when is it OK to quit a new job I hate?

A reader writes:

I started a new job in my field in March. This is my first role in the industry that has the professional title linked to my certification, so it’s an important step for me in my career.

A week after I started, we shut down due to Covid. I’ve been working from home for the first time in my life and it’s been really, really hard. Actually, I’m doing a lot of things for the first time — lots of higher level planning and supervising a small team. This is also my first full-time role; I previously worked part-time. I haven’t had a lot of support from my own manager because she has been so busy with operational aspects of her role and that won’t change.

I want to quit. My job is likely to continue like this and I’m really unhappy. I don’t feel like this is the job for me. I don’t want to feel terrible and incompetent all the time. Many of the major parts of this role are not what I ultimately want to do. It’s having a terrible impact on my mental health.

But I know it would be stupid to quit. Prior to this, my roles in this industry have been short-term. This is partly because of contracts, because I moved countries, and because I left my previous role after a short time to take this job. Then there’s also the title bump, and the fact I have a well-paying, full-time job during a global pandemic (these are notoriously hard to find in my industry, period).

I know if I quit any time soon, I’m shooting myself in the foot. But I don’t know what to do. How long do I have to keep struggling before it’s okay to leave?

You can read my answer to this letter at Vice today. Head over there to read it.

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. atgo*

    Oh I feel you. So sorry this isn’t working out the way you’d hoped!

    I was stuck in a job for a while that was really draining on my mental health. I wanted it to be a great fit, and a place I could excel. But I wasn’t getting the support I needed and, coupled with some out of work stuff, it really drained me and damaged my confidence. Alison is totally right that a drain on your mental health is something to take seriously.

    In the meanwhile, while you’re sorting out your next steps, something that helped me was to remind myself of the options I had in front of me (quitting, looking for other work, trying to make it work, etc) and that I was making a choice to stay in this position for reasons x, y, and z. It helped me deal with the feelings of powerlessness that was a big part of my struggles.

    I hope you find something that works for you. Wishing you well!

  2. Ann Nonymous*

    I think it’s a good policy to give any significant life change one year to get used to. Self-talk also can change things tremendously. Continually mentally tell yourself the good things about your job. “I have a job in my field.” “I get paid so I can afford what I need and want in life.” “I’m lucky that…” If you have any financial concerns about leaving this position, then please make the best of it. Think of all the people who have truly awful jobs and how fortunate you are.

    1. Whatever*

      I would absolutely agree with this. LW is new to the job, new to managing in general, and new to working from home. It seems there is at least a good chance that talking out her struggles with her manager would help things out. I was drowning in work my first 6-9 months of managing until all of the sudden I realized I had everything I needed done at the end of the day. Somewhere along the way a switch often flips with a new job and it becomes much more doable.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        Yes, I agree. Honestly LW, it sounds kind of like you feel like you’re bad at things – not that you don’t like them. Those are two different problems. To me, this sounds more like classic insecure overachiever. You hate your job because its full of so many challenging new things. But that doesn’t mean you suck, it means that you are pushing yourself to grow and that growth is uncomfortable sometimes. It sounds like you took on A LOT of new things at once. I’ve had jobs before that take me 2 years to feel actually competent in – and in the meantime, I felt really bad and unsuccessful.
        I’ve been working on my self-compassion, literally speaking out loud to myself like I would a friend “Hey NAGB, I know you feel like today was a big old FAIL but don’t forget that this time last month, you would never have even known where to start with this problem. You are doing a hard thing, and sometimes people fail at hard things and have to try again.”
        I also keep a super brief journal of accomplishments every week, even little stupid ones. When I look back on my journal from this time last year, I am shocked and amazed at how much I’ve grown. Plus, it helps when its resume updating time.

        I mean, who knows, maybe there’s context missing from your letter. You definitely shouldn’t feel guilt for being unhappy (suffering is not a competition) and its ok to discover that a job isn’t what you want to be doing. I think we all have one (or two, or three) of those realizations in our careers. But please try to separate “this doesn’t interest me” from “this is scary and uncomfortable because I’ve just never done it before.”

        1. Kiki*

          Thank you for this comment. Even if it doesn’t apply to the LW or help them, it has helped me a lot and put my own situation in perspective.
          I am a woman of color in a traditionally male-dominated and white industry. I have gotten where I am in life by being twice as good as everyone else, but now I’m in a field where it’s pretty impossible to do that, especially at this point in my career. My role doesn’t provide adequate support– that is true– but I could be feeling a lot better mentally about how I’m doing if I reframe my “failures” as a necessary part of the job. Specifically– asking for help isn’t failing. Not knowing as much as people in my field with decades more experience than me is not failing.
          Thank you so much for helping me get my head in check.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            I’m so glad I could help! I am not a POC but do work in a male dominated industry, and I know it can be so tough to feel like you can’t afford any mistakes.

            But the more mistakes I made, the more I realized no one really noticed or cared. My own standards were so high that a “failure” of a day was above average. And the more I studied the men, the more I realized that they never ever took ownership of their failures. They just assumed failure was the price of doing business, or at the very least the company’s fault for expecting too much. Which is actually my superpower – I can learn from my failures and grow, when they never will.

          2. DarnTheMan*

            I don’t know if you would find it helpful Kiki but I’ve found The CBT Workbook for Perfectionism by Sharon Martin to be very useful in reassessing and reframing my own mindset when it comes to perfectionism in the workplace (it covers all aspects of perfectionist thinking but does have a lot of guided sections specifically for perfectionist thinking in the workplace) – the exercises really helped me dig into my own thinking, which is very similar to yours – asking for help is ‘failing,’ not knowing something is ‘bad,’ etc.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I would also tend to give it more time just because we’re in the middle of a crisis. I still have the same job I loved pre-Covid, but now that I’m remote I barely even like it. Luckily I know how great it can be, so I can hold out until it’s safe to work on-site again. OP’s job might be great under normal circumstances so I would recommend trying to wait.

    3. Joielle*

      Agreed! The OP frames it as either leave the job and be unemployed in a pandemic or stay and be miserable, but those aren’t necessarily the only two options. The OP sounds really overwhelmed, which may well be a solvable problem – whether with positive self-talk, mental health support, professional development, or a combination. But they don’t say that their coworkers are toxic, or they’re getting bad feedback, or dropping balls, or anything like that, which makes me think this situation is salvageable.

      If it were me, I’d want to know that I did everything I could to make it work before leaving a job that pays well and is an important professional opportunity, particularly in a competitive field, PARTICULARLY during a global pandemic. Of course, if the situation is too far gone and you need to leave to save your mental health, then do that. But if you can ask for help – from your boss, peers on your level, other people in your network, etc – you might be able to improve things. A lot of jobs have a steep learning curve and that’s ok.

    4. MCMonkeybean*

      I’m a little disappointed to see so many people agreeing with this. I think “think of all the people who have it worse than you” is generally very unhelpful and particularly in this case when the OP has already acknowledged that they know they are lucky to have a full-time job right now.

  3. 30ish*

    I’d caution this LW to have a mental health check up first. Sometimes when you’re depressed (not trying to diagnose) it’s easy to pin the blame on one particular aspect of your life. Changing that aspect can sometimes make the issue worse. Particularly with quitting a job as unemployment is hard on your mental health. I say this because the complaints about the job seem a bit non-specific to me. This has me wondering if something else is going on.

    1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Also this year is a particularly odd and stressful year, so the stress may be less the job and more existing in 2020. She should definitely talk to her manager about the work stress and get a MH check-up.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Yes, and I can say that onboarding/training remotely in jobs where it’s never been done before is hard to do. Managers are still struggling with how to manage effectively remotely. There is just so much stress and uncertainly EVERYWHERE and with EVERYONE that there may be some added elements that might not be there when office life looks more like, well, office life.

    2. miro*

      Yes, this is good advice. There definitely are jobs that make you feel terrible and incompetent all on their own, but those are things I’ve heard expressed by friends when the real problem was not the job fit, but MH stuff (chronic or temporary).

    3. Joan Rivers*

      Agree. I was going to say, “Is the job making you miserable, or are you?” Be sure it’s the job. Would a different job be fine in this world Pandemic, or would there maybe be stresses there too? I agree about lack of specifics and think that specific aspects of a job that affect one’s mental health are probably aspects you’d bring up in your question. What IS listed are job duties but not how they’re stressful.

      Do you have to look at the field you chose to be certified in as well as the job you accepted? That’s OK. Or is it just scary to start a big new job?

    4. Annony*

      It may also be a good idea to ask about when the job is expected to go back to being in person. If part of the problem is trying to do a new job remotely (which leads to decreased training and less immediate feedback) then the job may be ok in the long run. Also, other jobs are likely remote now as well so finding a better fit may be particularly hard right now.

    5. Aquawoman*

      I was going to say something like this, in the vein of, think about how much of the mental health challenges are from the job and how much might be just from the fact that 2020 sucks. I like my job and it’s very amenable to being done remotely and it has still caused some issues, especially interpersonally with people who I don’t already have a really well-established good relationship with. It’s just a tough time for pretty much everything. I agree mental health is very important and needs to be given weight, but if quitting isn’t as good for the LW’s mental health as they think it will be, it would be unfortunate to hurt their future career chances.

    6. Jaybeetee*

      This. I had a job several years ago that went… badly. But in hindsight I was dealing with a GIANT amount of stress from different aspects of my life and had been for at least a year, and was pinning it all on one or two parts of that job. The job really wasn’t a good fit in my case, but it was probably other things taking me from “this is unpleasant, but I can deal at least for awhile” vs “get me out NOW.”

    7. Anon for Today*

      I feel this so hard. This year I started antidepressants because I felt like I was failing at my job constantly. Talked with a professional and discovered that I have low level depression and anxiety. I’m feeling much more confidence now.

    8. tiny cactus*

      This makes sense, and I think there are two questions for the OP to consider: 1) Is the stress this job is causing likely to be temporary or permanent; and 2) If it is temporary, is it worth trying to stick it out or not?

      I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of the stress came from the difficulty of trying to take on challenging new responsibilities during a pandemic, but even if that is the case, it would still be fair to conclude that it’s too much to deal with right now.

    9. MCMonkeybean*

      I do agree that they should think very hard about whether it is really the job making them unhappy before considering giving it up. Last year I quit my job because of what I thought were signs of burnout but turned out to be symptoms of ADHD so obviously they followed me to my next job. Given the very crappy state of the world right now it is certainly possible they are just more generally depressed or unhappy and quitting your job would be a thing you might have control over.

      But if you are certain that it is definitely the wrong job for you and the source of your unhappiness then for sure don’t feel like you have to stick with it just to avoid looking like a job-hopper if it is doing real damage to you.

  4. blackcatlady*

    I think you are also suffering from working from home. Will that continue once this miserable Covid pandemic is over? Or will you go back to an office and be able to interact with others? It sounds like you DO NOT like working from home and my guess is you are also missing support from your manager and other coworkers because you are at home. Zoom meetings just aren’t the same! Agree with 30ish to go for an anxiety/depression screen. This may not be your dream job but there are many factors making you unhappy.

    1. Cascadia*

      Yes to this. I absolutely hate working from home. I’ve been in my job for 8 years now and this is by far the worst year ever. I’m hopeful that when we go back, my love for my job will also come back. Just want to add that it sounds like this is a lot of things that are upsetting you, but WFH is really just not for some people. I’m not sure that is it, but I lack motivation, I feel aimless, and the days just drag on. It’s never like this when I’m in person and I’m eager to go back. This is all to say, if some of your problems are really WFH problems and not “new job” problems then quitting probably won’t solve anything. And it’s hard to figure out what those problems are when you’ve never done this job in a non-WFH setting! But I encourage you to try and distill what you don’t like into core functions of the job or the situation we all find ourselves in during the pandemic.

    2. Roja*

      Ditto to this. I LOVE my work (teaching). I HATED working from home in the spring. I would not ever do it again if there were literally any other option, and I say that as someone who has happily worked from home for other jobs before. But not this type of work. Teaching from home is a special kind of awful.

      OP, if you can stick it out until you’re in person again (which might be only a matter of months now that the vaccines are rolling out) you find your enjoyment changes dramatically.

  5. L.H. Puttgrass*

    I wonder how much of this is the new job, how much is Covid, and how much is a combination of the two. Starting a new job during the pandemic is hard, and I’m not sure it’ll be any easier to start another new job while the pandemic is still going on. On that alone, I think I’d suggest trying to stick it out until we’re back in Normal Times. But that may be half a year or so from now, and it assumes that working from home in a new job is a large part of the problem. And only you know how much your mental health can stand being in the job. But right now, I wouldn’t bet on another job being better.

    1. Sandman*

      I agree with this, and with the advice that others have given to talk to your manager. I’ve worked from home for years, and this particular kind of working from home has been so much more draining than what I’ve done for the past seven years – no in-person meetings, no ability to go the coffee shop and work for a change of scenery, etc. The situation you’re in sounds hard, no doubt, and I don’t want to minimize that. But job-hunting during a pandemic (now with the added difficulty of explaining multiple short stints), followed by starting yet another new position during a pandemic sounds like it could be a frying-pan-into-the-fire situation.

  6. e271828*

    If LW’s manager is too busy to manage, LW isn’t getting the support they need. Do ask for more from your manager, LW, give it a month or so to see if that happens and if it helps, but if it isn’t forthcoming, start looking around. It could be that this job is just not the right fit for you, pandemic or no.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes!
      With any new employee, manager should be checking in with them. See how they are faring. See if they need anything. See what they need to do to help employee be successful. That’s part of the management job.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I agree it’s part of the managers job, but when onboarding someone new – and remote – for the first time it, it’s going to be hard for everyone! I wondered when I read this about the manager, too…do they need the visual cue of the employee, do they have kids at home they are trying to juggle, etc.

        I know it’s not up to OP to manage the manager, but I guess what I am saying is maybe to hold off until things are more normal…if the manager is struggling with WFH as much as many others are they might be a completely different person in the office.

  7. Not So NewReader*

    Ugh, OP, my heart goes out to you for sure.
    Something jumped out at me in your letter. You have worked only part time before. And they hired you to supervise people? This to me is a red flag. They knew when they hired you that you would probably be in over your head in no time. I have to wonder what else is going on inside this company that could make this type of decision feel OKAY.

    The next thing that jumps at me, is this month number 9 for you. Generally, by month number 9 I am starting to feel settled in. Think about how other jobs have felt for you at month number 9. I think that part time jobs are a longer learning curve because of not working every day. So if you can say you were more comfortable at month 9 in other jobs then this might be a valuable piece of information for you.

    1. Witchy Mama*

      I agree with your first paragraph. Expecting a person who hasn’t had full time work experience to supervise a team right out of the gate seems to be setting the OP up for failure. Has your manager provided leadership/management training or other support to ensure you have the tools you need to do the job?

    2. Miss Direction*

      I’m guessing it’s a field like libraries where people are forced to work part time for decades before getting a full time gig.

  8. employment lawyah*

    You have a well-paying, career-advancing, long-term-success-building, job.

    In a pandemic.

    Look, honestly, you’re probably better off trying some therapy; joining a gym; volunteering at a puppy shelter; or buying a new Xbox; than trying to quit.

    My advice is to start looking for a job now where you can justify your move (maybe in an entirely different location) but to prepare yourself to live with it for another year.

    1. PT*

      I agree with this. As someone who hasn’t recovered from the upheaval of the last recession, the jobs that were 15 minutes under full time that meant I was excluded from full time going forward because “we want someone with full-time experience”…OP….when you get a chance at a full time, resume building job, during a bad economy, you need to move heaven and earth to keep it.

      People here on Ask A Manager skew privileged. They tend to assume that there will always be other good options that let you pay your bills down the road. This is often not the case for many people in our economy. (K-shaped recovery, anyone?) The next job for you will likely be a step down.

      Go to therapy and work with your therapist to develop strategies to learn how to tolerate this job for the next two years.

    2. employment lawyah*

      If you’re a new employee you may also have gotten one things confused: You don’t need to like your job. I mean, sure, it’s always nice to like your job. But ya know, if it was super duper nice then usually you would end up volunteering, which is why (despite my wishes) I cannot support my family playing with, i mean “socializing,” puppies all day. Ahem.

      Lots of folks are fed the “be fulfilled!” line all their lives and are shocked to find that their job may not be especially fulfilling. maybe never, maybe rarely. And it can be hard, boring, stressful, etc. Most of my generation feels that way about their jobs sometimes (or often) though we tend to just call it “the job sucks right now” and not raise it as a mental health issue. I mean, I am up w/ job-stress insomnia three nights/week and shit, that’s just what life is like when you’re a small business owner in the pandemic. Maybe your expectations are just way off.

      A lot of dissatisfaction–especially in people who are relatively new to the workforce–seems to be coming from an unrealistic set of assumptions about what a job “should” be and how it “should” be to work. Sometimes you can simply be happier by realizing that your job is a means to an end and not the end itself. Sure, some people are lucky enough to land in jobs which are really a great fit… but most people spend at least some (if not all) time working at jobs where they are just there for the paycheck.

      One of the best jobs I worked at was also one of the ones I hated most while there–but when I left for the day I had money and a lot of free time, and overall it worked out pretty damn well once I was able to look at my overall life and not just at my (miserable) workday.

      Maybe that will work for you. May as well give it a shot.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You’re being insufferable. This isn’t about “liking” a job. Nothing here is about simply disliking a job, it’s a mental health issue screaming from the entire letter.

        I’m so over this kind of commentary. You’re unhelpful and possibly actively harmful.

        Most of your generation? Oh. Okay boomer. Your generation grew up to tell my generation this “you should seek fulfillment” shit, we didn’t make it ourselves.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            It’s not targeting all Boomers. It’s for the ones who complain about younger generations, never recognize societal shifts, and aren’t open to hearing factual rebuttals. Instead of banging one’s head against the wall futilely trying to shake their false narratives–“OK, Boomer.”

            1. edj3*

              New Jack Karyn, so if I use an insult to a group but it’s not targeting ALL of that group then it’s OK?

        1. MH*

          Also, when you’ve worked PT for a long time, it’s a big change to become FT. And OP is managerial now, so maybe he/she is dealing with a lot of changes.

        2. Sunflower*

          Yes. To me what stands out in this letter is that she feels incompetent. 1 month in that’s normal, 9 months in it’s a red flag. I know that feeling. Its awful and it has nothing to do with fulfilling work, it has to do with institutional issues

          employment lawyah isn’t completely wrong but it’s also not on base with what the LW is describing

      2. notacompetition*

        I don’t think this letter writer indicates they would like to leave their job with no plan. Therapy, gym, volunteering, etc. is cool in the meantime, but it’s not wrong or misguided to seek work that offers some kind of fulfillment. You don’t need to love your job every day, but it also doesn’t have to make you sad and forlorn and anxious and feel “terrible and incompetent” as the LW describes. God forbid “this generation” or whatever you want to call it prioritizes quality of life instead of weirdly sticking it out through absolute misery. Why are we even alive if fulfillment isn’t a priority?

        LW, it usually takes at least six months to find another full-time job. By then it’ll be May/June. You have nothing to lose by looking, and in the meantime I hope you find some peace and therapy and progress in other ways.

      3. LTL*

        Most of my generation feels that way about their jobs sometimes (or often) though we tend to just call it “the job sucks right now” and not raise it as a mental health issue.

        If this was a case of “my job sucks sometimes” or even “my job sucks,” and it wasn’t a mental health issue, LW wouldn’t have called it a mental health issue. We’re supposed to take letter writers at their word.

        “I don’t like my job” and “my job is affecting my mental health” mean two different things (though they’re not mutually exclusive). It’s not that our generation came up with fancier, more dramatic ways to describe “I don’t like x.” When we say mental health issue, we mean a different thing (and that sort of thing was something that went unacknowledged in the past which is why no one heard it).

    3. MH*

      I agree with this too. It usually takes a year to get settled into a new position. Do you think it’s because you worked PT and now are working FT? Maybe you’re still getting used to the change. If you really feel unhappy in this role, I would seek therapy and/or check in with your manager. And if you do decide to eventually quit, sock away as much money as you can because you don’t know how much time it might take you to find work again.

      I lost my museum job this fall and can’t find a staff position at all.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Come on, “buy a new Xbox” is not reasonable advice for someone who’s struggling with mental health.

      Work is not the end all, be all. If she can find a new job that she feels is secure, we don’t need to insist she stay at one that’s making her miserable as some sort of sacrificial offering to capitalism. People get to prioritize other things, health being at the top of that list.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I have to ask why do so many people end up in therapy because of their jobs? It is NOT possible for all of these people to have pre-existing MH concerns, so we can’t point to that. The fact of the matter is that some employers are abusive and other employers are down right toxic cesspools. People are harmed by this stuff, it’s the psychological version of needing an ER.

        The proof is in the pudding. Workplace problems have kept Alison writing online for how long now? I honestly believe that the horror stories we see here in the comments section just scratches the surface of what is going on out there for some people.

        Years ago, people DIED at their jobs because of working conditions. We have beefed up our awareness of physical safety. (Although, I do know of people who have died on the job in recent time because of workplace negligence.) In my opinion, we still have a whole new frontier to open up regarding the damage of psychological abuse in the workplace. Dying from work stress/work loads is a real thing. OP has enough self-awareness to realize their situation is effecting their mental well-being. How many people do not realize and push forward anyway with disastrous results?

        The thing is no one can make that call for us, it’s up to us as individuals to decide how much load we are able to carry and how much we are willing to carry. OP maybe your situation is made worse by fighting on too many fronts. Your solution could be to regroup and find a different company and try again.

        As an aside, I have to smile sadly and shake my head at the “okay boomer” expression. Us Boomers blamed our parents some of whom were part of what has been labeled The Greatest Generation.
        I hear that song from Mike and the Mechanics:
        “…every generation blames the one before and all of their frustrations come beating on your door”
        [The Living Years]
        If we are lucky to live long enough ALL of us will hear the younger generations blaming us, that seems to be how it goes.
        The problem with blame is that blame is not a solution. It might feel like a solution, but it’s not. Blame alone does nothing to improve the situation.

      2. employment lawyah*

        Well, I listed “therapist” first.

        And look, I don’t know OP but I also think OP deserves the advice I’d give to someone who was paying me. And that focuses on accuracy, not making the advisee happy for the short time they hear it.

        All my clients are horribly miserable or they wouldn’t be coming to an employment lawyer. Most of them would be ecstatic to have the worst problem–if you can honestly call it an objectively serious problem at all–be a “friendly remote job, well paid, no abuse, just really hard.”

        Chances are OP needs to suck it up and stay there. And if OP does that, they’re going to have to seek more happiness in the things that AREN’T the job, i.e. therapy, puppies, or Xboxes.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nah, we’re not going to do “other people would be grateful for your situation” here. There’s always someone else who’d want what you have. That doesn’t mean you need to stick with it if it’s not for you, and that line of thinking keeps people in some terrible situations.

          The OP wants to know how long she has to stay. And the answer to that is “you don’t have to stay at job that’s making you miserable.” Because you don’t. There’s no special virtue in sticking it out at a job that’s making you miserable. You can take a clear eyed look at the trade-offs involved in leaving and decide you pick leaving.

          I really think there’s a weird “be grateful to have a job” thing going on here. But if the OP can find another job, there’s no reason she can’t choose to take it.

    5. Des*

      Yes, I tend to fall on this side of the spectrum in my thinking as well.

      OP you might end up unemployed and STILL depressed because you can’t get a job and now you have no paycheck. So before pulling the plug, consider other alternatives. Particularly this part stood out at me:

      > I don’t want to feel terrible and incompetent all the time.

      Are you feeling terrible because of some drama at work or because you lack technical competencies? Because maybe you can brush up some of your skills (as Alison suggests, after talking to your Manager, they may offer concrete courses or books or other materials etc that can help you) that would make you feel more secure because you know what you’re doing better?

      I have once quit a very reputable job after a month and a half in, with nothing lined up, because it was killing my soul. It took me some time to find another job (in a good market) and that was hard, emotionally, because I was used to being employed. And yet, I absolutely do NOT regret quitting that job. However, I quit because it was wrong for me and I knew I could be great at a similar job in a better workplace. You need to look at “where you want to be” in a year, and try to build your skills in that direction. That might mean sticking it out and learning on the job, or it might mean quitting. But the deal here is to figure out the direction and go there.

      Best of luck, I’m rooting for you!

  9. Voodoo Priestess*

    Sometimes just making a plan to leave can be helpful. Then you have a light at the end of the tunnel and maybe things don’t seem hopeless. I hope you have the resources you need to leave, change, or make a plan. I also feel like using the general excuse of “it’s 2020” is understood by most people if you’re having a tough time this year.

    I’m sorry you’re struggling, OP.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      I agree with the advice to make a plan. I’ve been working for 22 years now and there have been many a day where I felt completely miserable, over the course of 5 different jobs I have held. As other commenters have noted, it’s usually less about the job and more about your ability to get yourself in the right headspace to deal with everything that is going on at work and in your own life. It always makes me feel better during these times to update my resume and LinkedIn profile, reach out to some contacts to do a little networking, even apply for other jobs (I’ve even had the experience of interviewing for other jobs and realizing how much better my current job was!). If you have a plan and are taking steps to better your position, it can go a long way to making you feel more in control and less anxious.

      Good luck!

    2. Tai*

      My current job has given me a full-blown anxiety disorder. I currently have a countdown clock going for how long until I can quit my job. It does help a bit.
      I agree that part of the OPs issues are stemming from general 2020 issues, but if the job is seriously affecting their mental health, its worth looking for a new job ASAP instead of sticking it out to see how things are after going back to the office. There’s few things worth trying to stick it out and feeling hopeless.

      1. Ashley*

        I think the countdown clock can be helpful especially in terms of COVID related issues –so an idea of when you could get a vaccine and reasonably return to the office is a countdown clock that can help you realize there is hope for the future.
        In addition to talking to your manager, I would try to get a tele doc visit to talk to my doctor and find some professional help on the mental health front because I doubt much will change over night unfortunately unless you are able to full blown quit / medical leave (in the US I don’t think you qualify under FMLA because is has only been a year) . I would still suggest talking to your doc even if you can quit to help get back to a more even keel. It sounds like your job sucks and is just made so much worse by 2020. Best of luck!

  10. lapgiraffe*

    I agree with Alison’s suggestion that you actually talk to your manager and tell her your concerns, it’s likely that you’re doing a good job in her eyes and she is reading your good work as “no problems here!” But it’s also likely that it’s a simple as she doesn’t actually see you in real life to pick up on any nonverbal cues – direct communication is so necessary in regular life, but especially so when our other ways to assess people and a situation are taken away during WFH.

    Related, perhaps you’re being affected by the same thing, namely the little things we often take for granted – a casual but sincere “good job,” positive affirmation in tone, body language, and overall vibe, etc. And lacking these elements feeds into a self-doubt or imposter syndrome type feedback loop in your brain, which makes new concepts that much more challenging and draining, and it can form a deep hole that is hard to get out of.

    Not trying to armchair diagnose the OP, just thinking about myself and what I struggle with when I’m WFH. I had one manager who was excellent at providing feedback from afar and making me feel like I was doing my job well, which was very helpful in keeping my motivation and professional self esteem high. But I’ve also had managers who don’t check in much or react/respond to things, so I was left in the dark about my performance and in turn made myself crazy thinking I was doing a poor job. Without fail during reviews and in person conversations this boss was very pleased with what I was doing, but not getting that kind of feedback when not in person (which was most of the time) really did a number on me mentally.

    1. Chance of thunderstorm*

      I agree. OP feels terrible and incompetent, but is she? Finding out from her manager how her manager views her progress and how her manager can offer more support may reduce some of the stress. OP also mentions that there are major aspects to her role that she doesn’t want to deal with long term. Yup, I get that! But not liking an aspect of your job doesn’t mean you are not good at doing it. It’s also just as valuable to figure out what you don’t want to do in your profession as it is to figure out what you like. As OP is early in her career framing these tasks as for now but not forever might make them more bearable. Finally there is the WFH aspect. Some people thrive and others do not. Again, valuable info going forward but the combo of everything, plus what ever other stresses life has to offer might mean the job has to go to preserve her mental health. However, if she can break the problem down into smaller pieces and tackle one aspect it may be enough to salvage the job.

  11. Is It Worth It*

    I’m wondering about this myself, but from the perspective of not having taken the job yet. I’m afraid a job offer I’m considering will leave me in a similar situation. I’ve gotten reliable inside information about the workload being overwhelming, the team having a long history of being chaotic, and a longstanding pattern of adding extra surprise duties with no budget to hire more support. There are other specific red flags but for anonymity’s sake I’ll leave those secret.

    With the way things are it’s tempting to just give it a try, but I need to stay at my next job for as long as possible to make up for my own chaotic employment history…I’m very interested in hearing what you all think about the pros and cons of sticking out a sucky situation.

    1. Anya Last Nerve*

      How is the current job that you are in? Honestly this sounds like a case of the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t. I would be wary of jumping to a likely bad job during a pandemic

      1. Is It Worth It*

        That’s a really good point, thanks for your perspective! I contract for the company making the offer, but I’m protected from a lot of the mess because my contract limits what they can ask me to do and I’m only responsible for a small portion of the total workload (whereas the salaried position = the whole shebang). Staying where I am is definitely an option for the short term, and could be a means to keep looking for a truly good fit…I think my judgement is colored by my longing for a salaried position and my exhaustion from working short-term contracts for several years. I’ve made it work but it goes against my natural desire to settle down and really dig in.

    2. Ashley*

      I would only take this if I was financially desperate. Red flags and the need to stay long term, I would skip it if at all possible.

      1. Is It Worth It*

        You’re right, although I think I’m harping on the negatives because my alarm bells are going off. It’s an attractive offer; I’d have a salaried position with paid vacation for the first time in 6 years, I’d get a senior title and more responsibilities that would look good on a resume, and it would mean a lot more money (just switching from freelance to salaried ameans more $$$ for tax reasons, and there’d be additional money besides). Plus I know the team members are at least kind people and not jerks (the disorganization seems to be about overburdened people never having enough time to fully resolve the chaos). So it’s not that there’s *no* reason to take it, it’s just that I’ve seen how the sausage is made and it’s not great.

        1. Des*

          If you are looking for a salaried position etc (all the pros you listed) then is it possible to find one in another company? The things you’ve listed here (salary and a senior title) are not specific enough to this company that it eliminates others from consideration. You probably know how confident you feel about interviewing etc. I would definitely at least do some research on ‘comparable’ companies and see if you could land a job there instead. If you cannot, and the reason is experience, then I probably would consider a “stepping stone” job but…only if you feel you’re the kind of person who deals well with a pile of work you know you can’t get to. Some people are fine with having 100 items on the to-do list when they can only realistically get 5 done, others feel crushed by the unmet expectations and end up working themselves into the ground.

          Still though, when you step into a bad situation, you rarely walk away from it completely unscathed. So only go for it if some parts of it make you excited to take that risk.

    3. Kara S*

      I will just say as the person who took a similar job 6 months ago and is highly regretting it…. don’t take this job if you can afford to wait for something better. Especially don’t take it if you want to stay for 5+ years.

    4. tiny cactus*

      If you have a fairly clear sense of what problems you would be dealing with, you could try a modified version of Captain Awkward’s Sheelzebub Principle: imagine what it would feel like after 6 months, a year, and three years of working there (or whatever the minimum length you’d want to stay is).

      It might also be helpful to have a plan for your next step after working there, if you see this position as a stepping stone to something better. If you can see it as putting in your time with this job, and the tradeoffs aren’t too bad, it might be easier to feel comfortable with that decision. But if all you can see is a limitless expanse of chaos and dysfunction, you might want to hold out for something better.

  12. Anonymous Hippo*

    IDK if this will be helpful at all, but I was absolute miserable the first 2 months of working from home. I mean I had to go back on my depression medication, weeping every day (once a week to my boss), and nearly quit without notice several times. But one day it all just clicked together, and now I’m nervous about having to go back in full time because I love working from home so much. Maybe give it a little more time?

  13. EngineerMom*

    As a perspective check, I found my dad’s advice to be really helpful in determining whether to leave or stay in a job:

    “All jobs have good days and bad days, but good jobs have more good days than bad ones.”

    If you’re at the point where you’re having more bad days than good days, and it isn’t a temporary thing (like a project with a definite end day that’s really stressful vs. a team that’s consistently over-scheduled and under-supported), it’s time to move on, whether you’ve been there 5 months or 5 decades.

  14. Jess*

    With respect to some of the comments about how this might just be the pandemic/working remotely (not calling out any one person, since there’s some great nuance in the responses- just the general theme).

    It might be- but so what? The pandemic might be better in 6 mos or so, but 6 mos is a really long time to stay in a job you’re miserable with if you have the means not to (savings, family, new role, etc). I think we have to trust the LW about the negative impact it’s having on their life, regardless of the actual cause and what might have been if it wasn’t a pandemic (though of course the advice for a mental health checkup is always wise).

    I was in a similar spot this year, newly in a miserable job. In my case I was pretty certain it was the job since my unease predated the pandemic. However, things also got worse as a result of the pandemic (layoffs, lack of travel that made managing more difficult, fully remote work, general life stressors, etc etc). I made the decision to job search and take a role with less responsibility in a different industry, and so far it’s been absolutely the right choice for me. Has it solved all my problems? Of course not- 2020 is still challenging and difficult, and onboarding isn’t the smoothest right now. But it has improved my life and mental health. I think Alison’s advice was spot on on this one, and is exactly what I would have needed to hear.

    1. Ashley*

      I can’t speak for others but putting up with something with an end date is easier for me. So if you only have 6 months more and you have made it through the last 10 sometimes that can help it seem more manageable. To me it doesn’t mean all the job problems will be fixed because I firmly believe as many companies botched how they handled COVID initially they will still screw up bringing people back so it isn’t the end all, but it is hope for a better day. Honestly one of the few things I have right now is hope because so much happening in my life is not sustainable.

    2. miro*

      Well, I think a key aspect here is that we don’t know that OP has the means not to work–for sure, if they do, I’d encourage them to take advantage of that and quit. But they might not–many people don’t–in which case the “so what” is that if it’s the remote work situation, or even work in general at this particular time in their lives (rather than the specific job) then that’s not going to change by leaving.

      I absolutely trust the OP about the negative impact it’s having on their lives. I also know that many people simply can’t afford to quit a job without another one lined up or something they have to find very soon (and the latter could be it’s own source of stress). Perhaps I’m focusing on different comments than you, but I’ve taken the overall response to be from people wondering if there are ways to make this work (given the potential risks, depending on OP’s personal financial situation, to quitting) rather than dismissing the gravity of the situation.

    3. Elsajeni*

      I think the main point of “is it just the pandemic/working remotely/etc.” is to point out that that stuff won’t change if you change jobs — so if the main factors making the OP miserable are actually isolation, mental health stuff not directly related to the job, or general life stress, she could quit this job and still be just as miserable, but now also in a tougher financial situation. Or change jobs and still be just as miserable, but now feel even more stuck because leaving that job would mean two really short stints in a row.

      If you conclude “yeah, the pandemic and general life stress are making me miserable, but this specific job is also really compounding it,” then sure, do what you can to get out of there! But I would really try to get a feel for how much of my stress and unhappiness was related to that specific job, and could be expected to change if I quit, before going ahead and quitting. Both to help me determine whether I really want to quit, and to help me set realistic expectations for how much better I will feel after quitting — personally, I find that the letdown of “I thought this would solve my problem but it didn’t” can sometimes leave me feeling more depressed than I started out.

  15. Mockingjay*

    OP, before you talk to your manager, it might be helpful first to identify which things you want/need the most help with. What outcome do you want to attain? Offload some work? Feedback on how you are managing the team, deadlines, deliverables? (These days I think we all need reassurance, no matter our position.) Advice on prioritizing? Perhaps set up a standard planning review with her, as a good QC work practice. Remember, you are entitled to your manager’s time. I think you feel you would be disrupting her when it is her job to see that you can do yours.

    Also, how are things with your team? You didn’t mention, so I assume things are going well. Are there minor aspects of your role they can take off your hands so you can focus on big picture items, even temporarily? That’s what team means – helping each other out to get the work done.

    In this new WFH world we’re all stuck in, the physical distance has a real effect on morale. In the office, it’s easier to stick your head in the boss’s office: “Hey, got a minute? I have a question.” Don’t be afraid to talk to your boss. You aren’t bothering her; you’re just doing virtually what you’d normally do in person.

    1. Bostonian*

      This was my first reaction. OP, you can definitely start trying to find other work and create an exit strategy. But in the meantime, what would it take to make you happy where you are? What would have to change? Which tasks are most dissatisfying: can you delegate them? get more training on them?

      Figure out what each one of those things are, and determine how likely they are to change (and if there’s anything you can do to change them). And then whatever on that list seems reasonable to you, present to your manager. Even if she’s busy, insist on getting 30 minutes on her calendar to discuss how things are going overall.

      Make sure you ask her first how she thinks you’re doing. You said that you feel incompetent all the time- but why? Have you been given a lot of negative feedback, or do you lean towards perfectionism? If your manager’s any good, she’ll realize that you need more support and will work with you to create a plan.

      And then.. go nuts! If your current mindset is “I want to leave”, and that’s the end game now anyway, then you don’t have anything to lose in asking your manager for what you want and taking a different approach. Worst case scenario is nothing changes and you’re in the same spot you’re in now. And by then, maybe you’ll have made some progress with the job search/exit strategy.

      Good luck, OP!

  16. Tin Cormorant*

    I just left my job because it was making me miserable, so I totally understand.

    I just graduated in December (thanking my lucky stars that I got out of school just in time) and started my job in February. It was adjacent to what I went to school for, but not directly what I wanted to do going forward. It was honestly just supposed to be a temporary contract, but COVID meant that there was suddenly much more work to be done.

    For months I was just happy to have a job at all during the current pandemic, especially be lucky enough to have one that was somewhat related to my degree. But every day I came home exhausted, no mental energy left over to work on improving my own skills or search for a more fitting job, no real end in sight for the tasks they had for me. Every week that went by, I dreaded those wasted hours even more.

    Our budget was fine without my work (it was fine for years while I was in school), so I put in my two weeks notice and have been happily stuck at home studying online to add new helpful skills to my resume ever since. It has done wonders for my mental health, let me tell you.

  17. Johanna*

    I wish I had this advice ten years ago. I stayed in a job where I was being bullied and sexually harassed – for far to long because I was worried about leaving too soon.

    That experience still affects me to this day.

  18. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    You can certainly leave a job that is causing you distress! The key is that you do so strategically. You start looking at what’s available out there for starters, that helps you put things into perspective about “what I have now” verses “What is out there”. Then you start applying and seeing what response you get.

    Do all this while still working this job that you don’t like. It’s extremely rare that you should ever quit without something lined up, recession, pandemic or booming economy it doesn’t matter.

    See what the world looks like right now, while keeping the steady income you have now. Use this time to create your savings, in the event that you’ll be between benefits packages or may be taking some kind of pay decrease. If you’re looking at a pay decrease, my usual advice is that you scale back now, prior to removing the income. Including using the padded income at this time as your savings. If you can’t do that, you can’t afford to take the pay cut in the first place.

    Right now we’re having mental health crisis, many people will experience them for the first time given the extreme circumstances! And that’s scary, know you are not alone and that there are resources. Know that you aren’t in a situation where you have to make firm decisions, it’s not a “all or nothing, shit or get off the pot” setup when it comes to changing jobs.

    It’s hard to change jobs no matter what, even when you’re heavy with experience. You start climbing a mountain one foot hold at a time. And sometimes you slide back and sometimes you find a comfortable spot and stay there. It’s all okay. I hope you start getting yourself to a better place and if that means a new job, then so be it.

  19. Into the Deep End*

    I was like this in my first managerial job, too. I moved from a support role into a new client management role. Very quickly, I ended up taking on many more clients with little transition time before I was fully acclimated to the role. I felt like a failure all the time, even beyond the very real mistakes I was making due to a lack of training and experience. I was fortunate enough that my management could see me struggle and worked with me to identify problems and improve my own communication abilities — I had a tendency to try and solve things myself without asking for help, or letting others know when I was struggling with deadlines — and it really helped me find my footing. Pretty soon afterwards, I started feeling like I had the hang of things, and really came to enjoy parts of that job.
    I can’t imagine what that would have looked like if I had to do that now in the middle of a pandemic! In addition to the self-care tips others have described, and asking for more assistance for your manager, I would try to find your workplace’s timeline for going back into the office. Having more actual face time with your direct reports, peers, and managers might help you acclimate better, and resolve any lingering questions you have about the job and your performance.

  20. Daffy Duck*

    Sounds to me as if OP needs her manager to give her more feedback and coaching. Getting thrown into a new position without support is really, really hard. I expect your manager thinks you are doing fine and that is why she isn’t talking to you much. Please reach out and let your manager know you would like some coaching and perhaps reference material, it sounds like this is a stretch job for you. A good manager will help.
    This is a really hard year, dividing what stress is from health/politics and what stress is from specific job duties can be kinda tough.

  21. HR Exec Popping In*

    Letter Writer, I am so sorry that your job is negatively effecting your mental health. Only you know how significant that is, but if it is significant please consider seeking professional help. I agree with much of what AAM and other commenters have stated. This has been a particularly bad year for most and when you through in a significant job change where you are new in your field, working full time for the first time and responsible for managing others…well that is an awful lot. Heck each one alone can be fairly stressful.

    The reality is most first jobs in your field are not dream jobs. They often have large parts that aren’t what you are truly interested in doing. But you end up learning a lot in those jobs and are able to leverage those learnings as you build a career path that moves you toward your ultimate goal. And to do that, you generally need to put in some time and have a strong work history.

    But all of that is meaningless if you are not healthy. Obtaining that “dream job” is frankly irrelevant if your current position is causing you harm. If that is the case, get out now and get help. If you aren’t sure if it is causing you harm, then get help to figure that out.

    I wish you the best and hope the new year brings you peace.

    1. cosmicgorilla*

      “All of it is meaningless if you are not healthy. The “dream job” is irrelevant if your current position is causing you harm.”

      Thank you, mysterious HR Exec! So true.

      1. rear mech*

        But you also have to consider, how bad is this harm compared to the harm of being impoverished due to extended unemployment or underemployment during a recession? Having to move to a cheaper place in a higher cost of living city can often mean being stuck in roommate or neighborhood situations that are also really bad for your mental health. If you can’t walk around your neighborhood w/o being catcalled or otherwise bothered you lose one of the main pandemic/WFH coping mechanisms right there.. If you have chill part time work but have to spend huge amounts of time getting laundry or groceries done on public transit you may get the same stressed/overworked feeling right back again. I am speaking from experience here, if the LW is from a middle class background with family and friend support in their old country, but doesn’t currently have access to $/cosigner type support, or inside knowledge/friend of a friend deals on housing and roommates type of support in their new area, they may not realize how rough it can get.

  22. Mel_05*

    It’s normal to feel mildly overwhelmed in a new job. Especially if it’s your first full time job.

    But, I think you also have to pay attention to how it makes you feel and what about it is making you feel that way.

    Like, at my first full time job the people were just wretched and management actively put up road blocks to us doing our jobs well. I was already depressed when I got that job, so I could have easily said, “This is just me, not the job” but when they told me it wasn’t working out I went home singing.

    And I was still a bit of a mess at my next job, but it was not the kind of barely functioning that was happening at the first one. And the longer I was there, the better I was.

    It wasn’t even a job I wanted – it was only a part time temp position – but, it was really the next step that I needed. I would not have been mentally ready to take on my third job, which was a good fit for me skills-wise, if I had gone straight from the first job to third. It felt like a step back, but it was what I needed.

    That might or might not be true for you, but it’s worth investigating.

  23. cosmicgorilla*

    There have been some great call-outs about the challenges with quarantining and potential depression. Definitely great things to consider, although you don’t have to stay at this job just because you’ve identified those as contributing factors.

    I’d start writing. Be very specific about what you don’t like about the job. Figure out what is in your control and what isn’t. Figure out what is your expectations and what is actually just a poor job fit (I expect all my underlings will ADORE all my decisions vs I just don’t want to be responsible for all the decisions). Look at if you’re making every decision you have to make personal, if you’re stressing about it a night, or if you’re making your decisions and then moving on, leaving work at work at the end of day.

    You say say you feel terrible and incompetent. Why? Is it because you are getting specific feedback that you are terrible and incompetent? Is it because you’re used to getting instant feedback (hey, thanks for that report!) and now you’re not (you don’t often get a hey boss, thank you for doing my work schedule week after week.) Are you doing this high-level planning and no one is taking your ideas, so you take that to mean you’re terrible? Again, is someone actually TELLING you you’re doing a bad job? You could be doing what the boss expects but feeling like crap because it’s new unfamiliar skills or less feedback. Are you an introvert with an individual contributor preference? I am, and I tell you what, I’d feel like I was doing a horrible job at management because peopling is not my strong suit.

  24. Cat-astrophe*

    I’ve been a religious reader of this website for a year, but this is my first comment. Your response spoke to me deeply, Alison–thank you. Three years ago, fresh out of college, I landed a job teaching middle school social studies. I wasn’t convinced that teaching was for me, but I was passionate about education and knew that having a few years of teaching experience would lead to better opportunities in educational policy/research. Two months in, after constant attacks from students and little to no support from the administration, I was more than miserable–I was depressed and verging on suicidal. I remember crying on the phone to my mom repeating, “Is this what life is like??” thinking that being being miserable in your job was normal and just being so disillusioned with life. I so wanted to “stick it out” so that I could have the experience on my resume, but my family convinced me it wasn’t worth it to sacrifice my health. I resigned the next day, and now I’m two years into a job in higher education that I adore. Reading a blog post like yours would have helped me tremendously three years ago, and I’m grateful that it’s out there for others like me!

  25. WarriorFalls*

    Because it is OPs first full-time role, I think it would be helpful to try to link with other people in the field who have some years on them to help better understand the field in a full-time capacity and to see if what they are experiencing is normal in the field or not. They will probably want to avoid hopping onto a new job in the same field only to find they are still unhappy for the same reasons in the current job. Is it the job? or the field?

  26. Temperance*

    LW, I think you should call your EAP, if you have one. I have a different background than a lot of the other commenters here, but am privileged now, so it’s weird. I personally wouldn’t ever quit a job without something else lined up. I just couldn’t do that.

    It sounds like this particular job is very hard to get in your particular industry. You’ve had a lot of changes to deal with and I’m not trying to minimize the impact on your mental health at all, but I think you should do what you can to stick it out.

  27. KWu*

    These two lines stood out to me:
    1. “I don’t want to feel terrible and incompetent all the time.”
    This is not to judge how you’re feeling at all, but I think it can be helpful to consider doing some data gathering. Do other people besides you think that you’re not doing well at your job tasks?

    2. “Many of the major parts of this role are not what I ultimately want to do.”
    Do you have a sense of what happened here? Was this something that changed after you started, or did it come up in the interview process but you didn’t see it then? I feel like getting a bit more clarity on this aspect will serve you well whenever you decide to go for the next role.

  28. Firecat*

    It’s important to talk to your boss. As a hiring manager when I talk to someone who is quiting a job after a short time I try to get a sense of if they worked with their boss at all or just silently became unhappy and left.

    If you’re in the latter company I worry you may do the same to me. Unless you can articulate specifically what made you unhappy prior and have demonstrated that you have thought through what is different about this role.

  29. BRR*

    Mostly echoing others, it sounds like you need to do a lot of assessing. In addition to is it the duties of the job, starting a new job, it being a full-time job, being remote, managing others; my question is are your expectations realistic (I’m not saying they’re unrealistic, I have no idea)? Is it “I don’t like the duties related to this specific job” or “I don’t like the duties that accompany all roles in my field?” Are other positions that you’re qualified for in your field going to have the same issues? There’s also a really difficult situation of figuring out what your options are in your field.

    I know this job is really taking a toll on you, but you’ll also have to weigh how much easier it will be to find a new job when you currently have a job.

    And since I feel this comes up a lot with people in fields where it’s tougher to find a full-time position, don’t let “I should just be grateful to even a job in this field (especially during a pandemic)” keep you at a bad job. I don’t think it’s wrong to appreciate that you managed to land a full-time role but don’t let that overwhelm a job you’re miserable at.

  30. BlackCatOwner*

    I feel like I could have written this letter. I got a new job in August, and I should be really happy. Good salary and benefits, nice team, an excellent and experienced manager…..and yet I hate the work so much, and the work processes. Nothing about this job plays to my strengths, a lot about it brings up my weaknesses, and worst of all, it’s not moving me any closer to my goal. I received direct and consistent feedback from multiple hiring managers that they didn’t move me forward because I lack a specific kind of (entry level) experience. And it’s not experience I can gain in my current position. I really want to quit but my partner and I agreed I’d give it a full year (we’re almost halfway there). That said, it’s not damaging my mental health; I worked a job like that and I know those signs. Never again!

  31. Phoenix from the ashes*

    I’ve been in jobs where I was miserable and it wasn’t worth it. You’ve got a run of short-term jobs already on your cv, it’s surely not going to be the worst thing in the world if that list gets longer by one more job? Find something else and move on. Sticking out bad situations to prove you’re not a quitter…. one of the most valuable lessons I’ve learned was to quit when things aren’t working and move on.

  32. Bookworm*

    I am sympathetic, OP. I haven’t been quite in this position (not during the pandemic–I acknowledge I’m very lucky) but did go through something like this with the 2008 financial crash. I got a new job that represented a step up on the career ladder for me and then a few weeks later we had that (plus the election, etc.) In retrospect I knew the position was wrong within a week or two but had trained my own replacement already (and the job I had left was temporary anyway).

    It took its toll. I was miserable, to the point where I began sleeping badly and I dreaded Friday nights because I was that much closer to Monday.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong answer. It’s hard to say how easily you’d be able to find something else (it does happen and I work at an org right now that is hiring and has been hiring through the pandemic). I do wish you the best of luck and am sorry you’re going through this.

  33. Kara S*

    OP – I would suggest two things. One, make a list of all the things you do like about your job. Think about what future positions might fit what you’re looking for. Begin job searching with these qualifications in mind. If you can afford to take a break between jobs (and your industry isn’t gutted from COVID), could you stick it out until March and then give notice? Could you take a week (or two?) off in February to help mentally reset you?

    I would also suggest picking one day per week where you do something great that you look forward to. When I was in your position, I had one day a week I went out to lunch with coworkers and we got coffee. It was a great thing to help keep me motivated and it made a day in the middle of the week slightly better. I had an end date on my bad job (it was contracted, so I had to stick it out through six months of chaos) so knowing there were only so many bad days left was also useful.

    I’ve had a few jobs that reached this point for me. I knew it was time to leave when it was all I could think about and I was too stressed to sleep. Someone above said “a good job has more good days than bad” and I think that’s a great measure as well.

    Good luck!

  34. Ailsa McNonagon*

    OP, I can absolutely sympathise with you, and I’m so sorry you’ve found yourself in this position. I could have written this letter myself!

    I hadn’t been in my job too long prior to the Covid lockdown (~6 months), and I’d been finding it overwhelming even then. Since then I’ve grown to really dread starting work at home every day- in my industry things are changing so quickly I never feel like I’ve understood something before it changes completely and I’ve spent the last nine months feeling stupid, useless and incompetent. I’m frightened of being ‘found out’, and it feels like it’s far too late now to go to my manager for support- and that’s a whole other aspect in itself!

    Sadly, the conclusion I’ve come to is that the only practical solution is to find a different job- but my confidence is through the floor, and after two recent disastrous interviews I’m feeling as though I’m trapped in this job. Much to my shame, all of the advice and guidance on here didn’t really help as I panicked in both interviews after realising I was out of my depth (both interviews were for jobs two or three levels higher than I’m currently working at).

    Sorry OP, I know that wasn’t very helpful!

  35. Anonforthis*

    It sounds like the combination of stress and other factors may have altered your perspective a bit. Practically speaking, this sounds like some personal triage is needed to get back to that place where you can make decisions that you can trust and feel confident in so you can set yourself up well for whatever your next steps are. I’ve been there, so I speak from my own experience.

    1. I HIGHLY recommend talking to your doctor about a low-grade, short term anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. I did this when I had a super stressful job that was giving me panic attacks and stomach aches on Sunday nights, I dreaded it so much. I was eventually able to wean off of it after getting into a different circumstance, but sometimes we need help getting over the hump to get to that better place where we can see more clearly and make better decisions. It’s likely that your body and brain aren’t getting the nutrients it needs right now, and that is exacerbated by the stress you’re feeling, and it might be good to just look into this option. If you have insurance it can be really cheap, and you might be able to do a video call w/ your doctor (you don’t have to go a psychiatrist for this). There is NO SHAME in accepting medical help. It doesn’t mean you’ve somehow failed, or you’re not a strong enough person, or that you weren’t capable enough to white knuckle your way through…give yourself the grace to give yourself what you need during this time. It doesn’t have to be permanent! You may be surprised how much something like a little extra seratonin affects your mood. Not that it will change your circumstances, but it may help your ability to process them emotionally.

    2. If you have the means, start talking with a good therapist who can help you process the stress and gain back some perspective. I don’t necessarily mean give you job guidance, but tools to help you manage difficult circumstances and get to a point where you can trust yourself to make the choices that are right for you. If you don’t have access to that or it’s out of your budget, try using some self-guided tools, like the mindspace app, and do some reading on how to manage stress (there are a lot of good basic psychology books out there, and if money is an issue, you can get a free book on audible if you sign up for a new account).

    3. Make sure you’re making and maintaining social connections. It can be really easy to turn inwardly and neglect relationships when things are tough and you’re not in a good mental space. Even if it’s a zoom call or a virtual book club, make sure it’s something consistent, preferably on a weekly basis, that you can look forward to. You need a lifeline outside of your work. I’m not a particularly gregarious/outgoing person, but I joined some virtual groups through people I knew at work, through local churches, etc. and even though we started as strangers, I did end up making a few friends that way (I understand you may not be religious, so substitute your local preferred community/hobby group here). It’s a little awkward at first, but it’s important to talk to people you’re not associating with all of the negative things in your life and give your brain a break.

    4. Make an exit plan, with a date you can count down towards. There is no shame in deciding that a job, or even an industry, isn’t for you and you want to leave. It’s your life, you get to decide! The only thing is you want to have something that pays the bills lined up. I don’t want you to jump from one stressful situation into another mentally taxing situation because you are leaving work stress and financial security for the stress of financial insecurity during a pandemic, especially without some stress management tools, or a safety net of some kind. (I don’t know if you have other financial options, like a trust fund, or living with a relative or etc, so I’m just basing this on my own past experience).

    This is just advice from one internet stranger to another. Ultimately you’ll need to trust your own gut, which if I’m reading between the lines in your question, this is what you really want to validate…that you’re not crazy or a bad person for leaving this job, and you won’t ruin your life if you make this decision. You won’t. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I feel pretty confident saying that. But I can’t lie to you and say everything is just going to be easy once you’ve left, and your stress will magically evaporate. I think some of us are also trying to gently say some hard things about the practical implications of those choices, but you get to “choose your hard.” You either choose the pain of staying in a job you hate, or the pain of making a change and all that comes with it. But you will get through this, and one day, past this. You have already outlived all of your worst days. There will be better days to come — don’t forget that.

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