of hard working people in their early twenties, but I definitely met some snowflakes in college who really do think that way, and they’re the ones having the most trouble securing a job. It’s just a part of life that you have to go through some drudgery to eventually get to where you want to be.

        I saw a quote once, I don’t remember it exactly, but it was along the lines of “Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.” That has always stuck with me, and I think those are words the OP should take to heart here.

        And also, get some fun, challenging hobbies, OP! That’s how I get through the work week without being too bored. Go on YouTube and learn to sew, paint, repair things around the house, do yoga, write computer code, anything that interests you. I’m also an INTJ and I love teaching myself things with some help from the internet (my self-taught coding skills even helped me get an interview once).

        1. Natalie*

          “I actually read an article not too long ago about “special snowflake syndrome” and how “millennials” have been basically coddled their whole lives and now there’s an entire generation who expects things to be handed to them, just because they’re so great”

          FWIW, this kind of generational hand-wringing is about 90% BS. The “parent” generation has been complaining about the “young adult” generation and how they’re spoiled by their technology since probably the dawn of time. Those kids will not get off the packed earth in front of my cave, Grog!

          1. OriginalEmma*

            The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Allegedly a quote by Plato or Socrates. In reality, a summary of the sentiments evinced by the ancients and described by a Cambridge student in his dissertation.

            But yes, kids these days.

        2. Elysian*

          The reason I wanted to be careful about not attributing this to millennial is because I don’t think its only a millennial problem. I do think that the messaging change has been more recent, but I think its affecting people in many generations, just affecting them differently. I think it affects some millenials in this way, where they want a fulfilling entry level job and can’t find it. But I also think that there are lots of people who are quitting really secure and established desk jobs to “follow their passion” when perhaps that doesn’t make much sense, and some people near the end of their lives who feel like they’ve “wasted their time” in unfulfilling careers and now have to have a second, more meaningful vocation in their retirement. So I don’t think its exactly a special snowflake problem, but more of a problem with how society has been looking at work more generally. Sometimes work is a means to an end, and that is OK. You can live and have lived a fulfilling life even if your job isn’t the most fulfilling part of it; I think that’s true at every stage of life. The OP just happens to be at the “starting out” stage and so that’s where her personal struggle is, but the struggle is real I think for a lot of people across generations.

          1. Manders*

            Yes, I don’t think this is just a millennial thing, since a lot of the pressure I’ve seen to “follow your passion” is coming from older generations. I do know a lot of young people who are struggling with work/life balance; it’s hard to pursue certain hobbies when you have limited free time, or a strict budget, or your hours are unpredictable.

            1. Not So NewReader*

              That is because the previous generations got tired of the hamster wheel they called a job. Or maybe I should say the job that was not much more than a hamster wheel.
              I get where I came from. But I think it makes things sound much simpler than they are.

          2. Mander*

            Definitely not a millennial thing! I’m 40 and I got this same message when I was an undergrad, which is why I ended up doing a PhD in the field I loved without a clear idea of what kind of job I could really expect to get at the end of it. Granted, I absolutely hated the work I was doing after college, but if I had been a little more level-headed in my early 20s I might have found a more lucrative career and remained an amateur archaeologist, rather than running off to grad school.

        3. EarlGrey*

          “You’re not special” sounds like harsh words, but I find it reassuring…it means not having my dream job isn’t because I failed at living up to my potential or something.

          I know “millenials are entitled special snowflakes” is a tired stereotype, but as other folks have pointed out, there are plenty of examples in our culture of “find your dream job!” and “leave your soul-crushing job!” and it does take some work to reconcile that with what we actually encounter in the job market.

      7. Casey*

        Thank you for your comment. I am glad to see that you wrote about the mindset “find meaningful, fulfilling work.” Perhaps I too bid this too far. I am a bit into the new or recirculating idea mentioned above.

        1. little Cindy Lou who*

          That’s definitely the hardest part to accept, that you’ve got to pay your dues with 5+ years of entry level and junior staff boring jobs before you start getting more interesting work, but it’s so true. Patience tends to pay off. I strongly agree with the advise of others to balance the boredom with hobbies and think of the work as funding your time outside of work to do what you enjoy doing. Helped motivate me when I was bored in my first job, because I stopped expecting work to rise to the highlight of my day or providing fulfillment and instead found it on the hiking trails, in the gym and in writing.

      8. JAL*

        I agree. I’m 22 and I’m in a job currently outside my field. My parents instilled a good work ethic in me and I’m sticking to it until something in my field arises. Do I hate my job? Yes, I do. But it’s giving me tons of life lessons and experience for my future job. My friends on the other hand, either never completed a degree or are bored to death and talk about quitting all the time. It annoys me to death.

        I’m an INFP with severe anxiety and ADD. I’m someone who could stereotypically burn out easily but I’ve gotten promoted and next month will be 6 months at this job. I build a good reputation with my manager and she sees how much of a hard worker I am.

      9. Linguist curmudgeon*

        Yes. My generation (and those younger) were really sold a bill of goods with this “follow your dream” business. “Don’t work, don’t eat” is a much better and more realistic slogan, even if it’s a bit depressing.

        To put it more positively: Find purpose and meaning elsewhere than at your job. Volunteering, hobbies, art, whatever works for you.

      10. ella*

        At least in my family, the “get a job and pay the bills” shifted to “have your dream job” shift happened entirely because of my father. Professionally at least, he’s very much the sort of stereotypical baby boomer–didn’t get all the schooling he wanted because his parents didn’t have money for him to get anything past a bachelor’s, so he took a “second best” job and worked that for 40 years and raised his family. He was coming near to retirement age at about the time that I was getting to college age, and by that time he hated his job and the grind and the only thing that kept him in it was me and my sister (who’s younger) who still needed to eat and stuff. He explicitly told me, on many occasions, to find a college and an area of study that I was passionate about, that he wanted me to pursue my dreams, and not wake up at age 57 like he did feeling like he’d just been running on a treadmill his whole life. My sister didn’t go to college, so he retired basically exactly when I got out of college and out of the house, took about two weeks off, and then started his own business. So my reaction to people observing that “kids these days” want their jobs to be fulfilling and magical is that that is EXACTLY how I was raised to view employment.

        Needless to say, I’ve also found out that my dreams don’t pay the bills, and have sort of been struggling with a) not wanting to have the realization in twenty years that I really hate my job and b) I don’t think my dad understands why I couldn’t make my dreams pay me money.

      11. Not telling*

        +1. I don’t know when it happened, but I think it was “The Greatest Generation” who built such a stable foundation for subsequent generations that literally anything was possible. The idea that we might do something because we ‘should’ rather than because we want to or because it is fulfilling, is pretty foreign.

        But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. Perhaps at least one component of LW/Casey’s problem is that everyone around him (sorry if I have the gender wrong here) is fulfilled by their job and Casey feels he should be too. And that work should be the only, or predominate, source of fulfillment.

        Casey: it is OKAY to have a boring average uninteresting job. Plenty of people do this–musicians and athletes are the obvious ones. Many of them work as waiters or administrative assistants, just so that they can have spending money to fund their training or their instruments.

        I was going to share an example but the more I think about it, I know soooo many people for whom a job is just a job. One is a world traveler, and by that I mean he’s been to almost every country including some scary ones that end in ‘-stan’, and not just a quick jaunt to the capitol city but he spends months soaking up the culture of each place. His latest trip has been 12+ months just in South America. When he runs out of money he goes home and finds a job and starts saving up for the next trip. He’s been doing this for decades and I am extremely envious of him. Another someone I know is a bank loan officer by day (and very corporate looking), and by night he is a DJ. He recently made connections with someone at a music library and is initiated an archive/music history project with them. Another friend is a receptionist by day and a stand-up comedian in his free time. He doesn’t make any money doing it but it sure is fulfilling.

        Point is, you don’t have to be fulfilled by what puts money in your wallet. Rather the money in your wallet is what gives you the freedom to do the things that are fulfilling–work to live, don’t live to work.

        The one thing that distinguishes these other people from you is that they didn’t blame or make excuses for their lives. They figured out what they wanted and then they mapped out a way to get it, and then they stuck to their plan. It seems like you’ve given a lot of explanations for what’s happened in your life but you haven’t really explained what you want to DO with your life. You need to start there, or you won’t even know when that fulfilling thing has landed right in your lap.

      12. phillist*

        Yeeeep. I was reading the comments here thinking, “Wow, everyone is so much nicer than me.”

        And that’s because I hear this song and dance from my peer group so often, I have developed an eye-roll tick I can’t get rid of. All I hear is, “But I’m too speeeeeeecial to work!”

        They come to me for help writing their resumes and cover letters, because I have been a hiring manager before, but when I tell them they are probably not qualified for the Directorships they are applying for right out of grad school, they throw entitled hissy fits that are visible from space.

        I am nearly 30 and just finishing my degree; I couldn’t afford college and had no parental support, so I went right to work. I schlepped in kitchens and ran counters and did side jobs to make ends meet, but I was eager to work and to learn, eagerly took on extra projects, and was eventually promoted into management–which then set me up to take other management positions.

        Now, 10+ years of grinding away at jobs that were not “ideal” (whatever that means…) I have a job I am passionate about in a field I find incredibly rewarding, while many in my peer group only realized two years ago that they would still have to start at the bottom in spite of their overwhelming specialness.

        There is no magic, sparkly Fast Pass to the Best Job Ever. You have to prove yourself, and the way you do that is by eating a big ol’ slice of humble pie. Get on board with your manager’s goals; cultivate positive professional contacts; take on the work no one else wants to do; understand your place in the scheme of things, and be the very best at occupying that space.

        I also read astrology professionally as a side gig (which has an interesting link to the MB, actually), and I cannot tell you how many people tell me they can’t do one thing or another because they are a Scorpio or their moon is afflicted, or whatever. In my experience, every piece of advice I give them is deflected with this shield. The whole point of having your natal chart read (much the like MB) is to find out what you’ve got going on, so you can be aware of pitfalls–instead, these folks use it as an excuse for everything that goes wrong in their lives. Don’t be that guy.

        Time to pull up the big girl/boy pants and plunge a toilet or Xerox all the things. Trust me, it builds character.

  10. Helka*

    I think the first thing you need to do here, OP, is let go of this attitude that your personality traits are unchangeable (they’re not!) and that your inability to manage this kind of work is absolute (it’s not!) and start to look at how you can work around or through your difficulty with boring work.

    A lot of us — in fact, I would venture to say the vast majority of us — have had to deal with jobs that were incredibly unpleasant in some way, because we needed to be working, and we needed the career development those jobs would give us. You’re going to have to do this too.

    Usually, the advice to take whatever job you can get is lousy advice, but in your case, I’m going to guess that you’re pretty much at that point. Not a lot of people will want to take a risk on you, so you’re going to have to start with whoever will, and then embark on a serious program of self-training and self-discipline. There’s your challenge, and it’s going to be a long-term one: do your job, do it really well, and do it really well despite your level of boredom or restlessness.

    1. the gold digger*

      have had to deal with jobs that were incredibly unpleasant

      May I refer you to Exhibit A, cleaning the human feces off the floor in the boys’ bathroom at the city pool where I was a lifeguard in college? For $3.75 an hour? More than once?

  11. fposte*

    OP, you’re worrying me. I’m looking at your tendency to make self-definitions and use them as justifications rather than identifying them as flaws and weaknesses–your “inability to interact with societal norms,” for instance, isn’t likely to be a character trait but a lack of skills and a pattern of behavior. You’re talking about it as if it’s immutable when it’s not–it’s just something you currently aren’t doing.

    Sometimes with people who talk like that there’s an underlying fear of failure, and they feel like they’re averting failure by leaving on their terms rather than being vulnerable and subjecting themselves to judgment. But there’s no way to advance, to create, to succeed without being vulnerable and risking failure.

    On the other hand, sometimes people who talk like that don’t realize that they’ve basically described themselves as unwilling to learn basic skills that are necessary for just about all of us to succeed. And unfortunately, without those basic abilities to negotiate social norms like separating from a job amicably and being patient with less interesting tasks, you’re not only not going to grow in your career, you’re going to be increasingly limited.

    So whether there’s underlying anxiety or underlying rigidity, I encourage you to face the fact that your job trajectory isn’t going to change for the better until you’re willing to do the same. You’re not alone in facing that challenge, and I think you can do it if you choose to.

    1. LBK*

      Are you my therapist? Because seriously, this is what I’ve been working on for over a year. Resting on the justification of “this is just who I am” is the easy way out when it comes to shielding yourself from the emotional pain of rejection and failure.

      Accepting that there are certain aspects of your personality that you don’t necessarily like is tough, but what’s even tougher is realizing that’s only step 1 of the process. From there, you have to learn to accept that you do actually have control over your actions even if your brain tries to tell you otherwise, and then you have to force yourself to do those things even though it fights every natural instinct in your body.

      It sucks. It’s painful, mentally and sometimes physically. It takes a ton of work and it’s really hard for people to who haven’t gone through it to understand the frustration of not feeling in control of your own body. But it’s insanely rewarding if you can put in the effort to do it. I look back at the way I used to think and act two years ago and I don’t even recognize that person anymore.

      Even people with really severe social disorders can learn habits and behaviors that can help them interact with others and hold jobs and be professional. If you don’t think you can do that work yourself, there are tons of resources out there to help you do it.

    2. Adam*

      100% agreed. People have an interesting habit of labeling themselves as a way of limiting their choices.

      “I’m a shy person. I can’t ask someone out.”
      “I’m not good with technology. I can’t learn new skills to make myself more marketable.”
      “I’m not good at math, so I can’t pursue that major.”

      Thing is none of these things have to remain true or can’t be improved upon, but acting like they’re written in stone gives someone a sense of identity even if it is a negative one.

      Take his focus on his Myers-Briggs type. His type might give him some insight to the type of jobs he could excel at, but using it as the end all be all for his work life is going to severely limit his opportunities. “I need to be constantly challenged and don’t work well with others.” Well unless he wants to be the next Indiana Jones I don’t know what to tell him.

      My type is INFJ, which if I remember right describes me pretty accurately but I couldn’t even tell you what it says about me at the moment. The only thing I know for a fact is that it’s the most rare type on the scale, particularly among men like myself, so that’s all I remember about it.

      See? I just did it myself, because that pointless factoid makes me feel special for no reason. :P

      1. BRR*

        I had mentioned before that I don’t like people who label themselves introvert or extrovert and I think this is why.

        I see “I’m a shy person. I can’t ask someone out” all the time. One friend who had said it had also performed in some adult films. Shy indeed.

        1. Adam*

          And suddenly I have the “porn” storyline from the movie Love Actually flashing back in my head.

          It’s one of the few rom-coms I’ll admit to liking.

            1. Adam*

              Did it get extra points for being entirely British?

              *Side note* I hadn’t made the connection until recently that the male character in the Love Actually porn scenario and Bilbo in the recent Hobbit adaptations were played by the same actor, Martin Freeman. When the association finally clicked it made watching both movies rather amusing for a bit.

        2. voluptuousfire*

          Eh, I can see the difference there. Emotional vulnerability is much scarier than physical vulnerability. Asking someone out and risking the chance of rejection (possibly in front of others) vs. performing a sexual act in front of a camera are two different things. Adult film performers are actors just as much as Angelia Jolie and Brad Pitt are.

      2. A Non*

        Hey, a fellow member of the “I’m an INFJ and that makes me special” club! :-p This is why I don’t take Meyers-Briggs or any other personality tests very seriously. The conclusions you draw and the actions you take as a result are waaaaaaay more important than your “type”. Even astrology can be useful if approached from that angle.

        Re: “I’m not good at math, so I can’t pursue that major” – I’ve known a surprising number of people who detested math through grade school and the early part of college, but then had one really good math professor and went “Wait, there’s all these abstract systems about how numbers behave and what you can do with them and the patterns they make? That’s awesome!” Apparently higher math is a really different beast than the compulsory classes would make you think. One of my friends is now a history major and minoring in math.

        Math is not the only thing that is like that. Challenge your “Oh, I can’t do that” statements. For that statement to be true, you have to be right about both yourself and the thing you’re trying. Sometimes you are. Sometimes you’re not.

        1. Natalie*

          I have this gut feeling that bad math teachers are more of a hindrance than bad teachers of other subjects. You may still discover novels, historical events or figures, athletic pursuits, or PBS science programs even if you have atrocious teachers in those subjects. Most of us don’t interact much with math (other than arithmetic) outside of school, though, so that school experience looms large.

          Perhaps I was just scarred by a series of terrrrrrrrible math teachers.

          1. Adam*

            I think you’re on to something there. We hear so much in the headlines how “America is falling behind in math in science” and “the mathematical fields aren’t attracting more women.”

            But sit and think for a moment: how many truly awesome math teachers have you had? I can think of some that I liked personally, but the only one that made an impression on me was my high school geometry teacher, who happened to also be the girl’s golf coach. The more accurate statement was that he was the girl’s golf coach who happened to also teach geometry.

            The most important lesson I learned in his class is that I shouldn’t rely on teachers and needed to do just about everything myself if I wanted to pass. A good lesson, although perhaps not delivered in the most positive way…

            1. Natalie*

              I didn’t have a truly good math teacher until college, when I took stats and formal logic from the same professor and LOVED both of them. I kept my logic book for a few years in case I felt like working some proofs for fun.

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              My best friend decided to become a junior high math teacher because she had a really bad one, and without having a really great one the next year, she would have been put off math forever. She knew that good math teachers in junior high are crucial to liking math/continuing in math at higher levels.

              1. little Cindy Lou who*

                I always used to think I was bad at math until I had one great teacher (in middle school!) who was patient and encouraging with me. Math still doesn’t come naturally to me, but I always hear his encouragement in my head and I’ve learned to be competent at it. Just because a person has a preference (or perceived limitation) doesn’t necessarily preclude learning to operate another way. This is why finding good mentors/coaches/cheerleaders throughout life can make the difference in overcoming the walls and roadblocks of life vs staying stuck.

                and a brief aside: Math ended up being the first subject I ever tutored others in. Totally rewarding when a girl who was struggling with geometry (and moreso the obstinate high school teacher thereof), and who always joked “I hate pi!” during our study sessions (and to which I’d always respond by writing “I <3 pi!" on her notes) one day announced "I do heart pi!" She was awesome, and that memory still makes me crazy happy.

            3. Myrin*

              I consider myself super lucky in that I actually had more math teachers I’d call awesome (especially the one I had from year 11 to 13) than those who I thought sucked. I’ve still been mediocre-to-bad at math all my life but I actually also had fun at it most of the time.

              1. Not So NewReader*

                My family member said that science had nothing to do with math.
                He was a doctor.

                (I am shaking my head.)

                EW, you would have become a great scientist for the same reason you will become a great writer. You apply yourself. In the end, it only matters how well we apply ourselves to our chosen efforts. It’s not without pain, I am sure you can attest to that.

          2. DJ*

            When I was in grad school, I took a poll of elementary and middle school teachers in a master’s-level education course. I asked how many of them were comfortable with certain math subjects (think fractions, decimals, and long division). The positive response was something like 2%. When I presented the results, they were shocked. My point was that if the teachers don’t like/don’t understand math, it follows that many students are going to struggle as well. I teach at the college level now, and regularly have students (some of whom took pre-calculus in high school), that my class was the first time they understood algebra.

          3. Kat M*

            I had some awful math teachers!

            Now I’m pretty in love with Khan Academy.

            After years and years of being told by teachers that I am “just not a math and science person” and “should stick to the arts,” I discovered I’ve actually got quite the brain for science. But I had to go back online and re-teach myself math from about 4th grade level on because I couldn’t test into any decent science classes without a solid understanding of algebra.

            I’m still not the best in the world, but the feeling I got when I FINALLY UNDERSTOOD how basic things like exponents, fractions, and basic statistics worked was absolutely amazing.

            1. saro*

              You’re inspiring me. I’ve wanted to do this (re-teach myself math) and have never gotten around to doing it.

        2. Adam*

          *INFJ fistbump*

          The math thing is interesting in that it’s one of those subjects that many people often proclaim low-level competency in it but with little regret. “Eh, I’m not good at math, but I never use it anyways so who cares.”

          I myself have been guilty of this a time or two, but have recently begun looking in to refresh myself in hopes of expanding my skills to new areas where being able to think mathematically is key. The thing is I’ve often wished school did a better job of introducing math in applicable ways as opposed to straight up “nonsense” on a page like it seems to so many people, and I always liked that 2 + 2 = 4. This is probably why statistics was my favorite math based course. Being able to predict results and probabilities of things was actually fun!

          1. A Non*

            One of my favorite college classes was formal logic. I wish they’d teach that and basic statistics in high school. I’ve used both as an adult, mostly to decipher the crap that advertisers and politicians throw out. So many practical applications.

            1. Dr. Speakeasy*

              YES. I loved formal logic and it’s what convinced me that oh, I could actually do math (despite having a really terrible formal logic instructor – I loved the online tutorials). We teach a lot of formal logic in our Argumentation classes.

        3. Tau*

          I feel obliged to drop a link to A Mathematician’s Lament at this point.

          I’m currently finishing my PhD in maths and yes, it is very very different from what most people think and very beautiful in its own way and it makes me so sad that kids are basically taught mathematics = rote learning of arithmetic. In all honesty, I’m not sure a lot of people can say whether they’re good or bad at actual mathematics because I don’t think they’ve ever encountered any!

          1. A Non*

            Thank you for introducing me to that essay! What it describes is basically what happened to my friend – she grew up hating math, took a history of math class for her major, and unexpectedly found herself just as interested in what the historical mathematicians were doing as she was in the people themselves. She got into some good discussions with the teacher about math concepts, realized that being bad at cranking through arithmetic problems did not mean she was bad at math, and was so fascinated she added a math minor.

            Sorry for the derail, Alison. We’re just solving the US education system over here. :-)

          2. I'm a Little Teapot*

            Strangely, I have the opposite problem: I’m fine at arithmetic, but utterly fall apart when confronted with anything beyond basic algebra (and I do math slooowly, so anything complicated or with a lot of steps is hellish for me). I hit the wall of geometry around the same time I was diagnosed with a nonverbal learning disability.

        4. OriginalEmma*

          Oh, man, where were you when I was a sophomore in HS? I had the “I’m bad at science” mindset…despite the fact that I did average in my freshman year general science course then surprised myself by both *liking* and doing very well in Biology the next year.

          I’m not sure if the “I’m bad at science” belief was due to a personal anxiety over it, gender expectations or lack of role modeling. I’m female, had no female role models, and certainly didn’t see many in scientific history – not enough Marie Curies to balance out the Tycho Brahes).

          The internet also was NOT as robust when I was going to school, so I truly wonder how my education and expectations would have been different if I had access to today’s wondrous cornucopia of alternative education (Khan Academy, etc.), podcasts (Star Talk Radio, anyone? TED talks?), blogs (The Pump Handle, etc.) and of course, Wikipedia.

    3. anon for this*

      This is the heart of what really needs to change. The thing that helped me with this is being in a 12-step program. The cool thing about that (never thought I would say ‘cool’ when referring to being in recovery) is that it can be applied to any situation or problem. And it’s perfect for what you are trying to accomplish, OP.

      1. anon 2, for this*

        High five! It took me a long, long time to understand that getting sober wasn’t going to magically fix all of my other personality issues. Each issue has to be dealt with on its own merits.

        Sober for over 2 years now, and you’re right, that process works for a lot of other things as well!

      2. charisma*

        Completely agree. I’m in recovery, too, 3 years ODAAT, and when I first came and really started working the steps, I cannot tell you how many times I said, “EVERYONE NEEDS THIS! This is awesome!” It truly is. There are 12 step programs for almost anything, if you’re religious at all (or are open to being around those who are) Celebrate Recovery is a good program, and is for anything from bitterness to un-forgiveness to lack of self-confidence.

        12 steppers unite. :)

    4. Casey*

      Thank you for your comment. I do believe and thank you for the second option. I never really thought of “needing” the basics, because I consider myself light-years ahead of most co-workers and supervisors. I’m also beginning to see that my failure to communicate with society is going to kill me.

      1. fposte*

        Well, ultimately, it doesn’t matter how brilliant you are if other people don’t know. Even Stephen Hawking needs his speech synthesizer :-).

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Connecting with people is absolutely not optional. Especially as the years roll by and you get older. It gets harder to meet people if you do not have some way of “getting out there” and meeting them. This makes your relationships that you do have even more important.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        “I consider myself light-years ahead of most co-workers and supervisors” is probably a lot of your problem – almost no one likes being around people who obviously think they’re better than everyone else, in a work context or otherwise.

        1. Boo*

          This is a great point. You may not have vocalised it, but people will pick up on it and it will make working relationships and therefore work waaaaaaaaaay more difficult. A huge amount of what makes a job bearable/likeable is your relationship with your coworkers. It is worth working on this, and remembering that just because they aren’t intellectual (or more accurately, you don’t think they are) doesn’t mean they don’t have a lot to offer in terms of experience, nouse, people skills etc.

        2. Tau*

          +100.

          And another thing to add onto that:

          Having social skills problems can be really frustrating and being told to work on or develop them can seem daunting or impossible. I’m autistic and if I had 10p for anytime someone talked about “learning to read body language!” as if it’s easy – hell, as if I’m even capable of doing that to the extent they’re thinking…

          That said, from my general experience and from what I’ve seen from other autistic people, it *is* possible to manage social interactions well if you’re still noticeably odd and still can’t do a lot of the “social skills” things people expect. But. There’s a but here.

          For this to work, you really have to be friendly. People have to get the basic impression that you like and respect them, are interested in what they say, are willing to apologise and adjust your behaviour if you accidentally do something that makes them uncomfortable, etc. Any hint of superiority or contempt will utterly destroy your chances – and successfully hiding those feelings is not not an elementary social skill.

          The point I’m trying to make is that lack of social skills is bad, and feeling superior to the people around you is bad, but the combination is going to be completely toxic. As a result, the things I’m going to recommend are slightly off-the-wall compared to the rest of the advice here:

          Try to swear off petty judgementalism. If you find yourself commenting about someone in your head along the lines of “wow [minor thing they do/are] is so bad I am so much better for not doing/being that” (ex: judging someone ahead of you at a checkout lane for what they’re buying, basically anything that leaves you feeling smug about yourself compared to them), cut it short. Think of a reason you can sympathise with why they might be doing that. (Ex: woman ahead of me at the checkout lane buying tons of ice cream? maybe she’s about to have her wisdom teeth taken out and is preparing for not being able to chew anything for a while. maybe she had the most terrible breakup earlier today and needs comfort food. etc.)

          For co-workers and supervisors that you’re contemptuous of, try to think of something about them that you don’t have/can’t do/etc. which you can admire. For me, that might frequently be their social skills! ;) For you, it might be their ability to stick with a task even when they’re not enjoying it. Or their dedication to a certain hobby, even if it’s one where you don’t understand why they enjoy it. Or, well, basically anything that leaves you feeling less like you’re light-years ahead of them…

          Practice kindness, in other words. I firmly believe that being kind is not so much an inherent trait as a skill you can acquire if you try hard enough, and that in a lot of ways learning how to be kind is easier and worth more than learning what people normally file under “social skills”. (As a plus, in case you have issues with self-esteem or other jerkbrain issues, I find that being kind to other people makes it easier to be kind to myself as well.)

          And now I am going to hide somewhere for having been a gigantic marshmallow… ;)

      4. Sarkywoman*

        Not trying to be harsh Casey, but while you may outstrip them in certain areas, they are currently showing a stronger inclination towards work ethic! As a fellow INTJ I know other people can sometimes seem a little tedious, but there’s something to learn from everyone :)

  12. JMegan*

    OP, good for you for recognizing the problem, and for asking for advice on how to fix it. I disagree with your theory that it’s about your personality type, but certainly you have done a good job of identifying the *behaviours* that have led you to where you are. You might have a bit of a long road ahead of you, but it’s definitely fixable. Good luck!

    1. Bio-Pharma*

      Agreed, I think it’s great that the OP has recognized the problem, and is insightful enough to recognized “I’m not a team player.” Unfortunately, we live in a world where that is important at the workplace, so the OP needs to have an understanding of what it takes, even if s/he doesn’t agree. One approach is to fake it (let me act like a team player), and sometimes it becomes real/genuine after seeing the benefits.

      1. Observer*

        Just to point out – not being a team player is not just a requirement for the workplace. “No man is an island” is not just a cliche. Developing the skills for at least basic team playing is really, really important.

  13. Katie the Fed*

    OP, your letter is interesting to me because you seem to acknowledge that your personality and approach are a problem to others – but it seems like you don’t REALLY think they’re a problem (for you). Like, you’re a square peg stuck in a world of round holes, but you don’t see a need to adjust your approach, personality, or attitude accordingly. So I’m not sure how you expect to get anywhere if you’re not prepared to acknowledge that you have to change.

    Do you WANT to change but just not know how? Or do you think you shouldn’t have to change and the world should shift to accommodate you? Because the latter just ain’t going to happen. If you want to change but are having trouble, maybe it’s time to talk to a therapist or someone who can help you work through patterns of behavior and thought that are holding you back?

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      This, so much. I know someone who has said similar things to this OP, and even after being spectacularly fired from his job, rejected by grad schools and asked to leave a volunteer group, he still refused to believe there was anything he needed to adjust on his end. It was frustrating to listen to him, and eventually it cost him most of his friends, and it definitely cost him his work history. Self-awareness is key, but it needs to come with a healthy dose of realization that some of the time– most of the time– we need to work on that self.

    2. Casey*

      Thank you for the reply. I think your hitting the nail on the head. I believe both are true when I sit back and think about it more.

  14. Boo*

    Oh my.

    Well just going on the face of your question and without wanting to armchair diagnose, honestly OP I think your biggest challenge is going to be an attitude adjustment. But you’ve taken a big and brave step in writing in to AAM so clearly you know something is wrong and that it needs to be fixed, so kudos for that. Next steps:

    1) Take responsibility for your career so far. Please don’t blame your personality type. It sounds like a terrible excuse, and it won’t go down well in interviews when explaining to prospective employers why you’ve not held down a long term job. Also please don’t blame others, such as where you note that you didn’t get on well with your profs – I’ve had terrible profs and employers and coworkers but part of being a responsible employable adult is pretty much learning to suck it up.

    2) I’m getting mixed messages about your desire to be challenged – you sound quite demanding in that you want to be challenged daily and in a way you see to be challenging (FYI not many people in any job have this, most jobs have an element of routine) but at the same time you struggled to finish your degree because school/work/your profs were too much of a challenge. Maybe think about what kind of challenges you excel with, play to your strengths.

    3) Take control. Think about what you want and how you plan to get there. Maybe consider completing your degree. In the meantime, see holding down a full time job for a decent period of time as your own personal challenge.

    1. Sigh*

      “…part of being a responsible employable adult is pretty much learning to suck it up.”

      This.

      And I’ll agree that OP has taken a great first step by coming to AAM, but honestly, you are not going to find a perfect job. You’re not. Adults have to do stuff they don’t want to do all the time. You don’t get to opt out of that. If you find that your personality is uncontrollable, you need to seek medical/professional help to get it under control. If you can control your personality and just don’t feel like doing it, then its not that you CANNOT hold a job, it’s that you CHOOSE not to. You have plenty of options, but none of them will allow you to find a perfect job where you never have to deal with authority and never have to do anything you don’t want to do. That’s not reality.

      1. BRR*

        Isn’t that terribly depressing but so true?

        I feel specifically in this situation that wanting a highly challenging position where you don’t work with many people and only have some college is going to be a reach.

    2. Casey*

      Thank you. In reply to #2: I guess I see now that those issues could be considered as a challenge. I was not forthright in describing what I view as an engaging challenge. Intellectual challenges, puzzles, analytical challenges, strategy, science, math, etc.

      Adding on a cash register, and counting boxes at the loading dock were not challenges. I guess, I’ll have to define my level when speaking of challenges – due to knowing, not every challenge for me is a challenge for another person and vice versus.

      1. Suz*

        Maybe look into those kinds of jobs and what you need to get there; eg, planning jobs, policy analyst or data analyst. But as everyone has mentioned, there will be boring days for every job.

        It also helps if you build your own challenges into the job – any job. For instance, how can I improve this process? What are good connections that would make this project better/broader? Where else could I apply this? etc.
        If you like maths puzzles; how can I best stack these boxes? What patterns could I make? etc- little bits of interest added to boring things.

        I’m a bit like you in the challenges department and I’m always searching for patterns- it’s for fun, but sometimes it turns out to be a useful connection I’ve just made. I also tend to fall into a lot of quality improvement work because I’m always thinking of puzzles and what’s the best way to approach something. So even though it’s not explicitly part of my role, thinking in this way adds to the type of work I get to do.

  15. MJH*

    The biggest red flags I see in this letter are ” I have burned most bridges with previous managers,” “I dropped out because I did not work well with my professors,” and “I am not a team player.”

    If you don’t get along with people, you will never last long at a job. I’m not saying you need to be BFFs, or make close relationships, or even have good friends. But you do need to make small talk, be able to work with others, be polite and listen, carry your weight, etc. Inability to get along with people will sink you faster than anything, IME. People will stick up for that incompetent boob IF THEY LIKE THAT PERSON. People will happily throw you under the bus if they don’t like you, even if you are competent. You have to be a rock star if you are a jerk, and even then you won’t do as well as you could if you are a rock-star friendly person.

    This is not a personality-type issue, this is an issue that you can address with the help of friends and a therapist. But if you are being actively hostile or rude or unhelpful, you will not succeed. Fix this first.

    1. some1*

      Yeah, not to pile on but the fact that s/he’s ineligible to re-hire at TWO staffing agencies really jumped out at me. Staffing agencies know a lot of placement is crapshoot — basically if you show up to the assignment and do an adequate job you’re considered a great temp.

      1. Spooky*

        This jumped out at me, too. Burning every bridge to the point that two separate agencies will no longer work with him/her…that’s a major problem.

        1. Donna*

          Casey, you sound like me 25 years ago. I had a lot of problems with careers and jobs and ‘trying to fit in’. Kudos to you for identifying the problem. Twenty five years on, when I reflect back, I can see that part of the problem was me and my attitude (that’s been pointed out by many people here) but also, and I’m not sure if this has been mentioned here – but my lack of finding any work challenging or interesting had a lot to do with me trying to do jobs that were easier to get but for which I was profoundly unsuitable. I kept going to jobs and industries that either had high turnover or for which ultimately I wasn’t suited, such as retail, office admin and recruitment, are several that come to mind. I kept going back to those jobs because although I believed I was capable of more and ‘deserved’ more (an attitude that comes across in your writing), I wasn’t going to get more or succeed or be promoted because ultimately I was trying to fit in with work that wasn’t using my best skills. I am really, really good at caring for people (and animals). I quite like it. I’m a good listener. I’m a big softie. None of this has worked for me in an office environment or the industries I chose at the time. When I started going for jobs that were better suited to my natural inclinations and what made me feel good, yes, I still had to deal with my ‘entitlement’ attitudes, but I found it much, much easier to not have clashes and conflicts with management and others. Because the people I was with were of the same ilk. I found being in the social services there were more like-minded people than in the corporate arena – where I was chronically and consistently failing – for years…and I had more jobs in 5 years than Monster.com. did in 2. My point is, part of it might be your attitude, but part of it might also be that you are choosing sectors or industries in which you are just not suited, but you are either not realising this or giving yourself the chance. I had your issue – a very chequered unstable resume – and the way I started to turn things around was to think about what I really liked to do and not what I thought I ‘ought’ to do. Changing sectors and the focus helped me enormously. I know many people have advised you to get a job, any job, and stick it out, and there is wisdom to that, but I wonder also if your problem, apart from perhaps a medical one such as ADD, anxiety or BPD, might also stem from choosing environments/sectors and jobs to which you are not compatible. As for burning recruiters – it is really, really easy to P(*! them off. They will tell you that they will get you a job – they will act like they are interested in getting you a job but they are not interested in getting you a job – they are interested in getting you as a placement because they make $ from you. They work for the client (the employer) not you. They will drop you like a hot potato the moment you show any hesitation or if an assignment doesn’t work out. Please try not to feel too badly about this, they are concerned about their reputation, so they won’t touch anyone who doesn’t do what they want when they want it or shows any wavering. I know. I’ve been on both ends – I’ve been a recruiter, and also user of their services – and got dumped like you because they put me in an assignment that was not suitable. Rather than take the blame and look at their own processes/communcation, they just dropped me. At the time I was upset – now, I’m glad. Try and stay away from recruiters and do your own job hunting. They sound sympathetic, but they only see you with $ in their eyes, it’s the nature of the business. HTH.

          1. HappySnail*

            I agree on the recruiters – I stopped using them once I realized that I wasn’t the client at all. Besides, cold calls to the companies you want to work at allows you to network a little.

    2. Kate the Grate*

      I am impressed that the OP is self-aware enough to admit that (s)he is not a team player and doesn’t work well with authority. Fighting against this will be difficult. Yes, it’s important for the OP to learn to be courteous and patient with others, but the OP also needs to seek a job that suits his/her personality. The OP might do well in a physical job, since having trouble concentrating on “boring” or “unchallenging” tasks can be a sign of having too much pent-up physical energy.

    3. Iro*

      This is true, but there are some jobs that are more independent than others (science comes to mind) and the OP may excel at these compared to the more traditional, corporate team settings.

      1. the_scientist*

        I am a scientist (see, it says so in my name!), and literally everything I do in my job is team-based. Science may lack the rigid structure and formality of corporate environments, but it is no less team-based than other fields, in my experience. Given that, I’d be hesitant to suggest STEM fields to the OP (although it is true that STEM fields/academia often attracts….interesting personalities). Not to mention that you need to finish (and excel in) usually several degrees to work in the sciences, which the OP has so far been unable to do.

        1. Sam*

          Currently changing career paths and moving into science field…i’ve been told my people skills and customer service skills will come in handy when it comes to things like getting money for research, asking for grants, etc.

          1. VintageLydia USA*

            I always figured having good interpersonal skills was essential in most STEM fields because everything you need to do from getting funding to presenting your results requires them.

        2. Vera*

          +1, absolutely. My husband and I are scientists and most of our daily work inve involves interactings with a team of other scientists, administrators, software developers, students, etc. Research is not done by ourselves in our offices with a blackboard. It is possible that academia is more accepting of those with special personalities (I had a professor once that used to work at night only and he would walk in corridors the same way a mouse does: very close to the walls, refusing eye contact with everybody. He was brilliant, but he had a very long list of eccentricities, including making you take classes with him after 8pm), but in order to suceed or to even land in a place they can be themselves in peace, scientists needs to be either good at team play OR incredibly good. And that involves a lot of boring work.

        3. Anonsie*

          100% agreed. It varies from field to field but if anything, interpersonal relationships are more important in the sciences than your classic white collar setting because so much collaboration and teaching and mentoring is necessary. We have plenty of interesting personalities, but they wouldn’t have gotten very far if they came out the gate being “interesting” at every turn to all their professors and colleagues. Most of those folks toed the party line for many, many years before they had the security and connections to decide to be “eccentric geniuses,” at least in my observation.

        4. Casey*

          That is very insightful – I’ve always been told I should pursue science, but never imagined science fields as team players.

        5. JAL*

          My best friend is getting her Master’s in plant pathology and she has to constantly interact with people at her job. Yes, there are days she’s hidden away in the lab doing her research (I’m surprised if I hear from her on those days) but she still has meetings with other people and she’s on a team working with others on her research. It’s definitely still a team job.

        6. Tau*

          I was going to comment on this but waited to see if someone actually working in science was going to. I do pure maths, which to my understanding has way less teamwork than most science research because you’re not working in labs, but I’m still not sure I’d recommend this as suitable for someone with severe social interaction difficulties – cliches aside. Collaboration is absolutely the norm in my field (I’d say at least half of the papers I read for my thesis have multiple authors), you need to be able to talk to other people working in your area and not piss them off even if you’re not planning to collaborate, seminars and conferences look like a significant part of academic life, and – of course – there’s teaching and other ways in which you’re expected to mentor students.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I don’t know if you will see this as it is kind of buried.

      But I read your story as anger problems. Maybe I am off base but you sound verrrrry angry to me. It almost looks like you are lashing out at authority figures around you.

      Anger is a real odd thing, it can put us in places where we are constantly defeating ourselves, constantly working against ourselves.

      You don’t have to answer here, but it might be something to mull over for a bit.

  16. LizB*

    OP, personality types are not unimpeachable predictors of behavior that you are destined to follow to the letter for the rest of your life. They are also not excuses for behaving poorly, or reasons why the world should cater to your every whim. They are a way of thinking about your strengths, your weaknesses, and the way you may be likely to interact with the world around you. How you actually conduct yourself is 100% your choice.

    Here are some phrases in your letter that jumped out at me:
    “I have burned most bridges with previous managers.”
    “quit most positions without having another job lined up”
    “I am not a team player.”
    “inability to interact with societal norms”

    None of these things can be fully blamed on being an INTJ, or any other measure of personality. All of these things are the result of your actions and choices. Your personality may make some options more appealing to you — working alone, having a new challenge every day — but it doesn’t mean that you are incapable of working in a less appealing environment. You can choose to keep doing the work at a job that isn’t all that challenging. You can choose to be respectful towards your managers, and give a professional amount of notice when you quit. You can learn to be a team player and interact with societal norms. These things might not be pleasant or easy, and you may need some help along the way from friends, family, a careers counselor, the commenters on this blog, or other supports. But you CAN fix this, if you stop blaming your problems on the intangible specter of “personality” and concentrate on the concrete actions that can get you out of this mess. Alison has some great suggestions, and the Friday open threads here are another wonderful source of advice and feedback. I encourage you to seek out these and other resources to get yourself on the road to career recovery. You can do it!

    1. Burlington*

      Ooh! I really like the Open Threads idea. OP should consider bringing his/her individual issues and questions to the group on Friday. Maybe it’s the sort of thing where “dealing with your whole personality” is too big to feel fixable, but “workshopping individual problems and situations” is immediately helpful and can help OP spot patterns over time?

        1. Natalie*

          Open threads are posted here twice a week – a work related one on Fridays and a non-work one on either Saturday or Sunday. They’re an open discussion forum for whatever work/non-work (depending on the day) thing you might want to discuss.

  17. Scott*

    You might also want to consider doing contracting work. You and an employer agree that you’re going to work on something for six months or a year. Then, after that time, you move on to the next gig. I did this in my younger days and it worked well for me. I got bored very easily, too, and found that contracting worked well for me because when I found myself in a situation that was not challenging and/or boring, I knew I only had three more months go to.

    That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do a good job even as a contractor. In fact, doing a good job contracting is what got me more contracts and/or contract extensions when the time was up.

    Eventually, after two years of contracting at a company I really liked, they offered me a full-time position and I joined them and worked there for 19 years before moving on.

    A lot of people don’t like contracting because it doesn’t offer stability, but it doesn’t sound to me like stability is what you really want–you seem to want a variety of challenges and work.

    Plus, contracting lets you change jobs a lot without it being seen as “job hopping”. You’ll get to put a section in your resume called “Contract Employment” and then, in interviews, you’ll be able to honestly say you left a company because you finished your contract work and went on to something else.

    Good luck!

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      Totally agree.

      I didn’t like most of the work that I was eligible to do when I was in my late teens and early 20s, so it didn’t make a lot of sense to take full-term permanent positions when I knew I would want to leave in a matter of months. I didn’t mind being a new employee when I was challenged with the learning curve, but I’d get bored quickly. Doing one- or two-semester temp positions at college really saved me – it allowed me to start building my resume while exploring different types of work. Eventually, I found something I really liked and then I stuck with it.

    2. MaryMary*

      I’m wondering if a job with an end date might be helpful for OP too. If getting bored is part of the problem, maybe being able to see a light at the end of the tunnel would help. You’d only need to do this boring work for another two months, one month, two weeks… And eventually you have a set of assignments that you didn’t quit and are solid references.

    3. Liane*

      I hate to say it, but I am not sure about this. The OP mentions that they are “Ineligible for rehire” at 2 different agencies. So I suspect the offending traits are also showing up on their temp/contract assignments, over and over, to the point where those agencies don’t feel this person will ever last a whole assignment. Either the client company will ask to have them removed or OP decides to leave before the end of the assignment.
      Yes, with contract assignments you can keep yourself going with, “Only 2 more months, I can do that. Easy.” BUT, everyday, you still have to choose Work 2 More Months over Walk Out Today & always choosing the latter is one of OP’s problems.

      1. Scott*

        Very true for the OP. I should have been more general in my comments. I think some people are just not cut out to work one place for a long time, and for those people, rather than job-hopping, contracting is a viable option.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Nice catch regarding not working in one place a long time. OP, there are jobs that will put you on the road, traveling between work sites. My husband and several other people I know were people that just could not work at one site all day long. It was like being penned-up/caged. These are people who absolutely loved to drive all over and enjoyed it thoroughly.

      2. Casey*

        I agree and disagree. I think contract work sounds like a great fit mentioned in the light above. The employment agencies I worked for were always temp-hire positions, not contracts. So, I could invariably be working the temp position as if it were full-time hire. I think if I were to were short term contracts, that might just be a fit.

        1. I'm a Little Teapot*

          OP, I’ve had some problems similar to yours. I’m not good with people, though in my case it’s mostly that I’m overly sensitive and thin-skinned and feel horrible about myself if I make a mistake or am criticized. I have learning disabilities and psychiatric problems that mean that I’m just not very good at most jobs that I’m qualified for – I’m absentminded, disorganized, bad at multitasking or keeping track of lots of little details, I get upset/stressed/panicked easily, and sometimes I have periods of depression or anxiety where I have trouble concentrating on, enjoying, or accomplishing much of anything.

          I’ve had much better luck temping than with “permanent” positions, usually – and it’s usually a lot easier to get hired that way, if you’re in the right geographical area. I had a series of horrible jobs because I was living in a small town with no car and thus very limited in the jobs that I *could* take; once I moved to Boston, where there are lots of temp jobs, my job prospects got *much* better. Temping has definite disadvantages – the insecurity, and you usually lack benefits and aren’t paid very well – but it’s definitely better than some of the other jobs I’ve had, having an end in sight makes a temp job more bearable if it’s crappy, and it’s at least a paycheck for people like me who will probably never be star employees.

  18. Jean*

    Alison is telling it like it is: Employers want employees who are committed to doing their work effectively, consistently, and without disagreements that end the working relationship in mutual anger (or disappointment or anything else negative). But please don’t lose hope because:
    — Age 24 is too young to decide that the rest of your life has to follow the unhappy pattern of the past six or eight years (assuming you entered the workforce at age 18 or 16).
    — Just because you once dropped out of college does not mean that you can never, ever return to finish your degree ( or that you are condemned to a life of boring work). You face a challenge but not a complete impossibility.
    — The first step toward solving a problem is being able to specify what’s wrong, and you have just described your situation in precise detail.
    — You did something very smart in coming to AAM! There’s a lot of collective wisdom on this site and 99.99% of it is expressed with kindness.

    Sooo….speaking as another person who did NOT always have her act together: I suggest that you find a combination of employed and volunteer activities that give you the opportunity to show up on time, be pleasant to colleagues and customers, do what’s necessary, and look for ways to do more than what’s necessary–without any vibes of “I know best what’s needed” or “the other stuff is just too boring to hold my interest.” Demonstrate that you are really committed to living in a more positive way, and do so steadily, for a period of time measured first in months, then in years. This will not always be easy. You will have times of being discouraged, or envious at others who seem to be advancing more rapidly to more interesting work. Don’t despair! Remind yourself that everyone has his or her own path in this world. Keep your mind sharp by pursuing challenging hobbies away from your employment and volunteering. (Read history. Learn a foreign language or a software program.)

    Enough preaching from me; I want to read the words of other folks.

    1. WorkingMom*

      Well said. I can personally look back on my career to date, and remember some moments interacting with authority and decisions I made that were not the best! At any of those random moments, I could have been labeled with “bad attitude” but don’t let it rule you. Part of growing up is getting wiser, and most of us learn by making mistakes. Learning from them and not repeating them is the key, of course! :)

      1. Casey*

        Great comment! Thank you.

        I’d hate to sound so negative, but I’ve cut myself with the double edged sword – I wish to go back and finish one of my degrees, but I have to unfortunately pay off a student grant before I am allowed to return or have transcripts sent out.

        1. KarenD*

          Many colleges will work with you on that if you can demonstrate a good-faith effort to clear your obligations.

          I was raging (undiagnosed) ADD in college, and actually flunked out. I walked away from a pretty significant grant debt (because I failed every class my last semester, I was required to repay my grant funding and I just … didn’t.) Years later I went back to that school, sat down and talked someone and ended up with a plan whereby I paid part of the grant back up-front, agreed to a payment schedule for the rest and was allowed to re-enroll with a course of study designed to get me a bachelors in a relatively short time period (about two years, taking 1-2 classes at a time).

          Fortunately, I had in the interim found an employer who did believe in me, so the degree was a formality, but man! getting that diploma in hand felt SO GOOD!

          1. The Strand*

            Congratulations, what a terrific story to read. If you are sincere and hard-working, it is never too late.

  19. Malissa*

    OP, I am also an INTJ personality. Here’s the thing, these positions you’ve had are challenging. Just not the intellectual stimulating challenge you thrive on. They are filled with personality challenges. Take some classes, make an effort to understand how other think. That is a very big challenge. One that will help you more in your career than any hard skills.
    My suggestion is to go back to school. Get a job. Balancing both will be enough of a challenge to keep the boredom at bay. Yes required course work in soft subjects can be tedious and not very stimulating. The challenge there is to figure out how to get that stuff done efficiently so you can concentrate on the more interesting stuff.
    Find a career that can be stimulating and challenging and worrk towards that. I suggest accounting or engineering. Both will eventually lead you to a place where you are more focused on your own work that is challenging.

    1. Kate the Grate*

      I just don’t see this OP being in an office job. What about something like landscaping? It’s challenging, physical, and has a creative element.

      1. MJH*

        My first thought was an arborist or someone who prunes trees. That seems exciting and challenging to me! But there are also trades like electrician, plumber, etc. that could bring interesting new challenges. When I was an early-20s office drone, one of my favorite things was being the best at diagnosing and fixing the copy machine.

        1. Natalie*

          For the trades, it sort of depends on what type of “not a team player” the LW is. Most states require a few years apprenticing under a currently licensed electrician/plumber/mason/what have you, and if OP continues to get bored and screw around their mentor probably won’t keep working with them.

          1. MJH*

            Yep. The inability to get along with people is going to rear its ugly head no matter what career LW pursues. That’s why LW has to fix that first and then start thinking about jobs and career paths.

          2. Casey*

            My “not a team player” style is working strictly alone with no supervision or working in a team of 2-4 people, with low supervision.

            1. Natalie*

              Hmmm. Apprenticeships can be small teams (just you and the master tradesperson) but they are generally pretty supervised since the master tradesperson is supposed to be teaching you.

              1. OP - Casey*

                That’s not how I view an apprenticeship thankfully. I think I am meaning to convey – office type of supervisors always peering over your shoulder. I know that’s a stereotype, but I’ve had many supervisors of this type.

                I would view an apprentice trainer as more of a “friend”

                1. esra*

                  You might consider an informational interview in this case.

                  I’m not sure friend is a good way to describe the apprentice/trainer relationship, more like a mentor? Depending on the work, they can very much be over your shoulder, but not necessarily in a bad way.

      2. Malissa*

        Because something like that involves people and their opinions. There’s a real good reason why I no longer take portraits for a living. Too many people and too many opinions. A set of standards and rules are more my speed and I would guess the OP’s as well.

      3. Anonsie*

        I admit I only worked in that industry very briefly, but I can definitely say that if the OP has issues getting along with people I would not recommend this. You have to do things according to someone else’s specifications and you had better believe people are picky and asinine in their specifications. Additionally, they are loud and destructive in their critiques. If I had a dollar for every time I spent days of hard labor trying to get something exactly the way my boss or client wanted it only to have them come and literally tear it up with some tools and tell me to start over because it was somehow indescribably off from the vision in their head, I could’ve afforded the therapy I sorely needed to get through it.

  20. Sabrina*

    To quote Drew Carey: “You hate your job? Good news, there’s a support group for that. It’ s called Everybody. We meet at the bar.”

    1. Judy*

      And to quote Gandalf “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

      Maybe you can’t find challenging work, but you do have to have a safe place to sleep and food to eat. You get to decide is how to manage that. Many people don’t have challenging jobs. They work for food and shelter. They work to live rather than live to work. They challenge themselves through hobbies and volunteering.

      You get to choose how you respond to the hand you’ve been dealt.

  21. KonaHI*

    Allison is giving excellent advice. I wish she’d been able to give this advice to someone in my life, now in his 60’s, and his whole work life has been like that. At 24, the OP still has lots of time to turn this around and I wish him/her all the best.

  22. Felicia*

    At 24 there still might be time for you, because at 24 a lot of people only have temporary jobs or internships or retail because that’s all they can fine. You’ll just have to accept that you won’t get interesting and challenging right away, and your excuses are hurting far more than helping (and really aren’t the reason, I too am INTJ, and can work great with teams, hold down jobs and get great references). The best thing to do would find some job, any job, and stick with it for a while. You need to prove you can show up on time, with a positive attitude, for a sustained amount of time, do what is asked of you, and you haven’t done that yet. Either that, or go back to school and prove the same things.

    1. Allison*

      This is true, young people tend to get a pass because we’re not really expected to have any long-term, full-time employment yet. That said, most 24 year-olds have a college degree that indicates the capacity for some commitment, OP dropped out of college. And while many young people do have short stints in retail, a LOT of short stints might indicate a problem.

    2. Green*

      Good point. Myers Brigg isn’t about what you *can* do; it’s about what you like to do, feel most comfortable doing, or get energy from. I am an extreme introvert, but I’ve done sales and very people-facing jobs. I can do them as well as (or better than) lots of extroverts. I just find it more draining than energizing.

    3. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I think a lot of 24-year-olds don’t do very well at work because they’re miserable – after graduating from college I had a string of mind-numbing, physically exhausting, or utterly infuriating jobs (some for downright abusive bosses who did things like assault and sexually harass my coworkers or pay way below minimum wage). I developed a distrust of supervisors and employers, a conviction that the working world was horrible and I was a failure so I might as well not even try, a desire to put in as little effort as possible because I’d never get much out of work except pain, and an especially deep hatred of people who abuse their authority. I had a habit of applying for and taking jobs I knew few people would want because I thought of myself as worthless and only fit for the bottom of the barrel – meaning that I became more and more bitter and self-loathing as I took, hated, and failed at awful job after awful job. I wrecked my first decent job by slacking off atrociously, still bitter from my past experiences, and I’ve been trying to improve ever since.

      So I’m not sure “some job, any job” would be the best solution – it’s a lot harder to do well at a job you hate. OP is far ahead of where I was at that age in that OP has a better idea of strengths and weaknesses. Start from the idea of working alone or in a small group and mostly working on “puzzles” – I’ve had some database-crunching temp and contract jobs where I did things like search for missing pieces of information in company profiles, trace corporate structures, or figure out whether Jane Smith #1 and Jane Smith #2 were two different people or one person who moved. The work is repetitive and sometimes boring, but you’d be working mostly alone and you wouldn’t be micromanaged. Some such jobs require degrees, but there was one I had where a lot of the people there were college students on summer break.

  23. Gene*

    Yeah, we did the MB testing around here a decade or so ago; not the quickie online one, but full on booklet tests. It was during our Management Buzzword Of The Month phase (honestly, in a couple of years we did almost all of them.) Everyone had their type on their badge so we “would know how to best communicate with the other person”.

    As I predicted when it started, many people used their type as an excuse or a reason to not do things, or not talk with certain other people, or just coast. And the reasons were, “What do you expect of me, after all, I’m an XXXX.”

    Yes, I am a cold, calculating INTP.

    1. fposte*

      And here’s for me the main weakness of Myers-Briggs–it utterly fails as a predictor. Schools that MBTI test students find that the results tell you nothing about how well they’ll do, what area they like, etc. It can be meaningful for people to explain how they think, but it doesn’t make any difference to what you actually do; you can’t hang a job or skills failure on an MB category, because there’s no correlation.

      1. Cheesecake*

        yup, in my company we use MBTI for teams to guide them how to better understand each other. So when you solely focus on this and not on “ENFP can’t be a financial analyst”, it is a good thing.

      2. Jennifer*

        And my MB results have changed oh, every time I’ve taken the test since middle school. I come out an XXXX at this point and can answer to anything. So that’s super helpful.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Mine changes enough so that I do not pay attention anymore. I have noticed that the way it comes out depends on how much sleep I have had, how crappy my week is, and numerous other factors.

        2. Tau*

          I used to be an INTP and now seem to come out as XNXX. I understand why some people think it’s useful – it certainly hit my personality six or eight years ago – but at this point it’s really not for me and it gets frustrating when people want to divide all of humanity up nicely into sixteen discreet categories.

    2. Adam*

      This why MB should, at most, be just one of MANY tools when sorting out oneself including of areas of professional goals. We can do research and plan and count stats all day to high Heaven, but people will still be people.

    3. Ethyl*

      We did either that or something similar back in the day and all we found out was what we all already knew about each other from working together, so it really felt like a waste of time.

  24. Cheesecake*

    I agree with above; here is a situation where you have to forget about MB profile.The profile was actually created for you to understand how to work with yourself and others, not how to hide behind it when something does not work for you. Btw, my husband is INTJ and i can tell you he is quite opposite: he holds on to the job even when it is really time to leave, because he is very patient.

    Here comes the scary truth: there are not a lot of challenging jobs. And for those supposedly challenging ones, there is so much routine in between. Like an astronaut. To make one exciting space trip, s/he has to train for ages and then come back and train more.

    So here it is: you need to make it interesting. I guarantee you 99% of office entry level jobs are not that exciting, let along challenging. You need to come to terms with this, because right now you remind me a cat chasing laser pointer. Obviously, you need to find something you like and have skills for or at least industry you find…well, challenging. It will give you extra power to sit thru boring stuff. But then you make it interesting yourself. Challenge yourself to finish boring task in least amount of time. Go meet colleagues with jobs you find challenging. Take extra assignments/offer help. When nothing helps at work, find an interesting hobby.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Sadly, the boredom of the job is THE challenge of the job. What do you do when you hit that wall of boredom and you will definitely hit it.

      1. Cheesecake*

        And that’s another thing, once you mastered your challenging job, it is not so challenging anymore. You need to move on. And here what gives one a chance to move on is not technical skills alone, but proven track record, interpersonal skills – stuff that can only show up when you worked in one place for some time. So yes, as AAM said, vicious circle.

  25. Helen*

    One of my family members has a work history like this. He was in school for about 8 years, but never got his degree (he did get an associate’s though). He went through MANY jobs. Eventually though he got into a management training program at a restaurant chain. He became a GM and has been with that company for almost ten years. He owns a house and has a wife and a baby now and overall is a functioning, thriving adult. So, it is possible for a career like the LW’s to be rehabilitated.

    He had those struggles early in his career due to alcoholism, the early difficulties of sobriety, and anxiety and depression. In order to improve he developed coping mechanisms and the personal fortitude/desire to be better. He wouldn’t have gotten to where he is if he continued telling himself, “it’s just my personality type; I can’t change. I just need a better job.” He also had to be humbled as many people early in our careers do. Despite not having a degree, he’s very intelligent and I’m sure that at points he’s felt like he’s “too good” to be working in fast food. But now he has experience managing a big operation and I’m sure he could some day move to something else if he wishes.

    Best wishes LW.

  26. Observer*

    Some good advice here.

    Step ONE is to change your attitude.
    * This is not about what anyone else is doing. You are not getting stuck because of onlone applications (as much as they stink), employers are stupid (although some are) and societal norms are inane (although some of them are). Based on your description, the issues are your behavior, attitude and expectations.

    * Pretty much no one gets their “dream job” (no matter WHAT their dream is) right off the bat. It takes work and effort. And even a really, really good job generally needs time to get to that point. Also, EVERY job has its downsides – and even the most challenging and interesting job is going to have parts that are hair pullingly boring. And, most of them also won’t provide you with a challenge “every day”. Given your attitude, it’s even less likely, because apparently only some challenges meet your criteria for “challenge”.

    * Your personality is not immutable, nor is it an inflexible straight jacket mandating certain reactions and behaviors, even though they are dysfunctional and counter-productive.

    Step two is GET HELP. I’d say there is a good chance that you have a diagnosable issue (medical / neurological / emotional / psychological) for which you can get help. But, even without a diagnosis, outside help can be enormously useful. At minimum, you’ve gotten good advice which is not going to be easy for you to carry out. Some help would go a long way in accomplishing what you need to.

    Lastly, get a job and stick with it, no matter what (assuming that you are not in real danger of course) and / or finish college. That will tell employers that you can actually stick around for more than a few months. That’s something that employers worry about for good reason. Also, if you manage to hang on to a job for a reasonable amount of time, it will indicate to employers that you can “interact with societal norms” in a reasonable fashion. Again, this is not an arbitrary or Dilbertain requirement. It’s simply a key component of getting work done in most envorinments.

  27. Pipette*

    How to work like an INTJ: Always keep an eye on the long term. Be patient while plots play themselves out. Learn all there is to know about the things you do, the hows and the whys. Figure out better ways of doing routine tasks and complicated tasks. Offer help when you notice someone struggling with one of those tasks. Soon enough you have built up a reputation as someone who knows all the ins and outs and can find solutions to the hairiest problems, and then your colleagues come to you with fun challenges all the time.

    Works for me anyway.

    1. RG*

      YES. But seriously, this is the mindset I’ve been trying to adopt. I like to dream big, but I have to remind myself that dreams don’t work unless you do.

    2. LizNYC*

      +1,000 Love this!

      Fellow INTJ here. Definitely keep your eye on the long term. (Crappy professor? The end of term is only 8 weeks away. Boring assignment? Make a checklist so you feel accomplished along the way until you finish.)

      I’ve also tried to become the person in the office who knows a little of everything and why we do it. It’s helped invaluably in my career, especially when cuts were happening at Old Job. (Can’t cut the only person who knows how to do XYZ!) Plus, it kept my mind stimulated, got me to know many of my coworkers better and lead to greater, better assignments.

      1. Casey*

        I understand looking at the long term, however, I look at the long term negatively when put into those positions. I’ve been needing to focus on the short term recently just to get by basic struggles. I need an achievement/reward based set-up.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          You can give yourself your own rewards. This does work. Promise yourself something and follow through. Keep your promises to you. (It’s the pits when we break our own promises to ourselves- really! It’s worse than if someone breaks their promise to US.)
          Keep the rewards simple and doable. Don’t cop out, you do x and y go get that reward that you promised yourself.

        2. Marmoset*

          Hi OP,
          You mention needing to think short-term and needing an achievement-reward setup. That rings a bell for me so I’ll share my story, please take our leave any part of it. I don’t know you or your situation beyond what you’ve described here, and you are of course 100% the authority on your own experience. Here is mine:

          I used to feel really restless at work, needed constant daily challenges and rewards, and quit both grad school and a couple of jobs because I couldn’t seem to settle down, as soon as the shine of something new wore off I was unbearably bored. It was painful how bored I was. I knew it was irresponsible to be quitting things left and right, but I couldn’t bear to stay once I hit that point.

          I can say now, with a little bit of perspective, that what was going on with me was that I was seriously depressed, but hiding it from both myself and everyone around me. I couldn’t stand to be without a challenge because without the distraction of something to learn or adapt to, I had to just hang around in my head, and my un-distracted mind was a sad, painful place to be. It took me years to figure out what was going on and seek treatment.

          Now that I am successfully treating my depression, if I get bored at work, it’s okay, it’s just boredom. Not fun by any means, but worlds away from that old feeling of constantly dancing at the edges of an abyss of hopelessness, where the only thing keeping me going was constant mental stimulation. Like riding a bike, just keep moving just keep moving, don’t stop don’t stop or we’ll topple over. I didn’t realize at the time how exhausting it was to be constantly trying to stay out of my own head. I definitely had no idea how much better I could feel.

          Everyone is different and what’s going on with you might be nothing like this at all. But I wanted to share just in case.

          I wish you the very very best as you work your way forward from here. <3

          1. OP-Casey*

            Your story actually does sound a little like how I feel when working. And when I’m not. Sometimes I’ll get violently angry for no reason. And when people ask me what’s wrong, all I can say is “My brain won’t stop running”

            1. Zahra*

              I’m just going to comment on the always running brain: for me, it’s a hallmark symptom of ADHD. You may have some symptoms, but not enough for a diagnostic (then you should look at other symptoms that may direct you to another diagnostic). Or you may have enough of them and some more beside that relate to something else in addition to ADHD (which is rather common).

              The reason why getting a diagnostic was so important for me is that it directed me towards resources to find strategies to cope with whatever “undesirable” traits (for the situation) I wanted to attenuate.

  28. FarFromBreton*

    Chiming in to echo what a lot of people have said here. I’m INTJ as far as I can tell, and pretty sure I have ADHD (working on getting an official diagnosis). I have trouble staying on task unless I have an overwhelming amount of interesting tasks, and fortunately/unfortunately, the economy hasn’t given me the option to stay in a job past a year until now. But even in jobs I’ve had that didn’t really work out (I’ve never been fired, but I’ve quit some low-level part-time jobs that clearly weren’t working), my managers and coworkers still generally liked me as a person and worker, even if I wasn’t perfectly suited to my job. So being able to work with your coworkers and having people’s respect is a separate issue from being satisfied with your work and needing to be challenged, and separate from your MB type. (This is a whole bigger topic, but you can actively choose to care about people and not always put your own needs/feelings first. It doesn’t need to be automatic. Making that choice is part of becoming a decent human being, and knowing when to do so is generally a skill, not a personality trait.)

    I’m currently in a job that is a little less exciting/dynamic than my ideal job, which sometimes makes it hard to stay motivated and focused. I started CBT to work on my attention/organization issues, and instead of half-assing it or letting myself get frustrated, I looked for ways to make my work more interesting (like creating new projects that furthered my work’s goals) and set internal ambitious goals. I once had a soul-killingly boring job (thanks, economy!), but setting internal goals gave me something to work towards. (I also had awesome coworkers, which mitigated the boredom of my job and helped motivate me to be a productive part of the team.)

    Also, since my bosses know that I have skills and interests outside of my position but take my position seriously anyway, they’ve brought me in on more interesting projects outside of my job description that use those skills. I am definitely still not a perfect employee, but setting up a network of internal and external motivators helps keep me in line.

    1. Mouse of Evil*

      +1. I have no idea what my personality type is, but you sound just like me. I have so many jobs that I know I have totally SUCKED at (mostly by leaving projects unfinished when they got boring)… and yet, my co-workers at those jobs are still some of my favorite people, and we’re on excellent terms, and they give me good references, although I have to assume that the people who call them for references are asking about my personality instead of my work habits. I am copying some of your comment into my journal so I’ll remember your techniques next time I start getting bored and frustrated by my next stupid job.

      And OP: Have you considered going back and trying to finish college? Maybe find a program that excites you at a community college, and then get a student job while you’re there. I can tell you from experience hiring student employees that short-term jobs are usually not a problem (we don’t expect students to have had long-term jobs, nor are we looking at their job history as an indication of how long they’ll stay, since we know they’ll be moving on as soon as they graduate, if not sooner). If you could stick it out, you’d have a degree, a longer-term job, and some practice dealing with interpersonal issues. I know that might not be financially feasible, but if it is, it could really help put your rocky job history in the past and help you move on.

  29. Iro Cqn Relate to You!*

    I’m an INTJ and I can really relate to a lot of what you are saying (although I don’t think it’s due to our personality type as much). I too struggle with boredom and I put such a high value in knowledge, and that everyone understand what is “correct”, that I can come across really really negatively and I also get incredibly frustrated that many people appear to care less about what “actually” happened and more about how the whole thing was “perceived”. I particularly struggled with this when I was your age (although I’m not much older now).

    I’m also going to diverge slightly from Alison’s advice. I think the first thing you absoluetly must do is GET.A.COLLEGE.DEGREE. Period end of story.

    1) You will have A LOT more autonomy in college then the typical work situation. In college you can choose most of your classes, choose your professors, choose where you study, when, how etc and you have control over almost none of those in a typical job.
    2) This will change your narrative from, spotty, unreliable sort to a turn around story. Many people recognize earning a degree as a great accomplishment and this will be the fastest and easiest way to show people you have changed.
    3) It will open up more interesting, more challenging jobs for you FAR faster and much more likely than working 4 years at Dairy Queen.
    4) I think you have a higher probability of succeeding at gritting your teeth through 4 years of college than a service position.
    5) The issues with authority are much easier to deal with as you grow older and mature, so 4 years where occasional “unprofessional/innappropriate” behavior is forgiven is a great place to begin working on this.

    Finally I think you have taken a great first step in identifying the type of job you need. You KNOW that you get bored easily with repetitive tasks, so it makes no sense for you to slog through years of boring, repetitive jobs to try and land an interesting one. In fact this is a recipie for failing. Instead you should start reflecting on what aspects of a job you find interesting and challenging. “Interesting” and “challenging” are subjective, so I disagree with Alison’s advice that you have to earn those. Instead you need to spend some significant time reflecting on what you find interesting and challenging. I was in this boat not too long ago, rarely staying in one place over a year, and it finally dawned on me. I need to work in a place where I have only a few repetive tasks, but most tasks are new. You can find this kind of work througout businees. Admin assistants for example may never know what the day holds, research librarians, ad hoc analytics, non-profit work, … the list continue!. Once you determine what will work for you you can start looking for entry level positions.

    Last but not least, you will need to work on owning some items. Not everything you listed above is a weakness (such as getting bored easily in repetivie tasks), but burning bridges won’t work moving forward and is something you can endeavor to adjust. You can’t change your feelings towards something, but you can adjust your actions.

    I hope this helps!

    1. Elysian*

      I’d like to respectfully disagree. A college degree can open a lot of doors, but it also can come with a lot of debt. OP already hasn’t had tremendous success in college. I think she should take some time to figure out what type of job would work well with her personality and skills – it very well might not require a degree. It sound like OP might not be well-suited to a desk job (just taking a guess here) – so maybe something more hands-on would be a better fit? If OP would be a great IT tech person or hair stylist, they might need a specialized school and not a 4 year college. For this OP, I wouldn’t recommend struggling through college and coming out with debt unless she knows that college will open the doors she needs to open.

      1. Adam*

        Indeed. College can be great to experiment with many things, but if you don’t have at least some sense of direction it can be a pretty pricey experiment. Once OP figures out what they want and can work on staying put through tedium and frustrations maybe college might be in the works for them, but at this point I wouldn’t recommend they go back without some serious self-reflection first.

        1. Adam*

          Also there is something to be said for college delaying the inevitable. The regular change that comes in long-term coursework is just not reflected in your average job these days, so unless you’re prepared to go into a career in academia, which is pretty dang competitive on its own, using it primarily to escape the working world isn’t likely to help much I would guess.

          1. Iro*

            I would say there is merit in using college to grow into yoursel and get a better handle on your personality. Just because OP struggled with college at 18, doesn’t mean they are not ready to take that on now at 24. Also with mot 4 year degrees requiring 2 years of gen ed, which can be completed at cheaper schools, there’s a lot of oppurtunity to discover items you want to do.

            1. Adam*

              I agree that college may help and there are less expensive options like community colleges. It is still at big investment of time and money though, so while I wouldn’t discourage him from attending school again if he felt he could get something out of it I would caution him to think carefully before going back. OP didn’t mention how long they were in school before leaving, but if not gelling to the system with all of his professors was the main reason it sounds like he’s going to need to reconcile that before going back. And being slightly older now may change the college environment for him as well if he’s surrounded by fresh-faced undergrads.

          2. WorkingMom*

            I would agree here too, I don’t think a college degree is the answer at this moment for OP. In order for OP to excel in school, he or she will need to find a path to study that he or she is truly interested in. Or – not get a degree at all. My Dad never finished his college degree and he is been a successful professional for 30+ years.

            At some people college (associates or bachelors) might be part of the journey, but it’s not always the answer for everyone.

        2. some1*

          Agreed. Maybe the LW isn’t in a position to drop out of the workforce entirely and live on student loans for 4+ years.

            1. fposte*

              Although now I’m thinking a good point was made below, too–that college can operate as a reset button that makes what happened before irrelevant. If the OP is able to finish college, do so without her former biases and behavior, and take advantage of college-related employment, that could be a big help in erasing her bad past and giving her a better recent one.

      2. Iro*

        I’ve heard arguments both ways (know what you want to do BEFORE you go to college, go to college to LEARN what you want to do). I tend to lean towards the go to college to learn what you want to do side of things, because you just have so much exposure in college.

        The debt issue is a very real one and I definitely think OP should be smart about that. Don’t just pick a college, attend the one that gives you the best financial package, spend some time looking for return to school grants, etc.

    2. Lizzy May*

      I agree with this completely. There are many great suggestions about work you can do above but most of it needs a degree. Like consulting for example where you can focus on one job for a while and when the challenge is over you get to move on. But m

      1. Lizzy May*

        Oops! As I was saying, you need the degree to do the challenging work. Plus is will be so much easier to ditch jobs off your resume once you have a new degree in a new field. Think seriously about what you want 10 years from now and make that your challenge, starting with school.

        1. Iro*

          Plus a lot of places are slapping college degree requirements on stuff just because they can.

          If you ever see a job description with degree required, but no specification as to which degree that is usually a good sign that it’s a job that historically never required degrees and probably doesn’t need a degree but requires it anyway.

    3. INTP*

      I agree with education as a way to turn things around, with the caveat that OP needs to be especially cognizant of choosing an employable degree or certification. (Not just the degree name but access to internships and hands on experience in the program.) And of course, the resulting opportunities need to be a personality fit. I think it will be more efficient than trying to build a suitable career from this point.

  30. Iro*

    *Iro can relate to you. For some reason part of the name is always cut off on my machine and the q looked like an a.

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      It may be due to the apostrophe in “can’t”? I remember there being some display problem or other with someone who had an apostrophe in their name…

  31. SBL*

    Hello, fellow INTJ! I know how you could be bored with minimum wage jobs. That is why you need to finish college so you can get a job where you have more challenging tasks. You need to think of ways to get through classes…Professors have a syllabus, and figure out how you can most efficiently get through that class.

    1. AVP*

      Seeking out the kind of school where you don’t get a lot of professor interaction might also be a plus here. Giant lecture hall with 200 people? You’ll never know if you get along with the professor or not!

      1. Anonsie*

        I get along with people just fine and I must say, moving from a small college to a massive state university with giant lecture halls where I was a faceless number to the professor was really great for my stress level.

  32. De Minimis*

    I’ve been in the same position as the OP, both back at that age and even more recently [my work history during my 30s was not much different than the OPs.] I don’t really want to get into the whys of the OP’s situation, but this is the best opportunity to correct it, while you’re still early in your working life. The longer it goes on, the harder it gets, and the more employers get confused about what you’ve been doing all this time, and decide to just move on to other applicants. Just find something you can live with, stay there a few years, then maybe think about some kind of job progression.

    I’m not a big people person, but I’ve been able to do okay at work even though it’s not always easy, so it is possible.

  33. soapbox*

    I have kind of A Thing about personality tests, but I would caution the OP not to put so much weight on the results of a test. Yes, they can give you helpful information about yourself, but you are a person, not a nice, neat outline that fits into one of however many categories. You are complex, and there is more to you than any test can say. Furthermore, it is difficult for tests like that to be objective, because when we answer the questions, it’s hard to separate who we ARE from who we wish we were.

    That being said, OP, I don’t think your personality is your problem. I think you need to learn to take who you are and reconcile that with the way society works. Everyone has character flaws, and all of us need to learn to harness them from time to time to get the things that we want in life. It can be somewhat grating to others when someone says, “Well, I’m XYZ, and that’s the way I am,” because it puts the burden on the rest of society to conform to what that person wants, rather than the individual taking responsibility for himself/herself. Taking responsibility for the things that happen in your life and acknowledging that sometimes things are your fault and not the fault of everyone else is just part of being a mature adult.

  34. Alis*

    I have adult ADD and successfully worked as a 911 operator/police dispatcher for ten years. Now I’m a teacher -reliability is crucial. However, teamwork is critical in many fast-paced jobs with constant daily variation. At some point, it can come down to respecting commitments, regardless of whether a task or job satisfies your need for change. This isn’t sustainable.

  35. NP*

    OP, have you identified what you DO find challenging? You said the longest job you held was at a security firm. Was there something about that job that was more challenging than the others? Are there other things in your daily life that you find challenging, like playing/learning new music, or fixing your car or computer? There are jobs in all of those fields (teaching music, sound mixing, mechanic, computer repair tech). Those are all jobs that require problem solving, and generally don’t require interaction with a lot of people. Maybe you enjoy mixing and making drinks…well, bartending is really challenging, especially on a busy night. What do you enjoy doing?

    As others have said, it’s a rare job that’s challenging all the time. In fact, it’s a little bit exhausting to be doing something challenging every single day, all day. It can also be really hard at 24 to figure out what to do. Heck, I’m several years past 24 and I’m still not really sure if my career is what I want to do.

  36. Tinker*

    Oyyyyyyy.

    One thing I’d throw in here is that I’ve seen this thing a lot (including around INTJ identity specifically) where folks who are not presently functioning very well in some essential area have a line about a) how they would be superstars were it not for the intervention of some factor that they view as extraneous and beneath them b) really the problem is that they are too good for this job and that job and that other job and in fact any job that might reasonably be available to them. In the case of INTJ identity especially, the line tends to go that they have an exceptional intellect and can easily grasp the intellectual aspect of a given job that is fairly high-level, that the intellectual aspect of said job is the only aspect that exists, and therefore that they would be superstars were it not for the unfairness of people who don’t recognize their value.

    This is not how it works.

    Not that INTJs aren’t quite good at presenting themselves as intensely analytical. It’s kind of what they do. The trick is that it’s a bit like that old joke about the chalk mark (5 cents for the chalk, $10,000 for knowing where to put it). In this case, having the intellectual capacity to solve (for instance) a given math problem is secondary to all the other work that gets you to the point of having it be relevant that you can solve the problem — things like having some sufficiently developed style (which can still be visibly introverted or odd) of social interaction so that people will listen to anything you say, or to have enough persistence regarding “routine” or “boring” activity (even if this calls for using various adaptations and tools to accommodate one’s working style) that you complete the necessary preparatory work and so that people can rely on you to get things done.

    The entire package — again, in some degree, which is often quite adaptable for individual variation — is needed, and failures in any area are still legitimate failures. Plus which, the other dirty secret is that there’s a difference between largely untrained intellectual potential and what may be the same level of intellectual ability after being honed by substantial challenges and informed by experience. It’s not a good assumption to think that raw intellectual ability is a thing that nobody has seen before — there are a lot of bright people out there.

    I do have some sympathy for this problem, having been the arrogant-as-hell former quiz bowl kid (although not, fortunately, an INTJ). So I don’t mean to be unkind. But you have to look at the whole reality, not just the bits that are flattering to you. You are what you do, and if what you have done is gotten yourself sacked from multiple staffing agencies, that’s what the totality of your skills at this time has earned you. If you want something different, you have to address your deficiencies just as much as someone who has not learned calculus must fix this if they hope to become an engineer.

    1. AnotherAnon*

      +1. I’m an INTJ, and I really appreciate that you’re blunt here!

      Also, while INTJ may be one’s natural tendency, I think a big part of personality development is learning how to adapt (if you’re following the MBTI system, then taking on E, S, F, and P traits as needed) and tolerate the stuff you don’t enjoy as much so that you can have the opportunity to work on what you do enjoy.

    2. Nichole*

      I dislike generalizations as a rule, but as a strong INTJ, one of the biggest barriers for me in advancing in the workplace was missing the boat on exactly this. As long as I saw myself as smarter than everyone else and powerless to make them see that my way is better, I was more frustrated and discontent than I had to be. Getting that out of my head and accepting that people above me have worthwhile knowledge and experiences, too, was a big help in getting into the right headspace to move forward. I still think I have meaningful things to contribute and I know the Man isn’t always right, but without that attitude adjustment allowing me to shut up and listen, I could easily be in the same boat as the OP.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have often thought, in order for people to see how smart a person is that person needs to tell people how smart THEY are. It seems that our appearance of intelligence goes up when we focus on OTHER people’s intelligence.

        “Oh, Jane so GETS me. Jane must be a smart woman!”

    3. MentalEngineer*

      I’m an INTJ, an academic, and am generally capable of functional human interaction. You nailed every aspect both of OP’s likely difficulty and the undeniable consequences. Watching people who believe that the only aspect of work is the problem in front of their noses is like watching a slow-motion train wreck. Even by their own hyperintellectualized standards, it’s a tremendous failure of foresight.

  37. SanguineAspect*

    The only think I have to add is that if you’re 24 (and you say you have 7-10 years of spotty work history), maybe you should cull your resume to only include work since you graduated high school. A narrower window of your job history might be slightly less off-putting for employers.

    All that said, I agree 110% with the posters above who say that if you want a challenging job down the road, you have to go back to school and knock that out of the park.

    I’ll also say this: I’m a project manager and I work with a lot of “individual contributors” (see: developers who work on their own a lot). These are people who work on their own doing challenging work, but they also need to work with their teammates and with me to get the job done. A former VP of Engineering I worked with said he didn’t want to hire “brilliant jerks,” meaning people who were INCREDIBLY smart/gifted, but were just horrible to work with. It might be worth it for you to step back and work on how you interact with others–both in positions of authority and your peers. Being someone no one wants to work with is a way to guarantee you’ll never be given enough responsibility or trust from your employer to actually challenge you–assuming anyone will hire you to begin with.

    1. EarlGrey*

      I like your point about brilliant jerks. There will likely be a hiring/promotion situation in your future where it comes down to “this smart, driven person who gets along well with others” and “this smart, driven person who doesn’t.”

      (See also: every post here about an annoying co-worker and how they affect one’s work. Being in tune with social norms enough to, say, turn down your music or not ask nosy questions isn’t just about being nice, it’s about productivity!)

    2. Ethyl*

      Yep, those brilliant jerks are only fun when you are watching them on a pretend, made-up tv show that doesn’t show the actual, real-world results of their actions (e.g., getting fired, arrested, etc.).

  38. Bobotron*

    I agree with a lot of what has been said here but I wanted to add something that has helped me get through jobs that aren’t as challenging as I’d like them to be: volunteering. I’ve been able to get some amazing experience at really cool places in my field. I’ve been allowed to do really challenging projects and put all of this on my resume. My jobs might not have always been fulfilling, but my volunteer experiences have made me feel like I was still working towards my dream job.

    1. MaryMary*

      Or in general, developing non-work interests that are challenging and engaging could help you get through work days doing menial tasks. I like that my work time and play time are separate. On good days I like my job, but I don’t love my job (this all goes back to the “dream job” fallacy). In some ways I think it can dull your passion if it becomes your job. What used to be fun is now *work*. Particularly when you’re young and starting out, take a job for consistency’s sake and for the paycheck, and find fulfillment in another area of your life.

  39. Anon Accountant*

    Are you interested in returning to college? Are you willing to talk to a counselor? There may be low cost options in your town. You may have to settle for a part-time minimum wage job for a while to build a work history again and get references from a manager or 2 there. Please don’t underestimate the references you can get from there. For example when I left my grocery store cashier job the store manager and cashier supervisor both were references for my first post-college professional job. Sure the minimum wage jobs aren’t challenging but they can help build a steady work history again.

    1. Natalie*

      It occurs to me that if OP does go back to college, a work study job might be a great opportunity. You can return to the same job each semester, giving you some experience with sticking it out, and if you get the right boss you might get some more direct mentorship in workplace mores.

  40. AB*

    I agree with the other INTJ commenters. Your personality type isn’t the reason for your inability to hold down a job. I’m an INTJ and I work in non-profits, where there’s a great deal of interacting with other people and often times I can’t move forward with my work without the input or contributions of other people. I absolutely hate it, but I love the kind of work that I do. In my particular situation/profession, the good projects I get to work on alone outweigh my personal distaste of working with other people/people in general. I think Alison did a great job addressing this question, but from an employer’s perspective: maybe you aren’t capable of the”challenging work” that you say you need to stay in a job long term. You didn’t complete a 4 year degree (for whatever reasons) and believe it or not– that’s going to be off-putting to potential employers because it shows a lack of commitment/ability to overcome a challenge. And, as a side note you said you didn’t work well with professors? I think the biggest challenge in life despite your academic or professional background is learning to deal with people you don’t get along with well. Not trying to be rude, but this coupled with a bad work history isn’t going to help your case any.

    1. Christian Troy*

      I had a similar opinion. I think OP needs to talk to a professional to get the root of her beliefs about work and herself. I don’t really know where these opinions or ideologies are coming from, but working with people you don’t like, doing a good job at things you don’t like doing, etc etc., are universal situations at any job.

  41. Artemesia*

    The thing you have going for you is that your are very young; this is a culture that does honor do-overs. I would think about two things: 1. Therapy and 2. a strategy for re-starting the clock.

    I am an INTJ and the last job I held was for 35 years; I don’t think that is your problem. But to get into a position with the kind of autonomy and big picture work that feels great means having something to offer that suggests you can contribute in this way.

    First you need to do some work on yourself and the behavior that has limited your options. Get tested for ADHD in case you have some of that going on. None of this is an excuse – ADHD or personality type or whatever — but it can help inform strategies for not being your own worst enemy.

    As to re-starting the clock. One way to do that is with a training or certificate or even degree program — it is common to start a job search in a new direction with a new training qualification and sometimes those programs help with placement. I know lots of people who went in new directions with masters degrees and the degree sort of drew a line that mitigated the effect of their earlier job history. I know someone who was working low paid chef type jobs and frustrated by the hard work and low pay in that industry who took a bootcamp course in web design and now has a stable well paid position with benefits where she has a good deal of creative autonomy.

    No one is going to hire an unreliable person with poor self discipline and impulse control for exciting challenging responsible positions. You have to pay your dues. And people need to know they can count on you. But if you can deal with your personal issues instead of dismissing them as inevitable given your MB category (a technology by the way that has very little research to back its validity) and do something to restart the clock forward like a new certification, you might begin to pay your dues in a career track that will eventually lead to the kind of work you would like to do.

    And even dream jobs, and I kind of had one with tremendous personal autonomy and control over my work life, are full of boring stuff. My dream job was great — but at least a third of my time was occupied with ‘peeling potatoes’ i.e. the detailed routine boring work that most jobs have a good deal of.

  42. Joey*

    the good thing is there probably are jobs out there for you right now. it’s just that they’re the jobs no one wants. The other good thing is if you can stick it out for a while in a crappy job it will say loads about how you’ve changed. Because when I see someone who has stuck with a crappy job far longer than most everyone else I know that person wont flinch at most minor job annoyances.

    The other thing that’s important to know is that most hiring managers wont feel a whole lot of sympathy for you right now in terms of hiring. Which means your best bets are going to be where they’re fairly desperate for low skilled workers and presenting yourself well in the interview can overcome a spotty work history.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      Piggybacking on the point about hiring managers not feeling sympathy: It is critical to remember that you aren’t owed employment. You are not entitled to have a job. Ever. No one has to hire you. I honestly think people forget this sometimes.

      OP, doing what you are doing is keeping you unemployed. If you don’t start doing something different, you may well just…remain unemployed. It’s not anyone else’s issue if you’ve created this massive problem of your own making and now it’s hard to find a job because of it. You also are now competing with people with similar skills without your inconsistent resume and without your excuses for why you should be allowed to just keep doing what you are doing. Given that no one is required to hire you, which person is more likely to get the call?

  43. Allison*

    What OP needs to do is do something to show that they’re willing to turn things around. Go back to school, even if it’s just community college, or check out the Job Corps program (last resort only, it can help turn people around but it’s no trip to the Bahamas). Volunteering could also help, especially if it’s volunteering for an non-profit or political campaign. Remember, actions speak louder than words, and if in an interview you feel compelled to say “I messed up when I was young, but I’m really trying hard to turn myself around,” they’re going to know what you’re doing to accomplish that.

    Job history is a lot like credit history. You need to start with the crappy cards (usually secured cards are all you can get) before lenders will give you the nifty cards with high limits and benefits, rewards or cash back, and if you mess up your credit, you’re gonna be limited (again) to the secured cards for a while.

  44. INTP*

    I’m a similar type (though pretty close to the middle on T/F which probably helps me here) and have some jumpiness in my history, though more trying different fields (I graduated at the worst of the recession and did what paid until I found something better).

    Here are two things that helped me, one more internal and one more external:
    1) You really need a long term goal. Then you form a strategy for getting there. On the tedious days it will help to think of showing up to work and performing well day after day as one of the challenging parts of executing your strategy. It’s more motivating to think “getting through today is about reaching the life I want” than “…earning $100.” If no particular career motivates you, think of other things you want in life and which professions might get you there, whether that’s material wealth or location independence or whatever.
    2) For external perceptions, when you’re battling a spotty work history, it helps to make an investment in that field to show your commitment and work as evidence that it won’t be just another short term thing. I went to grad school. If school (which can be trade, undergrad, etc) isn’t a possibility you can look into volunteering in your area.

    A couple more thoughts: I’d advise you to consider fields where you can serve as a specialist of some sort. These might require more education (doesn’t have to be a PhD, plumbers are specialists) but I think they’ll suit you better than administration, service, or people management. Remember no job is going to be extremely intellectually challenging on a daily basis unless you’re a top thinker in your field. It makes no logical sense to hire someone who will struggle with the work on a daily basis if someone with more experience can do it quickly. And you have to learn to get along with people. Think of it as a challenging system to figure out and work to your advantage if it helps.

  45. Joey*

    Alison,
    Thought you might want to know I was just redirected to the iPhone App Store to download Game of War.

      1. Natalie*

        Is there any possibility of switching back to your old network? I’m sure you had a good reason for the initial switch, but these new guys seem like a massive PITA.

    1. Anonsie*

      Boy I wish the developers knew how much their invasive ads all over the place are making me hate-refuse to play their freaking game.

      1. nona*

        Yay!!

        I haven’t had that recently, but it happened a few times a couple of weeks ago. Thank you for paying attention to this!

  46. Nichole*

    My brain screamed “external locus of control!” when I read this letter, too. The perfect situation hasn’t dropped in my lap, therefore I float around waiting for it while random stuff happens to dig me into a deeper hole, probably because of my personality type. Oh well.

    Good news, OP- as a strong INTJ (practically textbook), I assure you, this can get better. Many of the things you described I can relate to, I just approach them differently, so I have had different results. I hate working with groups-but I can still be a ‘team player’ by using my superior listening skills to feel out where my skills best fit into the project. I need to be challenged-so I make every task at hand an opportunity to shine. This quickly resulted in more autonomy at work, which I crave. My partner teases that I’m like Sheldon Cooper because “it’s a recognized social convention” is enough for me to understand why I have to do something. Accepting that my way is not the only way (even if it’s the best way…sigh) has gotten me through many frustrating work situations unscathed. It just takes practice, which you’re not giving yourself a chance to get. I say apply for jobs that you make sense for on paper and don’t completely hate the idea of instead of trying to nail down a dream job right out of the gate. Keep your eye on the prize, and a boring, menial job becomes an opportunity for you to get what you want down the line. Not everyone connects to their MB personality type, but using yours as an advantage to using your strengths and getting in front of your weaknesses rather than an explanation of why you “can’t” adapt to workplace expectations will go a long way in repairing your work history. You will have to do things you don’t want to, so take the good advice in this thread and Alison’s response to prep yourself to get through it. Eventually the good will outweigh the bad and you won’t feel so lost in workplace culture. I’m not that much older than you, you can do this, and it will make a difference more quickly than you think.

  47. AtrociousPink*

    My son could have written this letter 4 years ago, when he was the same age and had a virtually identical work history. Add to that no college and a GED. (Mom’s theory: very smart, great personality, but *extremely* late bloomer in the maturity dept.) He ended up in what looks from the outside like a pretty lousy, menial job, but lo and behold, it turned out to be the right industry for him. Working in a field that he found interesting and that his innate (and previously unknown) talents matched, and having employers who saw those talents and gave him room to expand on them (albeit without the matching pay), he has blossomed. Although he has no references from before this job, he has great ones from during it (owners let him use their vacation condo!). He’s been there 4 years now, so that might just prove to be enough to get him to that all-important next career step.

  48. Not a rocket scientist (but also an INTP)*

    The OP sounds a lot like my father, who has, as long as I’ve known him, had an enormous entitlement complex and a huge chip on his shoulder. He left one job after a mere two weeks, because the deaprtment’s IT staff didn’t set up his computer exactly to his liking. Dad has never, in sixty years of working (he’s nearing 80 now and refuses to retire because he’s terrified of being bored and unchallenged) held a job for more than about 2.5 years. He’s been miserable his whole life, and has made his entire family miserable too. He’s never felt respect or valued, and his quit in a fit of rage just as often as he’s been fired after pushing a boss too far with insubordination and blatant disrespect. My siblings and I are 24, 30, and 35, and we’ve all, even the youngest, surpassed Dad in years at one job and number of promotions, and this causes so much friction when we visit home because Dad is jealous.

    Please, OP, let this be a cautionary tale. Don’t be bitter and angry for the next sixty years. Don’t end up jealous at an angry at your own hypothetical future children. Please go talk to a therapist or a counselor or (if you swing that way) a religious authority figure, and do some serious self-examination.

    1. Artemesia*

      Sounds like my grandfather who built several successful small businesses and blew each of them up in fallings outs with partners that always left him on the outside looking in and starting over from scratch. He never got past it. It was always everybody else’s fault he wasn’t a success.

    2. AnonAcademic*

      My MIL had a similar work history as the OP, and her career only leveled out when she basically was running her own operation under an umbrella nonprofit (let’s say she ran the theater part of an arts nonprofit). As long as she could pick her staff and run things her way, she was fine. But any conflict with administration and whooo boy – WWIII. She was recently forced into retirement and won’t even tell us what the falling out with them was about (which means it’s something HUGE because she typically gloats about how confrontational she is).

      I should also mention that the most she ever earned was an entry level salary; any organization with room for her to grow was too hierarchical for her personality. She is just a bulldozer, it’s her best and worst quality. Her children all keep their distance from her because she’s just…a lot. If she had been willing to adapt to “societal norms” earlier she might have had a more stable career and better relationships…

    3. Not So NewReader*

      OP, I mentioned up-thread (buried somewhere) about the possibility of anger being the driving force here. And here are some good examples of what anger looks like.
      If you need more info, anger can cause some terrible health issues later in life. This is a saga that does not end, until the person carrying around the anger decides to set the anger to one side.
      Now is the time to double check on how you are doing, not when you are laying in ICU and wondering where your life went.

  49. Employment Lawyer*

    If you were an employer, would you hire yourself?

    I wouldn’t.

    The things you want are mutually contradictory. That is why you have been a bad employee. And that is why you will have to change, or remain in a set of dead end jobs.

    Almost all jobs are frequently boring, including those which provide a lot of challenges and interest. The vanishingly small subset of challenging work which is almost never boring is usually “future seeking” or “development” type of stuff, where you simply create your own goals continually: that is usually done in a team and/or worth the benefit of advanced degrees and/or after years of proven experience. And those jobs–like, say, “lead innovator for Google” or “head marketing thinkmeister”–are rare, highly competitive, and usually held by people who are better employees than you are.

    At heart, your post is almost a parody of entitlement. You seem to expect a job to give you what you want. You have entirely failed to recognize that you don’t get bargaining power until you give the employer what THEY want: attentiveness; dedication; experience; education; hard work irrespective of perfect jobs; and so on. And you seem to have a very poor sense of balance, objectively speaking.

    I agree with AAM’s approach, but I think it’s difficult to understate how far off base you are and I’m a bit less polite. You sound like a horrible employee; I wouldn’t give you a job if you offered to do it for free. If you want to rehabilitate yourself you should be prepared for a couple of years AT LEAST of seriously different behavior. And even after that you should adjust your expectations, because they are not realistic.

  50. Seal*

    Everyone I know who has an interesting, intellectually stimulating job that challenges them every day – myself included – started at the bottom and worked their way up. We had the entry-level jobs that bored us to tears. We worked for clueless managers who clearly knew less than we did. We put up with bullying coworkers who tried to sabotage our work because it made theirs look shoddy in comparison. But we put our heads down, sucked it up and got the job done. Our hard work and reliability was rewarded with increasing responsibilty and more challenging work. It’s called paying your dues, and every successful person I know has done it. Nothing was handed to us, it didn’t happen overnight, and our success didn’t come without sacrifice and setbacks. As a manager I’ve had employees like the OP and with increasing frustration watched them come and go. I’ve also had employees like the OP who’ve turned their work life around because a lightbulb suddenly turned on for them when they realized what it took to get ahead. OP – if your career goal is interesting, challenging work, you need to find a way turn on that lightbulb. No one else is going to do it for you.

    1. steve g*

      Not everyone pays their dues in the way you described here though. For example, no one every sabatoged my work to make themselves look better.

      Sometimes paying your dues can be enjoyable. My paying my dues at my first “real” corporate job wasn’t a negative experience – I worked lots of OT, and I hand delivered some stuff around the city, and I did a lot of the phone work people didn’t want to do….but I never felt bullied or sabatoged or any other negative emotion. Heck, part of paying my dues was becoming very advanced in excel in an office where people all were at an average level. Nothing bad about that at all!

      I don’t think that telling the OP that they HAVE to go through a boring and painful period at work is helpful – they don’t seem like they handle bullying, etc well. They are aware of that. So they need to find a job where there is a different definition of “paying your dues.”

      Don’t mean to single your comment out, I’m replying to all comments of the “suck it up and deal with it type” because I don’t think they’ll help this particular OP.

      1. Observer*

        If he can’t do that, he’s never going to succeed. True, not everyone gets bullied, harassed and sabotaged. But, everyone DOES have to pay their dues – you did too, but you had a reasonably good attitude about it. And that was a CHOICE that YOU made. Large chunks of undesirable work issues and lots of potentially boring tasks are pretty universal when you are starting out and “paying your dues.” The OP needs to understand that and accept that her attitude is the key differentiator between her and people like you.

        The problem for the OP is that at this point her options are far more contracted than typical for someone at this age, because of a really scary (from a reasonable employer’s point of view) work history and attitude towards work. So, she is going to have a far harder time of finding a job that plays to her skills and strengths.

        1. Seal*

          My point exactly. It all comes down to your attitude towards your job and work life in general. You may not have the job you want now, but how you approach the job you have will determine which jobs you get in the future.

      2. Mel*

        But the fact is that if OP wants to do something challenging and exciting, they DO have to pay their dues. Everyone has to work their way up into something that fits for them. I have had to do plenty of jobs I didn’t like to get where I am (albeit I have a crazy boss, as mentioned on Friday) but still, you stick with it, knowing that you have an end game in mind.

      3. I'm a Little Teapot*

        +1000. In my experience, “paying your dues” and “taking abuse” are different things, and the latter doesn’t get you anywhere except deeper in a miserable hole. Every job has its downside, but you’ll never succeed in a truly horrible job.

  51. Ed*

    Aside from the job-hopping/work history issues, OP is sunk if his interviews are anything like this letter. If you tell me your past positions were not challenging enough (and I’m assuming my open position is similar to those), why in the world would I think for a second you’re going to like working for me? It’s like the interviewee that runs down the list of their previous jobs and how much of a jerk each manager was. My natural instinct is they will also think I’m a jerk when things don’t go their way (because the issue is *them*, not the jobs or managers).

    But, as AAM said, you’re not doomed at 24. You have plenty of time to turn it around if you work at it. I honestly think anyone at any age can change but you have to first admit you have an issue and that it is within your power to change it. Based on OP’s letter, that could be a major stumbling block.

  52. steve g*

    I was so you in my twenties! I think it was because I had lower level lower pay jobs, and the more lower level they were, the more I felt treated like crap. There are just a lot of bad managers in low wage jobs.

    I would avoid super small and family businesses if I were you. Both are run on the sometime irrational, sometimes extremely selfish whims of very few people, and favoritism is acceptable. Believe me. I’ve been through a couple of jobs at them and while I was totally justified in quitting, it still comes up in interviews.

    I would recommend either working in a newly created position or at a startup. This way, you don’t have to wait months for a more senior staff member to be “nice enough” to give you more work. A newly created position can be really hard though for the first few months, you’ll eventually get lots of responsibility but you sometimes have to wait til problems happen that create the new work. Same for a startup, though the ramping up speed at startups is much quicker.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      ^ But if you’re not a people person like the OP, the culture of start ups can be a real issue. Many, many startups are extremely team oriented and have a lot of “forced fun” events. For the OP, I could very easily see him ditching those pseudo-mandatory events and that wouldn’t reflect well on him.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Your first two paragraphs are spot on. I considered mentioning very small businesses above as something to avoid; American culture heavily romanticizes and idealizes them, but many of them are godawful (tyrannical bosses and illegal pay practices).

  53. voluptuousfire*

    Here’s another question for the OP: are you taking the approach of applying to anything and taking what you can get? I’m curious because that may explain part of your pattern: get a job, job gets boring or doesn’t challenge you in a way you like, you quit abruptly and burn a bridge.

    If that’s true, then I would potentially read this as low self-confidence. To me it reads as leaving them before they leave you. They’re essentially preempting what the OP deems an inevitability: losing the job due to their perceived personality issues.

    All I can say is that I wish the OP good luck.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Really good point, I hope OP sees this. Put yourself in places where you use your natural abilities. I worked for a nursery for years, I love plants. It never would have crossed my mind to work at an automotive store. I have no interest in cars and no plan on learning.

    2. I'm a Little Teapot*

      That’s a really great suggestion. That’s what I did in my twenties for a while – partly because my options were very limited geographically – and taking absolutely anything means you’ll probably get something awful that you’ll hate. And people are seldom good at things they hate to do.

  54. Natalie*

    A few people have suggested skilled blue collar work for the OP, and I have a comment on that:

    OP, don’t think that going into the skilled trades means you won’t need to change anything about your approach to life and other people. There’s a bit of a stereotype that blue collar jobs will tolerate most any sort of personality, but it’s not true. I’ve known more than one person fired from plumbing or electrical jobs because they couldn’t get along with their co-workers. There may be more swearing and sex jokes than the typical office, but that doesn’t mean it’s a world without social mores that you largely need to conform to.

    In many trades, you will be frequently working with others, whether as part of a shop or under a general contractor. If you open your own shop, you’ll be working with clients a lot, and even if you work under someone else you will often be working around clients. And most critically given what you’ve reported, the first 3-10 years in the trades involves *a lot* of scut work.

    I think it’s very kind to suggest fields the OP might be interested. However, OP, none of those fields is going to be a a substitute for addressing your actual problems interacting with the world. I would bet money you would have a more satisfying career if you did some counseling or other personal work and then worked your way up the totem pole at Walgreen’s or something, than if you change nothing and get a degree in whatever the most profitable field of all time is.

    1. Liane*

      Echoing the need for people skills in the trades. From the 50s to the late 70s, my dad owned his own small painting & carpentry firm, working on everything from home remodels to small apartment complexes. He had a full crew working for him most of the time. He did not tolerate rude or very crude behavior. And my Dad, himself, had very good people skills. He needed them, because he was the one who went out and did the estimates and got the contracts. He also had to deal with his suppliers, usually in person as well, and employees, and a few of those relationships became long friendships.

    2. TOC*

      I think people are suggesting the trades because it’s a way to (eventually) do interesting, challenging work without needing a college degree. It’s a great option for many people. But as you and others have pointed out, there’s no job out there that won’t require the ability to get along with coworkers, tolerate some boring tasks, and be patient when things aren’t perfect.

  55. HR Manager*

    Kudos to you for recognizing there is a problem, but as others have stated your proposed solution is to find a magical job that will insert perfectly to your “profile” and therefore requiring you to do little to go outside of your comfort zone. That’s the exact opposite of what you should be doing.

    The whole purpose of the MBTI is to provide you with insight into your strengths and weaknesses based on your preferences. You don’t take that type to explain away why you do things – you take that type and put in the energy into the areas you know you’re not naturally suited to do well. That is — you compensate for them in some way (more training, more practice, etc.). Unfortunately, I see very little effort in your description to want to work to overcome those challenges. Your solutions seem to be to avoid and quit. You will not gain anything by avoiding your problem areas.

    Suck it up and pay your dues. Get a job and learn how to deal with the not so great part of your daily tasks, and demonstrate you can still get them done, that you can show up and be reliable, and not flake out and leave when things get rough (or “boring’). Only then — when you’ve established a clear history of being able to handle these simple things, would I or any other hiring manager have confidence you can handle more. If you can’t even do a simple thing (or mind-numbing thing) well and reliably, there is no way in hell I would ever entrust anything important and meaningful to you. That’s the way it goes.

    1. Jen S. 2.0*

      “You will not gain anything by avoiding your problem areas”…ESPECIALLY when those problem areas are elements of almost every single job on the planet.

      “I don’t want to be bored for a single second” and “I don’t want to have to deal with humans” and “I want challenges designed precisely for my preferences” and “I want everyone to overlook my unstable history” are going to be issues at every single job, especially those for which the OP likely is qualified.

  56. Turning Things Around*

    I can identify with OP’s current situation quite a lot. I suffered from undiagnosed depression for several years while working at a PhD, and it basically torpedoed all the contacts/networking/*good* work I had done in undergrad, and left me with an unhappy advisor and no one to reach out to for help. Thankfully my parents were very supportive and helped me get the therapy & medication I need, but it’s been an uphill battle trying to get a job without real-world experience, references, and with a failed degree.

    Alison did a great job addressing what they need to fix their problems going forward. For OP, I think they should definitely consider therapy/counselling in case it is an undiagnosed mental health problem like mine was.

    But I wonder if anyone here can offer advice on turning things around after your problems are under control? Because it honestly feels like it’s hard to get past first impressions with a bad resume, and that’s not even getting into the worries of bad & outdated references. I’ve started one volunteer job, which is actually taking up a surprising amount of time other than job hunting, and I’m beginning to wonder what other options I have for rebuilding my network & gaining more references without biting off more work than I can chew.

    1. fposte*

      Good for you for working through all that! That being said, it feels like it’s hard because it is hard. That’s why we’re encouraging the OP so strongly to find a way to change–what people have done is the best predictor hiring managers have of what they will do.

      I think you’re on the right track with volunteering, but I’d like to hear more about what you’re doing on the networking front. Have you actually talked to any of the people you knew in undergrad or grad about what was going on with you, for instance? I think that’s quite likely worth doing, and I also think it might end up making you feel better about your relationship with them. They also almost certainly want you to do well and may be useful people in your network, but you have to reach out to them to make that happen. (Unless you’re looking for academic work, it’s not likely hiring managers are going to reach out to doc advisors without your permission, so I wouldn’t worry about a bad reference coming up unexpectedly.)

      1. Turning Things Around*

        I have reached out to some former professors, and it’s been discouraging. They were neutral-positive, saying they would *hesitantly* give references, but said that it’s been really long and strongly hinted they would prefer I find more recent references. It’s tough because I spent way too long struggling in my PhD program, so my undergrad professors are almost 7-8+ years back, and even my graduate professors don’t really remember me either since I spent the last few years isolated and only working (and failing) on my thesis.

        Now I’m actually feeling enough energy to wake up each morning and wanting to start over and prove myself, but the trouble is finding someone willing to give me a chance to begin with! Yesterday I got rejected for a volunteer position, so that definitely didn’t help my self-confidence any. I’m working now on a small coding project and hope to put up a website, which maybe will help me get some web design volunteering positions, but it’s been rough being unemployed for so long recovering from depression and knowing that I have to tough it out longer in unpaid positions until I have enough of a portfolio or work experience to undo the bad.

        1. fposte*

          Yes, 7-8 years is a long time for a professorly recommendation, but you work with what you’ve got. And that also means telling all your friends and family that you’re looking for work, and if you have a specific idea of where you’re trying to go asking if they know anybody you can talk to in the field.

        2. TOC*

          It might be worthwhile to reach out to other university contacts and NOT ask for a reference. Instead, just send them a note letting them know you’re doing much better now (anyone would be glad to hear that) and maybe asking if they are able to get together for coffee and/or give you some tips about getting into the working world (assuming your field of study is related to the field in which you’d like to find work). You might have more success with that approach. Congratulations on all of the hard work you’ve put in to get to this place.

    2. soitgoes*

      I think returning to school and perhaps getting a good on-campus job or a long-term internship would be a good way to push the reset button on OP’s resume.

  57. Another INTJ*

    I am 26 and an INTJ, as well. Allison is correct, it’s not about your personality type. The underlying problem here seems to be entitlement.

    Look, OP – Unless you are in an exceptional situation (or going into business for yourself, or in a highly specialized field), I highly doubt you will get your dream position right away, especially given your current resume. Most people need to ‘pay their dues’, as the saying goes and forget their entitlement and pride – and do what’s needed in whatever job you are in. Entitlement is a big issue, it seems, with younger generations – so, you aren’t alone. You actually need to prove your worth to an employer and work hard to move up the ladder. It’s not always ideal, but having a job is a privilege and not a right.

    I don’t intend to sound harsh here, but the reality is that the OP needs to change his/her behavior.
    Good luck and I hope the comments here assist in the OP’s issue and perspective.

    1. Another INTJ*

      And OP – you can be a team player, if you make the effort. Sometimes you need to do things in a job that you don’t want to do. Sorry – but that’s how it is.

  58. librariana*

    My husband is an INTJ, and he is a professor for his day job, but he also creates open source software. He taught himself to program, and does this for fun, with the hope of making a little side money doing freelance work someday.

    I don’t know if the OP is interested in working with computers, but freelance programming is something where you work by yourself that could be challenging and interesting, and there are certificate programs for various applications and languages that can be earned pretty fast. On the other hand, you have to show that you have done good work, such as having an open source project to show people, and that takes time.

    All that being said, if the OP does not have internal motivation, no job will ever work out. I have my “dream” job, but there are some days I really just want to go home. But I stick with it because that is part of the job. My husband likes teaching most of the time, but he really dislikes the lower level gen ed class. However, he also knows that is part of the job. It is all part of being a good employee and successful adult.

  59. Ruth (UK)*

    There are times when I think it’s appropriate to leave a job/industry (even with nothing lined up) because sometimes a person just needs to get out of there.

    But OP, in this one you really need to stick around with something for a bit, even if it’s not to your liking. It may help to try and find something challenging in a job, or search for something you might like about it.

    One thing you can try to find in a job of any type, is coworkers you get on with. An advantage to unskilled jobs (I hesitate to use the word ‘easy’ as they are often FAR from easy [production line and retail background]) is that while they’re hard work, they’re often not high-brain-concentration and you can often develop awesome relationships (not in the dating sense!) with your coworkers and a lot of places won’t have an issue with ongoing light conversation/banter as long as it doesn’t impact production.

    Another thing I found helpful to passing the time was to sing. I know that sounds nuts but seriously, I sung to myself a lot in some previous jobs. Over the sound of machinery/equipment, I could sing at pretty much a normal, but non-projecting volume and only a person right next to me would be able to hear. I also made up a lot of rhymes/songs – so you can find a challenge outside of the work itself. Or maybe I am just nuts.

    A funny comic I once saw (forgot where) made a joke about a person asking another unskilled labourer if they found their job ‘challenging’ and they replied they did, but only to their patience.

    But in searching for a challenge, you can make it a long-term challenge. The challenge is to work your way up to something, and you can find your own challenges throughout the day.

    It may also help to have different and interesting hobbies outside of work if you have the time, etc, so your life doesn’t become consumed with a job that you dislike.

    And (sorry I’m rambling on now) but it is well worth it to be at least polite to people you dislike. I had a manager I HATED at one jobs and was careful to try and make sure she or no one knew. I always made neutral comments about her if she came up in conversation. On my last shift, she hugged me and said I could always contact her for a reference. I was shocked as hell (she was pretty bullying) but it’s turned out greatly in my favour.

    Get rid of pre-conceptions about certain jobs being boring (or even below what you think you’re capable of etc) and you might be surprised that they are often not as bad as you might think. And also, good luck!

  60. dustyblue6*

    OP, it might be a good idea to also search out an employment counselor, one that can work with you in coping with impulse control, strategies for career development and assist with training into a new industry. One way to find one is searching in your area for non profit employment agencies, such as a Goodwill or Goodwill/Easter Seals that provide workforce development programs, or visiting your local jobs center/unemployment office. Also, another way as a compliment to working with a career counselor is visiting http://www.iseek.org. You can assess yourself and the results will give you industries and positions that fit your personality. I’m also a person that needs challenges, and have found that developing a career plan based on knowing where you’re most likely to grow is a satisfying challenge within itself. Good Luck!

  61. soitgoes*

    I’m in agreement with pretty much everyone else here. I don’t want to pile on the OP, but the specific attitude of “I’m too smart for the jobs that are available to me” really needs to be backed up with a college degree. The bit about “not getting along with professors” struck me. What interactions were really happening? I can remember not liking a lot of my professors, but “getting along with them” implies that somewhere along the line there were confrontations. This can happen occasionally once you get deep into your major and are working closely with advisors, or once in a blue moon when you have a professor whose manner is throwing a wrench in your ability to get good grades (we all had that one history prof who took points of for “bad grammar” when actually he was the one who couldn’t write properly), but to drop out of school over it? You can’t give up on your fundamentals because you’re bored and you think you’re better than the people who might actually need to do that formative legwork. Because you know what? At the end of the day, they’re the ones earning degrees and landing good jobs.

    Another benefit of going back to college is that it provides a buffer in your work timeline. If you’ve just graduated, employers are a little more lenient about overlooking iffy job histories. Plus, finishing college shows that you’re capable of committing to something for a few years and following through.

    This letter shows why work/life balance is so important. Being able to find some sort of purpose in life through your job is a luxury that most of us do not have. Sure, we learn to like certain aspects of our work, or we derive pride from working within our industries as a whole, but our identities come from the things we do by choice. If you’re bailing on jobs because they don’t cater to you as a person….that’s an attitude you need to get rid of immediately.

    1. Iro*

      Ah yes. The “Bad Grammer” prof. In my case it was a TA, who was mad at me for politely correcting her during a lab. From then on I typically got anywhere from 10 – 20 points off per lab or essay for “awkard” sentances. :/

      What really burned my britches on this was the one time that I was the only person in the lab to follow directions. She announced later that the lab was suppose to be completed this way and I remember thinking in my head “Yes. Finally I will get the A I deserve on one of these labs.” Nope. I got a 60. Ten points off for each instance that I capitalized chicken which was written four times. Everyone else who did the lab incorrectly? 90s.

      1. soitgoes*

        Ugh yes, I had a professor who would mark points off for run-on sentences (my sentences were long, but were technically correct, with clauses and conjunctions and whatnot). I had to take every single paper to the writing center and have the instructors verify that my writing was fine. This professor and I adamantly did not get along, but I didn’t drop out of school over it. In fact, I felt pretty good when this dude gave me (begrudgingly, I’m sure) an A-. I wouldn’t hinder my life and career options by not earning the certifications and degrees I needed to move up in the world…just because I didn’t like a professor.

  62. Blue_eyes*

    Alison – I’m getting ads on my iPhone that redirect me to the App Store to download Lyft. I don’t even see any kind of ad, it just suddenly switch some to the App Store. Happened twice in about 3 minutes just now.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, thank you. I’m working with my ad network on it. Also, for anyone else seeing this, I know the redirects are an issue and am desperately trying to resolve it (so no need to keep reporting them).

  63. Golden Yeti*

    I agree with a lot of what is stated above, so I’ll try to not repeat it too much.

    OP, one point I wanted to make is that all those big, challenging jobs/projects you are looking are also made up of a lot of minutiae. Probably even boring minutiae. I say this to reiterate that those smaller things that bore you now will not magically go away later. Even if you get a huge promotion and have an assistant to do those things, you still would have to figure out what needs to be done so you could ask the assistant to work on it.

    From my perspective, it seems that you struggle with sticking to something and seeing it through, whether that’s sticking with the team around you or sticking to the “boring task” at hand. Somehow you need to figure out why that is, and find something to help you stay the course. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a bad reputation, and you definitely don’t want to have to wrestle with that for the rest of your career.

  64. Mel*

    Sadly, a lot of people this age have this problem as they are told Millennials will hop around to find the job they want, but they aren’t told that this is not a good strategy. Everyone makes mistakes though, so if OP can find a job and just tough it out for a few years, it should be enough for most employers to write it off as being young. What concerns me here is the pattern of burning bridges. It’s not just leaving, but it’s leaving on bad terms. You can’t blame that on personality types. The bottom line is you make a choice to burn bridges or not. Some extreme circumstances can happen (I just stopped showing up to work at Vector when I realized it was a scam- but I don’t even put that on my resume), but even if you could not stand your job, you should always be the “better” person and do what you can to leave on good terms. I was fired from a company once after 1 very long month (they had me working over 50 hours a week without breaks and never trained me properly, but I was too stubborn to quit and ended up making a huge mistake) but still had a good reference from my boss there who told me she could tell I had a great work ethic, but this particular position just wasn’t the right fit for my skill set, which was absolutely true. So if I can get a positive reference from a place I was fired from, really there’s no excuse to burn bridges from a place you voluntarily leave. My advice, stop blaming companies for your shortfalls and you’ll do much better. From reading the letter, I get the impression that OP wants a job they are far from qualified for. Get an entry level job and gain experience and patience.

    1. Iro*

      “Sadly, a lot of people this age have this problem as they are told Millennials will hop around to find the job they want, but they aren’t told that this is not a good strategy.”

      Wha? What? I’m a millenial and have never been told this. While we are more likely to leave after a few years and aren’t corporate lifers who stay at companies for 30+ years (due to a variety of economic incentives) I don’t think that’s the same as job hopping.

      1. JAL*

        Someone in the career center at my college told me I’m going to have at least 16 different careers in my lifetime because that’s standard for people my age. That gave me anxiety, because I’m someone who craves stability when it comes to my job.

          1. JAL*

            They’re the same people who pretty much laughed at me when I responded to them that I wouldn’t have to worry about that because I’m likely going for a civil service position. I don’t weigh much of the “professional” advice dating back to before reading this blog.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ha! Ten years ago I read 3 to 4 careers. 16? What is that- a new career every 3 years until you retire?
          I would like to know how they define the word career.

          1. UK Nerd*

            It could be plausible if they define it as ‘job’. I’ve had at least 13 jobs. Most of them were temp jobs I did for some extra cash in the summer holidays. I’ve only ever had one career.

  65. Anonsie*

    The LW may or may not be interested in this, but I know several people who’ve had similar issues and said David Wong’s 6 Harsh Truths article (which is on Cracked, don’t judge me, David Wong is awesome) was really inspirational to them when we were struggling as recent grads in the height of the recession. You might also find it useful in helping shift your mindset to a productive one.

  66. Amber Rose*

    … What constitutes a long term job?

    I agree with the majority that OP needs an attitude adjustment like whoah. I have worked so many terrible jobs because it was necessary and the kind of work ethic OP is talking about makes me so furious I can’t come up with anything reasonable to say to them as far as advice goes. But I’m 27 and my job record is similar, except with my only gaps being for school and the year I took off when I lost some family members (funerals and job searches don’t mix). The longest I’ve held a job is just under 2 years. I switch when I get bored or want more money. I don’t think it’s automatically bad to jump around… though if you do, you probably need good references and the right skill set to justify it.

    Oh, I guess I have some advice: challenge lies in perspective. My first job was folding boxes at a pizza place. 6 hours of nothing but box folding. I amused myself by racing the clock, setting ridiculous goals and seeing how close I could get, and on slow days, challenging coworkers to race me. It was boring work, but a fun job. Because I forced it to be fun.

    1. PurpleMonkeyDishwasher*

      I think, early in your career, “long term” can be anything over a year, but – and here’s the crucial “but” – it only works if your moves look intentional. Let’s say your degree is in Chocolate Teapots (subspecialty, White Chocolate Teapots). Going from eight months of pizza box folding to ten months of pizza box assistant-managing to a year as a Junior Accounts Coordinator at Chocolate Teapots Co. to two years as Accounts Coordinator for White Chocolate Teapots Co. is a progression that makes sense – you’re developing skills, getting progressively more responsibility, and moving closer to your long-term goal of working in White Chocolate Teapots. That, to me, reads fundamentally differently than what LW is describing, which is basically just a series of short-term gigs, possibly unrelated, at which LW hasn’t been a particularly good employee and from which LW has (at least some of the time) parted on bad terms.

      To me, it’s not jumping around, on its own, that’s soooo red-flaggy, it’s the jumping around laterally + self-inflicted employment gaps + lukewarm and/or not great references combined that seems to be setting LW up for a difficult job search.

    2. TOC*

      Switching jobs as part of a career progression is normal. But there’s a difference between positive changes (moving to further your career, it’s a step forward, it makes you a more desirable employee) and negative changes (being unfocused or impatient, not handling stress well, starts to create a poor job history). It’s important to be conscious about whether all of those job changes make you look better or worse to future employers. For someone like OP whose resume doesn’t show any kind of career path or progression, jumping around looks negative.

  67. Mena*

    How do you support yourself today? If you are dependent on someone else (parents?), might you want that to stop? And is independence enough of a motivator to remain focused and work? I think we’ve all had jobs we didn’t like. College was a means to an end in some respects (a degree and a shot at a better job). You can’t change your future if you don’t change your today (and quitting … college, jobs) is just prolonging the situation you are in today. There are jobs out there working for reasonable people that will enable you to pay your bills. They may not be intellectually stimulating at all times, but that is why it is called work and you are paid to be there.
    This isn’t a resume ‘fix’ that will get you that rocket science job you’re boredly awaiting. You need to stick with something (college or a job) long enough to achieve something; it is up to you to make the experience meaningful.

  68. Ruth*

    INTJ here. Even your generation, though a few years older. And somehow, I’ve only once actually quit a job because it was too boring/etc.–and that with two weeks notice, a reference, and a part-time job lined up with an interview lined up for a second part-time job (and the job really was awful, sometimes you get those and you work on finding your way out–you’re so much more appealing anyway while employed). Agree with the other people who’ve said it’s a great way to understand potential flaws and strengths, not something you just say “well, I’m an INTJ so I can’t help it!”

    Things that have worked for me:

    1) Additional projects. Yes, work is 40 hours/week. That leaves you nights and weekends to do stuff. If you’re as challenge-oriented as you say you are, create challenges for yourself! I’ve done a ton of things in my free time. I’ve run side-businesses. I’ve done crafts. I’ve created complex websites (and taught myself all the skills to do so, itself a project). What do you want to do with your life? What are you passionate about? Or what makes you happy even if it’s not a long-term thing. Do that nights/weekends. Either fulfill yourself in the short-term or prepare yourself for a fulfilling job.

    2) Reorient your goals. You have royally screwed up. You know what’s a challenging goal for you right now? Getting your work history straight. Seriously, that is clearly a challenge for you and when you’re feeling bored in a meeting or tired or whatever, you need to stop and think about it and say “ok, this is clearly a challenging goal for me,” and get back into it.

    3) Really, really, additional projects. Figure out what it takes to make your life fulfilling outside of work. Do projects, do whatever else you need to do to make yourself happy.

    What makes me sad is that someone in your life should have said something before this, especially if you expressed it as “well, I’m an INTJ, whatcha gonna do?!” Whoever’s been enabling this needs to cut it out. I know it’s harsh, but an important part of growing up is, well, growing up. It’s hard at times, it’s sucky, it requires doing things you don’t want to do.

    Adulthood can be awesome, too. But it’s on you to make it awesome, not the people around you. Life, jobs, etc. don’t exist to fulfill you. You fulfill yourself, and making your life miserable by screwing up your employment history is not going to make you happy in any part of your life. Eventually, you may find the perfect job. Make yourself the kind of candidate that they’ll give it to first.

    1. Steve G*

      +1!!

      Constructive advice…I do foreign language learning and insanity fitness classes on the side, and I envy your drive to learn programming language, one of those would really help my resume right now:-).

  69. KT*

    I have bipolar disorder. When I was younger and misdiagnosed, I could’ve written this letter. I couldn’t handle traditional work or hierarchy.

    But alas, I had no one to help me, so I had to pay my own bills.

    What worked for me, and what might work for the OP, is micro-jobs. Or instead of one job, 5 or 6 gigs. All at one-time, I was a writer, personal assistant, dog walker, data entry person, appointment setter, and house cleaner (freelance writing and dog walking were my bread and butter, but the others were great supplemental income). During the holidays, I would get work at department stores for 6 weeks doing gift-wrapping. I found jobs in the classifieds or on Craigslist, and eventually started websites for each side gig. I wasn’t making 6 figures, but I was pulling in $40,000+ a year, pretty solid for a 20-something who couldn’t stand a 9-5.

    Taxes were a pain, but otherwise, it was great for me. Every day was different, so I never got bored. And since most were short term, I never had conflicts with people or teamwork.

    My health is in a better place now, and my focus is much-better, so now I write full-time rather than juggling a dozen different gigs. But I still just work for me!

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I’m pretty amazed that you were able to make that work….but, OP, if you can figure out a way to freelance, that sounds like it would be good for you. Challenging, varied, and solitary.

      My freelance writing unfortunately hasn’t pulled in much money yet, but it’s been an enormous boost to my self-image. I’m Little Teapot, Writer (with a small part-time permanent day job and various temp assignments) rather than Little Teapot, Crappy Temp.

  70. whyblue*

    1. Recognize that there is no magic fix. No magic sentence to put in your cover letter. No magic explanation to give in an interview. You got yourself into a mess and the only way out is hard work.

    2. Challenge yourself. Be faster, more accurate, more efficient than any of your co-workers (and in many cases, if you are honest with yourself, that is going to be quite the challenge, no matter how menial or tedious the task). Try to understand every detail of your work – not just how to do it but why to do it that way and the impact it has in the great scheme of things. Become the go-to person who can answer the difficult questions and fix all the problems. Figure out the shortcuts to doing things better and more efficiently, work on them until they are perfect and foolproof and then try to sell them to your manager (and if you are discovering one per day, they are probably not that great). Every job I’ve ever had had room for improvement. Many people never look beyond the surface of what they do. Once you prove that you are great at your job and really know what you are talking about, many managers will give you a little leeway (but proving yourself will probably take more than 3 months…)

  71. Chriama*

    Hello OP! I have 2 questions for you:

    1) Do you believe you have control over your life? You’ve described a lot of unfortunate circumstances around work and school, and why you think things happened the way they did. However, do you honestly believe that if you acted differently, your circumstances would have been different?

    2) What do you want? What would your ideal life (job, hobbies, relationships) look like?

    Right now, it sounds like you don’t know the answer to either question. You recognize the challenges you’ve had in the past, but not the role your behaviour (rather than your circumstances) had in influencing those situations. You mention that you get bored if not presented with a daily challenge, but don’t describe what type of challenge you need, just “something that I find challenging”.

    Anyway, I’m going to echo the advice of wiser commenters and recommend therapy. However, those are the specific issues I would recommend looking at. Find a way to gain control over your life. Figure out what exactly you want from life.

    I wish you all the best.

  72. Annika Potato*

    Get to a therapist/doctor asap! This reads like ADD – this spotty a work history is not typical. Please get help.

  73. Puddin*

    Find the challenge in your make – make one if you have to. This will be perceived as taking initiative, for the most part, by managers. Do the extra work to make the tedium more interesting or at least more challenging. You will be paying your dues, proving your worth, being proactive, and this will enable you to move forward. We all have to do this to get where we want to be.

    Good Luck!

  74. Casey*

    Thank all that responded to my question. I have found out more about myself than ever reading a Myers-Briggs type assessment. As much as it pains me, I have been denying myself repair for a long time. I understand that I have a serious communication problem (and it doesn’t help knowing that I’ve known this since Kindergarten). I think I lack the resolve and willpower to face these “fears” and find myself blaming outside sources for my failures. I do need to speak with a counselor/therapist, and would be interested in a psych examination due to so many of the beginning posts dealing in ADD, ADHD, depression, stress, and other mental illnesses. I find it somewhat alleviating because I always thought I may have social anxiety disorders or bipolar, but never had the support or funds to go see a professional.

    I’d like to take road ‘A’ by the way …
    I thoroughly enjoyed poster’s comment about work not being completely fulfilling, that I should perhaps find an outdoor (out of work) activity that challenges me; and like to blend that with the commenter who posted about being in the newer nontraditional thinking “work should be fulfilling, meaningful, etc.” I do understand that most work isn’t fulfilling, but I guess, relay a sense of misunderstanding or egotism.
    I find it hard to work due to my many interests; ever since being denied from my dream job, the US military. I love science, math, art, education, machines, and anything I can build or construct, even ideas. Recently I think I’ve taken on too many interests and values within those interests – trying to fulfill every value in every interest all in one job position.

    I’d love to clarify with more commentators – so watch for any posts and updates. Thank you all again!
    Sincerely, Casey

    (PS. it’s stuck in my head … I am a male)

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Did you try all the military services (Air Force, Navy, Army, Marine Corps, Coast Guard)? Did they tell you what you’d need to do to qualify? What about something in law enforcement or defense contracting?

      1. OP - Casey*

        I spoke to all branches – same from all unfortunately. I thought about law, etc. I have done security work and thrived for a while, but it was very very boring. Um, it’s a bit humorous, but I was looking for an infantry position – despite my brains, I really loved all the perks of being a “ground-hog.” Despite being in ROTC and doing training on an Air Base, I still did not qualify. I wish someone would have told me sooner what I couldn’t have on my “juvy” record.

        Thank you

        Can’t seem to get that out enough!

    2. BRR*

      You seem very optimistic and enthusiastic in your responses. You have also taken the steps to ask for help and have responded very well to a lot of comments. It’s going to take work but you seem very determined and I believe you can achieve your goals.

      I know you have a ton to process and to decide your next actions but I identify with some of your situations and want to offer one more bit of unsolicited advice:

      I also have many interests which made it difficult to figure out what I want to do as a career. Even with multiple interested there are some things I cannot fathom doing 40 hours a week. I like to cook but would hate being a chef. I like interior design but not really going to happen. I was big into music but eventually realized I didn’t even want that as a career (even with a masters in it). I very luckily stumbled into what I love but not everything you have an interest in is a good match for a career.

      tl:dr Some of your interests are good for hobbies and some are good for careers

    3. Elysian*

      Casey: Thank you for writing in to Alison. There are so many people in the world that float through and blame every else for their misfortune, but the fact that you’re writing in to try to get advice about how to fix things puts you much further ahead than you probably realize. It sounds like you know that you might have “miles to go” so to speak, but the fact that you’re open to other peoples’ ideas and have taken at least one step to try and change (writing here!) speaks volumes about your potential. I sincerely wish you the best as you try to sort things out.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        This.

        Casey, for all the things you list off as wrong about you, I MUST say you are remarkable in your self-assessment and your receptiveness to other people’s idea. You actually excel at these things. And for someone who does not like people, you seem like a very nice person.

        I think you ought to start a list of “what is right about Casey”. I mean stuff that you can actually be proud at core level.

    4. Sarah*

      Fellow INTJ here, and I have good news: You probably are good at problem solving and strategy. I don’t mean you should seek out a job where someone will pay you to solve problems or “do strategy”. I mean, you should leverage/develop those skills and apply them to the problem at hand. What are the various options you have, the pros/cons? If you do one thing, what might happen?? If you decide you want to pursue a career in engineering (for example), how difficult would it be to pay back the student loan/grant? Could you get a job you hate and keep focused on your vision? Are there any schools that will help you work around that? If you choose never to finish college, what are some good paths?

      I want to add my voice to those encouraging counseling. Life doesn’t have to be this hard, and it seems like you may be able to learn some tools to help you make progress on your ideas.

      I’d also recommend that you think about a few next steps you can take today (or tomorrow!). You were very open minded and seemed to appreciate the insights from the conversation. However, your responses were pretty passive, acknowledging a good point but not intending to take any actions. This could just be your communication style, or maybe you just are digesting it all – just making the point that it is important not just to learn about yourself, but to use what you’ve learned to fix your problems.

      Finally, if you want something to challenge you intellectually, you’ll likely have to find it outside of work for the next several years. You just aren’t in a position (yet!) to find a job that will be consistently challenging. You might be someday. Anyway, focus that energy into your hobbies. You may want to try endurance sports – oddly enough my mind is quietest when my body is exhausted. Might just be me though :)

      Good luck.

    5. Simonthegrey*

      Casey – as an INTJ like you, and having ADHD, I understand the struggle! While I do have a job that pays my bills and I enjoy, I also started a small business on the side. It’s where my passion is. You say you’re into things you can build or construct – are there hobbies like woodworking or blacksmithing that you could take up, and possibly create a small business of your own? It isn’t enough maybe to live on, certainly not at first, but it can create that sense of purpose that you seem to feel is lacking right now.

    6. FD*

      I think it’s really great that you’re able to acknowledge some of the challenges that come from within. That’s hard to do, and harder to act on, so good for you.

      I think these might be a few things that help.

      2. Try to understand that no job (or relationship) will fit all your goals. There really is no such thing as what people think of as a ‘dream job’–a job that’s absolutely fulfilling, stimulating, and interesting. Even a really, really good job will usually only hit 75% of your wish list–and that’s okay. You might also find that you won’t find your primary fulfillment from your work. A lot of people don’t, and find their sense of self in family or volunteer work. That may also help you to be more okay with the kinds of jobs you’ll need to get right now.

      3. As a fellow INTJ, it can be helpful to look at work relationships as you might a problem to solve. What is the status quo? What are the unspoken cultural rules? Who gets things done no one else can, and why does it work for them? Can you do the same thing? It’s not exactly manipulation, it’s about analyzing and understanding how social behavior works. It can be easier if you have an end goal in mind, at least for me.

      4. I bet that at the moment, you feel frustrated and hopeless, and like you ‘should have’ figured everything out by now. The truth is, 24 isn’t that old. It’s old enough to start taking your career seriously, but not so old that people aren’t going to be willing to believe you can settle down in a job. It’s going to take a while, but you can absolutely rebuild your work history.

  75. kmac*

    Grow up…plain and simple. Stop spending so much analyzing why you can’t do what you want to do, and just do it.

    Do you still live at home? If so, move out. Having to put a roof over your own head, and food on your own table will likely calm you down.

    Wow!

    1. JAL*

      This is really judgmental.

      I am 22 and have a job and I don’t live outside of my house because I don’t make enough money currently to afford housing in a good neighborhood. Living at home =/= irresponsibility.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        If someone lacks the tools to cope with given settings, telling them to grow up is not very informative. It does not tell them in what way to grow themselves. It does not give them the resources to grow, either.

        1. OP-Casey*

          Thanks for the support from the two under. Objection to the first: I have lived outside of parental control since I was 18. I recently had to move back in due to some of the financial struggles I’ve faced with work and repossessing my vehicle.

  76. Matt*

    I will start by admitting I didn’t read all the comments, and this might have been touched on already, but the OP needs to become more self-aware, and instead of placing blame on tests or managers or professors, he needs to realize that the common denominator here is him, not anyone else.

    I’ve noticed that through his original post and the comments that he considers himself a smart person – smarter than those around him such as co-workers and supervisors. This is a HUGE mistake, and I have found that those who think they are smarter than those around them but don’t seem to be doing as well as others need to look at themselves and re-evaluate – chances are, you are not nearly as smart as you think, and need to listen more and talk a whole lot less. Once you understand you’re almost always not the smartest person in the room, you’ll start to do a lot better. You don’t even know what you don’t know at 24.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      The old story that Einstein had to be told to change his clothes and shower, etc. When we start asking what is intelligence, we find that there are many things that go into being intelligent. If you remember to shower and change your clothes you have one up on Einstein.

      This turns into a good suggestion for our OP, start reading up on intelligence and what is intelligence. It was only in recent decades we even started talking about emotional intelligence, this is another example of an area of intelligence. I had a dear, dear aunt that complained she could not do ANYTHING. She could not work on anything mechanical, she did not do anything artsy. She had no abilities. That is what SHE said. In a gathering, I always knew were this aunt was in the room. She had a dozen people around her that were roaring in laughter. She had a wonderful ability to make people feel loved and to draw people to her. And she had killer humor. That was her area of intelligence.
      I still miss her.

      1. OriginalEmma*

        And just like you can learn a skill to become more intelligent, you can learn to become more emotionally intelligent. Seriously, I just finished a computer-based training on the subject…and I feel I’ve always struggled with emotionally intelligence. It just doesn’t need to be this nebulous skill you either have or don’t – certain parts CAN be taught and then it’s on you to practice. Now, we’ll not all end up as naturally vivacious and lovely as your dear aunt, but we can certainly try to cultivate a better, warmer version of ourselves.

  77. Ask a Manager* Post author

    I want to give huge kudos to Casey (the OP) for handling the comments here so gracefully. It’s not easy to have a bunch of strangers tell you how you’re doing things wrong, and Casey, you’ve handled it with remarkable grace and calm.

    And I really appreciate how everyone kept this conversation constructive and didn’t pile on or tear the letter-writer down.

  78. intjCoping*

    As an INTJ, I’ve found some ways to cope. They might not all apply to you.

    – When you’re listening to something that you need to know but which has a lot of boring bits (like a college lecture), take notes, and if it isn’t appropriate to do so, doodle on the side of the paper. I found doodling really helped because it kept me busy, but it didn’t distract me from what was being said. There are some places where doodling is not a good idea though.

    – Write down your good ideas. People are most likely to agree with your ideas if the ideas benefit them directly and take little to no work on their part. Don’t expect everyone to like or even understand your ideas.

    – Don’t say everything you think. It might help to have a list of things you have said that didn’t work well – brainstorm. (To be fair, you probably censor yourself some, but some of what you said makes me think you might
    say more than is beneficial.) Another possibility – if what you’re about to say isn’t necessary and might be thought of as antagonistic or snarky, don’t say it unless you’re around people who are OK with that. At least try this for a while.

    – Even if you’re the smartest person in the room, other people may have some information that is useful to you.

    – If you’re like me, try to avoid situations where you do a lot of data entry or a lot of counting. I can do boring stuff if it doesn’t last long or if I can think about something else while I do it, but counting and data entry really gets on my nerves because I’m bored, but I have to pay attention.

    – A lot of people will be OK with you being socially awkward as long as you give the impression of friendliness, being hard-working, and willing to help others. You don’t have to be all that good at small talk. People mostly want to know if you’re a nice person and if you’ll do your share of the work.

    – “please”, “thank you”, and “I’m sorry” are excellent words to use. As an INTJ myself, I’ve found that these words really help a person seem like more of a team player.

    Good luck!

  79. INTP Chick*

    I definitely have to agree with everyone else about seeing a counselor just to talk things over. No one else has broached this so I’ll mention it carefully but it may be worthwhile to get tested for Aspergers or another condition on the autistic scale. I say this because some of the issue with social norms, desire to work independently or with a limited amount of others and the desire for challenge going work are all characteristic of an individual with mildly autistic tendencies. Also studies show that many individuals with autism identify as NTs on the Myers – Briggs test.

    That said I don’t think bring an INTP have anything to do with it. At times we all have jobs that we don’t enjoy but I look at it as doing what I need to do so that I can do what I want to do, and that’s what usually helps me push through it.

  80. I teach*

    Most kids find every task assigned to them “boring.” Then they call it ADD/ADHD. I think the cases of actual ADD/ADHD are actually quite rare. We’re just a really entertainment focused society. Not everything can be immensely interesting or entertaining. Saying “I need a challenge” doesn’t make you a smart person or someone who automatically deserves a higher level job. I had friend in college who was an INTJ and dated an INTJ and they were both extremely work-focused people. They were also critical people who thought they were much better than everyone else.

    1. Zahra*

      Whether it’s ADHD or not, the coping strategies ADHD people use can be adapted to people needing constant challenges and have difficulty staying on task. Also, one must not forget that ADHD is most often accompanied by other mental disorders, such as depression, anxiety or oppositional defiant disorder.

      You don’t need to be “sick” to use someone else’s strategy. You just need to recognize that it may work for you and try it out.

      Oh, and actual rates of ADHD? Around 5 to 7%. That’s 1 in 20, more or less. And, while boys are over-diagnosed, in general, girls are under-diagnosed.

  81. OriginalEmma*

    OP, if you do work with a therapist, ask about taking a Strong Interest Inventory. It might help point you in occupational directions you never considered as well as point out your strengths, weaknesses and preferences. This did cost me extra money, but it was worth it.

  82. snuck*

    OK AAM … I’ll bite.

    Is this a troll? Seriously… have you seen the replies by the OP (Casey)?!

    Either this person has some seriously delusional issues quite possibly a personality disorder, or they are trolling.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t see any cause to say that at all; to the contrary, I think the OP has been quite gracious here.

      I really, really don’t want us accusing people of trolling here, or diagnosing personality disorders. In this case, it seems particularly unwarranted by the OP’s replies.

      1. snuck*

        Yeah, was just coming in to say to scratch it – some of the earlier comments were amazingly out of touch to me with the real world and I wondered if they were actually an attempt to drum up comments etc… but then I found the latest ones (this cascaded comments thing can get a bit messy) and it seems the OP has actually read through and responded in a more thoughtful fashion.

        I apologise, and was coming here to do that when I found that new comment by the OP.

  83. Just Visiting*

    Your work history is quite similar to mine, minus the bridge-burning (well, there were a few). Until I turned 30, I had only one job that lasted for longer than a year, and everything else was short stints. Most of those were with the same temp agency so they’re easily hidden, but similar pattern: I’d get there, figure out the job within a week, then get bored and be miserable until I could leave the assignment. I turned down several permanent offers because the very concept of staying in the same job for years upon end was causing me to literally become suicidal. I’m not being dramatic. Having to go somewhere five days a week, eight hours a day, for an indefinite period of time… I truly couldn’t handle it and I was making plans.

    Then I was diagnosed with ADHD, and started taking medicinal speed. And I will tell you that if you want/need to keep a boring job for a long while (and to someone with ADHD, virtually all jobs will become boring, it’s only a matter of time), stimulant drugs will do that for you. However, they also dampened my creativity and made me tired all the time, sort of this weird combination of alert and tired. I couldn’t see going on like THAT forever either. Sure, I didn’t want to kill myself anymore, but I also felt like I was losing myself to fit into a life I didn’t even want. I’m glad I took the meds because they gave me a glimpse into what life is like for normal people (and also allowed me to kick ass at a boring but impressive-sounding job for a few years), but I decided I didn’t want to do that forever either.

    Now I have what I think is one of the best set-ups for an ADHD person who doesn’t want to take medication: I work part time. Three days a week. On the off days, I freelance. And I LOVE it! Having to go into work for only three days a week has made all the difference in the world and has turned my office job from the center of my life to just another thing I do, like I do my freelance work or my creative work. Honestly, I prefer this set-up to pure freelancing (which I tried for a while) because it gives me structure. Not so much structure that I suffocate, but enough to give the week a sort of anchor. Sometimes I even look forward to my dayjob, because my long weekends are so stuffed with freelancing and creative work that it’s honestly a bit of a relief to be bored for a bit. Sure, I’m never going to be promoted, but I sort of don’t really care? I’d rather be contented than ambitious.

    And the freelancing allows me a decent amount of risk. I’m the opposite of risk-averse, and it honestly gives me a bit of a thrill to know that maybe this month I’ll make a thousand on freelancing and next month maybe only three hundred, but what will the month after that bring?? It’s exciting!! And I can control my own workflow; I *always* get assignments done on time but if I want to goof off one day and work fourteen hours straight the next… I can do that. ADHD folks tend to “hyperfocus,” so when I’m in the work zone, I’m *really* in the work zone.

    I don’t know if you have ADHD, though I think it’s a possibility. However, even if you don’t it’s possible that a normal full-time set-up in an office is just not something that’s going to work for you, and there’s no shame in that! Before I lucked into my set-up I was taking short temp stints with breaks in between and had planned to do that indefinitely. This may be a good option for you. Or maybe a job where you can work outdoors, like a park ranger or trail guide. Lots of people who don’t fit into offices or retail gigs thrive in the outdoors. (I think I would also like a job like this! But not enough to go for one, right now anyway.) Good luck to you.

    P.S. I’m either an INTJ or INFJ. I’ve only taken the online tests and it always comes out as one or the other. I tend to think that personality tests are only slightly more meaningful than astrology, but they’re definitely not meant to be an excuse.

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      Your setup is what I dream of doing. (Fellow overfocuser here.) And you’re awesome for making it work for you.

      There’s nothing wrong with contentment.

    2. Coach Devie*

      This sounds like me in many senses, only I freelance / run my own businesses full time and volunteer to fill the gaps where I need human interaction and to feel purposeful when things get too rote. I probably have ADHD but have not been asked to be diagnosed and am not on any meds. I am a creative, among other things. I also am an I something on that test. I also never kept a job longer than about a year. I remember being amazed when I made it to 13 months at one job and quickly self-sabotaged shortly thereafter. I would also get emotionally/mentally unbalanced having to show up on a schedule to a place that didn’t use my talents and felt stifling. I am so glad I found a way to use my talents in order to make a living, because I am not built for that type of structure. Some of us just aren’t. But if you can’t work for yourself, you will HAVE to push through some really uncomfortable stuff in order to carve out a way for you to find something that does work for you.

      sometimes it really ISN’T as simple as just sucking it up and doing it. Especially if you have mental health issues (I figured out recently that I have had low-grade depression and some forms of social anxiety for years and it explained how difficult it was for me to just get up and go and stick to work and school. I thought everyone struggled to get out of bed like I did. But I eventually learned that I wasn’t well and that that wasn’t normal)

      I am so late to this post and just reading for leisure, I do hope the OP found good advice here though. Best wishes.

  84. GreatLakesGal*

    OP, I’m going to come at this from a slightly different angle, based on your comment that you had trouble, “getting along with” professors.

    For the most part, one doesn’t need to “get along with” professors. One needs to simply do WHAT THEY TELL YOU TO DO.

    (Writing the paper they tell you to write, instead of the more interesting paper. Completing assignments on time, even if the time frame seems unreasonable. Accepting the test score or grade, even if the exam question or assignment might have been less than precisely worded.)

    Really what I’m wondering is if your issue isn’t more with dealing with authority, not boredom or social skills per se.

    In order to get to a place where you have autonomy, you absolutely have to develop the skill of being told what to do and then doing it.

    There is really just no way around that one, no matter what field you chose.

    I realize that this is hard, especially if one is clever, or good at analyzing inefficiencies. You just sometimes have to do things inefficiently, especially at the ground level, because that ‘s what you were asked to do.

    Once you’ve established that you can listen, others will listen to you.

    1. Beth*

      Agree agree agree.

      As a student, your job is to do the work. Profs can be jerks but as an undergrad how much contact can you possibly have? Do the work. Drop a class if you really can’t stand the prof. But dropping out because they’re all jerks?

      To misquote Raylan Givens of ‘Justified”…
      “If you run into (a jerk) in the morning, you ran into (a jerk). If you run into (jerks) all day, you’re the (jerk).”

      Good luck, OP.

  85. Brock*

    I’m a bit hesitant to post this*….but when I was in my 20s and in a similar situation to Casey/OP, I read Atlas Shrugged and it seriously helped me get through a year or two of truly boring work. Specifically, the image of all those super-genius societal drop-outs doing manual labour or other boring stuff really really well. I went to work with an ‘I am John Galt the super-amazing (janitor / hamburger flipper / call centre guy / DTP operator / whatever) and secret genius’ fantasy and it got me through the day for long enough to build up my work experience.

    And/or a Robert Heinlein-based fantasy (Friday if I recall correctly): again, you’re a super-genius and right now your actual challenge is to fit in with the normal people, the social equivalent of scoring exactly a pre-determined score on the IQ test as opposed to scoring as high as you can.

    Or even Dilbert’s genius garbage man. Et cetera.

    *I think Casey’s issue go a lot deeper than that, and I think it’s important NOT to get stuck in this rather arrogant hyperlibertarian worldview…but it can be a good crutch for a year or so.

  86. ComputerGeek*

    Either create your own company or learn how to work with people.

    If you do the first, then you don’t need college. If you want to work for somebody and do any kind of meaningful work, then you need a degree *and* experience.

    If you can, go back and finish your degree. Use that time to gain knowledge and experience working with people. Doesn’t really matter what your degree is. It’s a way of saying, “look…I can stick with something that is generally accepted to take 4 years to complete. I don’t give up when the going gets hard.”

    If you can’t get along with your classmates and professors, then you need to find an unfilled niche and create your own work. Since you haven’t learned the basics about business by sticking it out anywhere for very long, I would give you very low odds of being successful with this approach.

    1. Observer*

      Either create your own company or learn how to work with people

      No. You can’t succeed as a business if you can’t work with people. Unless you are doing something hyper-specialized and doing it extraordinarily well AND it’s something that people REALLY want or need, you won’t be able to maintain a customer base.

  87. Marissa*

    How long can a juvenile record follow someone around?

    What implications can that have for someone who want’s to join the military?

    Would it be possible for OP to have his records sealed or expunged?

    Is there any legal directions we can point OP-Casey towards that would help him clear his juvenile record and help him move on his original path?

    Last, are we not going to address the validity of the Myers-Briggs test? There are many criticisms of this method of testing (see Wikipedia). With that said, when I was younger I did lean on my INFJ title. It’s consoling when you fit under an umbrella of character traits. Still, it’s not a full representation of who I am, no matter how much I relate to it.

    OP/Casey! Remember that finishing college is about showing follow through, and not just the knowledge. It’s okay if you see yourself as intelligent. Just remember that at this point you really need to prove that you can FINISH something. Even people who you consider yourself smarter than have value to offer. Experience is just as valid as brain smarts. You say you have the smarts, now you need the experience to match. Do something, stick with it and do it with a smile.

    Good Luck, OP! You did a great job with the questions.

  88. JG*

    I know I’m a little late to the party, but I was in a similar situation in my early twenties so I thought I’d weigh in. I had some major depression/anxiety/self-esteem issues and ended up dropping out of college and working a string of crappy customer service jobs that were both boring and stressful for an introvert like me. I’d do okay for a few months, get depressed and worn out, not get out of bed in the morning, get fired (rinse, repeat). Eventually I ran out of money and had to move back in with my parents. I was lucky to have the safety net of a supportive family, but the lack of independence drove me nuts and after two months, I found the motivation to change. No matter how crappy my jobs were, I realized in retrospect that the alternative (broke, living in my childhood bedroom, feeling like a failure) was worse. I found a temp job at a university which turned into a full-time job after a few months. I made myself stick with that job for two years even though it was excruciatingly boring and I had to give myself a pep talk nearly every morning to keep going (something along the lines of “Ok, you need to suck it up! Do you want to pay your rent or not? Remember how horrible it was to have no job, no money, no prospects? This won’t last forever.”). The only thing that kept me sane was that I could take classes for free, so I signed up for a couple each semester to chip away at getting a degree and have something intellectually stimulating to look forward to. So, I guess that would be my advice. Find something outside of work to keep you going and provide the challenges your job does not. Also, if you squint and look hard enough, even the worst jobs usually have something good about them, so keep focusing on whatever positives there are. I still made mistakes and had some setbacks, but now, several years later, I have a job I like and I’m in the position to find an even better one in the future. Good luck!

  89. Jake*

    I originally avoided this post because it seemed like a recipe for disaster. I just read half the comments, and I’d like to commend the OP, commenters, and Alison for how awesome this discussion was.

    The OP could’ve been defensive, the commenters could’ve been condescending. Not even a whiff if either one.

  90. ism*

    This sounds like me when I was 24! And 26. And 28. And 30, 31, 32… I wish I had some concrete advice for you, but I am only just starting over for the hundredth time myself. Until recently, I was the girl who canceled her therapy appointments until they just gave up on me, stopped taking meds prescribed only to try a new med/new doctor later. And then during those years I quit/got fired from like 30 jobs in 10 years, burned bridges with employers, friends, roommates, and family repeatedly, broke the law over and over again despite getting caught every time, dropped out of THREE different colleges, with no degree but tons of debt to prove it.

    What changed for me was landing in the psychiatric ward for two weeks and the subsequent decision to leave my fun city & remaining friends behind, to go live with my elderly mother at the age of 34 in a rural area. Having no friends, no fun activities, no temptations… is probably why I am doing OK now relatively speaking. And a HUGE motivator was living with my mom in her tiny apartment. Suddenly I had a goal that I could not see myself sabotaging – get out of my mom’s house AT ALL COSTS. A year later I’m still in this nowhere town, but I have kept this job for 8 months and got my own place and pay all my bills.

  91. Anonymous Wife*

    Casey, you sound a lot like my husband. What has helped him the most is getting involved in volunteer work, where his work history does not stand in the way of getting challenging responsibilities. Don’t think small, though – set yourself a challenging and concrete goal that will keep you moving forward. For example, instead of just volunteering somewhere, volunteer with a goal of becoming a member of the board. Or run for city council or some other municipal board. If you pick the right volunteer work and stick with it, it can really help your resume, develop your skills, build a network of people who can help you get jobs, give you a lot of motivation to improve yourself, and, frankly, give you the kind of responsibility and power that you desire but that an employer rightly will not give you right now.

    My husband would totally be living in his parents’ house right now if I hadn’t married him, and from the outside I know people sometimes think I’m ridiculous for supporting him monetarily the way I have over the years, but he’s a fantastic guy with a lot to offer and I’m sure you are, too. If you keep up the introspection and commit to giving something a try for a real stretch of time, even if it’s volunteer work, you will figure out the right path for you.

  92. HappySnail*

    Hi OP, I was in a similar situation (though not as extensive as yours). I held 4 jobs (2 years each for the first 3) and was fired at #3. When I got back into a different company, I bit my lip and plowed forward. This would be my 5th year at my present company and with a promotion. I hate the work or rather, I hate the environment. Perhaps a better response would be, I hate the rat-racing, all the compromising, and differing opinions (creating inefficiencies) at my workplace. But guess what? I’m not alone – lots of employees feel the same way which is a bit of comfort! But it has made my resume look really good and I know that if I were to apply to someplace that has the kind of work and environment that I enjoy, I have a waaay better chance at it today. Plus, thanks to the promotion, I can drop off jobs 1-3 from my resume because they’re now incredibly outdated and the past positions were so junior that no one would even bat an eye. It’s not easy and I know almost exactly how you feel but option A that Alison suggested is the best way to go. Best wishes!

  93. Angie O*

    “This isn’t about being an INTJ. Most INTJs hold down jobs just fine.”

    I agree with this so much I’m compelled to leave my first comment on this site, despite having read it for months! I’m also an INTJ. Like every personality types (none of which are inherently bad or good) there are healthy and less-than-healthy people within. My employers have liked me so much they’ve semi-jokingly threatened to lock the doors to prevent me from moving onto other jobs ;) And the fact that I don’t burn bridges has led me, for example, to take in an extra 15k last year, freelancing for an old employer that didn’t want to let me go entirely.

    So stop blaming your personality type. We can all learn and grow, and INTJs are no exception.

  94. ConsultantLiz*

    OP, not to pile on but I working in an extremely challenging area of management consulting. I am an ENTJ myself and some of my most talented colleagues are INTJ, and that has not proved to be an obstacle.

    What I wanted to say is that challenging jobs are not always “fun” challenging… often they are painful challenging – typing perfect meeting minutes and being criticized for bullet styles, trying to get on calendars of several executives, editing the same document 50+ times (over a weekend), negotiating highly emotional meetings, giving and receiving tough feedback… if you cannot deal with tedium or criticism or challenging intrapersonal interactions in your current jobs those things are not likely to go away in a “challenging” job.

  95. Coach Devie*

    You may have some other issues that could be addressed (too many comments, didn’t read any yet) perhaps ADHD where medication may assist you or, you could be like me and would be better suited to start your own business. This may sound privileged as it is not easy to start your own business, but I am lucky in that I have a marketable skill that when going into business had very low overhead/start up costs. Being your own boss does allow for odd personality types to thrive, but it also takes someone who will follow through with sticktoittiveness!

    One plus I found in reading your email however, is that you take the blame for your missteps. You aren’t saying it’s other peoples fault, which means you are self-aware. With that, that also means you can make the effort to fix it! You’re young! You have time!!! Like AAM said, you won’t even have to keep most of that bad work history on your resume or put it on applications once you get something sustained and long term. But definitely think long term. 10 years will pass quickly and you don’t want to be in the same place you are now. But you can make a complete turn around in that time and really be proud of yourself. Be it with finding employment, going back to school, or starting your own business. YOU CAN FIX THIS.

  96. OP*

    I found a job! I’ll be working with an industrial cleaning crew; hazardous chemical removal and hydro-blasting.

    Thanks for all the advice and support.

  97. Greg*

    Might be out of left field but I would recommend you actually look for a career in recruitment itself. Funny enough the very recruiters you’re dealing with have a job that is more demanding an enticing than anything you’ve ever done before. If recruitment doesn’t stimulate you I’m at a loss. Look into it I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

  98. Bob*

    I think that this whole comment section is bullshit. Do you all realize how utterly ridiculous it is to suggest that he might have an undiagnosed condition? HUMANS AREN’T BUILT TO BE PROFESSIONAL WORKING MACHINES. It’s one thing to learn how to deal with the drudgery of working, it’s a different thing to suggest that someone isn’t normal for having a hard time coping with the fact that managers suck, coworkers suck and working sucks. Get real.

  99. dorian*

    Hi
    i am an intj, and have has similar experiences to you except, i job hop every 2 years, and this has been going on since i have been 20, the reply you had about boredom, not being the case is not true, and just like you even today, i need to be mentally challenged,this has no reflection on your work ethic or working towards a goal as was suggested, because, everybody i have worked for will tell you how hard i work.

    Your number one problem is to find something that challenges you mentally, for me it took until recently,in the form of web development, and today i am retraining myself at 40.

    By trade i have been an Electronics Technician, [for 20 years], although challenging mentally, ‘solving problems’,it was not me, as i am not naturally a hands on person, but a creative, with a holland code of AIS, my main love is music, which coincides with the A, the I for problem solving and the S for helping others, the idea behind the holland code is to help you identify what your interest are [what you enjoy], for me it would creating and solving problems primarily, the 1st code, illustrating your ideal work in enviroment, mine being artistic ‘flexbile and unstructured.

    I chose to do web development, because it would give me more options i.e. the flexiblty and unstructured work enviroment, alllow me to be creative, and solve problems, more industries to work in, i could move from a tech company to a pharmaceutical company, using the same skills, also i would be able to create my own apps for mobile phones and tablets, and most importantly lifestyle i would like [in life you do the work that support your interest and the lifestlye style you would like], and eventually, it will afford me more time to focus on just composing music, full time, within a few years.

    One way to show that you are commited person, and to help with employment gaps is to volunteer, for a few years, posssibly in a shop, and use that time to work on your people skills, this will enable you to open up a door for part time job with the company in the future, and also a reference, just like you i am not a team player, and working in that enviroment, has forced my to learn ways to improve how i work with people, one thing i have found important is taking the initiative, not waiting to be told what to do with employers, in a subtle way i communicate to my line manager or supervisor, ‘just tell me what you want, leave it with me,’ i do this by taking charge of my work and just giving regular feedback to keep the managers in the loop, and they still thinking they are the Boss, i can not take managers or people who says, do this, then do that, then this etc.

    Consider seeing your current experience as contract work [using that heading on your cv], if the work has a common theme, i.e you have been doing repairs for various companies.

    Consider working various part time jobs maybe in the short term, to alleviate boredom, ideally something you can work alone most of the time.

    You need to know where your strengths lie.
    talent you could use a multiple intelligence test
    trasferable skills you could use kent.ac..uk strengths test
    interest [what you enjoy] using holland code [do a google search, take the test and interpret the results]

    you have already done a personality test in myer briggs, hence you know your are an intj.
    just to close, request a refrence from your previous employers, truth is they can not give you a bad reference, ask them to send it to you by post or email,, new prospective employees will normally check your reference in relation to dates, job details and what type of person or worker you are.

    Closing what we tend to love, surfaces in our child hood, if you can, use it as a form of release and therapy when you are feeling down or frustated, it will help, whilst you work towards either working for yourself, as many intj’s or lifestyle you want, intj’s hate routine, and need variety, so consider portifolio careers, if you need a more help, pointers, or just to bounce idea’s, that will be fine

  100. Milton Waddams*

    I find it incredibly frustrating that the majority of responses here seem to be, “Have you considered that you might be mentally ill?”

    Maybe this is a rural vs. urban thing, but the tightrope that leads to the white-collar world is very very thin.

    If you are unemployed over 6 months, you are seen as a problem candidate (that being the best case — in some areas, “Unemployed need not apply” used to be fairly common in job postings), but if you take a job at McDonald’s to make ends meet, you have clearly put something on your resume that allows HR to legally discriminate for “cultural fit”. (Which they frequently do.)

    If you hold down a job for less than 2 years, no matter how awful, you risk being labeled a “job hopper” if it happens more than once. If you hold down a job for more than 3 years, even if the company never ever promotes from within, you risk being pigeonholed in your present job as being the only one you are qualified to do, effectively ending your career where it is.

    Most companies, awful or good, no longer train employees, yet they also don’t accept college training as equivalent to work training in a skill-set. The best a person can do is shoot for an “internship half-lie”, where they use their time interning at “Company that does X” where they mostly office gophered with their college training in skill X to pretend that they “learned on the job”.

    HR expects applicants to show that they have gone above and beyond in their duties, even when many companies are so highly dysfunctional that just keeping everything operating in a way that looks remotely normal requires so much above and beyond that there is no room left for anything else, “Team player peak disruptors” being the oxymoronic ideal.

    Ever been fired? Have a boss that acts like a scorned lover when it comes time to give references for former employees, no matter what they actually did at the company? (Even worse, some prospective employers have come up with the bright idea of demanding a reference from your current employer to be considered at all, as it drastically cuts down the number of applications they have to sort through.) Bad credit? (I’m sure those student loans don’t help.)

    These are all gusts of wind ready to knock you off the white-collar tightrope, and many folks don’t have the safety net of an upper-middle class family network to get them back on again.

    Is it really the individuals that are crazy in this situation, or the toxic work culture that has developed that is the problem?

    1. Rewind*

      I’m glad to arrive at a 2016 post, having read from start to finish. Yours is refreshing to say the least but there are a few here as well that place a spotlight on the systemic conditions of the job market today (like the one below). I especially liked the UK post that “employers are spoilt to death.” Could it be that the dizzying rise of corporatism and it’s profits have anything to do with that? I think so.

      I have read through all the posts in their entirety here and I found only a few posts that challenge the now stock answer of seeking a mental health assessment. I have to say, for any and all who haven’t lived in and worked at a time of greater shared economic prosperity, that today’s outlook is not cool.

      When we drill down to it we find corporate mergers and acquisitions in the early 2000’s have left us with a generic framing of the workplace, with do’s and don’ts propagated by media outlets, –and the astonishing ascendancy of HRs (the frontline ‘force majeure’ of oligopolies).

      What the early 2000’s did for us was to aim ever so higher for efficiency and risk aversion to cajole investors in the otherwise shaky environment of inflationary pressures and international economic crises. The terms ‘good fit’ and ‘team player’ were then added to the lexicon of employ-ability which has transcended to a de facto standard, now evolved to questions of mental health without!! Turn the page we find ‘talent’ added to the growing list of desirability, as though somehow it’s more about the show.

      So OP Casey, whoever you are, young man/young woman, it may be that you need a mental health assessment to cope with these realities in ways that are less self-injuring. For surely you are in a job market that in and of itself is punishing.

      Poor ‘OP Casey’ … had you lived in a time of greater shared economic prosperity then all that restlessness would or could have been channeled in resolute objection to what corporatism espouses. You would have found more avenues to put your life and living together independent of it. You would have found greater tolerance for creative thinking and doing in the workplace (all but completely constrained now). Today’s economy is more conservative and less and less about taking any risk at all, demanding greater transparency and predictability. Corporatism (and its requisite corporation state capitalism) have painted a landscape that is extraordinarily difficult to navigate outside it. It’s especially repulsed by ambition as we knew it before (blazing your own trail, finding your fortune, and exploration in general).

      Here’s some balm for the troubled mind: Stick to the job long enough to learn the business, its industry, and your capacity to participate in meaningful ways either as a vendor, a sub-contractor, or any other 1099 Misc., so you can keep your spirited-ness about you AND your expectations in life intact, without breaking your will for it. If prior to the hoops of employment applications you find that the industry is not promising (saturated to the point of having real barriers to entry, or having no needs to fill that you can build a business on), –then bail. But the stock answer of “you need a mental health assessment” in response to your want and frustration for opportunity (while your lifeblood is still young)’ is pandemic now.

      At 24 keep your eyes open and your ears perked, and don’t let on with your ideas at the workplace. If there’s a better way to do it as you see it then young man it is on you to do it but for yourself. Study models, like 7-Eleven’s history. See what their thinking was. Study what you can from whatever so you see and understand the ropes.

      Your conversations about opportunity and frustration might be better with independent immigrant businesses. Their vision of taking care of one’s self first remains intact for them it seems (culturally anyway), while the ones they deem in need of assessments are those without the vision. They’re very approachable to do business with if it makes them money and they are often aligned with money to make money. Not nearly as stratified and compartmentalized as US corporatism.

      A good ‘mental health’ book is Rich Dad Poor Dad. Get the first one written. That will get you to see things outside the pandemic.

      Don’t worry about the military and lost chances to serve, because you can or will if we have a draft again.

  101. I hope you read tjis*

    Its funny to hear how programmed people are that success has become earning money to pay for a cat and that you gotta have a hobby to make a job bearable. I wonder if you might just click with people who want to, or do run their own businesses?. Perhaps you feel suffocated by the beurocracy? Perhaps you don’t really tolerate regime. Perhaps you are just super bright like Steve Jobs and couldn’t tolerate school. My advice to you is try doing your own thing and read how to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie. You see if you master people skills life will turn around and become much more easy for you. If doors don’t open for you, try opening them yourself. Believe in yourself. Its much more satisfying to work for yourself than to take some one else’s instructions all day long.

  102. Andy*

    So far, I vehemently disagree with almost everything everyone has written in regard to the mental health of the original poster.

    The reason why I feel that way is simple: Professional jobs, which require years of specialized education or training and pay reasonably well, generally have very low turnover, whereas low-paying jobs have always had very high turnover. Since it doesn’t sound as if the original poster is burning through professional jobs, I’m reluctant to label him or her.

    Instead, I will recommend that the original poster does two things to improve his or her situation. First, he or she should get any full- or part-time job he or she can. To get low-level work, you must apply to hundreds of jobs. Second, he or she should work on obtaining skills that will lead to rewarding, gainful employment. To do that, he or she should consider enrolling in community college, albeit with an emphasis on a specific skill (e.g., accounting). In my experience, if you focus your efforts on school, you will think of your job as a means to an end and likely keep it.

    Last, I would advise the original poster not to beat himself or herself up too much. The U. S., like many other countries, just went through the worst depression since the great depression. As a direct result of that, millennials have had to settle for significantly less than any other generation. For example, the average age of a first-time home-buyer went from 29 in 1970 to 33 in 2015.

    Regards,

    Andy

  103. Tasha*

    I think that you should start your own business, most people who are entrepreneurial at heart have huge struggles staying at jobs that are mind numbing for 40 hours a week.

    1. Tasha*

      oh and don’t fall for that you have ADD nonsense either. People think that just because you are “different” in terms of what your working style is, there must be something wrong with you.

      You job hop because you are bored, period. That has nothing to do with ADD, you just haven’t found anything that you are passionate about as of yet, your career life is lacking a purpose. So as a result you end up taking jobs just to take them, regardless of whether or not you have an interest in them. I would say use whatever job that you do have now, or whatever job that you may get in the future, save up your money, and put together a business plan and rock out with your own business.

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