Career Talk — Part 2: Most Frustrating Job Experiences

Background/Intro (skip to the next bold header if you read this last time)

I posted a call for submissions on a couple of platforms, and  I am still accepting submissions, as this will be an ongoing multi-post series. Because, in the words of Amy Adams’ character from Miss Pettigrew Lives for A Day: “The crisis is ongoing!”

Also, many of the submissions were very detailed and I want to keep these posts to a reasonable length, so each post will be dedicated to a different question on the list below, and when I’m done with that, I’ll hopefully start again from question #1 with new submissions.
The original call/prompt was as follows:

I’m currently at a crossroads in my career, and I’m hoping to write a blog post next week to help get my brain thinking about various different options. I would love to hear from people in any and all professions. If you’re interested, let me know in your comment or via email or message: a) what your job is, b) whether you’d like to remain anonymous, and c) an answer to one or more of the following questions:

1) What’s the most rewarding experience you’ve had at your current job?

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

3) What’s the most helpful or supportive thing a coworker has ever done for you?

4) What’s the worst thing a coworker has ever done to you?

5) What’s the funniest story you have from your current job?

I just came up with these questions so they’re not comprehensive – if there’s a particular work experience or story you’d like to share that doesn’t fit any of them, feel free to share it anyway! This is just an exercise to help me get the gears turning in my brain as I figure out what to do next with my life 🙂

So I’m not expecting this to solve my career stalemate, but at least it will hopefully provide some forward movement in my thoughts on the topic, because the thing about putting things in writing is, you have to move forward with them. You can’t just write the same sentence over and over again. (I mean, you can, and someone probably has, and they probably called it “art” — but let’s be honest, that is crap.)

(NOTE: Some names may have been changed to preserve anonymity, allowing me to exercise my brilliant pseudonym-making skillz.)

2) What’s the most frustrating experience you’ve had at your current job?

Answer #1: When some, very few, students are not interested in learning anything new, but want to merely copy some method they have learned, even when they are clearly frustrated by it, and would most likely gain understanding by stepping back and looking at the bigger picture.

Also, when my supervisor retired, the new one (apparently not as knowledgeable as the older one) at first constantly criticized various things I did as being incorrect until I provided sources to back up my work. It added a level of frustration that was completely unnecessary.

~Submitted by Roonil Wazlib, tutor

Oh, yes, I’ve been told I’m doing things wrong and had to prove myself right, or let someone else take over so that they could see for themselves why the conventional method or tool was not appropriate in that particular instance. It’s especially aggravating when you’re new at your job and don’t have the experience to know if anything you’re doing is actually right, and then you have to deal with everyone else second-guessing you on top of you second-guessing yourself. Even when you turn out to be right, it’s more draining than satisfying.

Answer #2: Most frustrating is my lack of career advancement at this particular company. A lot of that has to do with circumstances beyond my control, which I always have trouble with, being a complete control freak, as well as certain personality traits in my direct manager. He always sugar coats things b/c he doesn’t like to upset anyone and tends to beat around the bush and never tells you like it is. I’m the complete opposite and tend to expect/need others to do the same. It took me seriously overstepping my bounds and pissing him off royally to finally get a straight answer from him regarding my performance a couple of years ago. I’m hitting walls again and have not advanced as I’d like to and I’m not interested in pissing him off again. I don’t think it would end well if I did.

~ Submitted by Lorelai Gilmore, marketing

Being a constant newbie at this whole career thing, I haven’t really had a chance to worry about things like advancement and promotion. Hopefully one day I will experience these wonderful frustrations, but for now, it’s like people ask me, “You applied to X? Is there opportunity for advancement?” and I’m like, “I dunno, at this point I’m honestly just trying to find something that I can do day in and day out that doesn’t make me want to kill myself or others.” High standards, yo.

Answer #3: I had an team member who was a terrible employee. She rarely showed up on time, she never accomplished anything unless it was spelled out step by step what needed to be done. Our office is very self-driven. Team members are encouraged to seek out projects they find interesting. Rarely will there be a normal Supervisor [who] tells employee[s] what to do. Rather, we all gather together, mention interesting things we’ve heard of and someone says I want to do this!

Telling a team member what to do step by step is counterproductive to the way our office works. Often, our dynamic work environment takes a bit of time to get used to. We hire a few PT college students to work at our office and having them adjust to the not being told what to do mentality can be jarring. Usually they are excited by the chance to use their skills and experiences to make something of their own, and adjust quickly.

I don’t know why, but I suspect it’s because this team member just didn’t find the work interesting. She would constantly come up with reasons that her bad behavior was due to an external cause that was over, only for another issue to rise up. The excuses were never ending, and it was the most frustrating experience I’ve had with a coworker.

Everyone in our office is pretty passionate about what we do. To have this team member disrespect our work by very blatantly not caring was a difficult experience for me. I realized two things about management and people at this point:

  1. You can’t force people to care. If it isn’t something they find marginally interesting (or isn’t at all related to what they’ve done previously) even the most collaborative dynamic office will be a challenge. Now, things are related in ways you might not expect. For example, my major focused heavily on things like learning and cognitive processes. Understanding how people think and learn are very related to working on projects dedicated to learning. You, SM, went  from Creative Writing to Mechanic, a fairly dichotomous pair. However, they have a lot of similarities in skills required. Both require an understanding of progress and effect. How something that happens in one area can impact every other aspect of the car/story.
  2. How people interact with each other and thrive in environments is extremely important to their workplace happiness. This team member had worked in various different fields before, and I looked over her resume to see where I went wrong. I realized, while several of her previous positions involved a self-driven attitude, they also all involved interacting with lots of people. In our office, we frequently brainstorm different ideas, research on our computers for a few hours and meet back. To have to do work that involved long periods of time without interacting with people drained this team member.

~Submitted by Ms. Watson, a programmer

A lot of what you wrote, Ms. Watson, reminded me of why I don’t want to write for a living or be a journalist or something like that, despite people constantly thinking I’d be great at it just because I can string two sentences together.

As a freelance writer, you have to be very self-driven, as you describe your office as being. I’m certainly self-driven in some ways, but not in the “constantly coming up with new ideas” kind of way. For instance, as a fiction writer, I’m primarily a novelist, not a short story writer. I don’t come up with idea after idea after idea — I occasionally stumble onto one thing that speaks to me, and I develop it. My posts on this blog and on my Facebook Notes work in much the same way — once in a while something strikes me, and I ruminate on it and explore it from multiple angles. I don’t sit around trying to come up with new ideas, and I’ve always hated the idea of the pressure to constantly come up with and churn out new content, just for the sheer volume of it, because that’s how you pay the bills. Some people have wonderfully creative minds and are naturally always inventing new stories, ideas, patterns, songs, and so on — but I’m not. And I would absolutely hate to have to be.

Then there’s the flip-side, where you write for something that assigns everything so you’re always writing their ideas and not your own, and then you have to force yourself to care about whatever assignment you’re given, in order to write it. And as you said, that’s impossible. I’ve done copywriting like that in the past, and it felt like I was destroying my soul. I’m not being melodramatic here; that is literally what it felt like. It was bad. And the thought of doing that to myself on a regular basis? Just kill me now.

This is why I prefer copyediting. Other people come up with the ideas, and you don’t have to write them. Best of both worlds. You just fix and polish and perfect. But you’re absolutely necessary; the finished product is clearly and measurably better because of you.

And YES, environment and coworkers are unbelievably important for my job satisfaction. I do not function well without allies. I survive, but I’m almost always miserable in those situations.

Answer #4: The WORST part about my job was the schooling for it. It was literally hell. It was the worst years of my life, and I did not have a typical “college” experience. Even the fact knowing that I need to take the boards again when i am 30, and every 10 years after that, gives me the occasional nightmare.

Day to day the job is stressful when there are a ton of patients and I need to move quickly and patients complain they were waiting for a long time, and I get upset that it’s not my fault, because you can’t rush an exam and they need to schedule people better. Or I get frustrated when I tell a patient they need to come in for a biopsy because they might have cancer, and they just never come back, and then I am responsible legally to call them and send a certified letter or else they can sue me when they have cancer and I’ll be blamed even though they are a grown adult and I TOLD them to come back and warned them.

~Submitted by Elisheva, physician assistant

Thanks for the heads-up about the schooling. Definitely good to know. I’m not sure when I’ll have the stomach for a hellish school experience, but it’s definitely not right now.

And yeah, people who don’t listen are the worst. My doctors would probably say that makes me the worst. Sigh. I’m the worst. I’m working on taking better care of myself, though, I swear!

Answer #5: When I got what I considered my first real job as an editor, it was at a women’s magazine. Early in the game, in an attempt to be responsible, I gave my boss of list of all the days off I’d be taking that year. I was entitled to X number of days, and I itemized all X of them. Several were Jewish holidays. She looked at the list and said to me, “This is fine, but at some point in your career, you’re going to have to decide which is more important to you, your career or your religion.” I was pretty shocked by the remark and decided then and there that nobody was ever pulling that kind of anti-Semitic crap on me again and that for the rest of my working life I was going to take off all Jewish holidays Orthodox Jews took, regardless of how I spent them.

~Submitted by Judy Jewett, editor

I have luckily never had to deal with that kind of crap. All the schools I’ve ever gone to and all the jobs I’ve ever had have all been extremely mindful of my religious requirements. Fingers crossed that any future employers will be just as understanding.

MY ANSWER: Oh gosh, where do I even start.

Well, like I said up there, there were those times when I was told I was doing something wrong and turned out to be doing it right. Like when I was looking everywhere for the breaker bar and socket, and was told, “no, take this wrench,” and I’d say, “no, I don’t have the leverage to use that,” and they’d say, “of course you do,” and then I’d spend five minutes trying to loosen the bolt with that wrench, before tossing it aside and demanding the breaker bar, and breaking the bolt loose in two seconds with it.

There were times when I was given a tool and told to do a job and I tried approximately a hundred times, and in between tries, I insisted that this tool was not well suited for this job at this angle; something else was needed. And I was told to just keep trying, which I did until I was thoroughly fed up and basically begged for help. At which point the mechanic who had assigned me the job would go over to his tool box, take out a different tool or an add-on to the original tool, which I of course had not known existed but had been asking for since the beginning, and he’d complete the job with that.

And there were times when I was given a job to do on my own that was not physically possible for one person to accomplish. That happens a lot with cars, btw — I’ve seen 4 grown male mechanics struggle to work together to remove a single bolt. That’s just how these things are designed sometimes. But I’m inexperienced, and I don’t know enough to always tell the difference between when something is “impossible” or when it’s just “really hard.” Because sometimes it is just really hard and you need to suck it up and do it. And if I’m told to do something on my own, I tend to assume it’s not impossible, because what kind of sadist assigns impossible jobs to the newbie, so I would push myself to the very limits of my strength, and then push some more, because maybe I just thought I’d reached my limit but really I just needed that little…bit…more… I was constantly afraid of hurting myself, of pulling something, of throwing out my back from pushing too hard because I just didn’t have the experience to know when I should stop.

Oh, and often the other mechanics would just be standing around watching me struggle. How’s that for work environment.

Up next: Most Supportive Coworker Experiences! Stay tuned, and submit if you’ve got a good one!

______________

Like this post? I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you, wonderful reader, that my GoFundMe campaign is still open — http://www.gofundme.com/sm-automotive. The proceeds no longer go toward automotive school tuition, because I have paid off my loan in full, but you can still commission me to write anything you want. You can force me to watch ANYTHING and review it for you. Anything. Real-Housewives-of-Atlanta-kind-of-anything. Hit me with your best shot.

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