I’m so anxious about working that I keep ghosting employers before I start

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

I am having a really hard time transitioning into the professional world and it’s at the point where I am worried I don’t have the ability to be a professional working person.

I graduated from college a little over a year ago and I got a full-time administrative position immediately. Right off the bat, it had the same problems as other entry-level jobs but I wasn’t fazed as I always knew that this job wasn’t going to be my dream-job/ entire career. I’m also aware that a job on its own is not usually a source of fulfillment for people so I never expected that, but the job seemed decent enough and I kind of enjoyed it a bit at first. A few weeks into the post-grad world, things started slipping through the cracks at work and I made mistakes I really should not have. I became constantly exhausted and unable to really engage with the world around me. I was lethargic, despite sleeping 10 hours a night, and unable to find time to do anything other than work/sleep. I figured that was a sign the company wasn’t a good fit for my mental health and left after six months.

Since then, I have accepted offers for a number of other positions but I ghosted most of the employers before my orientation. All of the possibility and excitement I felt during job hunting turned to dread the second an orientation date hit my calendar. My experience of the working world has been spending eight hours chained to a desk wearing horribly uncomfortable business clothes and the most exciting thing that might happen is someone accidentally orders flavored coffee for the break room. The thought of giving up any sense of my happiness in order to spend my time in an office where I am routinely underpaid and overworked (as is often the case with entry-level positions) fills me with so much anxiety I cannot make myself get out of bed once the orientation date rolls around.

I recently managed to make it to orientation for a part-time job (25 hours/week) and now I am back to feeling the same sense of exhaustion and hopelessness after only a few days of working. I come home in tears because I am so frustrated with myself for being unable to handle even a six-hour workday when everyone else in my office works full-time and does just fine.

When I don’t have a job, I have energy and interest. But once I get back in the groove of being employed, I feel too tired to do anything I know I would enjoy.

Obviously, not working is not an option since I need to make money in order to pay bills and all that fun stuff. How do I learn to accept my situation and learn to just adjust to the “real world”?

(About the jobs I’ve been accepting: I’ve been taking administrative/clerical type jobs at various small companies. The one I accepted most recently is a receptionist/ scheduler position for a local doctors office. They are mostly jobs so I can pay bills. I would rather get a job at the university, the local hospital, or a nonprofit, but so far I haven’t had a successful application at any of those places.)

I think therapy should probably be step one here. It sounds like you’re having a lot of trouble moving past that first work experience, and a therapist can help you with that and also help figure out what else might be going on. You don’t have to just white-knuckle your way through this alone.

But readers, beyond therapy, what advice do you have?

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 515 comments… read them below }

  1. I don't know who I am*

    I’d consider seeing a doctor to see if there’s something going on like depression. Definitely therapy too if you can afford it.

    1. Yamikuronue*

      Second seeing a doctor. From experience, anxiety medication can make a world of difference — you sometimes don’t realize how bad your anxiety really is on the daily until you take something that lowers the volume and experience moments with no anxiety at all.

      1. Quill*

        It took me a year on meds before I rolled up to a job with the “okay, I’m an adult and they will treat me as such” attitude.

        1. Quill*

          Not to say that meds don’t work – quite the opposite! It’s just that they don’t work in a vaccum, and don’t work immediately – you need both time (and finding the right meds) and the surrounding stuff, like therapy and getting the heck out of dodge on situations that are legitimately harmful (as opposed to just a personal hell because of what you’re carrying around in your skull.)

      2. Eillah*

        Or sometimes you’ve bee anxious for so long that your understanding of “normal” is (understandably!) off.

        Source: me

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes. This is why everyone is going straight for therapy, LW–you are not managing stuff that is routine for most adults, and that’s a sign that something is significantly off and you need more help than gnawing on your bootstraps to address it.

      3. Tinybutfierce*

        Hardcore seconding this. I had NO idea how bad my anxiety was until I started treatment for it (therapy + meds), and thought I’d always been a “normal” level of stressed and anxious until my early 20s, when I thought I just started having signs of an actual anxiety disorder. Turns out I’ve had a SEVERE anxiety disorder since I was a young kid and those “first” signs of serious anxiety in my early 20s were actual full-blown anxiety attacks (apparently hiding in your office to break down in hysterics about once a week isn’t normal, who knew?). Now that I’ve been treating it for a while, I seriously can’t believe how my overall quality of life has improved; situations that would have terrified me before are now totally doable and I can actually handle the various stressors in my life that would have previously paralyzed me. I’m still working on myself constantly, in therapy and out, especially to undo the negative mental habits that a couple decades of untreated mental illness drilled into me; but it’s actually doable for me now and I’m doing it.

        1. Ebony*

          I’m super anxious and probably have a significant mental health condition where I would definitely needs meds. But I just don’t have the time to sit around and think about it and over the years just pushing through with a routine and keeping healthy with good sleep, eating well and exercise. I have definitely got the outside thinking all is great. Getting into a routine is the key.

    2. Nicotene*

      That was my first thought. Sounds like my depression, particularly the jump from “I don’t like this job” to “I will never like any job and it’s futile so why try.”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Oh yeah. That is some classic depression reasoning right there.

        Also the stuff about how everything is pointless and why try.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Totally my depression too. “If I don’t try, at least when I inevitably fail I won’t have put too much work into it, so I won’t feel AS bad as if I’d really worked my ass off and still failed.”

        1. Flower*

          Ooof this is me right now. Continuing my medication and calling for a new therapist is on my list of tasks for today (insurance change lost me my last one)

      3. Dust Bunny*

        Agreed. And being so hopeless and anxious that you ghost multiple employers before even attempting the job is way beyond simply being nervous (and this is from somebody who legitimately has anxiety). You don’t need this kind of stress in your life, LW; please see a doctor and get some assistance.

        1. nicotene*

          Yeah for me personally, the way I know it’s depression o’clock is when I get something that I wanted (eg, you got a new job!) and that makes me spin out /self-sabotage/blow it. That’s … not normal run of the mill trouble succeeding that everybody deals with. Somehow you can make it through all the hard work steps that lead you to what should be your final success – which is where most people struggle the most! – but you can’t do the thing you wanted to do when the time comes.

      4. Jadelyn*

        Yep – the lack of interest and energy also jumped out at me, as well as the fact that OP is better when not working but starts struggling as soon as they’re working, because I’ve done that pattern myself before.

        OP, what may be happening behind the scenes in your brain is that you’ve got juuuuust barely enough energy to get yourself through a non-working day, so when you’re not working everything seems okay…but then once you start working, you’re using up 99% of your capacity to make it through a workday, leaving you nowhere near enough to handle the rest of your life. Again, speaking from experience here.

        Definitely get screened for depression, anxiety, etc.

        1. Lyn*

          You just gave a perfectly reasonable explanation for something that I thought was fundamentally wrong with me and now I have some reflecting to do.

          1. Jadelyn*

            Are you familiar with Spoon Theory? I didn’t use the term spoons here, but that’s basically what I’m talking about. The other analogy I’ve seen that I really like is the phone battery – like how when you have an older phone, the battery starts going, and it won’t charge to full, drains faster, and recharges slower.

            So let’s say abled/neurotypical folks have a battery that charges from 0-100% in about 8 hours, an average workday uses up about 50%, and an average day off or weekend day uses up 30%. But your battery only ever charges up to 75%, takes 12 hours to even get that far, a workday uses up 70% of that battery, and a day off uses up 50%. In that case a “normal workday” is hugely taxing to you and you have no capacity to do anything else – but if you’re not working, that 75% battery gets you through the day just fine so you don’t notice anything is off.

            1. Quill*

              Coming in to add that I prefer spoons or hit points because the energy needed for a task is highly variable: for me, commuting for over an hour can be worse than the 8 hours at work! Multistep processes can also be a big thing.

          2. Lx in Canada*

            Same. Except I do have the wheels in motion for treatment. Got a few referrals I’m waiting on. It is reassuring that this is not normal, and that maybe this can get easier in time.

      5. Kelsi*

        Depression is horrifyingly good at convincing us we’re fundamentally broken and unfixable and therefore any attempt to succeed is doomed.

          1. Quill*

            Back when I was on Livejournal, Anxiety was “the Brainweasels” and Depression-related talk about being unfixable and doomed was “the inner bastard.”

      6. MasterOfBears*

        It sounds like my ADD too – note the lack of H – especially the exhaustion, lack of engagement, and things falling through the cracks that really shouldn’t have. I was treated for almost a decade as a combination of depression and anxiety (there’s a lot of overlap in symptoms), and getting on ADD meds was literally a life changing difference.

        If OP is finding that depression or anxiety treatments aren’t effective, ADD is another option to look at – it’s commonly missed or misdiagnosed, especially in women

        1. angrynaps*

          Seconding this!!
          with ADD/ADHD, we have waaaay more trouble concentrating things that don’t interest us. For me, getting on Ritalin helped with my anxiety and mood regulation too, in ways that taking an SSRI (Lexapro) + being in talk therapy for a few years didn’t address

    3. juliebulie*


      And: Even if depression is a factor, there’s a limit to how much help you will get from medication. You may still need to get to the bottom of what it is about these jobs that crushes your soul, especially since it sounds like you do fine when you’re unemployed. So, therapy/coaching.

      In the short term, try to give yourself something to look forward to at the end of the day – or maybe something fun before work is a better idea so you’re not exhausted.

    4. Cranky Neighbot*


      However, I would definitely consider looking for jobs in another field, too. Administrative work isn’t for everyone.

      I combined MH problems with administrative work once and, um, never again.

      1. ampersand*

        If you don’t mind answering: which field did you end up in that wasn’t administrative? I’m having a similar issue, and I’m always curious to hear what’s worked for other people.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yeah, I would really like to know more. I ended up pigeonholed into administrative work because it was do that or be homeless (I graduated college right into the teeth of the recession), and though I’ve been brute-forcing myself to keep doing it since then, I still can’t stand it and I don’t want to have to live like this forever. Any way up and out would be incredible.

        2. Vemasi*

          Not the person you’re replying to, but this is my experience. I always suspected that I would hate an office job, but figured I was wrong and it was something I would just get used to. So I took a job as a paralegal. I had an anxious meltdown before two months.

          Before moving on, I really thought about the things that I missed doing. I had always worked in food service before. I missed doing things with my hands, talking to people, being able to move around freely, having friends at work, and having downtime. I was much younger than everyone in the law office, and I didn’t like feeling like a baby who didn’t know anything, and having no one to share interests with. I didn’t like the expectations of salary work or normal office hours.

          Now I work in the library of a public high school. It’s not full time but it works for now, and I really love several aspects of it.

          SO my advice is, first, get mental health treatment if you need it (because anxiety and depression cloud your perceptions and decision making), and then start looking at the parts of your job that trigger you the most, and try to determine what specifically you hate about it. Then open your mind to more diverse options. Look outside of offices, or at different kinds of offices. Maybe you’d like to work for a university, non-profit, or public institution (like a library or school, not just in government). Maybe you’d be willing to trade off pay or stability for the freedom of multiple seasonal jobs, or non-standard hours, in order to get out of an office. But look around your city and see what there is.

        3. Shamy*

          Not sure about OP, but for people in creative fields, there are some really interesting jobs out there. Its been years, but I had a job as a ballroom and Latin dance instructor for a few years. Big studios like Arthur Murray will actually train you on all the dances. Several people I know made amazing careers out of it with some going on to open their own studios. Dance shows like “Dancing with the Stars” and “So you Think you can Dance” have made dancing even more popular than when I worked. I also had a few jobs with entertainment companies as what I like to call a “party starter” where I would go to Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and corporate parties and hype up the crowd. Aside from my ballroom and latin dancing skills, I wasn’t super amazing, just had a decent personality and some energy. Maybe going way outside the box like the types of jobs I mentioned or working at an animal shelter if the OP likes animals, art gallery, entertainer on a cruise ship, flight attendant if OP wants to travel.

        4. Cranky Neighbot*

          Digital marketing. The key parts of my job are that I work with great coworkers, my company’s good, my role isn’t customer-facing, and I get to do creative work in a structured way.

        5. MM*

          1. Horse barns
          2. Dispatching for a grocery delivery service
          3. Event planning (but specifically working remotely)

          All three of those offer a variety of tasks over the course of the day or month, don’t keep you tied to one spot for hours, and allow a fair amount of self-supervision and flexibility. I need all that with my ADHD brain or I will start to get bored and miserable and eventually self-sabotage. Cranky Neighbot is absolutely right that OP should–in addition to getting a medical checkup and at least trying out some therapy–think about other kinds of work. It took me years to figure out that there is no office job on earth that can make me happy or that I can consistently succeed at, and it messed with my self-esteem in much the same way it’s messing with OP.

          1. A girl has no name*

            “All three of those offer a variety of tasks over the course of the day or month, don’t keep you tied to one spot for hours, and allow a fair amount of self-supervision and flexibility. I need all that with my ADHD brain or I will start to get bored and miserable and eventually self-sabotage. ”
            SECOND that big-time. Teaching is also good for endless variety.

        6. A girl has no name*

          I also thought there was something wrong with me because I couldn’t deal with the corporate world/administrative tasks. Instead it turned out the corporate world is insanely awful, AND I had ADD/Anxiety.
          Once I got out of a windowless office, and got some treatment, everything improved. I spent several years in outdoor jobs (nature education, farmer’s markets) loving the sunlight, and then went into teaching. I am really happy and really good at it.
          I’m guessing, OP, you’re smarter than average, creative, and maybe just not meant for an office. I also guess you have a tiny bit of a financial cushion because you’re not starving to death even when you’re not working. Take some time figuring out what other jobs you’d like to do. Get that therapy. Consider working for yourself, starting a business, or just finding some job where you don’t have to file papers. You can do it. I made the switch 15 years ago and I am SO happy.

      2. Kiwiii*

        This! I went from a half admin/half research/data entry job that I liked a lot, to one that was 90% admin (but paid better and had benefits) and just … completely burnt out in about 8 months because I couldn’t focus on Only admin things. I just started in a job that does really light coding and some project/client management things and even though the work is more difficult and I have a slightly longer commute, I have so much more energy?

    5. Miranda*

      Yeah, this was my first thought. There are many conditions that could cause this (from a stress-induced sleep disorder, to depression/anxiety, to things I probably haven’t even heard of). The anxiety and whatnot, some good therapy techniques would probably help with getting through those, but the over-the-top exhaustion during normal work activity may need further investigation. Another thought is, if it is the “chained to a desk” feeling causing most of it, maybe looking for a more active job instead, some people just don’t do well stuck sitting all day (I picture the guy in office space who ended up working construction at the end). Working with a doctor and/or therapist can let you figure out what you need.

      1. valentine*

        Taking a “Do I have a sleep disorder/sleep apnea?” quiz would be a good first step. Sleeping ten hours without feeling refreshed and daily lethargy/fatigue shouldn’t be happening.

        OP, you’re not limited to admin/the indoors/uncomfortable clothing. You could work admin, but in something like construction, and visit sites during the day. See what your parks department has to offer. Perhaps there’s a temp agency that would introduce you to various fields or at least different types of offices. There are (even office) jobs where you can wear comfy clothing. In my first non-temp job, I wore jeans, shorts, and tank tops.

        Think about where you want to be for eight hours or so and then consider what jobs are possible. Get creative. Do you want to work alone, yet have contact with the other humans? Construction and other scheduling would have you calling employees to direct them to their next job. As a personal assistant, especially a virtual one, you’d be able to work wherever you can take your device and run errands or otherwise get out and about. Even if bills are priority one, you can plot a course for a higher-paying job that pays bills for x months or work part-time there and part-time dog walking or pet-/house-sitting.

      2. Pretzelgirl*

        Agree with all of the above. This def sounds like text book depression to me. OP if you are female, make sure you get gyno visit too. PCOS can cause these symptoms along with array of other things.

        I had PCOS for a long time (cured by pregnancies) and now I have one cyst on my ovary. It will be removed but some days I feel horrendous. I cant be sure its related but I have pain, I am tired, I have tummy issues etc.

        Best of luck to you!

      3. Miranda*

        Oh, some suggestions for getting through the day until you get help, since I have some practice functioning despite depression (infants don’t give days off for ppd). Don’t look too far ahead, don’t look at the big picture, simply do the next small thing that needs to be done. In the morning, when you wake up, the only thing on your list is get out of bed. Once that’s done, then you can think about the next thing. So you only ever have to accomplish one small thing at a time, because looking at the whole of what needs to get done, can leave you panicked and too overwhelmed to move – to me it feels almost like it could be a 3rd hardwired thing that could be added to fight or flight, to make it fight, flight, or freeze. Yeah freeze doesn’t do much good in normal human life, but when you’re unsure/lost in the wilderness freezing before you get even more lost, chased by something hungry, etc. is a totally reasonable response.

        Once you’ve gotten moving for the day, don’t stop for long. Someone else below suggested going right from work to whatever else you like to do, I’m going to second that. The laws of physics seem to work for human minds as well as objects, in that when you’re in motion it isn’t super hard to keep moving, but once you’ve stopped, getting started again takes a lot more effort. I have a hard time getting myself out of the house, but once I am out, it isn’t that much extra effort to add in an extra stop or two, but if I stop at home, it’s much harder to make myself leave again. To pair with that, signing up for a class, or arranging to meet with a friend to do something fun, makes me more willing to put in the extra effort to go do the fun thing instead of remain a tired lump at home. Basically if I’ve paid for it, or someone’s counting on me for it, it outsources the motivation for me, so is more just go and do, rather than get motivated (near impossible some days) first, then go and do.

        The Captain Awkward blog: question #450: How to tighten up your game at work when you’re depressed would be a good read that might give you more ideas.

        1. A girl has no name*

          “Don’t look too far ahead, don’t look at the big picture, simply do the next small thing that needs to be done.”

    6. Sara without an H*

      I, too, would recommend a complete physical. While therapy is probably a good idea here, I think the first step should be to rule out anything physical.

      1. Alton*

        I agree with this. I think depression is a very likely candidate, but I also think that sometimes adopting a new or more demanding schedule can expose underlying health issues or symptoms. For example, I have a relative with known health issues who generally functions fine when she’s able to rest when she needs to, but felt very differently when working jobs where she was on her feet a lot.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        I was coming here to type this. No harm in getting a physical and expressing your concerns to the doctor. Therapy is also probably not a bad idea.

      3. RagingADHD*

        OP, I’d recommend a thorough physical workup in addition to seeking mental health care. Mental health doesn’t operate in isolation – your brain is also part of your body.

        I’m wondering if there’s anything else different about your daily routine or schedule when you try working, from when you are happily unemployed? Sleep/wake schedule? Eating schedule or food choices? How much time you spend at home vs. out and about? Sitting vs moving around?

        There are a lot of physical issues that may not be obvious when you have a lot of “margin” in your life of time, rest, and self-care, but can escalate when you deviate from that supportive routine. Anything from sleep deficit or borderline nutritional deficiencies, to lack of natural light can snowball into full-blown problems.

        I notice that you find your work clothes “horribly uncomfortable.” Have you always been very particular about the way your clothes & accessories feel? Do you find elastic, tags, or seams extremely irritating and distracting? Do you have similarly strong reactions to things like food textures, loud noises, or crowds?

        I’m just wondering if you have a touch of sensory overload going on. That can be related to a lot of things, and certainly increases your feelings of stress and anxiety, especially when you are spending a lot of time outside your comfort zone.

    7. Kara*

      I’d also suggest doing to a doctor in case there’s something like anemia or a vitamin B deficiency playing into the constantly feeling tired.

      1. Eukomos*

        Good idea, I brushed off an intense lethargy and messed up sleep schedule as normal for graduate school for a couple of years, turned out to be a fairly severe vitamin D deficiency. It’s amazing how much better you feel when a nutrient deficiency gets corrected!

      2. VeryAnon*

        This ^ I had anemia and didn’t find out until I tried to give blood. My depression isn’t cured but I’m 50% more functional since getting that physical issue treated.

      3. Carrotstick21*

        Yes agree highly to this while also pursuing whether there is depression. I suddenly grew very fatigued and it changed my ability to get through the day – turned out to be a medical B12 deficiency. Monthly injections and I’m a new woman.

      4. Greta*

        I think this is very true but the only way OP will really help herself is to push through the day and start a routine. And have rewards along the way for sticking with the job. I look forward to a nice coffee every day and trying new coffee shops makes me focus on other stuff than work. Looking at work in a negative light also affects – you gotta find positive stuff about work – meeting new people, doing projects, promotions and challenges. Unfortunately unless you got money behind you, working has to become routine. As a manager as well I feel burnout heaps and notice when staff are the same. It affects everyone if you are focussed on yourself only and don’t think how your actions affect others. You are taking sick days with others covering for you. Got to get out of that headspace of, “Me, me, me”.

      5. Fiorinda*

        I’d also recommend this. What I once thought was just tiredness from overwork proved to be a pretty severe ferritin, B12 and D deficiency that took over a year to get sorted, plus depression that was partially caused by the low ferritin levels. Plus burnout, too, but it took a while longer to recognise that one. If OP has the means, a set of blood tests could be really useful for helping to identify and address any underlying physical issues.

    8. OrigCassandra*

      There’s some chance it’s as simple as a vitamin deficiency. I know that sounds weird and unlikely! But a number of deficiencies can cause depression-mimicking symptoms. When I went to my doctor for what turned out to be this, I said “It’s not depression! I’ve been depressed and this isn’t it! But wow, it feels like it…” Doc said “you’re vegetarian, right? let’s look at your B12” and ka-bam, that was sure enough it.

      No guarantees it’s this simple, of course, but a good doctor can at least rule the simple stuff out if it’s more complicated. So I’m nth-ing the “see a doctor” suggestion.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Right on. It’s amazing what happens inside us if we are low on Vitamin B or Vitamin D for example.
        We have to have energy to do the mundane. I marvel at how much energy the mundane can suck up. Something pretty basic like driving to work can become a monumental task. And of course, our brains run amok, “What IS wrong with me, how come I can’t do this, this should be easier than it is …” Notice the run on sentence here. That ALSO comes with being low on nutrients.

      2. Pink Belt*

        I was thinking the same. Or maybe a vitamin deficiency in conjunction with an anxiety disorder. Because the sleep thing really stuck out to me. When my iron was very low, I was very unmotivated to do anything except sleep and never felt rested no matter how much I got. A lot of vitamin deficiencies can affect sleep. B is another one.

      3. TootsNYC*

        thyroid as well.

        And as with everyone, it’s not that I’m trying to diagnose–a doctor can do that.

        But just to give our LW further information about why getting a doctor who will truly chase these things can be so valuable.

        1. LilySparrow*

          Yeah, I used to work sometimes as a “standardized patient” at a teaching hospital to help med students prepare for their board exams. My presenting story was that my character was depressed and wanted a referral for therapy.

          If the student questioned me, my character had a number of pretty severe physical symptoms consistent with classic hypothyroidism. But unless you’re looking for it, they don’t seem related at all.

          The big clue that the students were supposed to pick up on was that my supposed “depression” did not change my emotional life at all. I wasn’t sad or crying more than usual. I wasn’t numb and unable to enjoy things. I wasn’t unusually worried. I didn’t have intrusive thoughts. My emotional life was completely normal, aside from frustration and normal reactions to my situation.

          My character just felt totally lethargic and unmotivated, and couldn’t focus on anything.

          BTW – The students didn’t have to diagnose me, but they “passed” if they sent me for bloodwork and discussed possible physical causes like thyroid or anemia. They “failed” if they didn’t ask any questions about physical symptoms, didn’t listen to my answers, acted like I was lying, talked about putting me on a psych hold, or told me I had a brain tumor. About 20 percent of the students failed each round.

          1. blink14*

            This is so on point. I just recently started thyroid medication, which I’ve known has been coming for a long time (runs in my family) but my bloodwork had never been off enough for previous or current doctors to put me on medication until this summer. My labs were a bit abnormal, but I had been experiencing heightened anxiety and worsening brain fog for several months. Now almost two months on medication, brain fog is clearing and anxiety is back down to my normal. I have several health issues that combined cause a lot of problems, but its clear that for me, the anxiety I was experiencing was directly related to hypothyroidism.

            1. LilySparrow*

              Feeling perpetually foggy will make you anxious, because your fear that you will miss something or not be able to cope is actually true. It’s not really the same as anxiety disorder, because the thing you’re worried about is entirely realistic.

              1. blink14*

                Right – I didn’t say it was the same as an anxiety disorder. But it did heighten my own levels of anxiety.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              You found a doc that listened? Awesome!

              My mother has full blown Hashimoto’s syndrome, but the doctors keep telling me my thyroid is normal. Yet my energy is always low, I tire easily with physical work, and I gain weight all too easily. The ****** doctors just tell me to go on a diet and join a gym. It doesn’t help.

              I now don’t trust doctors much, because they always give me “solutions” that actively harm me because I’m fat. They keep seeing fat as the cause of my issues, not a symptom. It’s backwards.

              1. blink14*

                See someone else! This has taken me YEARS, but I’ve been very persistent and now also have an immune deficiency disease diagnosed that has been plaguing me my whole life. I will say I live in a major city that has top notch medical care, but I’ve bounced around to different doctors and specialists to find the right fit.

                My aunt is in a similar position to you – she has a lot of symptoms, yet her bloodwork remains “normal” or close to it. She’s basically given up but that’s the wrong approach. Keep advocating for yourself until you get answers that make sense.

      4. bonkerballs*

        Same – my doctor did routine blood work on me and my vitamin d levels were so low she was shocked I hadn’t been complaining to her about depression and lethargy and other similar symptoms. She put me on a prescription strength dose of vitamin d and the difference after a couple of weeks felt like night and day. Like I hadn’t realized I was only seeing the world in shades of gray and suddenly I could see colors again.

      5. michelenyc*

        I went through a horrible bought of B12 deficiency it is amazing how much it affected my life. I had to get shots once a week for I think it was 2 months and take daily high dose of B12. Once my levels started to improve I started to feel a lot better. It was rough but it did get better and now that I know the signs I able to better manage it.

        1. blink14*

          B12 deficiency is awful! It’s also very interesting that the European B12 guidelines for healthy B12 ranges is far above the US guidelines. I had a B12 deficiency awhile back, and while my level was normal for the US, it wasn’t for Europe, and both my doctor and I agreed to do high dose supplements for awhile. I still take it from time to time.

      6. Cabbage for a Head*

        I have bipolar and get routine vitamin D testing, since the symptoms mimic depression. I’m taking vitamin D supplements to ensure I stay at healthy levels.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          My depression pretty much went away when I started taking a lot of Vitamin D to help absorb Calcium (my family tends toward osteoporesis). I still have low energy and anxiety? But that is probably thyroid that the quacks won’t see because of inadequate testing.

        2. Quill*

          I have seasonal depression and I really wonder if I should look into vitamin D as well, because my brain seems unusually sensitive to short term changes in sunlight exposure…

          1. Northerner*

            It has been *transformative* for me—I’ve been doing 2000 IU a day for a few years now, and winters are so, so much more manageable (and I have better mood and energy and less joint pain year round). There don’t seem to be any drawbacks at reasonable doses, either.

          2. TardyTardis*

            Yes! I used to hack up my lungs every winter from January to March, then I started taking D3 on my own. My doctor thought 2000 IU was a bit on the high side, tested me, and said “er, carry on”. One year at the tax place I was the only one who didn’t call in sick, including the manager.

    9. Linzava*

      Absolutely agree, depression did the same thing to me. The ability to complete tasks and follow through go right out the window. And it only gets worse because I thought it was a character flaw and the guilt kept the cycle going.

    10. Jessica Fletcher*

      Agree. The feeling exhausted and lethargic every day could be a physical health issue, either separately or in conjunction with a mental health issue.

      Personally, I have severe B12 deficiency and am totally exhausted by early afternoon without regular B12 shots. This is separate from mental health.

      OP, if you don’t have health insurance, there are likely still FQHCs, Federally Qualified Health Centers, in your area, where you can get services at a low cost or free. You may even qualify for Medicaid without knowing, especially if you live in a state that expanded Medicaid under the ACA. I really encourage you to apply.

      1. Elaine*

        Getting 10 hours of sleep can actually make you groggy and lethargic, not well rested. I agree you should see a doctor and rule out a medical cause (including depression). If none of that pans out, I’d try 8 hours of sleep and see how that goes.

    11. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I feel so badly, because I know Alison asked for advice other than therapy. But as someone with depression, what OP is describing sounds like textbook signs of non-situational depression. When combined with anxiety, that’s a difficult cycle to escape, and our minds can be powerful things.

      Aside from encouragement to prioritize mental health treatment, OP may want to consider shadowing people with “non-desk” jobs. I had a coworker who hated being chained to a desk all day. She shadowed folks who worked for the national parks, who worked outdoors with children, who ran hiking or backpacking programs, who designed vacations or adventures for others, who worked for Habitat for Humanity, who worked on campaigns or as community organizers, etc., etc.

      There are a lot of interesting and varied jobs that do not require being in an office or behind a desk all day. If the boredom of an office job is part of OP’s dread, it may help to see that there are alternatives that may not trigger a depressive cycle.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        Agree PCBH. Even retail or restaurant jobs where you are moving and most every day is different could help.

        1. Eillah*

          As someone with anxiety and depression who has worked retail and restaurants… I’m not sure this is the best path. Those jobs can be extremely anxiety inducing!

          1. Jadelyn*

            This probably depends on your particular symptoms and triggers. I had a similar experience to yours (yay, crying in the back corner of the stock room!), but depending on what you’re doing I could see it being less worse than sitting at a desk doing admin work.

            1. Pretzelgirl*

              Same, I have bad anxiety. But did quite well in retail. I liked interacting with people and differences the day brought me from office work. Its all about triggers and what works for you.

      2. RagingADHD*

        Being outside is also really good for your brain – anxiety, depression, ADHD, and all sorts of other brain stuff is helped by natural light and green space.

      3. Tib*

        I super agree, and I think it’s worth noting that a lot of people crash after college. The structure of school can mask a lot of mental health issues. It did for me.

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        Paid political canvassing is a thing. You like moving around, being on your feet, and interacting with people? HAVE I GOT THE JOB FOR YOU! Seasonal/cyclical, obviously. But next year, just as the elections are over, the census canvassing will begin.

    12. mreasy*

      I agree, and I disagree with the commenters who are indicating that therapy is the first step. As someone with severe mental health issues, I find therapy essential – but with something this crippling, going to a psychiatrist who might be able to help you find a medication to get your baseline somewhere closer to functional seems to me like the first step. Therapy only works if your mental health enables you to “do the work” and actually engage in the process, which sometimes requires medical intervention upfront.

      1. TootsNYC*

        This is a good point about the difference between therapy and medical treatment for mental health problems.

        I think a lot of people use the word “therapy” to mean “mental health care,” but when you get into the particulars, they can be very different (but complementary) things.

      2. Jadelyn*

        I mean, I don’t feel like this is an either-or choice. OP can and should both go to a doctor, and start seeing a therapist.

      3. Lx in Canada*

        This makes sense; once I had medication, I found it much easier to actually take the steps to initiate therapy.

    13. earl grey aficionado*

      This. OP, it might be worth asking to be evaluated for chronic pain conditions like fibromyalgia as well. The line about uncomfortable office clothes really jumped out to me.

      I have a serious mental health condition that derailed my ability to work for awhile. I got treated for that, tried to go back to work, and…unfortunately, immediately experienced something similar to what you’re dealing with. Having to sit in an office chair, having to wear office clothes, and having to smile/keep a pleasant or neutral expression drained me so much I would leave work in tears (when I didn’t have to leave early). I couldn’t figure out what was wrong since my mental health remained under control.

      It turned out I had a couple of nasty chronic pain conditions. Chronic pain manifests as pain (obviously) but the worst symptoms for me feel more like persistent discomfort and exhaustion like what you’re describing.

      Right now my ability to work still isn’t great. I’m working part-time from home as a freelancer. But I’m slowly bouncing back. Trying to find at-home or freelance work might be a good stop-gap as you get this figured out. I’m rooting for you!

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I get migraines, and when I have a nasty flare up, one of my symptoms is my skin hurts and gets hypersensitive (think when you have the flu and everything hurts) to the point that my clothes hurt. Sometimes my arms feel too heavy to move, also.

        I didn’t realize this was a migraine symptom for several years, and I’d go through weeks where my clothes were painful and my eyelids hurt when I blinked and touching anything was achy and painful. I didn’t put two and two together until I was prescribed Aleeve for an injury and had a huge quality of life improvement.

        1. earl grey aficionado*

          Absolutely. I get the sore skin too. All these symptoms can sneak up on you, which makes them very hard to figure out! The onset of my chronic pain wasn’t “pain,” it was “can’t sit still, always crabby, always feeling dirty/sweaty/gross for some reason even though I just showered.” It took several years of feeling like that and struggling with work and school for the more severe spikes of pain to start, which finally lead to diagnosis and treatment.

          All this to say that if the OP feels like there’s something else/more going on than “just” anxiety or depression (which are hard enough!), it’s very much worth getting checked out for chronic pain and autoimmune stuff. That was the final piece of the puzzle for me.

      2. EH*

        This is smart. My fibromyalgia initially manifested as being kind of achy and tired and sad/spacey all the time. In the course of getting me diagnosed and treated, we found a handful of other issues (like vitamin d deficiency) that needed fixing as well.

        OP, getting all your systems checked is a really good idea, like others are suggesting. There are things that are really simple to fix that can cause symptoms like you describe. There are also things that are a pain in the ass but treatable, but you can’t fix/treat what you haven’t diagnosed. Good luck!

        1. Quill*

          Also it’s worth noting that some things can feed into each other – chronic pain or fatigue can create or reinforce depression, depression can make it harder for your body to fight inflammation, etc.

          And if you possess a uterus… there are plenty of things, hormonally, that can reinforce a bunch of other problems. (To use a personal example… PCOS + chronic tendonitis + PTSD & the depression/anxiety suite mean that any one of those three invites the other two to the party.)

    14. blackcat*

      Yes, as others have said, I highly recommend a full work up.

      A few years back, I took up running to help with anxiety and depression, and promptly stress-fractured my foot.

      Turns out, I had a severe vitamin D deficiency. Had that been diagnosed first, I wouldn’t have broken the foot! But props to the orthopedist who heard “I took up running to help with my mood” and ordered a full blood panel, catching the vitamin D deficiency. Apparently this exact sequence of events is relatively common.

      It took a few weeks, but the vitamin D supplements helped tremendously. And within 3 months I was able to take running back up again.

    15. Ada*

      +1 for doctor and therapy. Also, once you’ve got some kind of treatment going and you feel ready to dip your toe back into the working world, see if your area has vocational rehabilitation services. They can work with you to figure out what kind of job would be a good fit and can even help get you any training needed and/or place you in a job. From my experience, these services are usually free (except for maybe the training, if you need some kind of certification).

    16. NW Mossy*

      I’ll say this too: the OP’s story strikes me as falling into the definition of disability under federal law in the US (US Code Section 12102). The definition specifically calls out “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities”, and goes on to explicitly specify that working is considered a major life activity. No wonder the OP feels that this anxiety is so debilitating – what she’s experiencing is literally the textbook definition.

      Bridging from there, OP, I would strongly encourage you to be as open as you can to potential supports under disability programs. These may give you access to help that might otherwise be harder to reach, and they exist to help. Your struggle manifests internally rather than externally, but it doesn’t make you any bit less deserving of help.

    17. Anne Elliot*

      I don’t think we’re all diagnosing, but I’d like to chime in on being screened for depression, which of course is something different from anxiety. What resonated with me in terms of my personal experience of depression is the intellectual objective knowledge that something is necessary (MUST HAVE JOB BECAUSE MUST EAT) but yet still being literally incapable of doing that thing. “I have to get up because I have to go to work” => not getting up; “I have to take my meds to feel better” => not taking my meds. That’s a big red honk for my personal experience of depression.

    18. MommyMD*

      See a physician and have bloodwork including thyroid. See a mental health provider. You may have underlying depression/anxiety and meds can help. Commit to stop being your own worst enemy. Word can get around you’re a ghoster and make life that much more difficult. Get some exercise, even a couple of laps around the block. Eat healthy. Envision yourself successful at work.

  2. The Original K.*

    In addition to therapy, maybe a few sessions with a career coach would help. It may be that administrative and/or office work is not your thing, and maybe a career coach could help you think more broadly about how you want to earn a living.

    1. Murphy*

      This. Not every job is a boring office job. And not every office job is boring, of course, but if an office job is not for you, it will feel this way.

    2. Nicotene*

      Yeah I actually preferred doing jobs with more physical stuff when I was younger. They need people to stock shelves, pack boxes, even work outdoors – like at grocery stores, parks / lawn services, packing companies, making deliveries – all kinds of options if office life is not a good fit for you. It happens! Even professional jobs like teaching or medical stuff might be away from the desk all day.

      1. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        Agreed. I don’t want to go on crazy speculative tangents, but the OP may want to think a bit about the physical, movement differences between the times when they are working and miserable and not working and happy. It’s not just how much formal “exercise” you get, but also the difference between being sedentary and more active. It can have a lot of impact on a person’s health and well being. Some of us with significant anxiety, for example, find that being physically active can be helpful.

        I don’t want to be one of those people who say, “You can cure your ADHD and mood disorder with a brisk jog/free weights!” It’s more just that some people need to move more than others.

        The OP mentions being uncomfortable, feeling chained to the desk, being bored, being exhausted. Those signal to me that this may be worth pondering.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I don’t want to be one of those people who says “you can cure your ADHD or mood disorder with jogging and weights!” either, but…. speaking from my personal experience my ADHD symptoms are negligible when I have an active hands-on job and get a lot of exercise. I still have to make some accommodations, but it’s at a level where I can keep my life on track and make progress on personal/professional goals even without medication.

          When I’m stuck in a sedentary job, especially if I’m not dilligent about exercising outside of work? My brain basically turns to unfocused mush and all my symptoms get 1000% worse. Forget goals, I’m lucky to even get the bare minimum done to keep my head above water. Performance at work starts slipping. My house looks like a disaster. It’s not pretty.

          All this to say that lifestyle can and does have a HUGE impact on mental health. The right lifestyle (for you) won’t magically cure all ills, but the wrong lifestyle (for you) will absolutely make things worse.

          1. DawnShadow*

            “The right lifestyle (for you) won’t magically cure all ills, but the wrong lifestyle (for you) will absolutely make things worse.”

            YES!! Thank you so much for putting this into reasonable words for me. I struggle with wanting to give advice (that worked FOR ME) without being insensitive to other people’s different situations/needs/bodies/brains. This encapsulates my thought perfectly!

            And I had a similar experience of having my social anxiety lessen dramatically when I *made* myself do retail – took a few months but I like being able to talk to lots of different people but having scripts so I don’t feel awkward – and strangely enough when I started food server-ing on the side a couple nights a week I found I had so much energy that I *never* would have thought I had in me, because I like the control of orchestrating someone’s meal experience, if that is even a thing. And after a couple years of retail, I am amazed at how much thicker my skin is. I can just shrug things off and say “it must be them, not me” and really mean it. Maybe it’s like immersion therapy?

            Anyway, as above, YMMV and all. Just wanted to add my thought of, what I actually liked doing, was not at all what I had imagined myself liking (I was sure I had too much anxiety to cashier and too little energy to waitress), and what I had imagined myself liking (science, academia) was actually dead boring to me once I was actually doing it. Now, people saying I wasted my degree… that’s another topic!

      2. pleaset*

        I was a bike messenger in senior year of high school and then a walking messenger for a while after college, both in New York City. Those were really fun most of the time. Drags in terrible weather on the bike, and a big dangerous, but fun.

    3. Kes*

      Agreed with this. It sounds like OP has a lot of anxiety/depression tied to their ideas about 9-5 office jobs. Therapy is definitely in order, but it’s also worth considering whether a different type of job might be a better fit and avoid that trigger (and there are lots of non-office jobs – teacher, park ranger, etc, I think we’ve even had some threads on this topic?)

      1. The Original K.*

        I knew a woman who was previously a consultant at one of the big firms. She burned out, quit, got certified to teach spinning, and never looked back. I think she owns a studio now. I met her by taking her class – she was a FANTASTIC teacher.

        The OP sounds young, so now is a great time to try out different things to see what sticks (not that it’s ever too late!).

        1. pleaset*

          As the Ramones put it:

          My mom and dad are always fighting
          And it’s getting very unexciting
          To get a good job
          You need a proper schooling
          Now who the hell
          Do ya think you’re fooling

          But it’s not my place oh no
          No it’s not my place no no
          No it’s not my not my not my place
          In the 9 to 5 world
          And it’s not my place
          In the 9 to 5 world

          And it’s not my place
          with 9 to 5 girl
          It’s not my place
          In the 9 to 5 world

          Hangin’ out with Lester Bangs you all
          And Phil Spector really has it all
          Uncle Floyd shows on the T.V.
          Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood, 10cc

          But it’s not my place

          Don’t wanna be a working stiff
          Lose my identity
          ‘Cause when it comes
          To working 9 to 5
          There ain’t not place for me
          Ain’t my reality to me

          Vin Scelsa’s on the radio
          Ramones are hangin’ out in Kokomo
          Roger Corman’s on a talk show
          With Allan Arkush and Stephen King
          You know
          But it’s not my place

    4. Zeez*

      Yeah, I think LW should try an entry level job other than admin work — Ideally maybe something physical/activity based but even something that’s more “reactive” like customer service might help.

      I can work in an office just fine, and I don’t have a problem with self-directed work etc. But the 9 months I spent as a 20/hr a week receptionist were some of the most miserable of my life and were the only time I’ve ever had depression symptoms. There’s something about the repetitive, gap-filled, unexciting aspects to admin work that I can’t deal with. I was much happier with even customer service work, because it was fast-paced and involved a lot more problem solving (though again, I think LW should try to get a job that’s not in an office and see what that is like for them).

      1. Ama*

        I am a pretty classic introvert, and I had a lot of admin/reception jobs early in my career. Because the first few were for pretty low traffic jobs where I spent most of my time doing work that wasn’t directly dealing with people (i.e. filing, ordering supplies, etc.), I thought everything was fine. When I moved to a job that had a lot more people in the building and a constant stream of people at my desk, on the phone, etc., I found myself constantly irritable and exhausted at the end of every day. It took a while for me to realize it wasn’t just the amount of work but the nature of it (i.e. constantly having to be “on” and actively engaged with people with no time to recharge) that was the root of the problem.

        I’ve since moved to a job where I have no reception responsibilities and minimal times where I *have* to spend a significant amount of time in people engagement mode unless it is for a scheduled meeting or event (and having the prep time for those has allowed me to plan ways to get the down time I need to keep from being exhausted at the end).

        1. Lil*

          This might not even be an introvert specific thing. i’m an extrovert and i abhor customer facing jobs such as reception. i hate both 1. dealing with angry people and their potentially unsolvable problems and 2. repetition. i get SO bored of saying/explaining the same things over and over to new people.

          Either way, this would be a good opportunity for introspection from the OP.

    5. LawBee*

      Career coaches can be REALLY expensive, though. It’s not a bad idea, but hopefully LW can find one that is affordable if she chooses to go that route.

      1. soon 2be former fed*

        The local state unemployment may offer this service for free, along with many other career services.

      2. CarolineChickadee*

        My college’s alumni association offers a limited number of coaching sessions to members- maybe that could be an option?

    6. Not So NewReader*

      I’d like to point out that if I described my job as chained to a desk, another cog in the mechanism and so on, I wouldn’t want to go to work either.
      Matter of fact, I did not do desk work for years because the very thought of having to sit all day caused something inside me to die. Here we are 30 years later and I think I would like to sit down now. So I took a desk job. While I am happy to be off my feet, my back is not happy at all and tells me on a regular basis.

      OP, are you just randomly applying for whatever and not thinking about the company or the specific job? I started out only working for small companies which has its draw backs, of course, but it did help me to feel less like Employee #4798 and more like a person.
      It’s interesting to look back. I took one job where I had five life changing goals. At that time, these goals seemed far-fetched. I felt very bold setting these lofty goals. One by one I hit each goal. And I can tell you that there were lots of times it would have been easier just to quit the job, the only thing that was going right was I was achieving my personal goals. When I wanted to walk out the door I would tell myself, “Goal #x almost got it, then I can start goal #y.”

      My point is life without personal goals can make everything seem senseless and a waste of time. How are your personal goals doing? Do you have steps laid out and loosely constructed time frames for your steps?

      What kind of job would not seem like a black hole to you? And what will it take to get yourself working at that job?
      Start thinking about your natural gifts and abilities. This makes a good starting point because if you are naturally good at something it’s more likely that you will stay steadily employed.

    7. r.d.*

      Starbucks has a good management program.
      Of course there is retail and laborer jobs, but there are also several types of professional type jobs which don’t put your butt in a seat the entire day.

      Outside Sales
      Real Estate

      Here is an article about some jobs, though in fairness, most of the ones listed here require specialized degrees.

      And one that’s maybe more realistic.

  3. Not Australian*

    I think this OP is trying to fit into a role that doesn’t suit them. Some people just aren’t fitted for the 9-5 deskbound life, so (apart from the therapy, which is a great place to start) the OP should be thinking about what sort of work would actually make them happy, and looking at retraining for that. It may not be easy to change course, but if the end result is likely to be happiness it’s got to be worth any stress/discomfort/financial penalty it may involve in the short-term. So, OP, what do you really love doing, and is there a way you could make that your career instead?

    1. soapiesteagle*

      I completely agree with this comment! A lot of people feel they have to work a typical 9-5 but there are so many non-desk jobs that are just as fulfilling! Have you considered doing something that gets you out of an office setting? If you are pretty set on working in administrative or office jobs, look at what you’re doing outside of work. Do you have a healthy set of hobbies or friends that can help give you something to look forward to? Also, therapy is a great place to start!

    2. Zil*

      My dad went to school for pre-law but did construction in the summer. He found he loved his summer job more than anything he went to school for, so after graduating he did construction full time. He eventually opened his own business and was a successful general contractor for over 20 years before retiring. Never did anything related to his degree, but was successful and financial comfortable.

      It sounds to be like the LW might not be suited for an office job, and that’s fine. There are so many other options. What is it about being “chained to a desk” or wearing business attire that feels awful? Do you like to work outside, do you like to work with customers directly, do you like fast-paced environments, do you prefer to be on your feet? Start with what type of environment you need to thrive and then look for jobs that might check those boxes, even if it’s not related to your degree or not a white-collar job.

      1. CupcakeCounter*

        Yes! Sometime the degree will get your foot in the door even if it seems unrelated. My FIL was an accountant and ended up running and then building agricultural processing plants because the company he worked for loved him but he couldn’t go any higher up in the finance department. He had no engineering background but his knowledge of the finances made him absolutely amazing at project management so he ended up working more and more in the plant until he was hired by another company to build them one. When he retired he was traveling all over the world working with various plants helping with troubleshoot their projects.

      2. Sparrow*

        Yes, I think this is the right way to think about it. And I would specifically encourage OP not to get caught up in thinking that these alternate job ideas need to be things she could picture herself doing forever. I suspect any kind of mostly-positive job experience would go a long way in helping overcome some of these mental roadblocks, so I think the immediate goal is finding something that’s a *better* fit based on what OP has learned about herself and her needs.

      3. T3k*

        Agreed, figuring out what exactly they don’t like about the job will also really help them see what kind of jobs they might like instead. I’ve worked all desk jobs since college but I knew just the idea of having to wear business attire (even business casual) would suck the life out of me so I steered far away from any kind of business that did that (thankfully both the field I was in and the new one allow casual, like even shorts if you wanted to, though I just stick to tshirts and jeans).

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Yep, if the OP finds business clothes restrictive and the thought of being in an office 8 hours is torture, then that doesn’t seem like the correct job environment. I’d look into some part time jobs in warehouses, hospitality, maybe there are some apprenticeships available…just try some stuff out. The OP may love working at a spa and want to pursue a job as an aesthetician or massage therapist. Perhaps they would like the business of hotel management? Or being a landscaper or carpenter? Just because they went to college doesn’t mean they can’t continue their education into a trade.
      There is a lot more to the working world than sitting in an office.

      1. Jake*

        I work in construction, and you’d be shocked by how many tradesmen and women have college degrees.

        There’s also a lot of construction work that is kind of between stereotypical blue collar and white collar work that is appealing to some people.

        Safety managers, site superintendents, project engineers, project managers, etc. They don’t keep you chained to the desk, but you also aren’t wearing down your body with rough physical labor.

        Im sure other industries have similar hybrid jobs. Maybe start looking for something like that?

      2. Mockingjay*

        Agreed. For instance, I live near a port city. There are all kinds of logistics positions needing administrative, database, and management skills, which are far more informal in terms of business environment.

        Think outside the box of stereotype 9-5 office. I know one person that works for a local tire company. She loves it. She had the business skills; they trained her on tires. Sometimes we get fixated on the “idea” of what an office job looks like, instead of what it really is (or can be).

      3. MistOrMister*

        I think this is great advice. I knew someone who was insistent that they needed an office job because to them I guess it equalled prestige. They finally had to accept it wasn’t a good fit for them and moved on to a postal job to which they are much better suited. I really wish there wasn’t so much cultural emphasis on either you need to work in an office or high paying carerr or you’re garbage. I think it makes people like OP try to squeeze themselves into the wrong shaped hole, so to speak. I read an article not long ago about schools bringing back trade work study programs. There are a wealth of jobs that are going unfilled because of lack of people going into those fields, like plumbing and electricians.

        If OP likes animals dog walking/pet sitting might be an option. Or a vet or pet daycare. A job at a stable if they like horses. I would leave my office job to work at a pet daycare in a heartbeat if only it would pay my mortgage!!

        Also, volunteering at various places could be an option. It’s less restrictive than even a part time job and would let OP see if they like certain fields.

      4. Secretary*

        Yep I was coming down to say it sounds like an office job is not for the OP!

        OP: If you could erase the board of what you think a job should look like, what would you be doing every day?

        Examples of Fields That Are Not Office Work:
        -Food Industry (waitstaff, cook/chef, general manager, caterer, food bank employee, etc)
        -Sales (luxury items, cars, pianos, vacuum cleaners, etc)
        -Auto Mechanic
        -Landscaping/Tree Work
        -Animal Welfare (getting petitions signed, SPCA, housesitter/petsitter, dog walker, etc)
        -Gym Employee (Personal Trainer, Yoga Instructor, Sports Coach, etc)
        -Event Planner
        -Translator (if you speak multiple languages)
        -Teacher in area you know (surfing, music, acting, fencing, knitting, oragami, scrapbooking, etc)
        -Backpacking/Hiking/River Rafting/Mountain Climbing Guide
        -Bee Keeper
        -Camp Counselor
        -Fisherman (Seasonal? I know lots of people who go to Alaska for Salmon fishing)
        -Cruise Ship worker
        -Forest Ranger

        I googled this, and this is not even everything I found. Even if you don’t know what you want to do forever, find something that pays the bills now that you won’t ghost!

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Agreed. My hairdresser trained originally as an accountant and worked as a financial advisor, before being able to complete an apprenticeship in a hair salon. She’s been doing that now for the last 10+ years and it’s her dream job. The question to ask should be: What is the “fun stuff” and can it turned into, or does it resemble, an occupation that exists and has a chance to feed the OP.

          But taking decisive action towards a career and direction change is scary and requires a mindset I’m not sure the OP has just yet. (Though they wrote to AAM, so that’s good!) I would still think that the OP could benefit from therapy. Getting too anxious, lethargic and filled with dread should not be part of the process. Also, it would be a good idea to get to a point that the OP could just take on one of the available jobs they can get right now, just to make sure that the financials stay in the green zone.

        2. Perpal*

          Yes! Plus all the things that require trade school; plumber, electrician, uhhh, more construction stuff (specialized construction stuff?)? I’m not really up on what requires trade school and what doesn’t but they all seem cool and a lot more hands on. Also rumor is desperately needed.

          1. Blue Meeple*

            Welding, HVAC, mechanic…Google says there’s also trade schools for cosmetology, pharmacy techs, chefs, dental hygenists, and lots of other things.

            Manufacturing is definitely an alternative to office work. I actually don’t mind sitting at a computer all day, but I never managed to find a full time permanent office job and temping got old, so I switched to manufacturing a few years ago. There are a lot of open entry level positions for lots of different kinds of jobs in growing industries. The company I’m at has hired half a dozen new people in the last few months.

            The rumor I heard is that welding/hvac/electrician/plumber/etc is an aging population and over the next 10 or 15 years, many of the current people will retire and that’s when new ones will be needed. I think the implication is that young people have been pushed toward computers and other STEM fields and away from these “low class” but extremely important fields.

    4. Robyn*

      Agree! I also get exhausted from 9-5 office work even though my skill set is such that I can do “interesting” office work. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours all week long just doesn’t suit my energy and I burn out VERY quickly in that situation. Maybe look for a job that involves a bit more variety – maybe shift work, maybe physical work, especially if you are just trying to pay the bills for now.

    5. anonpeopleIknowreadthissite*

      I agree with this. I’ve never worked an office job, but I think I would be miserable. I was an automotive detailer for awhile and enjoyed it, but then moved away from that job. For awhile I bounced around between low paid laborer jobs and I was bored and miserable to the point of being suicidal. I switched careers and was able to get my EMT certification and while the job pays terrible, I LOVE my job and am so much happier. I never know what my day will hold and am very rarely bored (and if I’m bored I try to enjoy it – it won’t last long)

    6. RC Rascal*

      This. I graduated from a prestigious liberal arts college with a degree in Economics and took a job in the Corporate Treasury department of a household name company. The offices were beautiful. I was miserable; the cubes reminded me of rats in a maze. I quit after 90 days and had to do some soul searching. Up to that point the only job I had ever had I enjoyed was a commissioned retail job. I ended up taking an outside sales job selling groceries. In the 1990s, this was not something women did, especially women with Economics degrees from prestigious schools. Most of my college peers were working in banking and think tanks in DC. Today, I am a VP of Sales selling engineered electrical equipment. Still not a lot of women doing what I do. I have an MBA from a Top 20 school, and I still don’t spend much time in the office.

    7. Sleepytime Tea*

      This is what I was going to say. It may just be that an office job is not going to be a fit for OP. Maybe look at retail where you have more personal interaction, or waitressing, or anything like that. Having no job will hit you harder financially than having A job.

      OP, also, you have to try to focus on the things you DO like about the environment. Get to know your coworkers, go out to lunch, have a happy hour, put fun pictures up at your desk or puzzles or something. Make your space more personal and less sterile. It does help. I have pictures, I have a couple of little toys, I have puzzles that I take a few minutes each day to work on to give my brain a little break, etc. Those things can help break up the big white space of the cubical farm around you.

    8. B*

      Yup, agreed. There are a lot of jobs in research that involve field work – going out to other businesses, or people’s homes, or the wilderness, to get a lot of that research done. I’m in the office 1-3 days a week, and then spend the rest of my time driving around the state to various meetings. I know a lot of doctors, and many of them find the office parts of their job the worst parts of their job – but getting to meet new people and talk about their medical issues and lives is deeply fulfilling for them. I have friends who have jobs as landscapers, ice cream scoopers, engineers on ships to the North Pole, rock climbing instructors, taxidermists, trapeze artists – there’s a lot of different ways to pay the bills.

      OP, think about what you like doing in your spare time and what you’d consider to be an enjoyable way to spend your days. If it’s not in an office, where might it be? Would it involve working with humans? Animals? Plants? Buildings? Food? Nature? There’s a happy medium between “work is inherently a grind that everyone hates” and “find a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”, where you have a job that is good enough, that lets you grow your skill set, where the work is at least occasionally fulfilling and the rest of it you don’t hate, and that pays enough with good enough benefits. It’s worth spending some time to figure out what that might look like for you.

    9. ArtsNerd*

      Agreed. On top of therapy (and a depression screening), OP should look into other kinds of work! There are lots of employment opportunities (particularly in the trades) that people can thrive in when they struggle with desk work.

      That said: Something that I was concerned about with working a desk job when I had an internship was the total boredom and lack of direction I was provided (which was a problem with my fit in that particular internship and supervisor.) I was horrified that this was something I was supposed to do 40 hours a week (I was part-time) and terrified of how I would manage it.

      But my paid employment always has a ton to do! The times when I’m bored, I just take it as a breather from the times we’re absolutely slammed, which is much more often. In prior jobs I had to jump up from my desk to help with events or give tours quite frequently as well.

      Now, I have a desk job where the dress code is extremely casual and the hours are 10-6, which both meet my specific needs. An 8am start time or conservative dress code are both things I’d absolutely struggle with.

      It sounds like OP’s experience is in desk jobs that are in more conservative environment and provide little-to-no intellectual stimulation. That’s not all there is! Either way, hang in there.

    10. nnn*

      Even if you can’t figure out what you really love doing, is there something that you mind doing less that you could do in the interim just to make money?

      How would you feel about working directly with customers? How would you feel about manual labour? How would you feel about driving? How would you feel about working outdoors?

      Figure out if there’s something something that you can cope with showing up for, and adjust from there.

  4. Zil*

    Why not look for a non-office job? You may find a job as a waiter or barista more stimulating. Or perhaps look into something that is heavy on manual labor or lets you work outside, like landscaping. Seasonal work is another option; I have friends who do landscaping in the summer and retail around the holidays. There are entry-level options that don’t require you to be “chained to a desk” or wear business attire.

    Aside from that, I definitely agree with therapy, but the LW might have trouble affording it without a job (definitely look for therapists that offer sliding scale services though, though!).

    1. in the file room*

      Yes – I’m wondering if OP had any part-time jobs during school in retail, food service, etc. and whether the same thing happened there?if not, I think it points strongly to a fit problem.

    2. AshRadSki*

      I think becoming a real estate agent would be worth considering. You get to meet new people, tour interesting houses, and spend almost zero time in an office :)

    3. New Normal*

      This. I learned quickly as a 20-something that I was not made for most entry-level office jobs. Part of that was my then-undiagnosed ADHD (and I’d recommend OP look over a symptom list, especially for ADHD inattentive type since it can easily be missed during school years) but another part was that I like solving problems and it was the rare entry-level office job that let me do that. Mostly I got stuck filing and filing out forms. Retail gave me a great outlet since there’s always some puzzle to solve, from helping a customer find the right item to making the checkout process enjoyable to tidying the shirt table or making a display look great even when we only have half the products needed.

      Bonus, at this point I’ve moved up enough that I’m looking to move back into the office world but now I qualify for positions where I’m problem-solving rather than filing. It wasn’t the most lucrative path to take but I’ve enjoyed it.

    4. Lady Russell's Turban*

      A friend graduated with a business degree but after a year of working a professional office job realized the desk bound life was not for him. He became a UPS delivery driver (when pay and benefits were excellent) and loved his job. It suited his need to be physically active, to have brief human interactions throughout the day but also to work on his own, and to be able to earn enough that he could retire early.

      There are many paths in life. Maybe you would be happier in a skilled trade, though that would require some more training. Suggestions to seek therapy AND to find a coach or someone who can help you figure out what type of work would make you happy (or at least satisfied) are good ones.

    5. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yes to this.

      But a question – you say “I would rather get a job at the university, the local hospital, or a nonprofit”.

      What exactly do you think people do there? Most jobs at those places also involve sitting at a desk, wearing business clothing, etc. Don’t let the sense of mission at those institutions blind you to the fact that 99% of white-collar work is desks, computers, phones, and paper.

      1. Alianora*

        I think the LW meant they would rather work at that type of organization in an administrative role, rather than the same job at a for-profit company.

        But I agree they should branch out in terms of the type of work they’re considering.

      1. EddieSherbert*


        There are SO many wonderful jobs out there, I highly recommend widening your search. You could even look up the type of places you would be interested in working (you mentioned non-profits, hospitals, etc) and seeing what jobs they have open. It might give you a direction or idea.

        For example, many non-profits need help with organizing or running events/fundraising/volunteers. That might involve some desk work, but is also going to include moving around a lot!

    6. Ladybugger*

      I second this. OP, if you really hate office life, there’s a whole other world out there for you! I love working with my hands, and if you’re the same that might be a really good fit for you.

    7. Meepmeep*

      I did tutoring as my full time job for a few years and loved it much more than any office jobs I’ve had. It might be another possibility for OP.

      Another general suggestion – some sort of entrepreneurship. Starting a business and working for yourself feels very different from working in an office.

  5. Mazzy*

    Your expectations are too low and negative. I think you might be getting influenced by all of the doom and gloom articles about how basically millennial-aged people will never make it in America. Your characterization of corporate life is fortunately off base for many jobs. Happy people don’t write about this stuff online because it sounds like bragging, you only see horror and cringe stories. In reality, you will be making strong bonds and lifelong friends, you will be saving for retirement from a young age, which means your money will compound more and you won’t need to save as much, you will be doing some exciting and interesting things and having moments of peak mental clarity as you investigate and fix in-depth problems, and every few years or decade, you’ll get a promotion, and you’ll probably be getting annual raises.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      As a fresh college grad, she is Gen Z, the oldest of which were born in 1995 and are 24.

      1. Mazzy*

        This is true, but all of the doom and gloom articles are tailored to millennials at this point, this is what I was referring to

        1. Quill*

          If you’re younger than me, I’m not even sure you’re a millennial, and I’m 27.

          They’ve been predicting doom and gloom for millennials for 20 years and at this point most of them are 30+

      2. Phoenix Programmer*

        It doesn’t matter. All generational stereotyping is BS anyway.

        -signed a millennial with no intention of inflicting the media circus we had on younger adults.

      3. LilySparrow*

        Shoutout from Gen X to Gen Z. Welcome, kids, to being the “other one.”

        I notice that 90’s grunge started coming back a couple years ago. Not a coincidence.

    2. Joielle*

      I don’t think characterizing this as a problem with “doom and gloom articles” is fair when the articles are largely accurate. I’m 30 – just statistically, people my age and younger (and a lot of older millenials too) have more financial challenges than people in older generations. Stagnant wages, cost of living increases, cost of education, etc etc. That’s not “horror and cringe stories,” it’s facts about the economy.

      Of course, there are lots of individuals doing better and worse than averages would suggest. Personally, I’m lucky to have a good-paying job with great benefits that I enjoy. But a lot of people don’t have that, and some of it is indeed because of those big generational differences. I don’t think it helps the OP to say things aren’t that bad, or that they’re somehow doing this to themselves because of negative thinking. OP doesn’t need to magically start enjoying office work, they need to make sure their mental and physical health is in order and figure out what kind of work they’d like to do.

      1. boo bot*

        I agree with this (I’m mid-30s, entered the job market around 2008) but I also think that the realities you laid out + the way people talk about them means that the story about work people in our age cohort have been taught isn’t, “Work hard and you can make a better life for yourself.” Instead, we got a decade of, “You’d better take what you’re given and be grateful you have a job at all.”

        Which I think is pretty damaging – people end up feeling like they’re going to be called entitled snowflakes if they ask for a living wage, or try to find a job that doesn’t make them miserable. I think/hope that’s changing? Unions are growing in some sectors, which is great. The gig economy is exploitative, but gives lip service to the idea that people like having free time and flexible schedules, which I guess means a good concept exists in the zeitgeist for them exploit? I’m clearly reaching for examples, but at least I’m working hard.

        Regardless, the remedy is the same, and I think you called it: reality-based reporting.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      While this is a useful comment on how office jobs are not always “chained to a desk” boring, I think it’s pretty clear OP isn’t able to just power through this.

    4. Sk*

      Well said. I can see how people straight out of school are jaded by the 9-5 office job (I know I was!) But it’s not as bad as OP is imagining it. You shouldn’t assume all offices require uncomfortable business clothing, plenty of office jobs nowadays let you wear sneaker and jeans and have tattoos or piercings. And someone accidentally getting a flavored coffee is actually one of the more boring things that would happen in an office! There’s always some crazy drunk holiday party story, or someone who just came back from a super cool trip, or somewhat-appropriate bachelorette parties, or some drama about why so-and-so was laid off.

      Sure, going into work isn’t what I’d pick if I had the choice, but I enjoy the people and work so it’s not too bad. Plus the money isn’t just for bills and rent, it also allows me to go on vacation and go out drinking with friends and do some hobbies I find more fulfilling.

      1. Hamstring Disturbance*

        This. I work for a large Fortune 500, standard office setting (financial industry, grey cubes, no ping pong table-type amenities, etc). I interviewed with pink and purple streaks in my hair. Nobody gave a damn. Jeans are acceptable any day of the week. One of my husband’s current job prospects (defense contractor) is definitely a jeans and t-shirts type of place. Not all corporate environments are created equal.

    5. Louise*

      I think you must be coming from a pretty privileged perspective to think those articles aren’t true. We’re the first generation predicted to amass *less* wealth in our lives than our parents, we’ve had to wade through the minefield of unpaid internships and needing two degrees and three years of experience to get entry level jobs, cost of living skyrocketting well beyond wages, and underpaid non-benefitted gig economy jobs replacing full time positions (which is them sold to us as a positive). Blaming the OP for having a negative mindset isn’t going to help them deal with the anxiety that they’re facing, and it’s certainly not going to help them deal with the hellbeast that is late stage capitalism.

    6. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

      This comment is very dismissive and borderline gaslighting. The OP is obviously having serious anxiety issues around how they can make a livelihood, and you’re chalking it up to delusion due to “doom and gloom” articles??? First of all, the “doom and gloom” isn’t media hype. If you weren’t the least bit affected by the recession, student loan debt, and an abundance of entry level jobs requiring Master’s degrees, consider yourself fortunate. The type of job you’re describing – retirement savings, annual raises, “lifelong friends” – is not accessible to most people.

      1. AnonForReasons*

        I agree. If this commenter wasn’t deliberately trolling, there appears to be naivete, privilege, or a lack of work and life experience underlying the comment. Many office jobs are hellish. If they weren’t, the AAM column wouldn’t be needed!

        1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

          They seem to be assuming their experiences = everyone else’s. And also failing to understand mental health issues. I’m all for a more positive outlook, but just changing outlook isn’t going to help the OP here.

  6. Office Sweater Lady*

    I second the therapy idea. Many people struggle at times with the less fun aspects of office work, however this is quite a strong reaction. If the current office job doesn’t work out and the OP continues to have problems with office work, they could also consider trying out some non-office work for a while: seasonal work at a summer camp, national park or ski resort with staff housing where the experience is more immersive. Or try the gig economy for awhile: nannying, driving or dog walking could all be alternatives. I know these aren’t great long term solutions but it could give you some breathing room to work out whatever is going on. Perhaps you will always hate office stuff and could consider retraining in a few years for medical work like nursing/EMT or teaching, where the office chained to a desk thing won’t apply. Good luck and wishing you all the best as you figure things out, OP!

    1. Nicotene*

      I did a long and successful trek in the restaurant industry. You can make a very decent living as a bartender or manager in a restaurant, and you’re on your feet talking to people all day – also has the advantage of a shift-based schedule, for someone who’s struggling with the eight hour grind.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      You know, OP, I have a smaller parallel from my own life. I skipped my college class one day. A few weeks later I skipped another one. It wasn’t long and I was skipping a class each week. And it wasn’t much longer I stopped showing up.
      I had a puncture wound to my knee. They bandaged my leg to the point it looked like I was wearing a caste. It was misery. Back in those days handicap spaces were not a thing. My car was a 15 minute walk away from the class room building. sigh.
      My wise friend pointed out something to me: The first time I skipped class, I gave myself permission to do so. It was hard, I had guilt, but I did it anyway. The second time I skipped class it was not as hard and I had less guilt. It got easier and easier to skip class. Finally when I stopped showing up all that guilt came flooding in. It was awful.

      Because I had trained myself that skipping was okay, I had to retrain myself to show up. I went back to school years later and put myself on a ridged schedule so I would not miss a single class. I was married by then so I had someone to share my day with which helped, too.
      My suggestion is to work with someone who will listen to you talk about what you are doing today and how you are helping yourself along today. A friendly, accountability coach type of person.
      I still do major planning for my work week, with planning out food, clothes, vehicle and such. But I have found that planning everything out ahead makes the week go better and I am less tired. Some fatigue is to be expected. And as I aged, I found I had to do more and more self care- diet, rest, hydration, taking walks and similar things. It’s a structure, but we are allowed to define what our structure looks like.
      I hated the idea of structure. But there is comfort in the continuity of the days. And structure can be very good for one’s health. It could be that a health problem is tearing down your ability to cope with structure and routines. Or it could be that you need a sense of going somewhere definite as opposed to meandering through your days and weeks.

    3. Joielle*

      Yeah! There are lots of interesting medical jobs that don’t require a long degree but pay decently-to-well and don’t involve sitting at a desk. My sister in law is a phlebotomist and she really likes it. Or medical coding and billing, medical scribe, pharmacy technician… and lots of other things I can’t think of off the top of my head. If OP is interested in one or more things like that, I’d recommend seeing if they can shadow someone for a few days at least before doing any kind of training program.

  7. Jennifer*

    I am really hoping you are still young enough to be on your parents’ health insurance. I am not going to diagnose you over the internet but I really think therapy is the right choice here. When you have these kinds of symptoms, it’s going to be really difficult to work a full-time job and be successful, I know from experience. Keep doing the part-time thing and work on your mental health until you feel ready to take on more. I’m rooting for you!

    1. Jennifer*

      If you can’t afford therapy or don’t have insurance, try getting outside everyday, vigorous exercise, talking to an empathetic friend or relative regularly, listening to podcasts from therapists (my favorite is Therapy for Black Girls, the advice is helpful for anyone), and eating as well as you can afford.

      Try to at least scrape together enough money to go to a primary care physician.

      1. Consultant Catie*

        The new trend of low-cost therapy apps can be really helpful as well. If OP can afford face-to-face therapy I think that’s preferable, but apps like TalkSpace may be a lower-cost option for people who don’t have access to insurance.

  8. Nonny*

    It’s probably frustrating, but I second therapy. I went through a period very like this a few years ago. I had a fairly easy job, genuinely fantastic coworkers and boss, and I hated every second of it. I’d quit several jobs in the past year because of feeling exactly the way you describe and so I knew I just needed to stick with the one I had– but seeing a therapist helped me develop strategies to get through the day. Like Alison said, you shouldn’t need to white-knuckle through this, but unfortunately there may be a period when you just have to as you work on resolving the underlying problem. A therapist can help you find both short- and long-term strategies.

  9. Panda*

    Maybe reframe the way you think about work?

    It really helps me to remember that this job pays for my passions…my family, my hobbies, my faith activities, etc. I wouldn’t be able to do all those other things if I didn’t have my job to fund it. Jon Acuff’s book Quitter really helped me with this.

    My son is in the Air Force and he as a motto “Embrace the suck.” He knows it’s going to suck but he chooses to embrace it because he knows it will help him further his goals in the long run.

    1. twig*

      ooh this! I’ve reframed my work as “a job to fund my Real Life” — I’m not a career person. I’m a job person. my fulfillment will never come from work but from what I do outside of work.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Yes—OP may be a “work to live” person instead of a “live to work” person, and that’s ok!

    3. Jennifer*

      Agreed! I’m definitely a work to live person. Work funds my true passions. Maybe the OP is the same and is comparing herself to others negatively.

    4. Blueberry Girl*

      Even as someone who loves her job and her field and her career, I still have outside hobbies and I get great joy out of them. Even if your job is one of your passions, it is not healthy to allow your success at work be your sole measure of personal success. So, I agree that “embracing the suck” is a necessary factor regardless of how much you enjoy your work.

    5. Admin Formerly Known as Actor*

      My grandpa (and thus my dad) have a saying that goes, “You can stand on your head a long time if it’s worth doing.” I never used to understand it – why not just stop standing on your head, rather than make sure it’s for a good reason? – but as I’m getting older I think it’s making more sense, like “Embrace the suck”.

      Everything’s going to suck at least some of the time. But if the suck is making sure you can live somewhere you like and eat food that’s delicious and do hobbies that interest you, then heck, I’ll stand on my head when I have to.

    6. Joielle*

      This is an important point. Of course you want to find a job that’s not, like, actively toxic, but aside from that, it doesn’t have to be amazing. Just something that lets you make money so you can do other stuff.

      It sucks that we have to trade so many of our waking hours for the privilege of having money to live, but there’s not really a way around that (unless you join a commune or something, maybe?). I think the OP has some soul searching to do, and they should definitely try out a non-office job or two, but a shift in perspective may also be necessary.

  10. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I agree 100% with therapy being step one. Making that transition is difficult. I remember having a complete breakdown on the phone with my mom about two months before I graduated college, worrying about all the things that could potentially go wrong once I was “out in the real world”.

    Other than that, where are your friends working, OP? Try to apply somewhere that you already know someone. It’ll give you a built in support system to help you through the scary “new” part.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Another option would be to register with a staffing agency. You can work short-term, temp assignments and try different things to see what might suit you best.

      1. Anon for this one*

        But keep in mind that you can’t just “ghost” on assignments and expect to keep being given work by that agency..

    2. Nicotene*

      There is also a legit transition to working an eight hour day at a desk. Our interns at the office now are always astonished how difficult it is to stay “on” for so long while staying in one place, after coming out of classes where you’re moving around and switching it up more often. It is a transition and after a few months you probably won’t even notice it anymore, but I can see getting discouraged when you first encounter the phenomenon.

      1. Parenthetically*

        Definitely. I’m passionate about teaching, for sure, but I won’t lie, the fact that I’ve never had to transition away from that familiar “school” rhythm is a huge part of why I stayed in education for a decade. I even pinged some of that desire for familiarity in OP’s language about her preferred work environments.

      2. BigLo*

        Totally! I think OP should give herself a little bit more time to adjust to a new job/schedule when she finds something next. Therapy will be really helpful to help her adjust but it often just takes some time as well. It’s exhausting to have to show up and be somewhere for an extended amount of time for the first time and can be really difficult to get back into the activities outside of work that you want to do too

      3. NaN*

        I had the same experience as an intern. It amazed me how TIRED I was at the end of an 8-hour work day, even though I was sitting at a computer all day. I spent the first month or so going home after work and just crashing.

      4. Filosofickle*

        It really is hard! Not sure I never fully adapted. When I had a regular 9-6 desk job — in a creative field, so not boring but desk-bound — I was tired all the time, drained by long days and people and commuting. Spent my weekends recovering. (My first year as a temp admin was the easiest, actually.)

        When I got laid off years ago, I ended up freelancing and never stopped. I love coming and going at will and being able to work fewer hours! My job is almost all intense brain work and I can only do so many hours a day of that. (I doubt I ever did more “real” work hours. Remaining office time was filled with meetings and shuffling papers.) Over the years I’ve had a few stints of FT onsite contract work, and they’ve knocked me for a loop! I did not have the all-day endurance built up.

        Sometimes I consider going back to a regular FT job to strengthen my financial situation and prepare better for retirement, but I suspect it’s just not something I can hack.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Not to be negative, but if I were OP’s friend I would be very leery of recommending them for a job with my company given the track record they are presenting. I absolutely see your point about how that could really help the OP out a lot, the ability to have a sort of break with a friend right there at work could be hugely beneficial. If OP does look into this route, they really should be careful to make sure they aren’t putting their friend’s reputations on the line if they do “ghost” after accepting or leave after a short period of time by not using any of their connections to get the position.
      I hope that isn’t too harsh since it is obvious this is a serious issue and not just someone who feels that they are too good for the job (like those “I’m too good for entry level because I had an internship and went to Ivy League school” or “I quit because boss didn’t give me a raise and title bump within 3 months” letters) but OP needs to be sure their actions don’t hurt those who are trying to help.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I had a similar misgiving about this advice. If every job so far is giving the OP this reaction, it’s probably *not* a good idea to mix that with friendship. Keep your friends outside where you can vent or get advice and a shoulder to cry on without making things weird for anyone, including yourself, on the job.

  11. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    My first ‘real’ job required a Master’s degree, and I was still bored out of my skull and consequently filled with despair for the first couple of months. Alison’s therapy advice is solid, but also:
    1. I worked hard at the boring stuff I had to do, and just about the time I thought I would completely crack, more interesting tasks became available to me. There really can be kind of hazing period, but if you keep quitting before you push through it, your only experience will be the hazing period, at one job after another.
    2. Taking initiative (in thoughtful ways; check out some of Alison’s other posts re: this) to find a few projects can help. New people are often great at, e.g., documenting processes, because you have that fresh perspective.
    3. Exercise. Regularly. Outdoors if you can. It produces endorphins and is good for your sanity.

    1. CMart*

      Oooh, yes. #1 I think is an important one.

      I’ve been rotating through different departments in my company over the last few years (their idea, ha) spending ~1 year in each role. Every time I would say the first 3 months have had me wondering “ugh, what is this, I think I won’t like this role” because it was a little hard and very boring, given that I was spending that time just getting to know what I was doing, let alone why. The next 3 months were less hard as I got my feet underneath me and things were still a little boring, but I was gaining confidence. And then finally around 6 months I started being able to actually be engaged, be given different assignments with more value and responsibility, and be able to dive deeper into projects. And by the end of a year I found I actually really enjoyed each role, even the ones I was really apprehensive about at the start, because I finally felt competent and able to truly be valuable.

  12. Barefoot Librarian*

    I agree with Alison that some professional help would not go amiss as this is likely tied into anxiety of some kind.

    That being said, two things occurred to me reading your letter. The first was that maybe you’ve built up an idea in your head of what work *must* be like based on limited experience thus far and may be pleasantly surprised that even many admin and cleric jobs aren’t 100% tied to a desk, bored out of your mind. In a fairly healthy work environment you’ll make friends, go to lunch with coworkers from time to time, gossip and chat about life, and find you’ll ultimately get into a comfortable routine when you feel confident that you know how to do your job and can be social and relaxed. Sure, there are employers that’ll micromanage your time and breathe down your neck but I think they are overall in the minority. Don’t build 9-5 office work up into this dark, dreary monster you’re imagining unless you have good reason to (and those jobs I tend to recommend leaving post haste).

    The second thing that came to mind was that you might simply not be cut out for a desk job. If that’s something you are fairly certain of, then start exploring some other job options. Maybe you are one of those people who thrive from being on your feet and interacting with people all day. There are TONS of jobs where you can do that. In fact those of us who do prefer to be left alone to do our work in peace and quiet really appreciate the customer facing folks who let us get our jobs done. You might have to pour through a few jobs to find something like that, but those jobs are out there. Good luck!

    1. Blueberry Girl*

      This is really true. I have colleagues I miss from every job I’ve left and people I enjoy at every job I’ve worked at. Work is not always super fun, but it has potential to be a place where you forge relationships, learn and, ideally, make a few friends. Sure, they might not be your best buddies ever, but the people around you can be really fun people. Embrace that. You might be surprised.

  13. Quill*

    LW: Please pair therapy with a doctor’s appointment. Fatigue can be physical as well as mental, and as a recent grad, it’s important that you get the ball rolling on any medical intervention while you have a chance at relatively stable insurance via your parents (if you live in the U.S.)

    Not to diagnose, but existential depression (one of my problems) tends to hit whenever you have something new to start up and are feeling the excitement/uncertainty combo. It can get worse based on things that are likely changed by your work vs. unemployment schedule (sleep quality, exposure to sunlight, various other things.)

    In any case, you have my sympathies – I did not leave college prepared to be a cube dwelling worker bee, or even thinking that work would do anything but drain me like a corporate vampire. I’ve made do with actual intellectual stimulation (podcasts! Audiobooks! With practice you can do math and absorb narrative, to stave off the crushing boredom) and actual mental health treatment, along with that elusive thing called physical health treatment. :)

    1. Hex Code*

      Existential depression indeed, ditto over here. I have focused on the small things that give me joy in my day. This is NOT a “gratitude practice” as I have found that when I am down, reminding myself of all the things I have to be grateful for just makes me feel like an ungrateful asshole for being depressed. Rather, is there a kind of fancy tea you really enjoy, and can have waiting for you at work to give you something to look forward to on your break? Focusing on the things I do like has sometimes given me the energy to get through the monotonous, anxiety-inducing days that almost all jobs occasionally have.

      1. Quill*

        Another thing that is especially important if you’re under the societal pressure to look like a “beautiful woman” or perceived in any way to be female: if you’re depressed stop attempting to diet.

        Restricting your calories is going to really, really mess up your energy reserve. (And it’s going to end up becoming a pattern of eating whatever is convenient, rather than trying to chose food with complete nutrition.)

        Since weight and body appearance anxiety is ridiculously common, paying attention to it is also adding fuel to the fire.

        1. DawnShadow*

          Yes! I wonder if body appearance anxiety is also contributing to how she describes her office wear as uncomfortable. I am finally starting to realize how uncomfortable I am in pants or tight skirts and how often in my past I made myself miserable wearing clothing too tight for me because I didn’t want to break down and buy “fat” clothes, because what was wrong with me that I couldn’t just eat right and exercise more, and also I really bought in to the idea that it was important that I look as pretty as possible. I’m just starting to realize that it’s not my job to be pretty. It’s my job to cover myself appropriately with an adequate amount of hygiene and, well, do my job. So I finally have some clothes that look professional but are not tight or binding, in fabrics that feel good. Very surprising what a difference it makes to just accept yourself as you are and stop trying so hard on your appearance!

    2. chronicallyIllin*

      Big on this. I had horrible depression/exhaustion combo which made me very suicidal. It hit right as I started college, and any time I complained about the physical symptoms everyone just laughed and said that was adulthood alright so I didn’t go to a doctor for a long time. It was just a chronic illness which was fine if treated, but I went a long time and almost died before that happened.

      Even if you got given an a-okay check from an on-campus doctor, I would recommend going to another doctor and getting a full check up and describing everything. Describe how much you sleep, how tired you are, how easily you get out of breath, how much water you’re drinking (measure it), how much food you’re eating (keep a food journal for a few days- don’t try to diet or make healthier choices, just make note of it), how often you’re using the bathroom (make note of it).

      Lots of things like the above can slowly just get really out-of-whack with what’s normal and it’s hard for a person themselves to assess things like “Am I [doing X] a normal amount, or very little, or a lot?” And I’m not saying that to admonish you to drink more water or whatever- doing these things a weird amount is in-and-of-itself a symptom which is worth noting. Campus doctors are likely to brush off stuff, especially if you don’t have those measured examples to say that you REALLY ARE doing X a weird amount. And normal doctors will have a much easier time figuring out the problem if you have those detailed notes.

    3. Triumphant Fox*

      I just want to say that seeing your normal doctor (or just a doctor, or an urgent care or whatever is closest/walkable/first of the list of practitioners in network/ or any doctor who you will actually visit) is the first step. Seeing a therapist can feel like such a hurdle (who do I see? OMG do I have to CALL them? What will they think of me?), but your regular doctor can help you. They can give you a referral, a list of instructions, an action plan to focus on and maybe give you an anti-depressant to get you started. For me, the medication really made it possible to function. I had this exact same thing (with my own version of ghosting) happen and for me it meant that I had to do something completely different (which ended up being a fast-paced 9-5 job that I love). But it took being on medication for me to have any energy to get myself in that place. Once I was in a new situation, it felt like “Oh, here I am. I remember how my brain used to work like this. Welcome home.”

      This is textbook chemical imbalance of some type. Just take that first step to help and then go one step at a time. You can definitely get out of this and you may be surprised that where you end up isn’t where you thought.

  14. Caliente*

    Well definitely the FIRST thing that came to mind was indeed therapy. But second thing is – try temping! Like a one day job, seriously. Work up from there. I hope they have opportunities for the in your area.
    Whenever I’m anxious, or even not wanting to do something, knowing the end time/date truly helps.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Seconding this second thing.
      Tell the agency you’re a recent graduate who wants to try a lot of different things and ask for short positions in as wide a range of things they think you might be qualified for.
      Also tell them the hours you used to keep when you were in school, and ask if they can schedule you for different shifts. It’s possible you might be a night owl who would do better working second shift. That opens up a world of crazy things from light assembly to security to –yes–hospital office work.
      And be honest with yourself — if you have a history of bad/sad experiences in some settings, try to avoid those settings. I long ago took a temp position in a hospital’s radiation therapy department….and learned the hard way that I had never really gotten over my dad’s death from cancer. My mood tanked for the two months I was there, and it improved drastically when I asked to be reassigned.

    2. starsaphire*

      Yes! Temping can be amazing.

      1) You can be totally immune to gross office politics (“Jane who? Oh, I don’t think I’ve met her yet.” “I don’t know about that; I’m a temp so I don’t really see what goes on.”)

      2) You get to try out a whole lot of different settings. There are lots of kinds of temps, not just office temps — there are day-labor temps who do things like mailroom or assembly-line stuff, etc.

      3) There is, as other posters have said, a definite end point. This job is horrible? YES – but only for 4 more hours! Then I can get my time card signed, drop it in the mailbox, and be out of here forever!

      And also, like others have said, definitely go visit your doctor *and* a therapist, and have your overall health checked out.

      You’re young, and you have time to decide what you want to do, and that’s a great thing. It’s totally okay to ignore what everyone else expects you to do with your education, and do something that feels right instead. :)

      1. Mama Bear*

        Agreed. I did a lot of temping end of college/post grad. I got two FT job offers via temp contracts and it was also a good way to get references. Almost like a paid internship.

        BUT I caution OP not to ghost on the temp agency or they will no longer place you, or place you in good jobs. Be honest if it’s not working out and ask for a new assignment vs just leaving them stranded.

      2. SarahTheEntwife*

        Nthing this suggestion! I did a bunch of short-term stints in office jobs and while I would probably have been bored out of my skull doing any of them long-term, as a temp I was there just long enough that each different system was an interesting new thing to learn and I could swoop in and solve people’s filing problems like the world’s dorkiest superhero ;-)

        It still might not be a good fit for the LW since it turns out I really do like office work so long as it’s for something I find meaningful, but it’s a great low-stakes way to get a taste of different office environments without having to quit after 2 months when you find out you definitely hate it. And there are temp agencies for catering services and libraries (though those actually usually require a library degree or significant experience) and seasonal retail work and all sorts of things other than offices.

  15. a heather*

    Definitely therapy!

    Most jobs will require some amount of doing things you don’t want to do when you don’t want to do them, of being uncomfortable in your environment or your role at times. You think you would like a job at a university or a hospital but in the end it will still be a job, and even if you land one of those you will likely end up feeling this same way unless you deal with the underlying issue.

    1. Bree*

      This. I see a lot of recommendations to find jobs in other fields, and while that may ultimately be the best thing in the long run, this seems like a powerful reaction with other underlying causes, not just a bad fit. I think it would likely carry over even to non-office work.

    2. Doug Judy*

      Exactly. Even “dream jobs” have aspects to them that aren’t great. At some point you have to reconcile that there is no perfect job/perfect employer and find a way to get through those though days.

      But step one for OP is therapy and medical examination/treatment.

  16. Enescudoh*

    This isn’t from experience, but after therapy, perhaps start with a part time role? This will help you get some semblance of routine, but without feeling like all of your weekly spoons are going towards a job. Work 2 or 3 days a week, then join a club, take a class, learn to see how a job can balance with the things that you enjoy doing the rest of the time. Ease your way in while you figure it out

  17. Former HR Disney Princess*

    Beyond therapy it may be that you are not meant to work in an office. This was something I released myself and after 6 years, I am now working part time in an office and studying to become a personal trainer. Use the time not working to really think about what makes you happy in work. I hate being tied to a desk, so when I’m not at work, I am working out and studying for my PT exam.

    Most of us start college/ university right out of high school and it can be hard to know for certain what career you want. It’s okay to figure it out as you go. Just don’t accept an offer if you aren’t excited. Ghosting can have future consequences when job searching, so if it doesn’t feel right, it’s okay to say no! :)

  18. Dino*

    Yes to therapy and to a doctors visit to make sure there isn’t something more serious going on. After that though, have you considered looking for jobs that are the exact opposite of a desk job? Community garden manager, fire crew, Peace Corp, nature guide, dog walker, instructional assistant in a school, etc etc. There are tons of jobs out there that don’t involved being chained to a desk, and it sounds like it could be worth it to explore them! Best of luck, OP!

  19. twig*

    I just want to say: Honey I feel you. Have a virtual internet hug from a stranger.

    I’ve been there, myself — with the exception that I somehow had in my head that work was supposed to be a source of fulfillment — which made it worse. (This combined with a family adage that “work is something that you don’t want to do” which I had wrongly interpreted as “your job will always suck” made for some miserable times.

    My recommendations:
    Therapy, to start. It has been helpful to me have a neutral person to talk this stuff out with, without worry of judgement.

    If you can, do something small for yourself. I recharge doing creative stuff — but when I’m really fried I don’t have the energy to even initiate/organize a new project. That’s when I pull out the coloring books. just coloring and watching/listening to stupid TV or my favorite movie can help a bit.

    Also: I’d recommend that you keep trying for a University job. That’s where I landed, as an administrative assistant. I really like working here — the job duties are still, ya know, admin duties– but the environment, the mission, the benefits and the folks in my department make up for it. (with the caveat that culture can vary greatly between departments)

  20. Jack Be Nimble*

    Admin work may not be your forte — that’s ok, consider applying for other types of entry level work, or for positions that split admin responsibilities with other types of work, so you have the chance to learn new skills.

    Seconding (thirding, fourthing, fifthing) the suggestion to see a doctor, if you’re at all able to do so. You may be suffering from depression or anxiety, but it’s also entirely possible that you have a chronic condition or a vitamin deficiency or something else that’s limiting your energy and messing with your ability to live a full life.

    I’ve had similar struggles, and it’s not easy. The best thing you can do for yourself is to resolve to treat yourself kindly. Your worth and humanity aren’t measured by your productivity, and it’s ok if you’re having a hard time right now. It sounds like you’re feeling a lot of guilt and shame around your transition into the professional world, and those feelings are legitimate. I’m sorry that you’re going through so much, but you’re not alone!

  21. Holly*

    I second therapy 100% , I think that’s really necessary here no matter what you decide to do in addition to that. None of the below are replacements to therapy because anxiety and depression can carry with you even if you find “aha! my dream opportunity!” trust me I know.

    However, I would also really take a moment to weigh what your interests were in college, what you like to do, and if you have a certain amount of time you can be okay without earning an income. I think your view of post-college work is very narrow, and by opening your mind you might find something more out of the box that works for you. It’s okay to not fit into the typical office environment (for the time being, things can change!), and it’s also okay to take some time to figure out what environment does work for you. For example:
    – Depending on where you live, there may be smaller retail shops that align with an interest you might have rather than an office setting (i.e. record store, thrift store or boutique clothing store, garden store) so you feel more inspired by your surroundings and feel more part of a community and more of a connection to your work despite the fact that it is likely admin or retail work
    – You can intern and volunteer at the nonprofits, hospitals, animal shelters, etc. places that inspire you and make connections there to potentially find what you want to do, but in the meantime if you need money you can work part time somewhere that isn’t an office. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a job you had no idea existed that makes you more excited (Note: paid internships are rare, but they do exist)
    – Depending on your personal circumstances, you may want to consider a job abroad and traveling – there are plenty of programs geared towards college grads that will feel less cooped up in an office because you’re traveling the world.

  22. Combinatorialist*

    I think scheduling time for stuff other than work/sleep would help. OP, you say that was a problem initially — you only had time to work or sleep — and I’m sure not having anything in your life you were looking forward to was contributing to your feelings. Having things you enjoy is a priority — even if it doesn’t feel that way. So if you don’t see these jobs as the path to fulfillment, what does make you fulfilled? How is your life going outside of this area? Spend more time making those other things a priority so that when you have a job, you have something (even something small) to look forward to every day.

    And do try to get therapy and/or a doctor’s appointment if you can. If you are lethargic after sleeping 10 hours a night, something is going on. When this happened to me, I thought it was just stress because I was finishing my PhD. I stalled on seeking help. I finally started going to a therapist who told me I needed to see a doctor. I did so, and found I was deficient in a vitamin. An easy supplement later and I had about 50 times as much energy as I did before. I was still stressed, but I went from totally nonfunctional to basically fine in the span of a couple of weeks after being nonfunctional and barely scraping by for months. Just because there are clear emotional/psychological reasons for your feelings, doesn’t mean there aren’t physical factors at play as well. I regretted wasting so much time convincing myself I was just stressed.

  23. MK*

    I second everyone mkotoula said to consider alternative career options. Also, why do you think you would do better in a hospital, nonprofit or university? Because entry level jobs in thjose places are just as underpaid and overworked. Do you need to feel you are working towards a worthy cause even if your work itself isn’t any different? Do you maybe have a romantic idea of those workplaces?

    1. Bunny*

      People really romanticize the non-profit sector, getting paid to save the world, doing something you love, etc, etc. The truth is that a lot of non-profit work has such a sense of gravity and it is something you care about can be incredibly emotionally taxing.

      For me, I love my job and I like coming home most days with the sense that I did measurable good in the world, but don’t discount the emotional labor involved, it can burn you out very quickly and for a lot of people not being emotionally attached to their work is better for them overall.

      1. Jake*

        I would imagine the successes feel better and the failures feel worse when in a mission that you care about type of job.

        I struggle with the highs and lows when the sole purpose of my job is for my company to make money. I can’t imagine surviving when a cause I truly take personally is on the line.

        You’re right, I’d never thought of it like that.

        1. Allypopx*

          Yes, the highs and lows feel VERY high and VERY low and admitting burnout can be a huge hit to the personal identity you’ve built for yourself around being a Good Person who does a job they can feel good about. Very, very emotionally strenuous.

        2. Avasarala*

          So true. I go to work to make the rich family who owns my company richer. But I also make me richer too. And then I can use that money to donate to causes I care about, without having to feel like I’m robbing them by accepting my meager salary.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        And non-profit sector jobs take overworked and underpaid and put it on steroids…Becauussse misssionnnnnn!

    2. ItsABirdItsAPlaneItsAnxietyMan*

      Seconding a few others’ statements above that university work might not be any better. Lots of lovely people where I work but the culture varies greatly between departments. Really, you just have to do your research and trust your gut.

    3. bonkerballs*

      For me – I’ve done admin in both non profit and the private sector, and I find the non profit jobs infinitely more enjoyable. For one thing, the non profit ones have always had such a different office atmosphere because of the nature of the businesses. The job, too, often encompasses incredibly varied tasks that aren’t just “chained to the desk” as OP put it. As an admin, I’ve administered drug tests, I’ve read with pre-schoolers, I’ve gotten up at 5 in the morning to count homeless people in order to better know where we need services. I’ve helped parolees study for the GRE, I’ve worked in a clean room in full PPE, I’ve cooked thousands of latkes, and I’ve built a 6 foot tall menorah entirely out of legos. Those are not the kinds of things I’ve done anywhere in the private sector.

      That said, depending on the field and the position, non-profit work can be taxing in ways the private sector isn’t that have nothing to do with romanticizing it. It can be hard to try to help people who do not want to help themselves. It can hard to work in a field where you’re likely to experience death (dementia care, homeless outreach, reentry, etc.).

      I prefer working in non profit – I like the work, I like the feeling of contribution it has given me, I like the clients and students and congregants I get to interact with. I’m overworked and underpaid, but it works for me.

  24. animaniactoo*

    Things I’d be looking at after looking at situational depression/anxiety:

    Are you looking at jobs that match your skills but not your personality?

    i.e. Are you somebody who needs more interaction with people? Maybe you’re great at doing whatever as long as you are not *required* to sit in one space and see the same scenery day in and day out?

    Jobs aren’t necessarily going to be fulfilling, but you don’t want the other extreme of them being soulsucking either. People put up with soulsucking only as long as it takes them to find something else and they stick around to be able to pay the rent. That’s a matter of survival, not adulting. Adulting can take different forms than a particularly drawn vision that gets impressed on a lot of us: The white collar office job.

    What are you doing for self-care outside of the office job? When you were in school, you planned stuff specifically to enjoy/give yourself a mental break from the grind of classes, right? So what are you doing about that for yourself as part of the work world? Are you creating plans for yourself to look forward to while you’re at work?

    What about breaks while you’re at work? How are you using those? If you’re zoning out, I’d suggest that’s a sign you may be not breaking focus sufficiently so that you’re actually fresh enough to get back to working on whatever mundane stuff you’re doing and pay enough attention to get it right.

  25. smoke tree*

    I’m reluctant to armchair diagnose, but the description of constant exhaustion, potential sensory issues, anxiety and so forth sounds like many descriptions of people trying to deal with undiagnosed autism or other conditions that could make office work more challenging and exhausting than it might be for a neurotypical person.

    Either way, you sound like you have the impression that this kind of work is just something you should be able to do and/or don’t have a choice about doing, but what if you removed that expectation from yourself and thought about what kind of work you could do reasonably happily? Maybe a job you could do from home, or something more active?

    1. Mama Bear*

      I was thinking same. Task initiation problems and focus problems could be something else, and it’s not uncommon for depression or anxiety to be comorbid with ADHD, for example. Thyroid issues can also cause depression so +1 to the suggestion to see the GP as well.

      I also agree that the OP think outside the box. If working at the university is a goal, is there a stepping stone job OP could apply for first? Maybe reach back to their college and see if the career center has ideas? Is the university a goal because it’s a familiar environment or is OP really interested in academia?

      Not all jobs are going to be great. Not all jobs are going to be a career. First days are usually intimidating. It is OK, especially newly out of school, to take time to figure it out. Meanwhile, there’s bills to pay so maybe take a job that is more flexible while taking care of physical or mental health needs. All jobs are give and take and you need to decide what you want to get and what you’re willing to take to get it. Maybe it’s a non-desk job or maybe it’s a seasonal/freelance job or maybe it’s a job that’s just ok but gives you a lot of time off to do the things that feed your soul. Only OP can answer what that pro/con list is.

      1. valentine*

        I’m reluctant to armchair diagnose
        For letters like this, I think it’s okay to say, “You might consider a screening for x,” but what usually happens is the issue belongs to a colleague and “Hey, why don’t you try y,” would be ableist, obnoxious, and useless or downright backfiring for OP to say to them.

        1. smoke tree*

          I see your point, although I’m still reluctant to armchair diagnose as a general rule because there is just such limited information to be gained from a letter. But my main point is that there may be good reasons why office work isn’t the best fit for the LW. When it’s common to complain about something (like a 9-5 job) it can be hard to establish a baseline for how not-okay it is for the average person. Even if you’re really struggling, you may assume that everyone else is having just as hard a time.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        I was debating mentioning ADHD, so I’m glad you mentioned it! It’s associated with hyperactivity, but counterintuitively, energy crashes are also characteristic – especially in women. Stimulants can help level her energy levels if that’s the case. And if she’s ADHD, trying to sit and focus for hours on end on dull tasks can certainly feel like a circle of hell!

        I wonder if OP had a lot of morning classes/activities while she was in school, or if most stuff was later in the day? Part of her issue could be if her work schedule – like most offices – is earlier in the morning and counter to her sleep cycle. She doesn’t mention early rises as an issue, but she might want to ponder if some sort of evening or swing shift job would leave her feeling more energetic? I have a friend who quite happily works at a call centre from 3pm-midnight, in no small part because she hates mornings THAT much!

        1. SarahTheEntwife*

          Yes! I would have gotten diagnosed much sooner if I’d known something with “hyperactivity” in the name could present primarily as *fatigue*. As I understand it, basically my brain is exhausting itself trying to pay attention to all the things and make all the decisions because its prioritization function is kind of off-kilter.

          My current position involves a lot of records cleanup and it’s great for my brain because I have a more or less infinite number of things to fix, but each one takes no more than maybe half an hour if it’s *really* bad, usually less than that, and then I get a nice little feeling of accomplishment when it’s done. And while they mostly fall into a few set categories of wrong, they’re all unique items so it’s not literally doing the same thing over and over.

    2. Jessen*

      I’d add on to that – if you look up the symptoms and see anything that resonates, I would specifically demand to see a psychiatrist and get a full screening. Unfortunately a lot of therapists really don’t recognize neurological differences very well, especially if they’re used to primarily treating depression and anxiety – and the risk is generally higher if you’re female-presenting. I’ve found an awful lot of people who have later diagnoses go through a lot of unsuccessful therapy beforehand. Partly because the underlying stress factors aren’t being addressed, and partly because interventions for neurotypical people may not be suitable for others.

  26. Ptarmigan*

    I second/third/whatever the advice on looking into other career paths. It seems like you feel very locked into this one vision and path for your future, but there are all kinds of jobs in this world. There are a lot of jobs outside of corporate offices, and there are even a lot of different kinds of low-level corporate office jobs.

    Now, the exhaustion bit. A medical check-up and depression screening are great ideas. But I remember a friend of mine found her first full-time job completely exhausting for about the first six months. And I remember coming home exhausted a lot when I was younger. My friend and I both adapted over time, and you may as well. But I don’t think you should force yourself back into something you hate and just hope you hate it less over time.

  27. cheese please*

    When work is overwhelming, it is sometimes useful to have a community to support you and who understands. While therapy will most likely help with the sense of dread / hopelessness / frustration (to try and work through the initial “downfall” and eliminate the anxiety trigger caused by work) , try searching for a young professionals network in your area (for example: a young alumni group from your college, or a professionals meetup group) where you can commiserate at the agony of #desklife etc.

    As another reader suggested career coaching (often offered at a university’s career center to recent grads as well as students!) may help you find work better suited to your temperament. It’s worthwhile to think about what you enjoyed in school (independent projects, group activities, long in-depth research etc) and what forms of work you excelled in.

    Another option could be to find non-desk entry-level part-time work. For example, does the local parks department need help cleaning up gardens? Or could you dog walk or nanny? Perhaps catering / event setup. (I’m just trying to think of jobs where you’re on your feet, in more comfortable clothes, and are not in monotonous jobs).

  28. anonaccountant*

    As someone who struggles with depression and has for a very long time, sometimes you just have to stick things out to start seeing them get better. That’s not to say that there’s not things you can do to mitigate your pain now, like talking to a therapist or seeking out a position (even clerical) in a business or industry you like. (I know I’d be way more happy as a secretary at a vet’s office than a bank.) It helped me to try to find joy in the little things- whether that is having a favorite snack at 2, decorating your desk/office with knickknacks that make you smile, or finding a way to connect with your coworkers. I also really love routine, so setting routines and habits helps me. Example- I find joy in using my favorite pen every day. It’s gold, and a gel pen, and I refill it about once a week (I have to write a lot at my job). It mitigates the minor irritation caused by a crappy pen. Working to mitigate small annoyances goes a long way for me. When I find myself unmotivated or worn out, I spend 15 minutes on AAM, NYT, or walking around the office.

    A very specific tip as I also hate office clothes. What’s helped me a ton is finding pieces I really like- like a style of black dressy tank that fits really well and is really comfy, and a style of black pants that I really like, then just buying 10 of each and some thrifted cardis. I throw on a cardi, add in the black skirt every now and again, and get to wear my ‘favorite outfit’ every day. People see the different colors of cardis and the skirt every now and again, and (to my knowledge at least) I’m not labeled as that weird girl who wears the same thing every day.

    1. Quill*

      Also I find it really nice to keep a cube plant (my current pet plants are named Georgia and Claude) and do things like doodle on postits/my planner when my brain threatens to shut down in boring teleconferences. Or, famously at my last job, when I was on hold with IT. The complexity of a “Holdbeast” generally indicated how long it took IT to finish messing around on my computer. ;)

      … I have enough art background that I feel good displaying the results, but you don’t have to, you can just draw those embossed S’s from middle school!

      1. anonaccountant*

        Yes! I love doodling on stuff. I have to fight the urge during meetings. The plants is a great point, too. I really enjoy having mine around and taking a break to prune/water/fertilize is a good way to break up your day and give you something to look forward to.

    2. anonaccountant*

      Also, a lot of people are mentioning that office work may not be for you. I went to school for a very hands-on science major and spent a lot of my time in labs, getting dirty. I thought I’d want to have a job doing something in that field, or otherwise working with my hands. This was amplified when I got my first job out of college and it was basic admin/HR stuff (couldn’t find a job in my field and had to stick close to a certain area to care for a family member). Mind-numbingly boring. When I changed jobs to a higher-level position that was totally out of my wheel-house, I found it so much more mentally stimulating. Now, I find that I’m totally happy in the same office-type environment as my admin job, but the different duties and field made such a big difference. It wasn’t the desk aspect, it was the boredom.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Great tip on the office attire – I know several people who do this for a variety of reasons. Also look into a maxi dress (if that is your jam) with a cardigan or cropped open front jacket. There are clothes that classify as business attire that don’t have to be uncomfortable. NY&Co have pull-on, knit pants that feel like yoga pants but look very professional as long as they are worn with a top that doesn’t need to be tucked in (to hide the stretchy waistband). They were my go to at the beginning of my pregnancy as well as postpartum as my “normal” clothes still didn’t fit. Loved them so much when I did get back to my normal weight I bought a few pair in the smaller size and they ended up being my 90% of the time pants.

      1. anonaccountant*

        Thanks! I’ve been wanting to try those pants! When I started my current job I had to abandon my less formal ‘uniform’ I had made up for my past job. I spent the first few months in hastily-bought dressier clothes and it sucked so much. Once I had time to search for pieces I liked and get a new, more-formal uniform established, it took so much mental weight off. Wearing something uncomfortable all day is so irritating, and those chiffon shirts with no stretch are terrible for us larger-shouldered ladies. I felt like I was wearing a straitjacket, but that’s all I could find in 2 weeks locally to start with.

  29. austriak*

    Meet with a therapist/psychologist. Also, recognize that you will probably need to work a job you are not excited about in order to have the experience to get the future jobs you actually do want. Keep the long-term goal in mind, not just the immediate.

  30. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

    Therapy will help! Also, maybe start volunteering? It’s a good way to network, it can look good on your resume, and it can help you find things you really enjoy. The suggestion of career coaching (they offer this as a free service at my local library, maybe yours does, too) to see if there are other types of jobs that might suit you better is also not a bad idea. But definitely try therapy, you sound really unhappy and that’s a terrible way to feel. Update us and let us know how you are doing!

    1. Quill*

      Also, the library likely also has services (game night! Book club!) where you can meet more people, because isolation does contribute to depression. But if you can peel yourself out of the house (my recommendation if you can’t: legitimately do not go home until after you’ve done whatever errands or socializing you wanted to do on your way back from work) it’s helpful since you don’t have to do anything but show up.

    2. Mayati*

      Volunteering is a really good idea, even if OP doesn’t go into it looking for a job in that field. Volunteering is lower-stakes, emotionally speaking, and it will feel good to accomplish something that’s valuable and appreciated without the negative feelings associated with paid work, like feeling trapped in the situation, having to be “good enough” all the time, being there full-time, etc. Not that volunteers don’t have to care about the quality of their work at all, but psychologically, volunteering might be more empowering.

  31. theletter*

    I think there is something to be said about the transition of student to office worker. A lot of people (myself included) felt unable to sit at their desks for long periods of time when they started. It went away eventually.

    It seems like most of the dread is really around being in the office and dealing with the tedium involved in that. Some people (myself included) really thrive in the de-stimulated atmosphere. Others don’t.

    Have you thought about looking for work that mostly takes place outside, involves travel, fixing things with your hands or putting out fires? Maybe even literally putting out fires? Whenever I have a bad day I daydream about getting a plumber’s apprenticeship.

    Or perhaps there are some entrepreneurial ventures you could look at – try retail and then work your way into sales, or try taking on private clients in your field as a contractor so that you can better control your environment or schedule.

    Maybe a change of scenery could help. Could you find work in a place where you don’t speak the language? That would add an interesting challenge.

  32. Student*

    Exhaustion despite adequate rest + anxiety strong enough to keep you in bed = you have a health issue that needs attention. I’d see your primary care doctor as well as a therapist, because those are real symptoms. Let me assure you that you’re not just lazy or bad at adulting or whatever–this is a physical issue that probably has a physical solution.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Good point — something as simple as undiagnosed mononucleosis could cause physical symptoms she is blaming on her mental state.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        I was thinking undiagnosed mono, also. My sister had it in high school and it didn’t get diagnosed until she’d had a mental health evaluation and passed it. (The fact that no one believed her when she said she was ill, and instead assumed it was psychosomatic, is a whole other issue.)

    2. Parenthetically*

      Yes, absolutely. This isn’t a character flaw or a personal moral failing. You’re experiencing symptoms, and a health professional can help you sort out those symptoms and find a good treatment plan for them.

  33. Buttons*

    *hugs* Not everyone is cut out for the corporate/office world, it doesn’t interest them and/or it doesn’t fit their personality. You don’t have to work in the corporate world. My husband quickly found out after college he did not want to go work in an office or have a manager. So he became a personal trainer, he loved it for his whole career and has been very successful at it. I have heard people say to him “but you have a master’s!” He just shrugs, he knew he would be miserable working in an office, so he doesn’t.
    I have a friend who is the receptionist at a Nature Museum. Part of her duties includes feeding the frogs, and watering plants around the front door. She is not behind the desk all the time, she gets to engage with guests.
    So think outside the box and look for different opportunities, and maybe explore a certification in something that doesn’t have you sitting behind the desk? Good luck!

  34. taylor swift*

    As someone who struggled very hard with my first job out of college (constant tears, quit without another lined up, moved home with my parents) I think this (taylor swift!) quote encapsulates what I feel now: “hang on. it gets easier, and then it gets okay. and then it feels like freedom.” I’m 8 years out of college and while I don’t *love* sitting at my desk for 8 hours a day, I do love the freedom it affords me in other aspects of my life. PTO, retirement savings, health care, and so on. And I promise, you may never love it, but it does get easier.

  35. try another type of work*

    It seems like maybe office life is not for you! You could try working at a coffee shop, a restaurant, as a production assistant, a dog walker, literally anything other than a desk job while you work on your anxiety issues. The types of jobs I mentioned are generally fast paced and not boring. Good luck to you!

  36. Kimmybear*

    Two sides to this that others have touched on: personal and professional. For the personal, find a good therapist and/or psychiatrist to help with the anxiety/depression. Please at least think about this for your own happiness. For the professional, these jobs sound very people facing. That wouldn’t be right for many people. Do you need something more solitary? Are you a better fit for something with long term timelines rather than short, fast paced work? A career coach or your university career center might be able to help you out. Good luck.

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    In addition to the therapist, make a Dr’s appointment. While many of the thing you are mentioning, such as the exhaustion and lethargy, can be a sign of depression or anxiety they can also be a sign of a physical medical issue.

    After that, look into doing some volunteering for a cause you have strong feelings about in addition to your “gotta pay the bills” part time job. Maybe having that fulfillment from a secondary source will help with the work day. Also think about the things you do when you either don’t have a job or on the weekends that fill you with energy excitement. Do you stop doing those when you are working? Be sure you are carving out time for YOU – a job shouldn’t take over your life. Just be a part of it.

  38. Tema*

    1) Go see your doctor and get screened for depression and anxiety – in addition to therapy, medication might help. I hit a deep depressive cycle when I started my first job out of law school (which I actually love!). An SSRI made a world of difference. Also, if therapy isn’t an option right now, I highly recommend the book Feeling Good. It is basically cognitive behavior therapy in a book. It talks about thought cycles and I found it really helpful for battling depression and anxiety.
    2) Clerical positions aren’t the only option for entry level jobs. What makes you happy? Being outside? Spending time with people? Being alone? Exercising? Things being routine and expected or something new happening all the time? Was there a day you did come home energetic from work? What was different about that day? Try not to think about the big heading so much (receptionist, university job, etc), and try and think more of the pieces of the day to day that you think will make you happy and then look for jobs that fit that.
    3) Be nice to yourself. You taking a part-time job right now is accepting your limits. Think of depression/anxiety like any other illness. Until you find a treatment that works, you do what you can. The problem with depression/anxiety is you often feel like you *should* be able to push through. But those thoughts don’t help you. The fact is working part time exhausts you right now. Try and accept that, and not see it as a flaw with you, but just a status that you’d like to find a way to change. And you change that through figuring out what medically can help you be less tired (doctor/therapist), and if there are other jobs out there that might fit you better. Parttime is an excellent solution that gives you the space to figure out next steps while still paying the bills.

    Good luck! We’re rooting for you!

  39. Lolo*

    I felt the same way throughout much of my professional career- like I was just barely hanging on, having only enough bandwidth for my full time job, and I still didn’t feel like I was working anywhere near my actual potential. After maxing out on doses of antidepressants and regular therapy, I still felt like maybe I was just wasn’t meant for the working world.
    However, my life changed earlier this year when I was diagnosed with ADHD. I’m in my mid-30s! Since I’ve been on the right meds now, I’ve been excelling at work, and I’ve never felt more capable. My stress levels have plummeted, and I’m able to better regulate my emotions. I highly recommend seeking a mental health evaluation, and definitely request evals for depression and ADHD in particular.

  40. User 483*

    You don’t say what your degree is in, so that makes it more difficult to suggest things specific to you. But, if you want a couple non-desk job ideas (since that seems to be what you hate) for things that don’t need a degree:

    – Warehouse work. You get to load and unload trucks, move things around, keep track of inventory, maybe even learn to drive a forklift! Lots of things that keep you moving and you aren’t wearing business office clothes.
    – Grocery stores. As a cashier you are kind of stuck at the register, but the people who work in the different departments get more flexibility in moving around and working with different customers and stuff.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      There are a lot of hobbyists working in my company’s manufacturing facility — beading, painting, wood carving, fly-tying, and painting miniatures? All of those hobbies take fine-motor skills and attention to small details. If you enjoy one, you might enjoy the other.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      Manufacturing is an excellent idea as there are also options for higher level roles since OP has the degree. Get a line position and learn the ropes and move up the ladder. Floor supervisor, plant clerk, inter-plant runner, etc…

  41. Qwerty*

    Until you are able to see a therapist, try shifting you focus about work. Right now it sounds like you are in a negative spiral that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Can you think of anything positive about being at any of the jobs you’ve had? Is there anyone at the office that you like? Did you learn anything new that day? Try writing down a couple positive things about your job each day and see if you feel less drained at the end of it. Start of with small, even dumb things, but it’ll help train your mind.

    It sounds cheesy, but this exercise has helped multiple people I know when dealing depression and was endorsed by their therapists. With your current view of work, I’m afraid that even if you got into one of those university or hospital jobs that you wanted, that you wouldn’t really be happy there.

    When you a feeling a little less anxious, look into entry level jobs that are not receptionist/admin positions. Maybe try volunteering one Saturday a month at various organizations to try out different types of roles without having to commit to the position. Or try out a few hours a week working at local restaurant or store (but not as a hostess/greeter style position since thats close to your current job). These don’t require quitting your current job, so you can have income flowing in while you try out other activities. There’s a lot of bad advice with the whole “find a job you love and you’ll never have to work”, but even dream jobs have unpleasant tasks, so look for something that you don’t mind doing every day, preferably something that you are capable at.

    1. Qwerty*

      Also, is there any chance that the doctor’s office you work at would let you wear scrubs? Most of the receptionists at doctors’ offices near me wear scrubs and the people I know in those jobs list say it makes a big difference. Since business clothes still feel uncomfortable to you, maybe you could ask if that would be an option to try out. (Check what the other medical offices in your area do first to see what the norm is there)

  42. dn*

    In addition to therapy and a doctor, I think the suggestions about trying work that does not have the components that cause you the most anxiety is a good idea. You could talk to some people in your field or related fields or with a similar undergrad degree to get a sense of your options. For example, a friend of mine realized she couldn’t be happy with the office time of an accountant and is now a project manager for a construction company, so she gets out of the office onto job sites. If you have a degree in history, maybe you could look into working at a historic site or museum, possibly in a public facing role; if you have a degree in English, maybe you could look into copyediting or copywriting, possibly freelance. You might need to return to school to pursue some of these options, but it could be worth it.

  43. CommanderBanana*

    Go to a doctor and a psychologist. I realize this is easier said than done, especially if you don’t have health insurance, but you need a physical and a psychological screening, especially for depression.

    I would take administrative/clerical jobs off the table entirely, at least for now. What other jobs can you do that don’t leave you so wrecked? Could you put together some gig jobs to tide you over?

  44. Kat*

    What about looking at temp work? If you go into a job that has a set expiration might make it feel less overwhelming. Even if it sucks you can tell yourself, I can handle 12 weeks of a sucky job because then I’ll be moving on to something else. It won’t be like “I guess this is my life now and it will suck forever”. That way you can build some experience, maybe get some references and get a chance to try out some different fields. You’re early enough in your career that I don’t think it would hurt you to do a series of short-term jobs. I did that when I was young and my husband was in the military. In interviews now I talk about how doing temp work gave me the skills to learn new things quickly and the habit of maximizing the impact I could make in a short period of time.

    1. Anna*

      I was coming in to suggest this, too! I was completely burned out after college, and also dealing with depression, and temping worked best while I worked out the other stuff. The short-term jobs gave me an end in sight when I thought I couldn’t stand it any more, there is none of the stressful on-boarding/orientation, and you get a variety of work – I took both administration work and more physical work, like warehouse inventorying.

      I strongly second everyone else’s suggestion of therapy, since I needed that, too, but temping can get you the money and experience for your resume, while you work out the rest of it.

    2. AJK*

      I would second this – I went straight to work right out of High School and started college later, and while I was in school I started transitioning into office work through temp work. When I needed to shift things around for financial reasons I took office temp jobs during the day and finished my classes in the evening. It was great experience – although I had been working all along, getting a feel for what an office job would be like helped me figure out what I wanted to do after finishing my degree. Also, when I did apply for jobs in my field later on, I had experience I could point to – I’d built up skills in Microsoft Office, especially, that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I was also able to get a handle on my ADHD, which affected me more while I was in school and in office jobs.
      Also, as an aside, my job straight out of high school was in a high demand customer service job that required long, unpredictable hours on my feet and a new crisis every day – although the job didn’t require a degree, I did have co-workers who had degrees and had specifically chosen this type of work because they didn’t like sitting in an office, and although I didn’t realize it until later, it was a great job for someone with ADHD – I was always moving, deadlines were constant and obvious, and distractions were minimal. (Also, it’s hard to zone out when people are yelling at you!) It’s okay if you’re not an “office” person, lots of people aren’t. You may just need some time to figure that out.

  45. Not All*

    I know you said your energy levels seem fine when you aren’t working, but I’d like to suggest getting a full work-up at your regular doctor as well, especially bloodwork. I had similar periods of utter exhaustion coupled with complete inability to focus for years…finally traced them to chronic anemia. Since my diet changes quite a bit depending on what’s going on in my life, sometimes my levels were better than others so it kept getting missed. Now I’m on daily supplements and haven’t had a problem since. I had a coworker with similar symptoms who turned out to have developed diabetes. Again…the symptoms varied because his eating patterns were very different depending on whether he was in the office, at home, in the field, etc.

    Best of luck!

    1. MistOrMister*

      My first thought was getting checked for sleep apnea but given that things are fine when they’re unemployed, I figure that’s likely not it….unless there is a stress-induced sleep apnea that I don’t know about! I hadn’t considered how things like anemia and diabetes could cause such fluctuations in energy level. I hope OP will take the advice to get a full workup to see if there might be some health issues at play. They still might not be cut out for office life, but at least they would have the peace of mind od knowing there’s nothing physically causing this.

  46. Witchy Human*

    I don’t want to diagnose. But here’s my experience:
    I’ve been in treatment for depression/anxiety for a long time. One neat trick my brain does is that if I’m depressed without any reason except good old fashioned chemical imbalance, it will search out a cause to manufacture.

    So certain things get associated with being sad even though their only association is that they were contemporary with a period of depression, and those connections are very hard to break. The association continues after the actual episode of depression is over and they can still trigger echoes of sadness or anxiety.

    I can easily imagine if two major upheavals happened at the same time: a period of deep depression and an entry into the white-collar working world, my brain would make a really strong connection between the two even if one really has nothing to do with the other.

    Therapy has helped me work on recognizing and breaking those associations. Does this thing make me miserable because of what it is, or just because my first experience with it was when I was already miserable?

  47. Mockingdragon*

    Yeah, piling on more of the same. I was not a good fit for a 9-5 office job – I was lucky enough to become a freelancer and I work about 11-6 on my own schedule. I wish so strongly that someone had told me that was an option back when I was 17 and terrified of the idea of having to get up at 7am every day for the rest of my life. I never did get used to it.
    There are so many other kinds of jobs. Waitressing may not be a bad start as some people mentioned – or cooking, if that’s something you’re good at and you can handle the fast pace of a restaurant. Landscaping, shelf-stocking, dog-walking, driving for Lyft, dozens and dozens of jobs you can do without being in an office if that’s just not the right environment for you.

  48. LadyL*

    Hey, I feel you. A lot of aspects of work suck, and thinking about spending most of your waking life creating capital for someone else while subsisting on the crumbs they feed you is enough to crush anyone’s soul. That said, I think there are ways to find joy within the system, enough to sustain you (once you’ve gone to therapy and gotten to a place where you have a bit more energy, depression can make things seem really bleak and impossible and sap your energy).

    One method is to look for jobs where you can feel like the struggle is worth it. I work with kids (started in low level type positions, after school helper, camp counselor type stuff) and I mostly like it because I feel like no matter how terrible the rest of work might be, it feels great to know you had a positive impact on a child. There’s a real, tangible, immediate positive feedback there, which helps offset the frustration I have towards the overall system of work. Also kids are unpredictable and strange, so my days are never monotonous. If kids aren’t your bag, maybe look at working with animals, or a non-profit, or something else that might fit you better. All those organizations need a variety of skill sets, so if you look you may find something suited to you. Those places come with downsides too, but for me the trade off is worth it.

    Second method is to pour your emotional needs into a hobby outside of work. Writing stories, learning to skateboard, beading, bar trivia, doing stand up comedy, whatever. It helps to get through the work day if there’s something meaningful to do when you get home. It can also make a boring job feel worth it, because it’s your way of saving up for something special for your hobby. If you can find a fellow community of hobbyists (either IRL or online) it can make you feel like you’re part of something special, and help make work feel more inconsequential to who you are.

    Work really sucks. It’s crazy that we get 8 days off in a month, life is so short and we spend so much of it in drudgery. I hope you’re able to find some relief to this issue, I’ll be thinking of you.

    1. san junipero*

      I’m going to make a weird suggestion: even if you think kids aren’t your thing, unless you absolutely HATE them, try volunteering with them or getting a short-term gig at a school and see if you end up liking it. Hell, try it with other things you think you might not like, too.

      I say this because I 100000000000% didn’t think I wanted anything to do with kids. I got a job teaching in Japan, but I insisted on only working at the high school level… and while I did get a couple of high schools, I also found myself working twice a week at special needs schools, mostly with kids under ten. And to my immense surprise, I *loved* it. I’ve been working with young children ever since, and I just flipped over to EdTech, at a job where I can keep working *for* them if not *with* them.

      So, yeah. Try some out-of-the-box (for you) things and see if they surprise you, OP.

  49. Bree*

    I’m sorry you’re going through this, OP. It does sound like something worth talking about with a doctor (in case there are medical causes for the lethargy, and because many family doctors also address mental health issues like depression and anxiety) and talking over with a therapist. A couple years ago I suffered from a bout of work-related anxiety, and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy was very helpful – I’m more professionally comfortable now than I have been in my whole career.

    It sounds like you are overthinking each of these jobs, and also assuming based on one bad experience or one bad day that all workplaces and days will be the same. That’s very, very unlikely to be the case. You could try taking things a little more day-by-day, or even hour-by-hour. And also remember that your job is not the only or most important part of your life or identity – it’s perfectly OK for it to just be a thing you do to pay the bills! Try to take some of the pressure off yourself. You will change jobs or careers many times in your life – this is not forever!

    I also think the transition out of school can come as a bit of a shock. Suddenly, scheduling is a lot more rigid and routine, and the sort of built-in community and social aspects are gone. It’s an adjustment to suddenly have to put effort into those things. Make sure you’re still nurturing those other parts of yourself while your employed, and try to reframe them as complementary instead of opposed to one another.

    A part-time job actually sounds like a good solution while you work through some of these things. Use that extra time to get support for your anxiety, and to built the foundations for work-life balance. Also get a lot of sleep! There’s a lot of learning and socializing and figuring stuff out in the first six months of a new job, and I think it’s pretty common to find it exhausting. cut yourself some slack, if you can.

    1. Bree*

      Another thought, about energy levels: Definitely get this checked by a doctor. But I was struck by the fact that you have lots of energy when not employed, but not when you’re working. Is it possible there could be lifestyle differences between the two that impact your energy levels? When you work, are you remembering to eat enough throughout the day, and well, esp. protein and iron? Are you getting enough sunlight and fresh air? Does the job/commute combo mean you’re sitting all the time vs. moving around more when you’re not employed? After ruling out medical causes, you could try focusing on these things.

  50. BusyBee*

    Not sure if this is helpful, but your comment brought me back to my first office job out of college (10 years ago now). I remember being so nervous and keyed up all day, and exhausted after sitting at a desk for 8 hours. I hated wearing my business casual clothes and was ready to run away from it all- I had semi-serious fantasies of starting an ice cream cart business on the beach and saying “screw all this”. It was awful and gave me SO MUCH ANGST for the first 6 months.

    For me, the transition from the less rigid schedule I had at school to a strict 9-5 was really hard. I just wasn’t used to 8 sustained hours of being “on”, and it was exhausting as my body and mind adapted. But it’s like a muscle: first few days at the gym you feel totally crushed, but slowly you adapt and learn how to deal.

    However, slowly I learned the job, learned how to work in an office, and started getting a little more responsibility. Having projects (basic data entry- this was a pretty dull job) made the day go faster and made me feel more capable. It also made me interact more with my coworkers, so I started feeling comfortable in the space and looking forward to work for the social interaction. Slowly, you also gain skills and progress in your field, so the work itself becomes more interesting and that becomes part of the attraction.

    I think the advice the other commentators provided is really excellent, but also just be gentle with yourself. Try new things, don’t feel like you have to have it all figured out right today, and see how it goes.

  51. londonedit*

    Just to add to the chorus of ‘think about seeing a doctor/looking into therapy’. Your description of feeling constantly exhausted, anxious, lethargic, etc sounds a lot like some possible symptoms of depression.

    Look, it’s hard to settle in at a new job. It is exhausting getting used to a new commute, getting used to being in the same place for 8 hours every day and whatnot. It’s also exhausting being new and trying to take in all the information and processes and systems that you have to learn. That’s the same in any job – I’m always completely shattered for the first month or so – and I expect it’s magnified in your first job(s) after graduation. It’s a completely different way of life and it’s hard to get used to.

    However, it’s not usual or good for a job to make you feel completely hopeless, exhausted despite sleeping 10 hours a night, and so terrified of the working world that you’re ghosting on the jobs you get. So there’s definitely something going on here that isn’t just ‘whew, new job, it’s a whirlwind’ stuff. Whether that’s something that can be diagnosed by a doctor, or whether it’s something to do with the kind of jobs you’re applying for, or the way you think about work in general, is hard to say. But don’t be afraid to ask for some help to figure it out.

  52. em*

    The sensory issues, difficulty with uncomfortable clothing, making “easy” mistakes, low energy after a day of doing “nothing”, all add up to make me think- and of course this may not be you – but it makes me think of friends who are struggling with ADHD or autism. Regardless, please if you can, invest a little money in more comfortable work presentable clothes – maxi dresses, pants made out of sweatpant material that look like work pants, jersey knit tops, etc. Maybe look into purchasing comfortable underpinnings like camisoles or soft undershirts that will shield your torso, or very soft leggings, things like that. Looser clothes, maybe? And definitely I agree with other commenters who recommend a job where you’re doing more different kind of things than sitting or standing in one place all day.

    1. Iced Cappuccino*

      Seconding this, I also have issues with uncomfortable clothes at my office job so I only buy things that qualify as “office pyjamas”. I’ve had to become more diligent about the fabrics used. It makes it harder to shop but if you can put together 5 outfits you can spend 8 hours in, you’ll be fine.

  53. Data Analyst*

    I have a friend who has mental health issues, and even after getting intensive help for those, could not deal with crappy office job – kept having panic attacks when it was time to go there, etc. They now work at a doggy daycare, which of course has its shitty aspects (literally) but is more fulfilling than the type of job they had before, and involves playing with dogs, which can be therapeutic. This is a very specific example, but something like that might be an option to consider, in addition to dealing with mental health stuff, after which you would have a better barometer for what you can and can’t handle.

  54. Consultant Catie*

    Therapy therapy therapy therapy therapy. I can’t say it enough. I’ve been EXACTLY where you are, and please believe me you’re not alone. I think that’s always what makes these feelings worse — you look around and see everyone else seeming to do just fine and it makes you get down on yourself even more. PLEASE don’t feel alone!! SO many of us have been where you are!!

    It sounds like you’re young, so you may still be on your parents’ insurance. If you do one thing today, please please ask for help in scheduling yourself an appointment with a therapist, or even a doctor. I am not sure if we’re able to talk directly at some point, but there are so many resources I would be overjoyed to send you.

    Please don’t feel alone. You graduated college. You are handling your job searches extremely well, which can be so hard for people. You are doing great. You are not alone.

  55. fromscratch*

    I would also recommend signing up with a temp agency. I temped for my first 2 years after college and got placed in so many different types of roles and got to do so many interesting (and some not so interesting) things. Office work that is super boring isn’t so bad when you’re doing it for a week to fill in for someone’s vacation.
    I got paid decent money to sit at a desk and open a door for UPS twice a day for 2 weeks while a receptionist was on medical leave. They let me read and surf the internet. Boring long term, but absolutely awesome for 2 weeks.
    I did a stint in AmeriCorps as well – made barely enough money to pay the bills but got a waiver for some of my student loans and got 6 months of work experience I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

  56. Eillah*

    Therapy, for sure. I’ve had great luck with Talkspace, which is a great alternative affordable option if you need one! Wishing you all the best, OP.

  57. Junior Dev*

    First off, I want to say I really feel for you. I think there’s a good chance you’re going to get some commenters saying mean things about your character, but I believe you when you say work leaves you feeling tired and miserable, and it’s quite reasonable to not want to feel that way.

    I second the suggestion to get therapy. You should also talk to a primary care doc about low energy levels—hopefully you have insurance. I got bloodwork done and it turns out I have low vitamin D and low iron (there are at least two kinds of iron test and only the less common one caught it). Also see if your sleep is good, both in terms of time spent asleep and in terms of whether you wake up feeling rested. It could be your energy levels are enough to get through a non-work day but they could be higher.

    Regarding the new job—I think you should go and you should treat the first 2 to 4 weeks as a period in which you’ll be overwhelmed and tired just because you’re learning so many new things. It sucks but it’s not permanent. Practice self-care accordingly, maybe do things like make a bunch of meals and freeze them in the week before you start.

    I also think you should try to treat the first job you have as practice at having a job, which will then make it possible for you to have a more interesting job in the future—both in terms of looking good on a resume and in terms of building your own skills to do better. There are a lot of “soft skills” and professional norms that you learn by having basically any white collar job and it’s frankly good to get some missteps and awkward moments out of the way at a job you don’t care about as much.

    Finally, two things to keep in mind:

    Your first office job will probably be boring, and your first few weeks at any job will probably be exhausting. There’s a normal level of these problems, and then there’s feeling anxious or desperate because something truly not ok is happening. If you have to put up with annoying clients or do repetitive tasks or learn a process that doesn’t make much sense, that’s usually normal. But if you’re dreading going into work because people are being cruel or discriminatory or sexually harassing you, or you’re being made to do something unsafe or unethical, that’s really another matter, and you should look at any of the excellent posts in this blog’s archives to figure out what to do, including getting out. But if it’s not like that, just boring or frustrating, it will probably get better with time.

    It could be your personality is just not suited to office jobs. I would try and see if you can make it a year at the receptionist job, and if it still feels awful, and you aren’t experiencing any of the extra bad things I described in the previous paragraph, see about taking a community college certificate to be an auto mechanic or an EMT or a dental hygienist or an HVAC technician or a nursing assistant or what have you. I think spending a year at the receptionist job will help you identify what you do and don’t like at work, and look good when you are applying for a first job in the new field.

    Good luck. I can relate to what you wrote a lot and I hope you can find a way to work that doesn’t make you feel awful.

  58. Sarah Thomas*

    Oh, you poor kid. I’m sorry about the zap you’re laying on yourself. You don’t deserve it!

    It sounds like what you ‘know’ about yourself based on positive feedback in formal education has been backfiring on you since graduation. School is a hierarchy where the resources at the top are turned toward the advancement of those at the bottom; the school exists to make the students succeed, and it pours reinforcement into students like you, who demonstrate conscientiousness and early aptitude. You’re given great emotional rewards for progressing along the proscribed path of the curriculum, and internalize the idea that your worth is tied to quantifiable achievement and nebulous praise for things like ‘being smart’ or ‘being a good learner.’

    I have yet to meet a kid whose educational experience could be described thusly who didn’t absolutely flail – for a WHILE – when encountering the world of work. All workplaces, even the most enriching ones, have the resources at the bottom turned to serving those at the top – you’ll be doing grunt stuff to support a professional mission or at the behest of a senior colleague, and you have little say in the specifics. And most workplaces don’t have the kind of emotional reinforcement that bright kids receive in school, leaving you to worry that you’re not measuring up even before anything is wrong. And your last job sounds like it was one where the positive and meaningful reinforcement stopped right after the interview, so it doesn’t surprise me that’s where you’re getting stuck now.

    I’m not saying you’re a soft snowflake or anything. I’m saying that the philosophy of education and the practices of most modern workforces are woefully out of sync, and it’s generally people early in their careers who suffer.

    You are not alone. All your friends, who you think have ‘figured it out,’ haven’t. Some of them might be a bit further than you along the resiliency track, because maybe their pre-work experiences were different. But they’re still learning, and they will be for a while. You’re not broken, incompetent, dumb or lazy.

    Like many above, I’ll happily suggest some therapy. But I don’t think you necessarily need to approach therapy with the goal being ‘contented high performance in an entry-level office environment.’ You just got out of school. There’s a whole world out there to explore, and you’ll never be better suited to do it than at this point in your life. You may have a novel in you, or some paintings, or a startup, or a nonprofit, or something else crazy and unsanctioned and cool that you subconsciously don’t think you’re ‘allowed’ to do yet because you haven’t succeeded in a 9 to 5. That thought is a tar pit, and you have all the strength you need to pull yourself out.

    In addition to therapy, I’d suggest…bumming around for a while. Travel. Wait some tables or drive an Uber. Try some stuff that scares you. Remember, if you can, what you wanted to be when you were ten, and ask yourself how you’d become that – not after another degree, but right now. Make some art even if you suck at it, and you will, for a while. I promise you, if none of your experiments work, there will still be admin assistant jobs waiting when you find yourself wanting something stable and are no longer afraid you’re not good enough.

    One last thing; your parents didn’t come up at all in your letter, and I hope they’re supportive of you as a growing, changing, autonomous adult. But if they’re not – if they cut you down to build you up, if their anxieties lead them to act as though there’s only one kind of acceptable life of acceptable success, or if they try to control your choices – I hope you give yourself permission to stop listening to them. No matter how loving or well-meaning they are, they can’t live your life for you. Only you can do that.

    Good luck! You’re going to be okay.

    1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

      Also, one thing I learned at work the hard way, is that there’s one definition of a Good Student (one who knows the material and gets good grades and is generally conscientious.) But there are many definitions of Good Employee, and they can be completely subjective and unrelated to your job description.

      For example, I had a job that had a really detailed description requiring subject area knowledge and safety compliance, so I thought the fact that I was highly knowledgeable about my subject area and ran a safe, compliant environment meant I was a good employee. However, my company preferred employees who had a go along to get along attitude, who cut corners and overlooked safety issues to save money and maximize revenue generating hours.

      So for example, if we heard thunder during llama riding lessons in the outdoor paddock, the safety rules were that we had to bring everyone inside and cancel lessons until the storm passed. But my boss preferred that we not cancel class, because it cost us money, so I’d be considered a bad employee for making that decision. I would send my employees home if they were very ill, and find someone to cover for them since they should be resting, but my boss preferred that they find their own sub or come in sick, so he felt I was an ineffective manager.

      What constitutes success in many roles can be the complete opposite of what common sense says it should be, and that’s something you have to learn to decode as you enter the workplace.

    2. Betty*

      This is my favourite comment, for the excellent analysis of school vs work resources, and for the suggestion to bum around for a bit, and for the prescient note about parental pressure (explicit or implicit).

  59. Laura*

    Maybe an office job just isn’t right for you? You should have a think about what you enjoy and see if there are any jobs available which match that – maybe you’d be happier working outdoors? Or going out and about visiting different places? It doesn’t mean giving up on working in an office entirely, if the kind of work you want to do is largely office based, but it could help to have a break from office work while you figure out what you want to do long term. Good luck :)

  60. Colette*

    First of all, if your clothes are uncomfortable, find clothes that are comfortable (and a job where you can wear them). You seem to be resentful of the fact that a job means you have to do things you wouldn’t otherwise choose to do, but … that’s why they pay you to go there. Even a job doing your favourite activity would be annoying or boring sometimes.

    I’d look into that feeling of exhaustion and hopelessness a little more. Why do you feel hopeless? Is it because you hate the work, or because you feel like you’ll be stuck doing the job forever?

    How are you talking to yourself about work? Are you thinking “I’m going to go into work tomorrow and do a good job on that filing” or are you thinking “I hate going to work, what a stupid job”? You can change how you feel about something by how you think about it, so make a point of thinking positive or neutral things.

    Therapy is a good idea; so is deciding whether you want an office job. And I’d add that you should think about what kind of life you want to lead. Would freelance work suit you? Temp work? A trade? A more physical job? How much money do you want to live on – can you live the life you want on part-time work? Life’s full of trade offs, and maybe this one isn’t for you.

    1. londonedit*

      Totally agree on the clothes thing. There are plenty of industries/types of workplace where you can absolutely wear more casual clothes that would be more like what you might be used to wearing when you’re not at work. Maybe even jeans. Work doesn’t have to be ‘sitting at a desk wearing these awful business clothes that they’re forcing me to wear’.

    2. CheeryO*

      YES. I bought all these button-down shirts and slacks before I started my first “real” job, and I honestly think that was half the reason why I was so miserable there. It’s totally possible to find comfortable business casual wear that makes you feel like yourself. I understand clothes aren’t necessarily a priority when money is tight and you have to pay the bills, but it’s worth reminding yourself that it’s not a forever situation.

    3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      Your point about clothing is a great one. Obviously how comfortable your business clothes are is going to have a lot to do with what your office expects you to wear, but there are levels and degrees of comfort between PJs and a hair shirt. Particularly when I was presenting femme, I had work outfits that were not much less comfortable than my lounge clothes.

      Within your dress code, experiment a bit for what works for your body, OP. Clothes with some stretch in them can do a lot for being forgiving on you. If you’re wearing belts, try subbing suspenders instead. And if you’re really suffering an unusual degree of sensitivity, that’s another thing to take to your doctor.

  61. Mark*

    I work in IT and part of my job involves accounting for “no shows,” people that interviewed, accepted an offer, and agreed on a start date, then… never arrive. This happens about 2-3 times a month, and we have an entire business process dedicated to deprovisioning no-shows’ email accounts, business accounts, etc.

    It’s hard for me to fathom why someone would go through the entire hiring process and then ghost companies this frequently. The letter-writer helped me understand mental health is one reason, but can anyone else give me some examples of other reasons why this happens?

    1. Allypopx*

      Change of personal circumstances, finding out through the hiring process the company isn’t a good fit for them, got another offer, simply changed their minds…

    2. Iris*

      Trying to leverage new offer to get a raise at current job? Some jobs that’s the only way to get a raise is by putting in notice and then they’ll throw some money at you to stay.

    3. LilySparrow*

      Nearly 3 million people die in the US every year. I’m sure at least a few of them had jobs pending.

  62. Damn it, Hardison!*

    LW, did the making mistakes happen before you started feeling dread about your job, or after? That caught my attention in letter, because I wonder if you have perfectionist tendencies that are part of this feeling as well. It’s easy to completely overwhelmed and like things are never going to go right, and basically go into a death spiral of procrastination (that’s me!) and loathing. It’s easy to be too hard on ourselves and set impossible standards for our work/life/everything. I’m not suggesting this is a root cause; it sounds like there are a lot of things you legitimately don’t like about the jobs you have had. It may just be another facet of what’s going on.

  63. Sharrbe*

    1. See a doctor. This is all the hallmarks of depression.
    2. You will get yourself to a better place mentally and emotionally with the right help and a little patience on your part.

  64. Lauren*

    Besides mental health screening, a general health screen might be great. My first year on the job I was dealing with constant exhaustion despite sleeping regularly. Turns out I just had an Iron deficiency. It’s often a combo of things so get therapy, but also check your vitamin levels.

    Secondly, sometimes the unknown can be even more petrifying if you are dealing with depression/anxiety.
    See if you can go to some low pressure networking or business seminars and just talk to other people in the field your entering (Or just the professional field generally). Don’t do this to get a job, do this so you see that they’re human, flawed, and generally quite kind.

    1. voluptuousfire*

      +1 on the vitamin level check. A few years ago I had horrible anxiety/insomnia (was lucky if I got 3 hours of sleep a night) for a few months and I got a physical and it turned out my folate levels were low. A course of folic acid supplements prescribed by my NP helped a lot in addition to CBT therapy.

  65. Llellayena*

    You don’t mention what your degree was in. Is your degree something you were excited about and anticipating getting a job in a directly related field and you’re not finding it? Or was your degree more generic and you’re looking at general office because you don’t know what else to look for? I’d start with therapy and a career counselor and while that’s working its way through look at jobs in hospitality, service or retail. Focus on things that don’t just stick you in one spot all day: landscaping, tutoring, hotel/apartment concierge or dog walking. If you do retail, be picky: look for retail that aligns with your interests like a bookstore if you read a lot or a sporting goods store if you like golf or baseball. You can piece together a couple of smaller jobs (like tutoring and dog walking) to get enough income for the bills while keeping you active and interested. Volunteer in an office setting once a week or something to get used to it in a smaller dose. You might find it’s really not for you or you might find you do become more comfortable with it after a while (and you’ll learn all those nice “I’m a professional” skills that translate well to anything else). Good luck!

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This is excellent advice. I hated retail food service as a “worker bee” but I enjoyed management. On the other hand, I LOVED retail work in a bookstore and a coffeehouse. I hated admin work but loved analytical, self-directed projects in similar offices. I loved dealing with people face to face but would have hated a call-center environment. Etc. Etc. A career counselor might help you figure these things out, or be able to suggest some things you haven’t thought of.

      Also, you’d be surprised at the things you may be ruling out that you might actually love. I took a paid internship in grad school that I was certain I would not enjoy (after leaving – on good terms! – one that I was certain I would love and I very much did NOT), and it ended up launching a career I love. Meanwhile, I recommended a friend to work in the office of the first internship and she LOVED it. There’s really no right or wrong answers to this.

  66. Em from CA*

    At the risk of adding to the chorus, I would say that honestly even before therapy I would go to the doctor. The kind of fatigue you describe can easily have a medical basis. I am not a doctor, and I’m not attempting to diagnose you over the Internet, but just for an illustrative example: my family lives in the county that has the highest incidence of Lyme disease in the US, and we have all learned that when we start getting tired enough that all we do is nap, then it’s time to go to the doctor. When I was in grad school, I was living in California and the doctor I had at the time didn’t know how to diagnose Lyme. I’d get up, after sleeping a full eight hours, and after two hours of class I would have to go back and go to sleep again. My Connecticut doctor from home diagnosed Lyme, put me on antibiotics, and then I got back to normal.

    Again, I’m not saying this is what’s wrong! But as someone who is an otherwise fairly good health it really surprised me how overwhelming the fatigue from a bacterial infection could be.

    Others of had really good advice here, and I would definitely take them up on it, but if there is something physically wrong, and addressing it first will maybe mean you have more energy to deal with some of the other things. Just my two cents!

    And: good luck. This is rough, but you can do it.

  67. tiasp*

    Or trades – could start a job and maybe an apprenticeship, and if it isn’t what you end up wanting to do and you don’t finish the apprenticeship, it would still be valuable skills learned. There are a LOT of different trades.

  68. Justin*

    As above, therapy and physical doctor. You shouldn’t be feeling that way, but that goes for both mental and physical health (not that MH isn’t physical but I think you get my point).

    When I had real trouble sleeping (like, literally zero sleep) during a bad job experience, it was a really serious problem related to my workplace. Still go and get checked, but it stopped in a more supportive environment, too, so hopefully you can find one that fits eventually. Haven’t had that problem (related to work, at least) since that time.

  69. banzo_bean*

    So maybe since you’re a part time job to pay the bills look for another part time job that is outside an office setting. You mention hating to wear business clothes and sitting chained to a desk, so maybe try something outdoors or working with children.

    You could even try to volunteering with organizations- start out slow so you don’t overwhelm yourself since energy is an issue but you could do an evening or weekend project. Planting trees, helping the elderly, etc. This could help give you an insight into some of the jobs out there that you might like more than an administrative job.

    I worked as an admin for years, and I hated it. Like you, I often made mistakes that I shouldn’t have despite my detail oreinted nature. I think showing up and not using my brain for 7.5 hours a day made it really hard to switch it on for that half hour. (Side note: I know there are some very challenging, engaging admin jobs that require critical thinking skills and intelligence, I just never had one).

    Might seem counterintuitive, but exercise always helps when I’m feeling lethargic. So does doing things I enjoy. And sometimes it’s a bit of fake it till you make it too. Start doing something you like even if you can barely stay awake- and after some repetition it will begin to bring excitement and joy into your life.

  70. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Reading this I could feel the depression wafting off of it. The fact that you were sleeping 10 hours a night says something as well, that’s not healthy or normal to do on a regular basis. Oversleeping is just as bad as oversleeping in a lot of cases and that’s my tell-all for a depressive episode so I could also be getting that spidey-sense due to that.

    The stress of working, triggers anxiety and depression due to your bad experiences. So please, if you can, a doctor is the first trip to make. Along with a therapist if you can find one [I say that because sometimes you literally cannot find a therapist, it’s a thing many of us have found ourselves battling.]

    If you don’t want to be chained to a desk and wearing professional clothes, there are a lot of small companies that don’t follow that pattern. It worries me that you say that is part of what triggers and bothers you but at the same time, you want to get into the healthcare offices. Healthcare is brutal and can cause more emotional damage to you if you’re hypersensitive to the fact that mistakes there tend to be worse than mistakes just about anywhere else. They’re also very much the structure you seem to want to avoid.

    The thing is you have to get over the hump of ghosting employers, since you’re truly blessed to be getting jobs so frequently to get into a ghosting habit. That won’t always be easy to do and you will find yourself stuck after too long of this pattern. So please, try to dig down deep and get the professional help that it sounds like you truly need and you deserve. You deserve to be happy and at least content with your work life.

  71. Shoes On My Cat*

    Primo-Alison’s suggestion! Then consider other jobs that will tie into any admin training. I worked as a concierge for an upscale hotel. It was really a blast. My admin skills came in handy, but the days usually flew by, and when they didn’t, there was research about ‘things to do’ that would keep us busy. Never the same day twice. Also, know that tackling a new job IS exhausting the first few weeks, until you get a system. Mentally & emotionally, so see if you could possibly add a short walk or meditation or yoga or some way to wind down physically before dropping into bed. Teaching your mind to chill while your body finally gets tired, plus letting the adrenaline ease out may help too. Good luck!!

  72. Redqueenwildboy*

    I sympathize so much with you, OP. This was me a few years ago when I left university. Normal admin jobs with no obvious problematic elements would still leave me exhausted and frightened.

    I won’t sugar-coat it: this took me years to get through and involved therapy, finding the right medication, and battling hard through jobs I hated.

    I’m proud to say that I’ve just landed a senior role at a nonprofit and looking forward to starting work in an environment that makes me happy and confident. You already sound like you have it in you to strategise and carry on through despite the anxiety and I wish you all the best.

  73. unlurking*

    As a side note — I had a really hard time switching to “business style” clothes because what I thought I must wear really really did not fit my vision of myself, like, at all. After many years, though, I became better at finding clothes that checked the ‘business’ boxes but also still allowed me to feel like myself. But I don’t want you to have to wait years! So, brainstorming ways you could find a style that lets you feel like yourself: Do you have friends who are in the business world who have a style you like? Are there any colleagues you can think of who were viewed as wearing business clothes but their clothes seemed more comfortable? Are there any blogs or instagrams online of people who are seem businessy but more like you?

    I know the clothes may seem like a small thing, but, I found that if I don’t feel like “myself” (whatever that means) then it reverberates through my work and more. When I try on clothes, I actually mentally say while looking in the mirror “Hi my name is ‘unlurking'” to try to suss out if my brain is then like “Yes okay” or “Uhh nope.”

  74. Master Bean Counter*

    My suggestions in order:
    1. Watch the movie Office Space.
    2. Make the effort to stand up and walk around every 30-60 minutes while at work. Sometime getting off your chair helps.
    3. Go see a doctor–rule out any medical issues, or deal with what comes up.
    4. Therapy.
    5. Think about becoming a plumber, an electrician, or some other job that engages your body as well as your brain.

  75. J.E.*

    OP, maybe an office job just isn’t your strong suit and that’s perfectly okay. Do you want to work in an office because it’s what you really want to do or do you think that’s the only way to make a good living? If money was no object and you could do anything, what would you do? Like others have mentioned, are you working in areas related to your degree or have you not found anything degree related and just taking any office job? Are you open to moving? You don’t mention if you are open to relocating or if you are tied to your current location.

  76. pentamom*

    Definitely rule out depression, and it’s likely there is something like that underlying, but it’s at least a possibility that LW is just being unrealistic. Working full time is a big physical mental, and emotional adjustment and you should just expect not to have a lot of energy to do other things for a couple of weeks until you’re adjusted. Feeling too tired to do anything after a few days of full time work is entirely normal and shouldn’t be assumed to be the way working will be for the rest of your life.

  77. time for lunch*

    There are millions of people who live in “the real world” and don’t sit at a desk in an office all day. For some reason, though, people who do do this for a living think that’s what life has to be. It’s not true.

    See a career counselor. See more than one. Get some books on the topic. And look around you: there are lots of people working who are not in offices. Talk to some of them.

    While you are figuring out what non-office job you want to hold long term, there are entry level jobs you can do that might give you more energy than the ones you’ve been taking. You can work in city parks, in landscaping, give tours, work retail, do lots of things.

    If there’s someone in your life telling you that you don’t have a “real job” if your work doesn’t involve Excel, tell them to take it up with the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It’s all work.

    If people are telling you you need meds to face a job you hate because that’s the only job you think is worthy of respect, talk to some different people. (Aside: this is actually the dystopian horror story everyone was on about when Prozac came out: “They’ll be forcing us to take it to endure a soul sucking office life, as if being disaffected by that isn’t perfectly normal!”) It’s not depression to get anxious and upset after signing on for something you truly hate doing. Do something else! And anyone telling you otherwise, telling you you have to have only that kind of job: stop taking to them. They don’t know everything. It’s not worth making yourself miserable. And yeah, see a therapist and work through why it is you keep doing this when it isn’t remotely necessary.

    1. anna green*

      Yes, omg this please, you do not need to work in an office. So many jobs are not in offices. Do all the other things people are telling you too, but please know that you do not have to work in an office.

  78. PugLife*

    Therapy, or antidepressants, or antianxiety medication first. Because this seems like way more than just general “it’s hard to adjust to work.”

    But if you can swing it financially, try for a part-time job or something that allows you to work from home? I work from home on a heavy part time schedule (20-30 hours a week) and the flexibility is divine. I keep business hours but I’m able to dodge out to go to the store, or the gym, or volunteer.

    Granted, I’m able to do this because I have. partner who works full time and partially supports me, but if it is an option for you, even for a few months or a year, you might find it an easier transition. The fact that you’re getting interviews is great, but you want to be mindful that you don’t let it go too long without taking a new job.

  79. QCI*

    Do something that isn’t office work. Unless you’re still on parents insurance I’m guessing you don’t have extra income for therapy at the moment, so the only realistic option i can give is stop looking for white collar work and dip your toes into blue collar work or customer facing jobs or the service industry. Basically anything that isn’t what you’ve been doing.

  80. Four lights*

    My work was ghosted once–I always wondered why!

    1. Ditto for therapy. Work is not supposed to be soul crushing, and a lot of people find satisfaction in a job well done each day.

    2. Make a list of things you would like to do outside of work ( hiking, spending time with friends) and push yourself to do those things. It sounds like your job is taking over your thoughts and this will help. (I learned this in therapy.)

    3. Ditto for working with a temp agency to find work that you like.

    4. I recommend the book What Color is my Parachute to help find out what you are looking for in a job. It does a good job of helping you figure out things like if you would prefer working with people or not, having regular hours or not, working in a big company or small, how much the actual work you do is important to you, etc. Therefore, even if you can’t find the type of work you would like right now, it can help you identify other work preferences that you have and can meet at this point.

  81. Noah*

    No other advice until after therapy. That has to be step 1, because this sounds a lot like depression. Once you’re in therapy, see where you are and the next step will be based on that.

  82. OhGee*

    Therapy AND a deep examination of your values. Seriously. I’ve done this for the past ten years or so (I’m in my late 30s) and it ALWAYS helps me make decisions about the work I’m doing. I also urge you to consider that if you hate being an admin for a business, you’ll probably hate it at a nonprofit. There’s a wide world of career opportunities out there, and they’re not all indoors at a desk!

    1. OhGee*

      P.S. If anybody’s curious, I based my values exploration on the post “Building a Meaningful Life from the Bottom Up” on The Simple Dollar blog. I update it every year or two, particularly if I’m feeling frustrated about an aspect of my life.

  83. LunaLena*

    OP, do you know why you keep applying specifically to admin/office assistant jobs? I just wonder if it’s worth questioning whether it’s something you actually want, or if it something that you were told all your life and you’ve internalized it as the only way to go – like, “you’re going to go to college and get a respectable white collar job.” I ask this because I was told constantly from a young age that I was going to be some kind of doctor (my mom was hoping for a pediatrician or OB-GYN, but she was willing to settle for a veterinarian), so I just grew up believing that the medical field was the only job path available to me. Consequently I was a pre-vet major in college, but somewhere along that line I realized that I wasn’t cut out for a career in the sciences. I didn’t know what else I could do, so I stuck it out until I graduated with a degree in biology. What I really wanted was a career involving art, but that was so heavily discouraged my entire life that I never even considered it as a possibility.

    I had to take a long hard look at what I wanted versus what I had been told before I realized and started pursuing the career path I wanted. It took me almost a year. And when I did, it was very confusing and scary because I felt like I was leaving the safe and comfortable path of being a doctor and entering “Here be Dragons” territory. But it was definitely worth it for me in the end – I may not make as much money as a doctor would, but I’m a lot happier now than I ever was when I was contemplating a medical career.

  84. Elizabeth West*

    OP, I definitely support recommendations that you see a doctor to rule out anything that could be contributing to this, and probably a therapist. A lot of conditions can cause the fatigue you’re describing. But so can anxiety and depression. Since you say you’re fine when you’re not working, I’m guessing it’s probably more mental than physical. (Still, get checked because I am not a doctor.)

    I get how you feel re “this isn’t what I want to do or how I want to do it.” I’m in the same boat. But we’re not tied to anything; we can still pursue what we want to do, and the day job gives us security while we’re working up to that. Regardless, you need to take charge of this now. Repeated ghosting is going to hurt your professional reputation.

  85. san junipero*

    I’m going to mostly repeat something I said in a thread already, but in addition to the chorus of “go to therapy/go to the doctor” (which I strongly agree with), I’m going to make a kind of weird suggestion:

    Try a variety of other jobs you think you might like… but try some you think you *won’t* like, too, and see if they surprise you.

    I say this because I 100000000000% didn’t think I wanted anything to do with kids. I got a job teaching in Japan, but I insisted on only working at the high school level… and while I did get a couple of high schools, I also found myself working twice a week at special needs schools, mostly with kids under ten. And to my immense surprise, I *loved* it. I’ve been working with young children ever since, and I just flipped over to EdTech, at a job where I can keep working *for* them if not *with* them.

    So, yeah. Try some out-of-the-box (for you) things, OP. I don’t mean “try a different kind of office,” since the office really seems to not be for you. But if you think kids also aren’t for you, try volunteering with them for a day, or take a short-term gig at a school. If you’re not a fan of the outdoors, try finding a temp gig that takes you outside anyway. Cast your net wide and let yourself be open to the options.

    (And ALSO go to therapy and the doctor. Even if you end up without any kind of diagnosis, good therapy can be life-changing.)

    1. LawBee*

      There are online therapists that are really good, and either free or low-cost. It doesn’t have to be an office therapist. Options abound!
      Source: I work with a lot of terminally ill people with no money, and many of them use BetterHelp and the like.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        This is assuming that their parents have insurance…and that they are carrying them as a dependent.

        Tons of insurance now you CAN put your kids on it up until 26 due to the law BUT they don’t cover their children because you know, it’s super expensive to carry. So unless their parents are one of the lucky ones, this law really doesn’t help that much for people with parents who are just working jobs with modest benefits.

  86. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

    The description of your lethargy smacks of vitamin D deficiency. Try a supplement, assuming they’re readily available in your country.

    1. MamaSarah*

      Funny, my first thought was “yes, a good therapist is smart move” and then I thought about B vitamin deficiency. LW, consider upping your intake of whole fruits and vegetables, quality grains, lean proteins. If you can, try to cut out 1 or 2 sweets a day. A healthy diet can help.
      Also…I had a ton of anxiety when I first when back to work full time. I think it’s normal to have some fear around big life changes. I started running a lot more, joined our local running club, trained for longer races. I did more yoga, dancing. I process a lot with movement. I still have anxious moments from time to time, but a deep breath and a sincere effort at changing that thought prevents panic attacks. There’s lots of good advice on this thread – and hopefully you’re feeling a little support from the AAM community. Hugs! Update us when you can. ❤️

  87. Samwise*

    Advice to work with a therapist and also a physician (there may be physical issues you are not aware of) is spot on.

    Many entry level jobs are in fact really boring, especially in the first 6 months to a year. When you don’t yet have much work experience, these kinds of jobs are where you learn and/or demonstrate professional skills and behaviors: showing up on time and staying all day, managing your time at work well, being reliable and dependable, getting along with others, doing your tasks well, asking for help/asking questions, and so on.

    Understanding this, and being able to accept it, would be a topic to work on with a therapist.

    Good luck! Please let us know how it goes!

  88. LawBee*

    Look for non-desk jobs! I think there’s an assumption that going to college means you MUST take an office job, but you hate it, it makes you cry, and none of them are working out. Find something that isn’t desk work – retail if that works for you, landscaping, working at the local animal shelter, whatever is around your area. (Where I live, landscaping work ABOUNDS.) You just need to cover the bills. And and and, you can look into on-line therapy; it’s often free or low-cost, and works around your schedule.
    LW, don’t force yourself into a niche that doesn’t work for you. You deserve better than that. <3 Give yourself the grace of a break from the office job hunt, do something else, and let yourself recover. We're rooting for you.

    1. Zephy*

      I worked at an animal shelter for almost 4 years and it’s still basically my favorite job I ever had. I was in the adoptions department, though, which is arguably the happiest part of the shelter.

  89. Another worker bee*

    OP, putting aside all the previous comments about depression, etc. which are likely valid, I feel like you are applying and getting jobs that might be too…easy? for you. I’ve definitely had jobs like that, where it was just drudgery with stupid rules and uncomfortable clothes for barely any money, and if I didn’t need the money to survive, I definitely would have done what you did. The job market is still pretty hot right now in certain sectors so maybe you should try to get a stretch job. It could be that having to work harder at something and really engaging your brain will make it feel less miserable.

    Also, if the above doesn’t appeal….come work for my office as an admin assistant! We are a tech company so you can wear whatever you want, it’s a startup so there is never a dull moment, and our current admin assistant is incapable of basic arithmetic and reading comprehension, so you’d be an improvement!

  90. HangInThere*

    If you don’t have insurance to help cover costs of a Doctor visit, therapy and/or medication (which might be prescribed), seek out local mental health non-profits. They may have programs in your area that can help you get the resources you need.

    If you are in the US, you can’t try reaching out to NAMI or Mental Health America.

  91. Zip Silver*

    Suffer through your entry level clerical job, and don’t stop job searching for something in your field (if that’s what interests you). Nobody goes to school with the intention of being an admin assistant, so do what you need to in order to pay bills.

    1. Justme, The OG*

      Except some people do, and to say otherwise belittles them. I think “just suffer through this job that is causing you great mental anguish” is quite possibly the worst advice that could be given to someone in this situation.

      1. Nicotene*

        Yeah no way, when you’re not making much money in an entry level job, you might as well find something that doesn’t make you completely miserable. Dog walking? Childcare center? Amusement park worker?

        1. The Original K.*

          I’m reminded of the person who wrote in not long ago whose boss was horribly abusive and she said she was paid $15/hour, which I think was minimum wage where she lived. Someone pointed out that that meant she could do literally anything else and make the same wage, so OP should leave immediately.

        2. boop the first*

          As someone who works these kinds of jobs that everyone is suggesting, I really don’t think the problem is the type of job OP has been getting. There’s nothing stimulating about doing repetitive work while standing on hard tile all day.

      2. Zip Silver*

        OP seems to be in a situation where she needs money. My wife ended up working retail for nearly a year looking for a job in her field, because bills still needed to be paid. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do.

          1. Zip Silver*

            It seems like all the other advice in this thread so far is agreeing that she should go to therapy. Great advice, she’ll just need a way to fund that plus life. Hopefully she can fall back on her parents for the time being.

            1. remizidae*

              Agreed. Being broke and unemployed never helped anyone’s mental health. OP needs to keep getting up and going to work, even if she’s exhausted, even if she feels inadequate. Having money will make any treatment or job change that might be necessary easier.

          2. Cranky Neighbot*

            I don’t mean this argumentatively, but is there a viable alternative? Quit the job, participate in therapy and psychiatric care, and pay for them how?

            1. san junipero*

              It depends on where OP lives/what their support system looks like. She’s already been unemployed for a while, so presumably she has some means of living. I had to quit my job because of a chronic illness and was unemployed for a year, and have been working part-time since then. My father (to whom I am very grateful) took over most of my bills and I got on Medicaid for healthcare.

              Unfortunately, my amazing therapist doesn’t take insurance, so I pay her out of pocket, but I’ve been able to get by because my other medical needs are either free or very low cost. I’m finally in a job where I can start to pay my own way again, thank God, and I’m in a much better place than I was when I quit. If OP can pause to either get the help she needs or get into a field that doesn’t make her as miserable (or both), I think she should.

            2. anonaccountant*

              I think there’s a definitely a middle ground between ‘suck it up’, and quit/do therapy. There’s low-cost therapy options that can be utilized with reduced hours/limited monetary impact, and there’s ways to mitigate her unhappiness at her current job or a similar one. I think suck it up is a harsh way to put it. However, as someone who struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, I’ve found that sometime things just do need time to get better, and that sometimes you do need to stick it out to get there. I made huge changes in my life and it didn’t make me happy the way I thought it would. So rather than ‘suck it up,’ it’s more ‘stick it out, but here’s some things you can do to help in the meantime.’ I feel like that’s the middle ground and a productive way of answering her question.

              As an example, things that help me enjoy my job/life are volunteering with a farm rescue doing vetting and manual labor, making my work space into a place that I enjoy in terms of comfort and decor, connecting with my coworkers, having my favorite snack on hand as a pick-me-up, having routines I enjoy, exercising over lunch/after work to reduce stress and perk me up energy-wise, doing a similar role in a different industry with a different culture (secretary at vet’s office vs bank is an example), etc.

          3. Cranky Neighbot*

            (FWIW, if OP has any means to escape this job at all, like savings or family support, I say DO THAT. RIGHT NOW. But if they don’t, they’re going to need to fund their medical care. They’re going to need to stay employed in some manner.)

          4. Oof*

            The reality is that for many, that is what they have to do. I’ve always framed it as sometimes the only way out is through – it’s neither good nor bad advice, it’s a reality check at times. Trust me, I would rather everyone have the ability to address things as best suited their needs!

        1. cheese please*

          Respectfully, there’s a difference between disliking a job / having a job you find boring but pays the bills / being underemployed and having crippling anxiety where your burst into tears after a day at work, barely making it to a job on your first day and being drained of all happiness due to your job.

          Yes, sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do. That is not what this is about.

          1. sunny-dee*

            Except there is no indication that there is actually anything wrong with the jobs themselves — she has the same reaction for jobs she hasn’t even started yet. At that point, there are two things going on — it’s obviously some kind of mental health issue and, frankly, as she gets treatment, her only options are to force herself to work through it or to live with family and have them support her.

            Since the question was specifically aside from therapy, what do you recommend, the recommendation is — find a way to cope as you go through it.

            1. LawBee*

              Yeah, but she doesn’t have to work through it at those specific office jobs. She can:
              * work retail
              * work in food/bev
              * light industrial work if that is available in her area
              * Molly Maid and such
              * landscaping and such
              * etc.
              I think LW is stuck on “college degree must mean office job” and that’s just simply not true.

      3. EmKay*

        Seriously, this is bad advice. OP should get a physical to rule out any problems (like thyroid function), then hightail it to a psychiatrist (they’re the kind that can diagnose depression and anxiety, and prescribe medication accordingly).

        Then once that is sorted, maybe a career coach.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Absolutely! A friend of mine had some blood tests run recently and they discovered SUPER low iron along with some other major deficiencies. She started doing injections and went from total lethargy and inertia to having boundless energy, working on her art again for the first time in months, feeling clear-headed and excited about the next steps. There’s a lot we don’t understand about the causes of anxiety and depression, so getting a blood panel (and a thyroid panel!) and looking for those kinds of things is a really important first step.

          2. Consultant Catie*

            Yes definitely! I also found out that I had dangerously low vitamin B was causing brain fog that you wouldn’t believe. I thought I was going crazy but a simple blood test and a few shots helped figure it out.

          3. Jamie*

            This. I had no idea how sick and completely run down I was until I got better. Anemia was the first thing that came to mind for me, as we tend to see things from our own experiences.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          Yes, I think that seeing a physician for a full workup to make sure there isn’t something like anemia, thyroid, vitamin deficiencies, Lyme disease, going on as well. A lot of physical issues hide themselves with mental health symptoms like exhaustion and irritability.

      4. Cranky Neighbot*

        It sounds like OP does need income to pay their bills, so “hang in there until you can get a job that’s better for you” is pragmatic advice. It’s also incredibly difficult and draining.

        About the “nobody goes to college to become an admin assistant” comment. I will say that I was very unhappy in that job and it certainly wasn’t what I went to college for.

        1. Jennifer*

          I can agree to this. I didn’t like the comment about admin jobs either but I agree that many people still have to work to pay bills, even while depressed.

      5. Jennifer*

        I didn’t read that she was suffering through her current part-time job, but that she was suffering doing full-time hours and is getting by doing part-time work.

        Regardless, people with mental health issues don’t always have decent health insurance and need to work to pay bills. Good advice has to be balanced and take that into account.

        1. sunny-dee*

          She said she’s equally miserable with her part time work. …and now I am back to feeling the same sense of exhaustion and hopelessness after only a few days of working. I come home in tears because I am so frustrated with myself for being unable to handle even a six-hour workday when everyone else in my office works full-time and does just fine.

        1. neeko*

          What? That isn’t true. Plenty of people who go to college (or don’t go to college at all) for degrees in other fields of work take admin assistant jobs.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Uh…no you don’t. I’ve seen a few EA positions who want a degree but yeah general administrative work, no.

        3. sunny-dee*

          Yeah, when I was in my cycling entry level job period, I worked as an admin assistant, and it didn’t require a degree. (I had one, but the other two women in the office had GEDs.) It’s a job that simply doesn’t require it (except in very few places), and it’s kind of silly to spend $50,000 or more on an unnecessary degree if that’s really the career path you want to take. (Making it clear — there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing it as a career. It just does not require a BA.)

      1. paperpusher*

        I know, one of the most popular programs at any community college I’m aware of is the office administration diploma. You’re not getting hired around here without that diploma.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This isn’t how it works. Please don’t continue this kind of rumor.

          It’s popular because it feeds off people who buy into the idea that you have to have college training of some kind to get a job. These programs take advantage of people and get you no further in the end.

          Culinary school is also popular and doesn’t do a lot of good for most people. Same with “Hospitality Management” degrees. It’s a cash grab and a scam.

          1. Hotel GM*

            I can attest. None of my GM colleagues that I know of in my company have hospitality management degrees. It’s very much a ‘work your way up and have at least some sort of degree’ kind of field, outside of the large full-service properties.

    2. Caliente*

      It kills me when someone says “no one wants to be an admin asst” – not true! There are a heck of a lot of high ranking, indispensable, six-figure making assistants (and even nannies, in THIS TOWN). This is almost like saying your job sucks if you’re an assistant, which isn’t cool. At all.

      1. Caliente*

        And even if you’re not high ranking and making a six figure salary it can still be a good job, didn’t mean to imply its ONLY good if its has those other things included.

      2. boop the first*

        It’ especially weird coming from the same people who are saying “Maybe you need a more stimulating job, maybe be a SERVER in a restauarant??” Aaaah! Oh yeah that’ll be fun for anxiety.

        1. All monkeys are French*

          Boop, I get that you aren’t happy in your service job, but there are plenty of non white collar jobs that can be fulfilling and stimulating. I’ve spent almost my entire career in food service and I struggle with depression and anxiety. The trick is finding the right fit.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Everyone’s anxiety stems from their own personal anxiety triggers. There’s no blanket about it, it’s not always “social interactions” or “fast pace”. It sounds like our OP is triggered by the environment, not the work itself. So a change of environment, such as moving into serving or service, may be just fine. If they thrive on being up and active.

      3. Witchy Human*

        And there are advantages to admin work that you can rarely get in a different white-collar job that suit some people really well.

        Your entire job is helping people. Success at your job is black and white, no guessing. More and more in the modern workplace you’re recognized as the major asset a good admin can be. You typically don’t need to take your work home with you even mentally. Plenty of positives.

        1. Alton*

          Yep, it’s definitely a job that can be desirable and a good fit.

          I don’t know if I’d say that admin work is the perfect fit for my personality or not, but I love that it gives me exposure to some really interesting work while still allowing me to maintain a good amount of work-life balance. It was indeed ine of the things I was interested in pursuing post-college.

      4. Eillah*

        It also plays into the idea that admin work is for people who aren’t intelligent/capable– which is horsesh!t.

      5. Ginger Baker*

        Seriously. I make $92k before overtime, work overtime only if and when I want to, never ever deal with work outside office hours (maybe like one time in a two year period year, tops, I get a phone call asking about something when I am not in the office – that takes less than ten minutes to resolve), pick up a number of “side” projects that interest me, and have a high level of respect and appreciation for the skills I bring to the table, from both the people I directly support and the admin manager and supervisors. I LOVE my job and while I 100% get that it’s not the right fit for everyone, there are plenty of jobs I know I would not enjoy that I can recognize are a great fit for someone else and feel no need to disparage.

    3. Autumnheart*

      Let’s not give career advice like “The job you’re doing is menial and demeaning,” because those are always the jobs on which we tend to depend for our quality of life. Personally, my life would be much the poorer if I couldn’t enjoy a meal out, see a movie, travel, or go shopping, to say nothing of getting medical care or taking care of things around my house, so why crap on all the people who bust their butts making sure we have those options? Nobody is born expecting to work 12 hours a day for pennies building our cell phones or sewing our clothing either, but I’d be willing to put money on the fact that we all own those things, right? People aren’t born for the purpose of sweating in a 110-degree warehouse loading boxes onto conveyor belts so we can enjoy our free Prime 2-day shipping. But people DO those jobs. Instead of calling them “entry-level” and acting like better jobs await the better people, maybe we should re-frame those jobs as the necessary and critical part of keeping our society running.

      1. Zip Silver*

        This is kind of derailing from the main topic and the admin assistant comment was a throwaway comment on my part. All those support/workerbee jobs are indeed necessary, and I’ve held several myself (and I come from a blue collar background, my Dad and granddad’s we’re all tradesmen), but they definitely don’t require a college degree. If you have a certification, you ought to try and use it.

        It would be the same as my grandad, Master electrician, being stuck in a low level job soldering iPhones, and not using his certification.

        1. Ethyl*

          “the admin assistant comment was a throwaway comment on my part”

          That’s actually the point. Your unthinking demeaning of actual valuable humans who do actual valuable jobs.

          1. Cranky Neighbot*

            “If you have a certification, you ought to try and use it” and a statement that some jobs aren’t exactly what people dream of being when they go off to college isn’t devaluing people.

            As a former admin assistant, I definitely don’t feel devalued by it (but I did and somewhat still do feel patronized by “worth their weight in gold” comments). I actually appreciate frankness. I appreciate that he didn’t scold the OP for not liking their job, and extol the virtues of admin work.

            I really think people would be replying to this comment differently if it came from somebody else.

            1. EmKay*

              Look, I have no idea who you are, and your comment *really* rubbed me the wrong way. I am an admin. It’s hard work. You were an admin, so you should know this. Fine, you hated the job, and you’re happy you’re now somewhere else. So say exactly that instead of this demeaning, condescending “nobody goes to school/dreams of being an admin” bullshit, because you’re making yourself look like an uppity snob who thinks they’re “too good” for admin work. That ain’t it, chief.

        2. Alton*

          A lot of admin jobs do require a degree these days. Whether they always should or not is highly debatable, but the reality is that a bachelor degree has replaced a high school degree for a lot of white collar entry level work, and this is the main reason that I feel that going to college was a practical career decision for me even though I have a humanities degree that isn’t directly tied to any sort of career.

          1. neeko*

            I’ve actually noticed (in my organization and others in my very large and competitive city) a huge pushback on requiring bachelor degrees in entry-level jobs. And a lot of rethinking of “Does this job really need this particular requirement and/or is there comparable experience/jobs that can replace the degree requirement?” As someone who worked multiple admin assistant jobs, I don’t think there was anything I learned in my studies for my English degree that really helped me with those jobs. Not that I regret my degrees.

      2. remizidae*

        The fact that bad jobs exist does not mean a person should be content doing those jobs when they can find something better. The post isn’t about someone who is happy and fulfilled as an admin assistant–it’s the opposite.

  92. voluptuousfire*

    Chiming in with therapy. The transition from a semi-structured environment to a more regimented 9-5 role can be a shock to the system.

    Also dependent on where you are, look for roles in the tech space. They often allow casual dress and if you end up in an office coordinator role, you’re not necessarily at your desk all day. You can be replenishing snacks, dealing with facility issues, running errands. You’re up and about.

    I did a temporary role in finance at a big bank before I started my current role and it was awful. I ended up sticking with dresses since business pants never fit me correctly and usually ended up giving me wedgies. Ugh. I hear you on uncomfortable business clothes!

  93. LinesInTheSand*

    I’ll plug “The Artist’s Way” by Julie Cameron here. Ignore the spiritual stuff, ignore all the art stuff if you’re not a “creative” and not looking to be one, but pay close attention to all the different ways Julie tells you to be gentle to yourself. This isn’t about massages and yoga retreats, this is about identifying small successes you can build on (professionally or otherwise), and about distancing yourself from that voice in your head that tells you all the ways you’ve messed up. She’s got some good techniques (e.g. the morning pages) for working through the tough stuff in your life in ways that make sense to *you*, not just people on the internet. The advantage here is it’s cheaper and more private than therapy, which may or may not be an option for you.

  94. B*

    On uncomfortable clothes: If/when you have the money to do so, get different clothes. Business clothes do not have to be uncomfortable. I used to find work clothes really uncomfortable, but then I realized they didn’t fit me very well. They were in my size, but weren’t brands that worked with my specific body. Plus, I started putting an emphasis on fabrics that feel comfortable (it’s a lot of cotton, some ponte, some fleece, and not a single piece of wool.) Now my work wardrobe has a lot of cotton dresses and blazers, some Dress Pant Yoga Pants, and some basic cotton tees, and it looks very professional and is extremely comfy.

    1. Not usual handle for sake of S.O.*

      Oh man. If this person is a female person, I have so many comfy clothing recommendations. American Giant leggings! Stretch midi skirts!

  95. Kiwiii*

    So I graduated spring 2016 and while I didn’t have extreme tiredness or feel like it was Endless drudgery, I did have a good 3 or 4 months where I was Not used to a regular, boring schedule and felt that I had no time/energy for things other than work, food, wind-down from the day, and sleep. It’s really really difficult to go from a college schedule to 40 hours a week. I had a year of fulltime retail in between and it was difficult starting that job and then also starting the following office job because the schedules were so wildly different.

    And as backwards as this sounds, the solution was to Make myself do things I enjoyed. I started listening to things I really enjoyed on my commute — podcasts or throwback playlists to fill that time with something I didn’t actively dislike. I made sure to look for pretty things on the drive, be it noticing the sunrise or someone’s landscaping or a really cute sign or house (it’s the little things). With my manager’s permission, I flexed my schedule very slightly, so that I worked about 8.5 hrs a few days a week and then got out of work an hour or so early on Friday — I’ve always been a homebody, but I’d go make myself try out a new coffee shop or wander around the free art museum a few blocks away or hang out in the park space around a nearby building with a notebook or wander around the bookstore a few blocks over. Doing active things helped, too, so I’d go on a quick walk around my neighborhood after dinner or walk the five or six blocks further to a noodle place I’d been meaning to try on a long lunch.

    If you focus on the fact that you’re tired and don’t have time, it becomes very true. (Also, my boyfriend is always in a worse head-space if he gets over 8.5 hrs of sleep a night. Maybe try cutting back a little and seeing if you feel more rested/less groggy after an adjustment week or so).

  96. Zephy*

    +1 suggestion for professional help, OP. What you describe isn’t typical, it doesn’t sound like it’s normal for you, and you don’t have to live with it.

    What is it about the university, hospital, or nonprofit setting that makes you want to work there? (Side question: what kind of nonprofit, exactly? Animal shelter? Community resource center? Government agency?) What kind of role do you envision yourself filling in any of those places? If it’s the same kind of clerical or administrative work that you’ve been doing, I can tell you from experience working as an admin in those settings, it honestly won’t be any different – you’ll still be answering phones, ordering office supplies, talking to visitors, entering data…all that good stuff. Just because you’re entering data and answering questions about puppies instead of teapots doesn’t make it any more exciting, and it seems like it’s the nature of the work that gets you down more than the subject matter.

    Maybe it’s a long shot, and I’d definitely recommend talking to a professional about these depressive symptoms first before jumping in. But, if you’re the type of person that needs to feel like she’s making a direct, positive impact on people’s lives at work, have you considered national service? Assuming you’re in the US, AmeriCorps has a number of programs that actively seek out young people to serve communities across the country. Full disclosure, it’s not a well-paying gig at all – my stipend worked out to about $5/hour, and I was working in Miami, which is an expensive city. If it’s economically feasible for you, though, and you and your doctor think you’ll do well in a role that has you up and moving and engaging with people every day (as opposed to sitting at a desk and staring at a screen), consider it. Most programs have either a 10- or 12-month contract, depending on the program, and some of them also provide housing. I did City Year, which was a 10-month contract that didn’t provide housing at the time (2013-2014), working in schools with at-risk students. NCCC is more community-service-project oriented, generally a 12-month contract, and they do provide housing, as you travel throughout a region of the country to do projects during your service year. NCCC is more varied than City Year – you’ll bounce around the region doing stuff that ranges from cleaning up after natural disasters, to setting up community green spaces, to helping people register to vote or apply for public assistance.

  97. VB*

    I think that there is a certain amount of exhaustion going into any new job. I went from unemployed to 40 hours a week and was tired all the time and felt like I would never do anything but work and sleep. There is so just so much going on learning new people’s names and new processes and where is the bathroom, being afraid of making mistakes even if you know its okay because you are new. It makes your brain and body tired. It really was about six months in before I hit my stride and felt like I could handle the job and having a life.
    Please be gentle with yourself. Know that this is a huge life change and it will take some time to adjust and hit your groove and that is okay.
    Also it might not be for everyone but light exercise, walking for me, really helped. I know it seems odd to suggest when you are exhausted but it really helped me clear my head.

  98. the other kind of $ problem*

    I agree with the suggestions for therapy, temping, and seeking a non-office job, but would also like to add that adjusting to office life and working is extremely difficult! I remember being so tired during the year or so following college, AND I lost the ability to sleep-in on weekends so I couldn’t even recharge. It is a major lifestyle adjustment and it’s a lot mentally. You may adjust in time. Or you may not so it’s probably worth it to try all options available. Best of luck to you!

  99. CheeryO*

    I feel for you, LW. I felt the same way when I started my first job out of college. I will +1000 the therapy suggestion, plus the suggestion to get some bloodwork done to rule out anything physical.

    What you’re feeling is normal. Part of dealing is knowing that it’s temporary. You will adjust, and you will figure out a path that will make you happier and how to get there. For now you might have to find joy in the little things – headphones if you can wear them, a buddy to chat with, lunch walks, fun cube decorations. Also, make sure your self care is on point. Eat as well as you can, hydrate well, exercise, even if you don’t think you have the energy.

    Also, remember that life is more shades of gray than it is black and white. I have a job where I can get out of the office one or two days per week, which makes everything so much more bearable. I’m sure there are a lot of “office” jobs like mine where you aren’t necessarily chained to a desk for 40 hours per week. Don’t feel like you need to jump ship and work construction to feel alive again.

    Finally, think about getting on some civil service lists for government agencies. For all of the stereotypes about government workers, something about working in support of a mission is more satisfying that working for a private company, at least for me.

  100. House Tyrell*

    Not to armchair diagnose, but you sound so much like my roommate that I actually thought maybe she wrote in for this. She has a B12 deficiency and depression, so I’d recommend a doctor’s appointment as well as therapy as you may have a combination of both. My roommate takes weekly B12 medication to boost her energy otherwise she can sleep for 10-12 hours and still feel exhausted.

    Post-grad depression and anxiety are also super common. I graduated from my MA nine months ago and felt the same sense of dread and fear about working that you describe here. I’m not a particular fan of my job and have cried my fair share of tears about it after work, but it got a lot better when I started activities like yoga and pilates and scheduled meeting friends after work so I’d have things to look forward too at the end of the day. Most studios offer X amount of free classes for new people so depending on where you work (I work in a large north Texas city) you may be able to go to free classes for months if you don’t want to pay for this.

  101. treeotter*

    OP, I felt the same way when I transitioned from being a student to working full-time in an office. I was lucky enough to have a great and mentally-engaging job in my chosen field. But still, going from being a full-time student (where you usually have a lot of flexibility to make your own schedule, to do homework and exercise and socialize when you want to, within the constraints imposed by your classes) to a 9-5 office job (particularly an entry-level one where you have less independence) was really tough. So, please be gentle with yourself! Sitting all day is hard, and so is focusing on the same thing all day. This is not a character flaw or a sign that you’re a lazy person who will never make it in the working world. It’s a totally new routine, and it takes time to build. Plus, if you’re like me, you may also be simultaneously adjusting to being more independent (living on your own instead of in a dorm, for instance) and taking on more adult responsibilities (paying bills! going to the DMV! Actually cooking dinner for yourself every night!) That stuff can be hard. It’s even harder if you have depression/anxiety/ADHD.

    Other people have pointed out that there are jobs that involve more movement and more interaction with people. If you’re stuck with a really desk-y job because that’s the path into the field you want to work in, here are a few things that have helped me:
    -Make sure to take breaks throughout the day. Don’t eat lunch at your c0mputer if you have another option–go eat in the breakroom or outside, or even just take a stroll around the block. Get up and stretch or walk to the water cooler once an hour. Remember to eat and drink–and not just coffee!
    -If you can, make your cubicle a place that feels a little bit like yours. Hang photos, bring in an office plant.
    -If you have the budget, buy a few work outfits that you’re actually happy to put on in the morning. My first work clothes were definitely uncomfortable and not really my style, because it was what I thought office workers “needed” to wear. But as I spent more time in professional settings and saw what the younger employees around me were wearing, I realized there was a lot more leeway for clothes that are comfortable, cute AND professional.
    -Work to build a routine that includes more than just work. For instance, I had a hard time fitting physical activity into my day when I first started working full time, and sitting for eight hours straight was really hard for me. It got easier when I started walking/biking to work instead of driving (activity built into my day) and joined a rock-climbing gym (a fun physical activity that was also social.) I found I needed to be a little bit more deliberate about making time for my hobbies once I was no longer a student. It was hard to motivated myself to plan things after work when I always felt so exhausted at the end of the day, but once I was actually *doing* the fun post-work things, I always felt better.
    -Remember that you’re not stuck anywhere forever. I would consider myself pretty successful in my career so far, but I still have about three detailed 9-to-5-world escape plans saved in my google docs. I may never execute those plans, but knowing they’re there motivates me to save money and makes me feel less trapped in the desk-job world. Give yourself alternatives and set yourself goals, so that your job can be a path to something, rather than the totality of your life and existence.

    Five years later, I still hate the concept of going to an office for 8 hours a day. But I have a job that I find rewarding, with coworkers who are kind and friendly, and a boss who gives me a lot of flexibility. I’m appreciating having health insurance and paid vacation. Hang in there, OP. It gets better and easier.

  102. Dana B.S.*

    Yes, a doctor’s visit to cover vitamin deficiencies and mental health issues is absolutely needed. Now, I kinda want to apply this Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Are you perhaps trying to strive for something on a higher level when you don’t have all the lower level needs met yet? If you don’t have a great network of support (love & belonging), then you’re not set up to properly achieve esteem needs. Or if you don’t have your esteem needs met, then trying to reach self-actualization is going to be so difficult (and exhausting!!). And if anything on the base is missing, then you really gotta narrow your focus. Make sure that you’re focusing on the next step. Obviously this is an extremely simplistic application of the theory, but I feel it’s a good idea to at least consider.

    Also, I was suffering from complete and total exhaustion a few months ago. I eventually just had to stop myself from wallowing in that exhaustion. I would create schedules for after work and the weekend to ensure that I was doing beneficial or enriching things (going to the gym, seeing friends, hobbies). It would give me something to look forward to. I would have a really bad habit of spending all my time either streaming crap on TV or “fake resting” in which I would be doing needless, “productive” things – excessively complicated meal planning, reading about creating budgets, or just re-organizing my home for the thousandth time. I now try to watch out for falling into these traps as often. I still feel the exhaustion, but I find ways to push through on some days.

    I also now take fish oil pills too. Might be placebo, but it helped.

    1. Vax is my disaster bicon*

      Looking baseline needs is a great idea! There could be something as simple going on as “I usually snack throughout the day and don’t do that at my desk, but I haven’t adjusted my meal sizes to compensate”—boom, you’re operating at a calorie deficit and feel awful because you’re literally starving.

  103. Betsy S*

    In addition to getting evaluated for depression/anxiety meds, I’d suggest: look for a therapist who does ‘congnitive behavioral therapy’, CBT, or similar. That will help you change the story you are telling yourself, from ‘work is horrible and I will be miserable’ to .. whatever is most meaningful for you

    Not all jobs are horrible although many are HARD. A good job will let you be responsible , productive, help others, be creative, whatever the things are that are right for you.

    PS many jobs let you wear jeans. If dreading the clothing has become part of the problem, look in tech or factories or other sorts of places that have a super casual dress code. There are also lots of jobs that don’t involve a desk. I’ve had three factory jobs One clerical, one production, one QA and clerical) and I always liked the no-nonsense atmosphere. Nobody cares what you look like or sound like in a factory as long as the widgets get made.

    good luck! Looking forward to your followup

    1. No Tribble At All*

      +1 to cognitive behavioral therapy. I have major depression + anxiety, now (90%) managed with medication, and in the lead-up to getting a prescription, I had CBT. It can be very helpful break you out of the “everything is terrible” sneaky hate spiral.

  104. Not usual handle for sake of S.O.*

    My significant other has been dealing with a lot of similar (not identical, but same ballpark) experiences and reactions. Telling his family, therapy and medication helped a lot after I found out what was going on and told him to get his butt to therapy. The medication was lifechanging. He didn’t realize he had been feeling so consistently terrible. The therapy has been helping him break old patterns associated with that feeling of helplessness. Friends and family have helped him not feel alone, even though it was embarrassing to talk about what was going on.

  105. AnonyMouse*

    I agree with what a lot of other are saying: 1) try therapy 2) see a doctor to rule out medical conditions 3) explore career options that don’t have the things you don’t like about the work you’ve tried before 4) try to maintain hobbies outside of work that keep you fulfilled etc

    One other thing I’ll mention is that you may want to take a social media break if you feel like that’s feeding into this. I remember when I first graduated from college, I didn’t love my first job either. It didn’t help that my peers were posting about how they were working at their “dream jobs” and every day was amazing! Or they were doing super cool things like backpacking in Europe before starting graduate school. Remember that everyone is filtering their lives and only sharing the best aspects.

    I commend you for recognizing that this cycle isn’t sustainable in the long run and trying to find a way resolve this.

  106. Middle Manager*

    I have a family member who spent years not really finding a career because he felt like he HAD to use his college degree, but most of the jobs related to it were office jobs and he just isn’t cut out for the office. He went to a technical school for one of the trades (welding in his case) and now really likes his work. It took him a decade of pretty miserable work to get there though because he didn’t want to “waste” his degree. My take- your happiness is much more valuable. Don’t feel bad about changing course. Be willing to consider going back to school or take a totally unrelated job from your degree so that you stay out of the office if it’s just not for you.

    1. Kate*

      I feel this so hard. After getting a graduate degree I felt like I HAD to work in that field, but that field didn’t make me happy. What did make me happy was outdoor work that I wouldn’t even have needed a high school degree for. It’s silly, but the social prestige around education and “good” jobs is an incredibly powerful force. When I was on a trail crew, a woman passing us told her son, “That’s why you go to college – so you don’t end up like them.” Yeah, you wouldn’t want to end up like me – happy with my life! Take whatever has prestige and requires lots of letters after your name, even if it makes your soul despair.

  107. Kate*

    While I fully agree with the therapy discussion, I’d also add: SOME of what you’re feeling is normal. No one ever mentions how difficult it is to transition from a college routine to a full-time work routine – even if you love your job! I was lucky to get a job out of college that I enjoyed (not my dream job, but decent work and great people) and it was a full 6-8 months before I could come home not completely mentally exhausted and drained. It took a good year to establish who I was outside my job, to have hobbies, etc.

    You’ve often moved to a new city. You’re going from a place where it was all about “purpose” and “dreams” to, “I have to pay the bills, how do I do this and still keep a sense of self outside a dictatorship workplace that can even set my dress code?” You’re focusing a full 8 hours a day (in college you could take breaks/set your own schedule whenever you wanted). You’re learning new social norms and unspoken rules you’ve never observed before (even if you have work experience). In a way, it’s like being dropped in a foreign country – and travel, while fun, is also exhausting.

    Again, I definitely agree with others who suggest seeking therapy, but know, EVERYONE does feel a bit of this when they first start working (heck, even starting a new job).

    1. Dana B.S.*

      Yes!! I definitely felt a lot of what LW described. I had an awful job and each day when I was grabbing my stuff to go home, I debated on leaving my keys behind so I wouldn’t have to come back ever again! But I pushed through and worked with a staffing agency and found an awesome company to help me grow…to a certain point. I’ve still had to move around and try new things.

  108. Argh!*

    Why work a desk job at all? Just because you have a college degree you don’t have to assume you have to go down that route. Car dealers need sales people. That’s partly desk, partly tech-y, partly a people-job. Or work retail. Or restaurant. Or landscaping. Or day care. Or motel housekeeping. Or web design from home. Or animal shelter care-taker (i.e. poop-shoveler). Or farming. Or … or… or…

    Any job that you can keep will be a future reference for reliability, and it would teach you something about yourself. You might even find a career you love.

  109. ellis55*

    One thing to consider – you can stretch your rubber band a bit but that takes time. No one starts out working with the skills and stamina to work a full-time job. It comes more easily to some than others but I struggled. It sounds like part-time is good so you can start building some of the skills needed to work more hours. My first job felt IMPOSSIBLE to me because I was used to the relaxed schedule of grad school and the thought of showing up the same place every day and staying 8 whole hours before I could leave – FOREVER! – literally rocked my world. What helped was getting more comfortable with my work – new jobs are ALWAYS exhausting because it’s a constant stream of oh wait where’s the bathroom again, how do I print to the main printer, wait I made a mistake on this thing that was important am I fired, etc. Over time, you get more of a sense of predictability, you get more confident, you don’t have to absorb a fire hose worth of information every day, you understand where you need to focus and when you can maybe take a break, etc.

    There’s a lot of good advice above that I won’t reiterate but just know that starting a whole new job and lifestyle is hard on anyone, and the folks who seem to be doing it in stride are likely comfortable in their roles and so have found ways to make it work for them (headphones with their favorite music, meal prepping on Sundays, etc.) It’s a lot of trial and error. Also, you won’t be entry level forever! The more you hone your skills, the more interesting and varied your work can become! Think of this time as an investment and maybe find a few mentors who can point out areas in which you could be making things harder on yourself. Ask to shadow someone in a job like you want and see how they work for a day.

  110. Gloucesterina*

    This might be for down the line after OP has immediate health and wellbeing supports in place, but is there a good piece on cultivating a mentor/peer mentor network?

  111. Tired*

    Oh god, are you me, OP? I’ve always had crippling anxiety throughout my life, and reading your experience and readers’ suggestions just made me more determined to go to a therapist at the tender age of 26. Thank you for sharing, and I hope everything goes well for you, no matter which step you’re going to take.

    I suspect that I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD, all of which my dear friends have suggested me to go to a therapist for. I’ve been making excuses, such as “it’s not that bad,” etc., but now that I’m closer to 30 I’ve only just got it into my head that these suspected mental illnesses might be what hindered me from climbing up and gaining my true potentials. I regret not realising and taking actions sooner, but I’m trying to rectify it now.

    1. Quill*

      I’ve had PTSD since childhood, and let me tell you: “not that bad” is a dirty lie that your brain tells you to keep you going temporarily so you can get out of the situation. It’s adaptive right up until it’s not. (As is the hypervigilance, the dissociation, the “what the fork, Quill, you sure ran off that vaguely creepy dude with a slightly terrifying vengance.”) Whether the anxiety and depression is directly attached to the PTSD or not, SSRI’s (provided that you can figure out the correct type and dose) can fight all three fronts.

  112. Phoenix Programmer*

    I highly recommend you take a social media hiatus.

    I’ve seen a tremendous improvement on myself, but also my younger teenage cousins when we stopped all social media and youtube surfing.

    1. Quill*

      I used an app to restrict my youtube use and phone game app use and I 100% recommend it, especially if you have seasonal or periodic attention slumps. If you put up a gate on the path of least resistance you don’t just mindlessly trundle down it every night.

  113. Jaybeetee*

    Yeah, “depression” really jumps out at me too, especially with still feeling tired even when you’re sleeping a lot. I did chime in above about the possibility of ADHD, and that’s worth checking into as well.

    One thing you might want to do is look up CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) methods you can do on your own. It’s better with a therapist, but it’s astonishing how much better things can get when we start seeing our “thought traps” and changing them. You can find lots of “thought record” templates online. When you’re feeling particularly depressed or anxious about work,write it down and follow the prompts. The exercise might help you see where you’re thinking is going awry on the topic. (For example – and I’m nowhere close to being a therapist – I’m seeing in your letter “catastrophizing” and “comparing”, two common thought traps that lead to a lot of misery! If you’re able to reframe those two things alone when they come up, that might make a real difference to your outlook.)

    It also might help to examine what it is about these jobs you hate. In a lot of “front desk” type jobs, coverage can be an issue. I know when I’ve had jobs where I literally *had* to stay at my desk unless/until someone replaced me, I really did feel “chained”. The types of jobs where you can’t take so much as a bathroom break without calling someone to cover your spot makes me miserable. I work in an office job now, but I can get up and leave my desk whenever I want – and just knowing that is different. Would you do better in a job where that’s not required of you? Because those jobs do exist.

    And finally, I’m curious about what you’re wearing to work. The types of jobs you’re describing usually don’t require heavy-duty professional wear like blazers or suits. What are you wearing that’s uncomfortable? How are those clothes different from what you wear the rest of the time? Especially in entry-level roles, there can be a pretty wide variety of workplace-appropriate wardrobe choices. If you don’t like button-downs, don’t wear them. If buttons or zippers dig into your stomach when you sit, switch to elastic waists. Slacks and a nice top are probably fine.

    Overall, I think it might help you to break down what you specifically dislike/is a problem, so that you can separate those things from the “anxiety noise” and see which things can actually be fixed.

    1. Competent Commenter*

      Something in your post rang a bell for me, Jaybeetee. Sometimes anxiety or overwhelm can manifest as extreme sleepiness. My ex had someone in his CBT anxiety group who didn’t really believe he was having panic attacks–he said “I don’t get anxious…it’s just that I get so sleepy I can’t drive.” But his symptoms and behavior made it clear that he was actually having panic attacks. In my own life, my ADHD and a possible undiagnosed learning disability make it very hard for me to understand complicated board games. I’m just completely lost. And when I was trying to play to fit in with a friend group a few years ago, I would get incredibly sleepy. Like hardly able to hold my head up sleepy, embarrassed that I couldn’t stop yawning sleepy. One time when that happened I had go into another room to look up something online on a computer, and I was instantly fine. Shockingly fine! No sleepiness. That’s when I realized I wasn’t sleepy, I was freaked out. I found it so stressful to try to keep up, and the social interaction with four or five people at once can be overwhelming for me on a sensory level even if I’m not anxious.

  114. seller of teapots*

    Therapy, therapy, therapy! I love my life, and it is due in part to years doing the work in therapy.

    Also: not all jobs are sitting in an office in uncomfortable clothes bored out of your mind!

    I work in sales, and it’s different every day, on your feet, talking to customers, at a different site everyday, lots of flexibility, etc. Not that you should be a sales rep: but there’s lot of different types of jobs out there!

  115. Aphrodite*

    I don’t have any suggestions, but I can relay my similar experience which may or may not offer any ideas.

    I am a very creative person and early on in life I developed this (arrogant) sense of self that I was so talented I shouldn’t need to work a regular job. When I had to, that arrogance grew into disdain and more. It invariably got me fired or I ghosted. This went on for way too many years. It took a lot of therapy to even begin to understand how and why I felt and did what I did. It was as if I couldn’t be talented without having people worship at my feet–and no one did but I sure made it clear they should.

    Therapy helped a lot but I think aging really was key. I gained knowledge and life experience and so when this job I got at a college came along I was more than ready–really ready–for it. I’ve come to realize that for me having a secure (AKA formerly stupid/boring/idiotice) job is not really that; it is actually freedom to pursue my interests because I no longer have to worry about where my next income is coming from. And that truly brings me joy in the work I do. (Of course, it helps to have the best supervisor in the world but it would still be there if he wasn’t.)

  116. EricaVee*

    Everyone else’s advice is spot on, so I just want to extend lots of love to the OP. I was in the same place at their age and I was convinced it was a personal, moral failing on my part—it turns out it was a combination of not being suited to full-time office work, working in some pretty dysfunctional environments, and underlying mental health issues.

    It’s ok to struggle and need help even if it’s with something that seems to come easily to everyone else. I hope you can get some support and I’m rooting for you.

  117. Pootato*

    “The thought of giving up any sense of my happiness in order to spend my time in an office where I am routinely underpaid and overworked (as is often the case with entry-level positions) fills me with so much anxiety I cannot make myself get out of bed once the orientation date rolls around.”

    Oh OP. Your post rings so true to me. Minus the ghosting part, I could have written this exact same letter 8 years ago. Other people have brought up therapy, which I think is a good direction to take, so I would just like to share my story with you– with a little commiseration and a little prodding and a lot of sympathy.

    After I graduated, it was really, really hard to get adjusted to the 9-5, 40 hours a week workweek. REALLY hard. I had gone from an environment where I got to pick and choose what I did and when I did it (classes, schedule, activities, clubs) to being locked in– chained down– to the same office for hours and hours on end in a support admin role. I had no idea how to do my job, and I was used to Excelling at School. I was SO unhappy, I wrote vent journal after vent journal about how I felt like all my happiness had been sucked out of me and my entire life had become work and sleep because I was exhausted, day after day. I couldn’t understand how this was supposed to be expected for me for the rest of my working life– am I supposed to really give up all of my potential future happiness for this? And yet, at the same time, I told myself I was being ridiculous and whiny. Other people worked 40+++ hours a week, other people do it in the blazing heat and searing cold, other people didn’t complain about having a full time job. In fact, they were GRATEFUL. Do I expect randos on the street to just hand me wads of cash to pay for my rent and food? Of course not! This is why it’s called WORK and not PLAY. Etc. etc. I beat myself up with thoughts like these and felt worse and more anxious.

    The truth, like many things, lies somewhere in the middle. Six months, nine months, a year of gritting my teeth and venting online and struggling to learn and showing up even though it fucking sucked… and then. I don’t know. A few months in I came home and I started playing videogames. I didn’t have the energy to do that before. I reclaimed more and more of my after work hours, started feeling like I was living my life again. I got better at what I did, and found a sort of pride in that, and the dread started to dull… as the awful and unfamiliar became mundane and dull. Money turned into a good motivator for me– being able to eat out after my starving student days was a delight!! In my case, at least, making the school -> work adjustment was like breaking a pair of new shoes after running around barefoot most of my life. Incredibly uncomfortable at first, just horrible, and maybe you don’t even notice when your feet stop hurting, but one day they do and you don’t even notice when you slip them on and head outside.

    This is a metaphor for acclimatization and learning and the power of time. But it is also a metaphor for confinement.

    And at the end of the day… I still don’t like work. For mostly the same reasons, in fact! Stresses me out, takes up way too much of my time and energy and happiness that I’d rather spend elsewhere. But now that I have experience and some knowledge and as much money socked away as I could manage over the last few years, I’m trying to plan for a future where I can minimize the number of hours that I have to work every week, maybe one day not have to work at all. OP, you can do that too– and you don’t necessarily need money saved and years of experience etc. to do so, though that would help. You have options other than DESTITUTE IN POVERTY and SHACKLED TO AN UNDERPAID ADMIN ROLE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. It does take planning though. It takes prioritization, figuring out what’s important to you and what you want to strive for. It takes sacrifice– whether by your time and your energy staying with a job that drains you, or in other ways– being able to afford a certain standard of living, stability in a certain place. I know people who have decided that the 9-5 grind is not for them, and so float from city to city, gig to gig– that’s the life they chose, and maybe that’s a life for you. I know people who chose partners with the understanding that they could become a home maker after that– that’s the life they want, and maybe that’s a life for you. And that’s where we go back to therapy and professional help again– anxiety prevents you from being able to make those life decisions and stick to them effectively. I hope you’re able to find your path, OP.

    1. No Tribble At All*

      I mean, a lot of people resist going to therapy for a while, so we’re all affirming that yes, this is a level of not-being-able-to-function that warrants therapy. Example, I didn’t go to therapy until I broke down crying in the middle of class… even though looking back, I could’ve used it much earlier. But I think a lot of people have given concrete advice of other types of jobs to try, going to a medical doctor, etc

  118. Jess*

    Just a low level job that I don’t think anyone has mentioned yet: cleaning. I know it’s not going to pay particularly well and it’s not everyone’s thing but I’ve done it as a summer job in college dorms (I imagine it would be similar in somewhere like a hotel) for three years and I actually enjoy it. It can be really satisfying making surfaces nice and shiny. Also, lots of places let you have headphones in so you can spend your days listening to music or podcasts.

    1. Dana B.S.*

      It can be grosser than normal cleaning (plus infection control!), but cleaning in a healthcare facility can be extremely rewarding.

  119. Archaeopteryx*

    In addition to all the suggestions that you see a doctor, I’d suggest framing this in your own mind as needing to learn to deal with the boredom / lack of fulfillment that’s inherent to most non-high-level or creative jobs, rather than the fact that you were stultified being a sign that it was time to move on or that you’re not cut out for work.

    There must’ve been other times in your academic career that you push through and succeeded with something that was a little boring or different than you wanted it to be. Maybe the huge life change that comes with being in the working world is throwing you off of whatev there must’ve been other times in your academic career that you push through and succeeded with something that was a little boring or different than you wanted it to be. Maybe the huge life change that comes with being in the working world is throwing you off of your former coping mechanisms, but it should be the same thing really.

    I was part of the first generation of college graduates to graduate directly into the recession – class of ’09. So I definitely sympathize with the crash that comes from leaving behind four years of studying something you’re really passionate about and facing a murky wasteland of entry-level jobs that feel beneath your abilities. But if you stop thinking of job anxiety as a separate thing from all the other mildly sucky things you’ve put up with, it might stop feeling like a new monster.

    Also make sure that you build up your outside of work life- friends, hobbies, keeping on learning things- so that you can frame your work as what finances all that good stuff.

    But the severity of this reaction- quitting and ghosting on jobs- definitely warrants a conversation with your doctor.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      Sorry, it’s hard not to get repetitive and rambling when all I can see is a teeny sliver of comment box!

  120. Gymmie*

    I’m probably just reiterating, but there does seem like something physical is going on and it is possibly being affected by your mental health. Definitely go to a doctor and get all your medical stuff checked out, because who knows, what is happening physically could be bringing you down mentally as well. But definitely see a therapist, and a psychiatrist as well as you might need medication. Do you have support in your life? Someone in real time you can confide in that isn’t a professional?

  121. Mel*

    I think you should see a doctor. Transitioning to the work world can be exhausting. but it’s not THAT exhausting. You may be sick, you may be depressed, but I think this is more than, “Oh no. Work is boring”

    But also, not all office jobs are boring! I know working at small businesses can be hell, but, it can also be more fun than a corporate gig. I did a stint as an administrative assistant for a church, it was the perfect transition between a job that literally made me want to die and a job in my actual field. The other ladies in the office were super sweet and fun and we only worked 4 days. Maybe something similar (doesn’t have to be a church) would be a good fit.

    1. nonymous*

      I like to garden, but I’m cheap. It turns out there are a ton of nonprofits and gov-adjacent orgs out there to help homeowners manage their land in a manner that will preserve our natural spaces for future generations. For example, I’m going to a plant sale this weekend to pick up hyper local sourced native plants so that I can do some hillside stabilization on my lot.

      The staff at these orgs do a combo of grant writing, analysis, reporting, outreach and education. Some of it is quite physical and detached from a computer screen, but none of it would be successful without the work they do in the office to generate interest, coordinate projects and obtain funds.

  122. Treecat*

    OP, I don’t want to be an ~internet diagnoser~ because I don’t know you or your history, but I would strongly recommend looking into an adult test/diagnosis for autism spectrum disorder, or just talking to your doctor about exploring neuro/sensory issues in general. I could very well be wrong, but your comments on how uncomfortable/painful professional clothing is for you to wear plus your comment on being so exhausted by the end of a normal working day that you can’t function sent my spidey-senses tingling. I am not autistic but autism runs in my family. I know many autistic people and those things you described are *classic* problems that a lot of autistic people deal with (sensory sensitivity to the point of pain while wearing clothing, especially “professional” clothing, plus extreme exhaustion after what’s considered a “normal” office work environment).

    I could be totally off-base but you are wondering why what seems normal is so challenging to you… it could be because of something like this. Good luck, and I hope you can find work and a lifestyle that allows you to thrive and be happy.

  123. LadyCop*

    After I got out of the military, I went into corporate and some non-profit work. One day, the CEO tells me “Oh LadyCop! You’re so smart, you could run this place some day!”

    I absolutely 100% did not see that for my life. Within a few weeks, I went back to school for Law Enforcement and have never looked back!

    OP might want to consider the universe of other jobs out there if they feel “chained to a desk.” At least, some insight about what fulfills your life outside of work could be helpful.

  124. DanniellaBee*

    Elder millennial here. While I think therapy is a great step that this person should take right away a big part of me says you need to learn to suck it up. Working is hard. The grind is tiring but you have to learn to cope with the realities of being an adult and having a full time job is one of those key realities. At my first corporate job out of college, I felt overwhelmed and depressed much of the time because I wasn’t used to working that hard despite the fact that I had worked continuously since I was 16 at various part time jobs while in high school and all through college. You need to push through! I promise it does get better with my experience and once you have acclimated to the change in your life. It took me about a year and by my second year I found a job I really loved and things have only improved in the 10 years since. You can do this, but you need to really put in the work and not expect this will be easy.

    1. blink14*

      Agree 100% this, also as an “elder millennial” though I hate the millennial term. Most people do not love their job, some like their job, and many view it for what it is at the most basic level – an exchange of work for money. You may not love your first job or your 5th job, but at some point you find a job type that you can settle into, and if you are really lucky, a career you are passionate about. And if not, having an OK job with decent pay and good benefits is satisfactory for many people, and they focus on their families and/or hobbies outside of work.

      Echoing the other comments about seeking an alternative type of employment. You may not be built mentally to handle sitting at a desk 8 hours a day, and that’s not the end of the world. You just need to really look within yourself and find out what kind of job you can tolerate, and hopefully more than tolerate.

      More urgently, I would see a doctor about the lethargy and anxiety. Remember, a job isn’t a life sentence, you can leave. But don’t throw possibilities away without even giving them a shot. This eventually, career wise, is likely going to come back and bite you.

    2. agnes*

      Truth. Although many students work quite hard and long hours, they pretty much do it when they want to, and the reward is a lot of emotional and positive affirmations. And a student can decide to blow off a class or studying, and the worst that happens is a bad grade. In the workplace, you work when someone else wants you to, and the reward is most often just a paycheck, not a lot of positive affirmation. If you blow off work, the result is getting fired. That’s just part of the real world unless you decide you want to be self employed.

  125. Seven If You Count Bad John*

    I’m echoing the people who say look into getting a different kind of job. I suffered greatly for a long time trying to hang onto admin/reception type jobs and was always let go for “poor fit”. I finally landed a placement in a wood products plant stacking and grading blocks and boards. Being able to move around, wearing comfortable clothes, not being judged on my personality or whether I had lipstick on…it was great. I stayed there 3 years and finally moved on to something else.

  126. That Girl from Quinn's House*

    So many people have suggested in B12, Iron, or Vitamin D that I went and checked my women’s multivitamin. It contains 100% or more of your daily value of all three of those.

    Multivitamins are cheap and easy to get, so they might be a good place to start, because OP can start them today.

    1. Dana B.S.*

      I had to get a prescription-strength dose of Vitamin D because my levels were so low. It’s actually cheaper than the OTC one and I only have to take it once a week.

  127. Blisskrieg*

    I so feel for you, letter writer! I come from a family with mental health issues, and I myself have chronic depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Certainly it’s not always advisable to diagnose over a snippet on a website, but your situation really really has a hallmark of an anxiety disorder of some type.

    The good news is that these are treatable for most people! I had to absolutely drop out of school for a few semesters because I developed a profound phobia and anxiety around my performance in a major that I cared very much about (like I cared TOO much). I was unable to enter the building where my classes were and I was petrified to speak to anyone in the department. Medication and therapy made a huge difference! Flash forward 25 years and I am a well-respected professional and have seen many promotions and salary increases. Most people can either recover (or, as in my case) learn to manage chronic anxiety (it never goes away for me completely).

    A last thought: Many people with anxiety who lose energy and drive when faced with a challenge they care about are actually perfectionists. Could this be the case with you? A GOOD therapist can help. Try to go easy on yourself as you seek help.

  128. StaceyIzMe*

    I think that you should consider a consultation with a qualified mental health professional who has the ability to prescribe and monitor medication. It needn’t be a long-term part of the picture for managing your mental health, but it can be useful when you’re trying to survive (and move to thriving!) and have some personal work to do in front of you. Also- have you been checked for some basic things (adverse childhood event score? abuse, trauma, neglect or other event that occurred and left impact?) or (learning difference? ADD? ADHD? Bipolar? Depression?) and so forth.
    You should also consider getting a clear picture of where you DO want to go- really flesh it out and take regular action steps to move you towards this goal. It would also help to know WHY that particular picture appeals to you. That’s a needed step in case you need to translate your ultimate dream job into a dream job or even a good job that will give you at least some of what helps you to get up in the morning.
    I don’t know if volunteering is for you? Extroverts thrive on people energy, generally. Introverts need their quiet time. Which brings me to- working with a coach can also be helpful. There are students in coaching programs who might coach you for free or for close to free. (Use an International Coaching Federation accredited program, whether you choose a coach or a student, if you decide to do that.)

  129. Karak*

    OP, you need to seriously consider you may have physical illnesses and mental ones. An immune disorder and totally untreated ADHD had me feeling like you do for almost a decade.

    If you don’t need the money, seriously consider stop getting office jobs (for now). Things with fast, exciting deadlines and more comfy clothes, like restaurant work, customer service, or outdoor services may be what you need.

    I spent years terrified I could never work a “real” job. A stable sleep/work schedule, cognitive therapy, time management strategies, and AGE helped. I just…grew out of the feeling of “my job is killing me” and into “I want my job to have clear expectations I can meet without killing myself with exhaustion”.

    I work a boring office job and wear clothes I love, decorate my desk, and have become a subject matter expert in my little department, which delights me.

    OP, you are neither sick nor broken and you do not have to destroy your sense of self to get along. You have some dysfunctional approaches to a problem, and you can create healthy solutions.

    If you have a friend or family, ask if you can move in and work part-time while you get some things straighten out in your life. Be honest about bills/anxiety and set clear expectations.

    Good luck, OP. It can be better. You don’t have to go through life like this, and you are not alone.

  130. electric boogaloo*

    Are you doing what you went to school for? If so, it sounds like the work is not actually your interest. Maybe a career councilor can help you identify something you might be more interested in?

  131. Coffee Owlccountant*

    LW, I feel for you so hard. Sometimes I think the last 20-30 years or so, our society has intentionally done everything it can possibly think of to make the transition from school to work the hardest thing ever. You are not alone. I don’t know if you’re in the US, but we in the US are singularly bad at preparing our young adults for life after school.

    I will one-millionth the suggestions to see, in this order, 1) a doctor, 2) a therapist, and 3) a career counselor. Be absolutely, BRUTALLY honest with them. They will not be fazed. They will not be judgmental. They can help you.
    However, we don’t know your situation or support structure, so it’s more than possible that steps 2 and 3 are not in the cards for you right now. In that case, I’m going to steal some tips from the incredible Captain Awkward and suggest a self-examination session. This is how it works:

    – Schedule an afternoon, probably 3-4 hours, where you are outside your usual habitats and can be completely uninterrupted. Library, coffee shop, meditation retreat, local park – wherever. Just you and your own head and – this is key – you are absolutely unavailable for those 3-4 hours.
    – Take a notebook and pen and turn off your cell phone. This is thinking and planning time.

    – First session: Budget. You have bills to pay. How much and when? What cash flows do you need? Remember to build in a little bit of fun money and some margin for savings and emergencies. Take that monthly total and figure out what the absolute minimum hourly wage you absolutely must have to live. Anything above and beyond is gravy, but you HAVE to be making $XX per hour/week/month/year in order to live.

    – Second session: Triggers. This is the scary awful part and will make you feel badly about yourself and it has to be done. Spend some time thinking about and WRITING DOWN anything that you can specifically remember caused anxiety and exhaustion and despair at work. It’s going to initially seem like you can’t figure it out, like just the very essence of work itself is what causes your dread, but I promise you, there at least a few things that set you off. Maybe they will sound silly when you write them down, like “I don’t know how to use a copier”. Write it down anyway. Maybe it’s something like, “I constantly mix up letters and reverse numbers”. Maybe they are things that you don’t really realize until it’s happening, like “Every time I get feedback, I feel like I want to cry and my stomach clenches up and I can’t think and I can’t breathe”. The point of this part of the exercise is to try to pinpoint if there are specific tasks, issues, or situations that are much, much worse for you personally.

    Third session: Delights. LW, you say that when you are not employed, you are happy and interested. In what? What are the things that make you jump up and down and say “YES!”? Somewhere in those things, in those interests and hobbies and relationships, you are doing some kind of work, but it doesn’t FEEL like work. This is the part where you think about what those parts might be. What are the parts that suck you in and energize you? Maybe that is something like, “I love coordinating plans with my friends, I know where all the best spots are.” Maybe it’s something like, “I love it when [relative or friend] asks me to help organize their workspace.” Maybe it’s “I really love playing with [tech or software] and figuring out how to make it do things.” The point of this part of the exercise is to start identifying the parts and kinds of work that are things you enjoy doing, and they may not be immediately obvious.

    Session four: Evaluation. So now you have the beginnings of a road map – things that are great for you and things that are not so great. Take a look at your triggers and see if there are any immediate wins – learn how to use the copier, get your eyes checked because you’re getting headaches squinting at numbers, take a couple of free Excel classes to level up your skills. The focus of this part of the exercise is to fill in the following two blanks: 1) I am most unhappy at work when I have to __, and 2) I have the best time at work when I get to __ .

    Ending: Do something nice for yourself, like ice cream.

    Aftermath: Now that you have your road map started (it will take the rest of your life to develop!), start using that in your work life. Think carefully about what kinds of jobs you have been accepting and what kinds you SHOULD be accepting that also give you the $XX you determined in session 1. Take your road map to your therapy appointments or your career counseling and talk in more depth about the bad things and the good things. Look for the kinds of jobs and work that engage you and energize you. Work does not have to be a dreadful, horrible, unfulfilling, endless toil to the grave. You can do this! I fully believe that you can and will find your place at work.

  132. Normally a Lurker*

    Hi! I DEF had some of this when I first starting working.

    For me, it honestly took finding a path that was not an office job. I was a career test prep tutor for almost 20 years. I made my own hours. Did things I didn’t hate. Never reported to an office. And was stupid well paid. It was great.

    I also worked at a high end restaurant for awhile.

    I’m actually just now at an office, for the second time in my life, as an entry level person. In my 40s. A choice I made for various life reasons.

    But I could not have made that choice in my 20s. I wouldn’t have stayed.

    Anyway, it might not work for everyone, but it certainly worked for me. There are more paths in life that just offices. And some people shouldn’t work in offices. (A fact I wish we talked about more in the US)

  133. Regular Reader*

    In addition to therapy, I would think about all the different places that could use your skills — not just the job, but the place. I have a friend who had similar issues, who ended up with a job as an admin at a small children’s museum. It was basic work, but she realized she loved walking through the doors of that museum, and being part of the mission. When the museum needed people to help with some large programs for special needs kids, she volunteered, and found her passion — first, helping out with events while she did her admin work, and then eventually going back for a degree in special ed (with a grant from the museum and recommendations from her bosses). Now she works as the director of an after school program for special education students, designing classes and activities, and even taking them to the museum where she got her start. But it all began by her finding a place that she felt passionate to work at — even if the work itself wasn’t her dream.

  134. agnes*

    Why don’t you consider taking a part time job–non career track, non-office job, doing something completely different–to help get over the hump of the fear of day one of work? You wont’ have the pressure of having to feel like this is a career, you won’t have to work full time, and it will be very easy for you to feel like you are doing a good job. For example, you might try going to work in a pet store or at a vet’s office (if you like animals), or working as a waitress or hostess in a restaurant. Maybe working in a bookstore would be more your speed. Whatever it is, I personally think that doing something where expectations are low and your ability to exceed them is high might help you as you sort out what’s going on at a deeper level. I agree with seeking out therapy as well.

  135. Arts Akimbo*

    I don’t know if sleep apnea has been mentioned yet (I uncharacteristically didn’t read all the comments before replying, sorry all!), but is it possible you have it? Yes, sleeping a lot is a depression symptom, but also getting 9 hours a night and still feeling tired is a sign that you might not be getting enough oxygen while sleeping. Do you snore? Has anyone ever told you they saw you stop breathing while asleep? It might be worth getting a referral from your primary care physician to a sleep clinic. Sleep apnea can be really damaging over time. (And can cause, among other things, depression!)

    Apart from this, I urge you to evaluate your life outside work. Do you have fulfilling hobbies, stuff you look forward to, things that make you feel alive and light up your soul? Are you an artist, writer, gamer, anime blogger, baker, musician, hiker? It can help if you see the job as a means to an end– you’re earning the $$ you need to do the things that fulfill you. It always helped me when jobs got tough or boring to keep in mind exactly what I was working for, and if I held that happy thought in my head, working didn’t seem so bad after all!

    (Note that this does not work for toxic jobs, just for vaguely boring ones. If a job is toxic, get out!)

  136. LizardOfOdds*

    This could very well be something OP could work on with therapy, but it sounds like a square peg/round hole situation. It’s super normal to get out of college, do the thing you thought you wanted to do, and then find out it really sucks and you hate it. Not everyone has such significant anxiety about it, but a lot of people do, and a lot of us who experienced these feelings right after college have pivoted to something totally different. Sometimes that pivot was intentional but often it’s completely unintentional. I stumbled into my career by way of a temporary job that turned into full-time, and it has almost nothing to do with what I studied in school.

    There are no rules that say you have to do the thing you studied to do, and that can be both freeing and terrifying. With some help, I hope OP can find the right job that makes them light up in the morning rather than dread the day.

  137. Jane Schmoe*

    One thing that my therapist suggested to me: find one thing you enjoy doing in the morning. Set aside 10 or 20 minutes every morning to do that thing before work. For me, it’s drawing in a sketchbook. But it could be cooking a tasty breakfast, going for a walk, doing yoga, sitting in silence, whatever.

    Having a morning “thing” that I do helps me have a sense of control in my life. That way, even if everything goes wrong at work, I’ve still had those 10-20 minutes of control. It really helps me worryless about work.

  138. H.Regalis*

    1. Therapy and maybe medication. Either way, you need to see a doctor.

    2. Work that is not office work: warehouse, construction, restaurant, CNA, farm labor, animal care technician, early childhood, landscaping, etc. There is a lot of stuff you can do that doesn’t involve sitting at a desk.

  139. anonagain*

    For me and my brain, I would do well to take a break from applying for office jobs. I know that each time I didn’t show up, I would feel worse and it would be even harder to go the next time. It would make more sense for me to try do something else for a bit while in therapy/addressing underlying medical issues and then come back to it when I had some strategies for tackling the problem in a new way.

    I’d start off with whatever I was sure I would show up for. Part time job at a trampoline gym? Volunteering at the local historical society? Helping a neighbor with a broken arm rake their yard? The thing doesn’t matter as much as just showing up and doing it. When I’m feeling defeated, I like to set myself up to have those successes. It gives me fuel to do tackle the really fraught challenges when I decide they’re worthwhile and the information I need to change course when I decide they’re not.

  140. Gaming Teapot*

    I recommend 3 steps, to be taken simultaneously at best, consecutively if you don’t have the energy and/or money for all 3 at the same time:

    Step 1: Get yourself to a doctor to get a full physical and rule out underlying physical conditions, such as thyroid problems, vitamin/mineral deficiencies, PCOS, sleep apnea, etc.

    Step 2: Get yourself to a therapist. Even if a physical cause for the energy drain is found, your comment is oozing extreme unhappiness and it’s worth exploring with a therapist why.

    Step 3: Do some serious reflection on what you hate most about the jobs you’ve taken so far (not about yourself or how you’ve reacted to the jobs, but about the actual labor you needed to do for them, physically and emotionally), but also about what you enjoyed the most (if anything). From there, start rephrasing, e.g. “I hated having to wear business clothes all day” –> “I want a job where I can dress casually”. “I hated being chained to my desk.” –> “I want a job where I can move/walk/get-up.” Once you have this sorted out, get yourself to any career counselling service, lay out the list, and ask for recommendations.

    Step 4: Get comfortable with the idea that society prescribes an extremely narrow ideal for what perfect employment looks like (9-5, promotion every 3-5 years, 401k, six figures), but that this is 1) a bullshit unattainable ideal for SO. MANY. PEOPLE. and 2) there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you if this ideal is not your ideal. For example, I don’t want to get promoted. I could be, but I would be doing more of the work I don’t like and less of the work I do like for an insignificant raise. It’s not worth it imo and so I perplex my managers every month when I tell them I don’t want to apply for X great job that opened up higher in the food chain. Other people’s expectations are their problems, not yours.

    1. Gaming Teapot*

      And this is what happens when you count your steps before they’re written out. 4 steps. Not 3. Anyway. Same principle applies.

  141. Dana B.S.*

    And I’m back with something else. I ended up having a little more time to read through the comments and it reminded me of something.

    I worked in substance abuse treatment. In that time, I came across a lot of patients that were always asking the doctor for more meds. And not like the “good stuff”. More like testosterone shots or vitamin D or antibiotics or whatever. It’s because these patients had forgotten what it feels like to not be on drugs. Our bodies have aches and pains sometimes. We get tired. Sometimes it can be completely normal. So once you are all checked out and on the proper vitamin regimen and you have regular appointments with your CBT therapist or whatever, stop searching for the next thing to make you “better”. There may be nothing wrong with you.

  142. Darcy F*

    It doesn’t sound like office work is right for OP and they might want to try blue or pink collar jobs instead. It might not work out but wouldn’t have the same qualities they don’t like about office work.

  143. Curmudgeon in California*

    BTDT, but had the job and started being unable to get up, exhausted if I did. I lost the job, took 6 months to reset my head after burnout and gaslighting. I still suffered depression for quite a while.

    I second all the people who said to see a doctor – a medical doctor first. You might want to specifically check things like thyroid and vitamin E levels (don’t know the name of the test, sorry.)

    It sounds like it might be depression, but no one here can diagnose anything, especially me. If it’s depression, they might try you on meds, and that’s ok. Counseling might help too, but see the MD first.

    It’s more common than you realize, but there are things that can help.

  144. bluephone*

    OMG, therapy NOW. Speaking from experience, this right here is the reason you NEED to get your head sorted out yesterday:
    “The thought of giving up any sense of my happiness in order to spend my time in an office where I am routinely underpaid and overworked (as is often the case with entry-level positions) fills me with so much anxiety I cannot make myself get out of bed once the orientation date rolls around.”

    There is very much a wide happy medium between My Career is My Life’s Passion And I’m So Fulfilled, versus Dead-end Entry-Level Jobs That I Have to Do Until I Die OMG. Your brain will not let you accept that right now. Until you wrestle with that under the guidance of a professional, you will be spinning your wheels and ghosting new employers.

  145. Newlywed*

    I would suggest the following practical steps:

    1. Get involved in some kind of community group (if you’re religious, a group at your house of worship, if into knitting, a local knitters circle, if into some other hobby, a hobbyist group, etc…) so you have regular social interaction. This will help you get outside of the internal dialogue that you might be having with yourself that is contributing to the anxiety/etc. A volunteer project would also be great for this because it helps you intentionally put your focus externally.

    2. Schedule time on your calendar to call friends or family to talk on a regular basis. Actually put it on the calendar and then stick to it. Keeping contact with your support system is key.

    3. Stop reading blogs, following social media posts, etc for a while. So much of that content is crafted to stoke discontentment via algorithms and sponsored posts. It sounds like you’re not in the mindset to be able to filter that well right now, and that constant stream of inputs can create not only a sense of FOMO, but also unrealistic expectations that you might transfer to yourself. I’m conscious of this and still struggle to fight off these inputs.

    4. Install ad blockers on your computer and devices if you haven’t already. You get to say what kind of content goes into your brain, not some company trying to sell you a product. So much of advertising is designed to play off of our emotions of discontent, comparison, etc.

    5. Start journaling. Write out some things that are important to you and that you want to do in your life/that would bring you enjoyment. Turn those things into goals. Examples might be “learn to knit a sweater” or “travel to spain” or “figure out what kind of job I want” or “buy a house.” Please note that I’m not projecting any of these goals on you — these are just common examples. Yours might be more along the lines of “foster a dog” and “take first place in the Edwardian dressmaking competition.” That’s the point — they’re your goals. Once you’ve gotten some of your nebulous dreams written down, tackle one that is SMART – Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound. Put action steps to that goal. I would pick something very achievable like “learn to knit a sweater” first for this exercise. I would then list what I need to do next to achieve that goal. I might list things like,
    – research sweaters I like and save the pictures
    – google knitting classes in my area
    – register for a class
    – figure out what kind of yarn/colors/etc I want
    – purchase the yarn and required materials (I encourage you to go in person to the store instead of ordering online if you can)
    – attend the class
    etc. so on and so forth. You can chip away at the goal one day at a time, and it gives you something enjoyable to work towards. Does this have anything to do with your work? Not directly, but if you have confidence that you can accomplish your smaller goals, that will eventually translate to bigger, more purposeful things.

    I am assuming that you’re also following other’s advice to get therapy, see a doctor, etc. I think part of what you might be feeling, though, is a sense of loss of control over your life and maybe fear of the future/being stuck, and a small project like this might help you regain that sense of control and some normalcy, and socialization may help you re-stoke some buried interests that need coaxing out. Take it one day at a time and try to believe that you can change things for the better over time. Good luck :)

  146. Twenty Points for the Copier*

    This reminds me little of my transition from college to working full time. Except I was so terrified of the entire job search process that I stayed in a job that clearly didn’t have enough for me to do, waiting until they realized I sat around all day.

    I agree to look at depression and possibly at jobs that are less traditional and office-bound. Though I also think that this is something that a LOT of my friends went through after college. I went to a small residential college where I had friends around all the time and had a huge amount of control over my schedule so it was a very rough transition in a lot of ways. From feeling very in control of my time to spending all day at work and from having friends around to being very lonely most of the time. Plus the work I was doing at work (on the rare occasions I had work to do) was much less interesting than my college coursework.

    I think a lot of those changes can help exacerbate depression, though even without the additional weight of brain chemistry, it’s still a pretty lousy change. I think it took at least 3-5 years to really fully break out of it and get back close to the level of happiness and satisfaction I had back when I was in college and it seems like a lot of my friends had similar experiences. Most entry level jobs are pretty boring and when coupled with the rest of the post-college transition, it can be a real downer. Though it does get better – jobs generally get more interesting as you build skills and experience and as you get higher up in your career, there’s often more flexibility and variety in your day. I think I have more satisfaction and flexibility now than I did even in college, but it took until my mid-30’s to get here.

  147. No Tribble At All*

    ( reposting because I accidentally nested it)

    OP, thank you so much for writing in. You’re in a difficult place right now, and you’ve made a step to start getting out. I just want to give you a big hug and a blanket.

    The feelings of worry, sadness, and exhaustion are familiar to me — I spent 3 months in a soul-crushing internship, and more than once I was late because I was just Too Sad to get out of bed on time. That was then; now, I have a challenging, ever-changing desk job that is tough, and I feel worlds better. But it wasn’t just a change of job. Turns out I had major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. Therapy, and then medication, completely changed my quality of life. Your headspace right now sounds similar, and I really, really encourage you to go to therapy. A lot of mental health issues rear their head in your early 20s, especially once you’re free of the structure of college. It sounds like the first mistakes at work really caused a reaction in you.

    I know Alison said “other than therapy”, so I’m also going to echo the other 300 commenters who said go to a doctor. That level of exhaustion sounds more than just adjusting-to-working-hours tiredness. Depression makes you tired, but it isn’t the only thing that can. Thyroid, iron levels, anemia, vitamins deficiency… please go get checked. Clearly something isn’t right, and it may be straightforwad to fix!

    You really don’t have to work in an office, chained to a desk, all day. Not everyone is good at that. That’s fine. I know in high school and college they paint this picture that if you’re a high-achiever, you belong at a desk, staring at reports and numbers all day. There is nothing wrong with not wanting a desk job. My sister, one of the most intelligent people I know, is a baker and works at a small local bakery making bread and just recently, starting to manage. She’s moving around all day, gets a ton of satisfaction from shaping loaves by hand, and can chat with her coworkers while working. She loves it. She’s successful “professional working person.” I have another friend who has ADHD — she didn’t do great in school because she couldn’t focus or sit still. Now she’s a park ranger for a state park– she clears trails, maintains the park, helps guests, organizes events, etc. She just got a promotion.

    People have different strengths and weaknesses. You couldn’t pay me to stand by an oven all day, but my sister loves it. It sounds like no one can pay you to sit at a desk– so don’t sit at a desk! Free yourself from the expectations of undergrad. But I really recommend therapy and a physical to start working on those energy levels and anxiety.

    Finally, if you come to the Friday open thread, we can do a discussion about comfier workplace-appropriate clothes if you need a holdover while you pay down your bills. Example: I only wear the Old Navy Stevie pants because they feel like sweatpants, not jeans, which squeeze my stomach too much.

    Good luck!! It might not be easy, but I promise, it will be worth it.

  148. Princesa Zelda*

    OP, have you ever had a job before the admin position you described, or was that your first job ever? I ask this because to me, it really sounds like you’ve jumped into the ocean without being able to swim, and now you’re scared of water.

    I second therapy, a doctor, and a career coach. I also think it could be helpful for you to start with a once- or twice-a-week volunteer job or very-part-time job in a small organization. Helping at a small soup kitchen, being a page (the person who you see shelving books) at a library, helping out at the local animal shelter, etc etc, can help you develop the skills you need to be able to survive in a workplace without requiring you to wear Stuffy Business Clothes and long days and can be much more interesting than filing all day long.

  149. Working Hypothesis*

    Allison, I’m actually surprised you didn’t answer this one yourself, because you’ve given this exact answer to other people at times: this LW sounds like somebody who isn’t cut out for office work. So don’t do office work!! Train as an EMT if you like situations filled with excitement, or as a forest ranger if you love the outdoors, or a kindergarten teacher if your idea of a great time is to play with kids all day. You can almost always come up with a job which includes *some* elements which you enjoy, even if not every task is necessarily profoundly satisfying.

    So figure out what you actually spend your days doing when you have a chance. What makes those things your favorite activities? No, you can’t always make a living don’t what you love, but you can usually find a way to make a living doing something that contains some relevant *aspect* of what you love… the setting or the excitement level or whatever. Not all jobs are shuffling papers in a business office, and you don’t have to spend your life doing something you unequivocally hate for forty hours a week!!

  150. animaniactoo*

    OP, this just occurred to me:

    When you were at the previous job and other jobs – are you eating or drinking throughout the day differently in some significant way? What I’m thinking: If you ended up in a loop due to something physical going on, you may have internalized that on an emotional level. Did you eat less/less frequently? Eat something different than you normally do? Maybe more takeout/processed food than you would make for yourself that might include something you don’t realize triggers you? Personally, I’ve had to eat more home cooking because soy hides everywhere and I didn’t know it was an issue for me until it had built up into a BIG issue. What about drinking? Are you maybe ending up dehydrated earlyish on during the day because on your own time you would just address a minor thirst, but on the clock you’re ignoring it? Anything possible in this vein?

  151. ValPnk*

    I hope this doesn’t come across as cold and harsh but I would honestly say you need to just suck it up and realize that you are an adult now with responsibilities. I mean unless you have the luxury of being a trust fund baby or finding someone who is wealthy and willing to take care of you for the rest of your life, then getting a job (any job or 2 or 3 jobs if needed) might be what is required just to make sure you are able to keep a roof over your head, food in your stomach, lights, water, insurance etc. I have had to work since I was 15 (I’m 37 now) and during all of that time, did I ever have to work jobs I didn’t like or do things I didn’t “feel” like doing? You bet I did! Were there ever times that I didn’t feel like working, esp on a weekend? Yes, absolutely! but guess what? I did it anyways cuz I had to. I understand feeling depressed but also sometimes by forcing yourself to get up everyday and go to a job (any job no matter how menial) can help lift some of that because you are being productive and help take your mind off yourself for at least a couple of hours.