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Stuck: A Job Post

(Originally posted on The $76K Project on 9/18/2018)

This isn't going to be a particularly positive or eloquent post, but I'll forge ahead with it anyway because I want to share what's going on in 76K land. I haven't been writing because I've been feeling down. When I'm down, words elude me. But let me try to get something out.

Please note: this is me putting my thoughts on a page and not judging myself in the process. I don't feel the need to censor myself or make myself sound cheerier than I am. Yes, I know other people are experiencing much worse things, but that doesn't mean I can't share my own frustrations. If this bothers you, you don't need to comment on it. 

For the past two months or so, I've been feeling increasingly discouraged and depressed about my job. The reasons are fairly common. Look up any "I hate my corporate job" Reddit thread and you'll get the drift. Clearly I'm not alone in this.

My current strategy is to keep plodding on and doing my best while at the same time looking for another gig. I've been on the hunt for about two months. Despite all the chatter about this being the best job market in years!, I'm not seeing evidence of this supposed job hunter's paradise in my neck of the woods. Or at least, I'm not seeing any jobs that a) I'm qualified for, b) offer a living wage, and c) don't involve sales. But I'm networking and keeping my eyes peeled. 

I feel like I made a handful of mistakes with respect to my career. One, I chose an area of study/expertise that I assumed would offer plenty of job opportunities... but unless I want to move to Texas or Louisiana (I don't), that's not actually the case. I should have done my research. (I didn't.)

Two, when I left my academic job two years ago, I didn't give myself enough time and space to figure out what I wanted to do instead. I just jumped into the first available opportunity for which I was qualified, an opportunity that happened to be another iteration of the job I'd left. I've done that twice now: bounced from one not-right-for-me job straight into the next not-right-for-me job. Why? I guess because I needed the paycheck and I was following the path of least resistance.

As a result, I've backed myself into a corner in my career. My resume gives the distinct impression that I have a deep, vested interest in an area that I actually couldn't care less about. 

I do see the pros of my job: the paycheck, the benefits, the chance to finally pay down my debt. But if you've never experienced it for yourself, it's hard to describe how mentally and emotionally taxing it is to feel as though you are throwing away 40+ hours of your life every week. If you've been there, you know what I mean. It's exhausting. It shouldn't be that way.

In the short term, I'll keep taking it day by day, looking for other opportunities, re-tooling my resume, doing things I enjoy outside of work, and paying off my student loan so that this frustration is ultimately worthwhile. 

I'm also developing something of a long-term exit strategy. Although our finances dictate that I can't up and quit my job right now, I'm giving serious thought to taking a career break next year. My tentative plan is to pay off my student loan in February (six months from now!) and then save as much money as possible by the end of the summer. That should give us enough of a financial cushion so that I can take six to eight months off.

It wouldn't be a vacation. I'd use that time to learn some new skills (specific areas TBD), brush up on some old ones, and give some deep thought to what it is I want to do. It would be a risk, but I think it would be a worthwhile risk. I can't keep doing what I'm doing and expect anything to change. 

My challenge: to stick it out until then.

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