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#202: My job is making me miserable, but I don’t know how to quit.

Dear Captain

I am a lawyer (not in the US). I’ve been practising for just over a year now, after completing my degree and practical training part-time whilst working for my current firm as a secretary and paralegal for the past six years.

I have always harboured doubts about whether I was cut out to be a lawyer. While I am relatively comfortable with the intellectual aspects of the job (though I am increasingly beginning to doubt my abilities in this area), I struggle with the interpersonal aspects. I am highly introverted, conflict-avoidant, tend to have low self-esteem and generally lack confidence and assertiveness, none of which helps when trying to manage clients, other lawyers and colleagues.

My husband has a good albeit stressful job and earns more than me, but works in an area whose future is uncertain in the current economic climate. We have no debt, no mortgage and no kids.

Emotionally, I have had a terrible couple of months at work. I have made a few serious mistakes, both recently and about a year ago. I am terrified that eventually I will make a mistake that will get me struck off, or worse. I am continually breaking down in tears and feel unable to think clearly or function properly. I fantasise, frequently, about suffering a heart attack or stroke or getting seriously ill just so that I have a “legitimate” reason to quit my job. My confidence is completely shaken. I have had bad times before, but stuck with it because I wanted to finish my degree and get qualified.

As legal jobs go, superficially mine is pretty good – I’m not expected to work long hours, my boss is not a psychopath, slave-driver or bully (mostly): from all I have heard, that is pretty good in this industry! While he has been supportive of me in the past when I have made mistakes or exposed my issues with depression & anxiety, I also know he has a vindictive streak and is prone to gaslighting. Professionally he is generally comptetent and fair and our relationship is adequate. I have two former employees of the firm who have agreed to act as my referee for now, but given the length of my employment and that I have gained almost all my professional experience here, the lack of a reference from the boss is probably going to raise questions; given his past behaviour towards employees who have left I am afraid that he will make things difficult for me.

I want to quit, but I am afraid that I will not be able to find another job and I will be placing undue pressure on my husband to support me (even though he has said he will) both financially and emotionally, when he needs the same from me. Also that if I find another job – particularly another legal job – that it will be no better, and mostly that I am just taking the easy way out and being weak and self-indulgent when people put up with bad jobs and worse all the time. I know that I should get another job now while I am still employed, but every time I start browsing job websites I start to feel despondent that there is nothing out there and then I get stuck in this state of inertia between desperately wanting to leave and feeling trapped where I am. Ultimately I am struggling with the question of whether I should just quit a job that I feel is slowly making me insane, or whether I am being a weak sooky-la-la who should just pull my head out of my arse and get on with it.

I need an independent perspective on all of this, because mine is totally screwed.

Thank You

Oh god, quit your job! Quit your job now!

Okay, actually, here’s a plan for you. Are you ready?

You’re going to quit your job within 6 months whether or not you have another job. Put it on the calendar! September 8, 2012 is quitting day.

During that 6 months you’re going to do some stuff:

1. Sock away as much money into savings as you can and build yourself a financial cushion in case it takes a while for you to find another job.

2. Call a therapist or counselor and talk to them about the way you’re feeling at work. Take care of your emotional health!  (Warning: This may result in you quitting your job even sooner!)  Your jerkbrain is being awful to you right now, with this whole “strength means putting up with unpleasant bullshit” routine.

3. People leave jobs all the time for reasons that “might raise questions” in future interviews. Just like with a breakup, you don’t need a “legitimate” reason to leave. The fact that you want to leave? That is a good reason to leave! The fact that you are fantasizing about your own death because it will mean you get to leave? That is what we call an IMPERATIVE.

Also, if you’re nice and smart and good at what you do? Those “questions” will matter very little. Since your boss is a petty tyrant who sometimes gaslights people and makes trouble when they leave, know this: There will be no smooth, perfect departure. So take care of yourself and let the chips fall. Whatever smarts got you this job (and through law school) will get you your next job – those things are in you and not in whatever workplace you’re in. I know you don’t have a lot of other perspective since you’ve been in this one place so long, but trust me.

4. Don’t tell anyone you’re quitting in 6 months. Keep your head down and do your work. See if you feel better knowing there is an end date to all of this. Be kind to people, try not to complain, work on your confidence.

5. Talk to your smart, nice husband and make a plan for what happens when you temporarily take him up on his offer to support you when you leave this job. For example, you might need to take a month off and just heal from everything. Build that in! Can you plan a little bit of joint vacation soon after Quitting Day?

6. Commit to excellent self-care. Exercise. Medical checkups. Eat in a way that makes you feel good – regular meals that taste good and nourish you. Have lots of sex with your awesome husband. Read for pleasure. Leave the office at a set time every day unless there is a truly critical piece of work that needs to be finished. Let your assistant actually assist you – don’t try to do everything yourself just because you know that job so well. Saying “no, sorry, I won’t be able to take that on” regularly.

7. You could spend all day on job listings sites getting discouraged, or you could put some long-term work into your career, by which I mean: Reconnect with your classmates from law school. Friend them on Facebook. Get caught up on their lives. Take them to lunch or have them over for dinner. When the time is right? Let them know that you’re looking for new work. Put a little bit of love into your current colleagues as well. Think of it as networking, but think of it also as research. There are a lot of ways to be in the legal profession. This is just one of them.

In closing, this job is making you feel crappy. Do stuff to make yourself feel less crappy! There is no Super Special Official Grownup reward for sticking out crappy situations and suffering the most.

 

<b>Edited To Add</b>: Why we stay in bad jobs (thanks @LilithSaintcrow!)

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71 comments
  1. monica said:

    There is no Super Special Official Grownup reward for sticking out crappy situations and suffering the most.

    I need to get this tattooed somewhere on my body so I never, ever forget it.

    • JenniferP said:

      The reward for staying in a bad job is basically More Bad Job.

      • piny said:

        So. True. Also? They really have no way of knowing that you aren’t entirely content with your job.

      • Jason said:

        A pie eating contest, where first prize is more pie.

        • Kaesa said:

          And all the pie is cow pie.

  2. Genarti said:

    If you start feeling guilty about saying no to a task — even if it’s one that you aren’t actually obligated to do — then look at it this way: you’re leaving within six months. You know you’re leaving within six months, even if your coworkers don’t. So by not taking on a super-heavy workload, you’re not only sparing yourself to focus more on the other tasks you have, but you’re also surreptitiously setting things up for a smoother transition for everyone once you’re gone.

    The more they’re used to giving everything to you, the more things they will go “I’ll just pass this to — oh, crap, no, she’s gone, and her successor isn’t trained yet, augh!” about later. I’m not saying slack off, or anything (although I suspect from the sound of this that your job and your boss have given you a somewhat miscalibrated idea of what constitutes slacking off, anyway). I’m just saying, when you know you’re leaving a job soon, you make discreet moves to set things up to function without your personal presence, and that’s a kindness whether or not anyone else realizes yet that that’s what you’re doing.

  3. piny said:

    I just had to be basically nursed through quitting by the extremely nice ladies at HR. I feel for you. Keep telling yourself that you’ll be fine, and that you are entitled to a job that fulfills you.

  4. I’m currently unemployed, and the job market does suck, but: you have skills! And education! And experience! And most people in the world have had a crappy boss or two, and will probably understand if your current boss is a jerk after you leave.

    In pursuit of work, I have been meeting a lot with a career counselor, who told me this: when you are unemployed and spending your 40 hour work week jobsearching, you should break your time down to something like this:
    10 hours a week applying to jobs
    10 hours a week volunteering for things that make you feel good and might be related to the work you want to do
    20-30 hours a week setting up and having networking/informational interviews with people in jobs that you are attracted to, finding out how they got there, what their jobs are really like, how their employer-operation works, etc.
    Rest of the time: doing whatever combination of the above is most helpful that week.

    It sounds like your current work isn’t great for you. Maybe it is your workplace, and maybe your boss is actually gaslighting you currently and making it worse, I don’t know (something to be wary about when you are at a place that says “HERE BE GASLIGHTERS”). But I do know that there are many ways to use a law degree! Many of them do not involve going into court! Have you explored other hypothetical careers that would use your law degree and experience? This is something to ask about when you reconnect with law school friends and network through them and colleagues! Here is also a list from the South Texas College of Law with some ideas to toy with. Would you like to get involved with social justice advocacy? Be a legal consultant for lawyer tv shows? Don’t stay in a job that sucks because that is what you are “trained for!” There are lots of things that training is applicable to!

    Enthusiastically seconding both the “practice excellent self-care” and “lean on your husband, at least temporarily” advice. Your husband is not offering you the “grilled cheese of temporary toleration and eventual abandonment”. Make a deal: you will quit your job, and let him support you while you get your groove back and look for work. In return, he will be very prompt to tell you if and when he has a problem with this arrangement. Trust him!

    I am sending you all the love and hugs if you want them. Shitty jobs are there to be endured temporarily and quit as soon as possible. Here’s hoping it is possible for you soon, no heart-attacks or medical conditions required.

    • mp said:

      Seconding the “having a law degree doesn’t mean you only have one career option” part of this. People trained as lawyers do amazing things for nonprofits in my neck of the woods. I actually just interviewed a lawyer who made the transition to grant writing (and though he wasn’t the right match for the position we had open, his law degree was a big factor in his getting the interview at all).

  5. I left my first non college job after 9 months. Over the last 8 years I’ve left two other jobs for reasons that weren’t a heart attack. I left because it was the best move for me professionally, I got work that was more fulfilling, more opportunity, more money. All of the jobs that I had were superficially very good. My first job sounded great, flex hours, casual workplace, free cafeteria, less than a mile from my apartment. But flex hours mean nothing when you have nothing to do, and you and your boss both wearing jeans doesn’t make him less of an incompetent ass.

    I totally agree with all of the Captain’s advice.

    A couple of notes from my history of on the job job searching:
    -Not putting your current boss as a reference will not raise many eyebrows especially while you are still on the job. People get it.
    -Interpreting job descriptions is tricky, sometimes you read something and you think it is not up your alley but you go for it anyway and it works out. Don’t sell yourself too short, and don’t focus too much on the descriptions. Every job I’ve ever had sounded way too hard for me, and it turns out they really REALLY weren’t.
    -Check out LinkedIn, there are recruiters as well as former colleagues on there, it is a great way to stay connected professionally without sharing pictures of your cat and your kids. (Facebook also has a new “Branch Out” feature that allows you to network. Maybe check that out.)
    -Consider alternatives. I’ve worked with economists who were trained as lawyers, think about the parts of law you like and consider what else would use those skills. Focus on the skills you have and look for jobs that will allow you to build from them. Law is an even trickier field than most right now, so try hard not to take any issues you have finding a job there personally. Competition is fierce.
    -Act like a company. Work is where you spend most of your time, so sometimes it feels like you and your job have some kind of important relationship. That’s not true. You work there because you provide a benefit to that company. If you were making your company as unhappy as your company is making you, you would be long gone. It is time to fire your boss.
    -Keep your resume, cover letter, etc off work computers. I highly recommend google docs for this purpose, you can access it from anywhere and you can download things as a .pdf for easy e-mailing.

    I know how completely soul crushing a job that makes you unhappy can be. If you don’t take the captain’s advice about quitting, (or you need something to get you through the 6 months) definitely look into non work activities that will give you something to look forward to. My coping mechanisms have included nanowrimo, belly dancing, and volunteering as a dog walker at a local shelter. Sorry, can’t stay late tonight, I have a date with an adorable puppy face!

    • laggedy said:

      “If you were making your company as unhappy as your company is making you, you would be long gone. It is time to fire your boss.”

      This is the greatest.

  6. darthtrina said:

    Oh, Letter Writer, I quit a job that made me miserable just a few months ago, and I just want to send Jedi Hugs. Here are my thoughts on what helped me:

    1. Your husband is supporting you emotionally, in some way, right now when you feel like crap in your current job. When you have the relief of quitting, you will need a different kind of support, maybe not *more* support. My spouse finds it far easier to support me in my floundering post-quit than in my misery pre-quit.

    2. Quitting in a planned manner may boost your confidence. You will be able to tell yourself, “I was in this crappy situation. I made a plan, I executed it, and I got out. Now I can make a new plan for a new life.”

    3. During the six-months (or less), every day tell yourself “This is just temporary until the deadline. I am choosing this for today and choose something else on (specific date).”

    4. Pursuant to Genarti’s point, I found that documenting all the work I did and leaving notes for a successor helped my confidence in reminding me of all that I did and prevented any guilt upon departure. People around you do not need to know you are doing this; if they do, laugh it off with the old “what if I get hit by a bus?” line. I also thought of that as a gift to the coworkers I enjoyed and the organization whose mission I supported.

    (My only reasons for leaving were that I wanted to try another field and the 4 hours a day commuting was leading to the point that I would have ended up clinically depressed, divorced, or both if I had stayed another winter. Reason 1 could have been enough. The commuting could have been enough, and yet I did that for a year before I recognized its toll on me. … I think the point I was going for is that deciding to quit is hard.)

    5. Job listings sites are, to me, a morass. Maybe meet people who do legal work that you would enjoy (contracts, patents?) or find positions where you do something else but the legal background is important.

    6. I absolutely agree with the Captain’s #5. After I quit, slept for a few weeks and took two months to unpack our apartment (we moved on my last day of work). I took a long train trip to visit friends on my own. My husband and I visited my sister for a week and took another full week vacation just for ourselves. I thought I was ready to look at the start of the third month, but jerkbrain said no. If it hadn’t been winter (jerk SAD) I probably would have been ready at the start of month 4. Now at the start of month 5, I am finally ready.

    The savings was/is for me, not just a cushion till I find work or in case of loss of husband’s job, it is also a fund for the needed vacations and a cushion for the time my jerkbrain took charge of the job hunt.

    The longer you stay, quite possibly the longer a break you will need to restore after the burn-out.

    Best wishes.

    • Re: item #1

      I was really worried about being a drain on my partner when I quit my own Terrible Job, but according to them it was much easier after I quit than in the months before where I knew it was a bad place for me but felt paralyzed and unable to take any action to leave. I definitely needed support still, but it was different and my guess is that I got a lot easier to live with after I quit.

      • Ethyl said:

        Yep, my partner keeps telling me he is perfectly happy to deal with the tight financial situation and the distance situation (I went back to school and am doing an internship out of town) in exchange for me not waking him up sobbing in the middle of the night… Every night. I still have anxiety issues about money and school, but my job prospects are looking up finally and I’m finding in my internship that it really is possible to work in a place where people don’t yell or bully or make you cry.

        • Thirded! My partner is much happier dealing with me now that I am not borderline suicidal from feeling trapped in my former job and not coming home in hysterical tears every day. We have lots of money stress, but the not feeling like I want to kill myself or wishing I had a horrible disease so I’d be “allowed” to leave my job? Gotta say, that’s awesome.

          • Ethyl said:

            Yeah I remember driving to work and just hoping I could get in a car crash and be in a coma or dead or at least seriously injured so I had a “reason” to not go to work. UGH.

    • Stentor said:

      “My spouse finds it far easier to support me in my floundering post-quit than in my misery pre-quit. ”

      Having been the spouse in this situation, I can vouch that this is a FACT.

      • YES. When I was offered my current job, it came with a pay cut. My honey love said, “My option is a slightly tighter budget or you crying every day. NO QUESTION.”

        (PS to Stenny: how did all the Brunchers get here? lv owlet)

        • Genarti said:

          I have not been that spouse, but I have been a friend-and-housemate of people in that situation, and I can still vouch. I can only imagine it’s exponentially truer for a spouse or partner.

          (Jumping in on the PS: I have no idea! I didn’t realize any other Brunchers were around, having wandered here by way of some chain of Google Reader blogs one day, and then all of a sudden I kept going WAIT I KNOW THAT NAME.)

          • The world, she is so small…

          • Stentor said:

            I don’t remember how I found this blog originally, so I can’t explain the Bruncher connection. There was someone else from the board I remember seeing post a while back too, although I can’t remember who (maybe Dimmie? or Esme?).

  7. Esti said:

    I second the advice to quit this job, but I double-second the advice to see a therapist. It is totally reasonable and not out of the ordinary to be unhappy in a job that is superficially fine because you don’t enjoy it or feel like you’re good at it. But total misery and fantasies about serious health problems are extreme reactions to being in a job that just isn’t a good fit. That doesn’t make them invalid reactions, but it does suggest that there is something more going on than just not liking the legal world. Maybe your workplace is more abusive/hostile than you realize/acknowledge right now. Maybe the bad job is interacting with a depressive episode or some anxiety issues or things going wrong in other parts of your life. Whatever the case may be, it sounds like it’s a good time for a check-in with someone who can help you sort out why you’re so miserable right now and how to get back into a happier place once you’ve left your crappy job.

  8. IrishUp said:

    IMO life is too short to spend 40, 50, or 60hrs a week desperately unhappy and with your jerkbrain on overdrive. For one thing, that is the kind of stressful situation that eventually *does* have negative health effects, both mental and physical. For another, you DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. No really. I’m serious. Even though sometimes we can’t be happy, and sometimes shitty things we can’t control make it impossible to be happy, we all still DESERVE it.

    I second the Captain’s advice to look for a therapist, and would like to add that you might investigate therapists with Cognitve Behavioral Therapy training, to see if they are a good fit.

    Your letter indicates that your jerkbrain runs some VERY crappy scripts at you:

    “I hate this job but if I look for anotherone that will stress out my dh and I wont find a new job any way and even if there is one is my boss will be an ass and even if I leave anyway that new job will be just as bad as this.”

    Mang! That is some Death Spiral of Doom script! Yet here is the really shitty thing: none of that is a *real thing in this moment*, and yet, from your letter I get the feeling that those thoughts seem like the Laws of Thermodynamics to you. With that going on, it’s perfectly understandable to me why you feel stuck In the Pit of Dispair.

    CBT is aimed at helping change both those jerkbrain scripts, and your actions to those jerkbrain scripts. I have a feeling that you will find CBT skills (or other behavioral therapy skills, there are lots of flavors these days, one is bound to taste yummy to you!) of more immediate use than psychodynamic therapy is liable to give. Which in turn should better prepare you for adhereing to your new 6-month plan.

    • I have been using this online CBT application to help me deal with my social anxiety jerkbrain: http://moodgym.anu.edu.au/welcome (I think I found it in the comments here actually.)

      Not a substitute for actual therapy, but it was very helpful for me.

      • IrishUp said:

        Thanks for the link! that looks very interesting. I will be poking around on it this weekend.

    • Nomie said:

      CBT is pretty fucking awesome, I must say. I mean, obviously this is a very personal thing and it works differently for everybody and I was lucky and had a therapist I clicked with on a really profound level, but it is maybe the most useful way I’ve learned of handling things with my particular depression/anxiety spirals.

      HOWEVER, NEVER GOOGLE “CBT”. USE THE FULL NAME. Or make sure you have safe search turned ON.

      • Nobody's Girl said:

        Hahahahaha! Good caveat.

        And anyone who might want to google the other CBT…well, they could probably find out about it in safer ways than while trying to look up depression treatment.

      • Even though I’ve done CBT therapy before (very helpful!), I still only think of it as That Other Thing, since that’s what I heard of first. I snicker a bit every time.

      • Stephanie said:

        Okay, I am a curious sort and a glutton for punishment. I was sadly disappointed that I had to go to the second page of results to find what you were referring to. Then I realized what you meant was an IMAGE search. Oh yeah, I did.

  9. Ensign Perception said:

    Here are things I said in interviews while quitting one job and getting a new one because the old one was shit:

    – “I’ve learned a lot, but it just wasn’t a good fit”

    – “I’m ready to take on some new challenges”

    – “I’m specifically interested in getting more experience in [task that was in the new job description]”

    – “Yeah it was fun while it lasted at [old job] but I’m looking to try out a wide variety of things at the start of my career”

    None of these ever led to people being convinced I was talking shit about my old boss, secretly incompetent & getting fired, or anything else negative. They were just like, “Yeah, I’ve been there! So what computer programs are you good at?”

    You can do this, LW!

    • Ace said:

      It’s true! My sister-in-law’s job-fu is strong and your second example is her preferred answer to ‘why are you leaving?’. Everyone understands, no one thinks it’s weird. If you’re enthusiastic and good at your work, you’ll be fine. :D Jedi hugs!

  10. DisabilityDyke said:

    Oh, LW, you could have been me. I stayed at a job for over 15 years, while it quietly ate my soul. Set that date, and STICK TO IT.

    The sooner you get out, the less healing you’ll need to do. The longer you stay, the more chances of causing yourself physical damage, be it from stress or exhaustion.

    Take the next six months to set up your team of supporters.
    Your husband, a good therapist, a financial planner to help you get ready for your job hunting.
    Then, set up your network of colleagues, classmates and other business people.

    Figure out what makes you happy. What type of business do you want to work for? Do you like educating people? Do you want to help kids? Animals? There is almost no branch of business that don’t need someone in law, either as a lawyer or advisor.

    You can do this.

    • xenoglossy said:

      >> The sooner you get out, the less healing you’ll need to do.

      This, exactly. I didn’t stay in my horrible soul-sucking job nearly as long as that, but I stuck with it much longer than I should have, and even now that I’m in a job in a different field that’s a better fit for me, I still have the paranoia that I am SECRETLY DOING EVERYTHING WRONG and EVERYONE SECRETLY HATES ME and so on (because these are the kinds of things that my former boss would spring on me — that something I had been doing for the past three months or however long with no apparent problem was actually totally wrong and awful, and that all my other co-workers had problems with me that they didn’t feel they could talk to me about). I used to have anxiety attacks every morning at the thought of going to work, and sometimes I still do even though… I’m at a completely different job now.

      Of course, getting past all of that is what the therapy is for, but the sooner you get out the less entrenched all that negativity will be and the easier it will be to move on and go be awesome at something that’s not what you’re doing now.

      Anyway, good luck, LW! I (and the other commenters on this entry) got through this and found a better job, and so can you.

  11. Sheelzebub said:

    LW, I feel you. The Captain’s advice is fantastic, as usual. I’ll add this–it sounds like you don’t like being a lawyer? And if that’s the case, think about career paths where your knowledge and your skills would be valued but where you don’t actually have to be a lawyer (or could be a lawyer in a very different capacity). Legal clinic? Teaching? Fundraising (you don’t actually have to be a front-line fundraiser where you meet people and get them to give your organization ungodly sums of money–you could do things like prospect research or grant writing instead. They pay much less but they are eight-hour jobs that don’t have the stress lawyering does).

    I second the suggestion to meet with a career counselor.

    Best of luck!

    • I just wanted to second this. Really, law is so transferable – you do not have to be a lawyer.

      I also have a law degree but knew in law school – despite wild dreams of being Atticus Finch – I didn’t want to be a lawyer. I didn’t even do my practicing certificate. (Thank goodness!) I went into a non-law business field and am pretty happy. It’s a bit boring, quite stable, and recession-proof. They love that I have a law degree, and I probably get a call every month from a recruiter. Even if you didn’t want to try something too “different” from law there is in-house counsel work (which is usually a different environment from a firm) legal outreach work, all manner of business work, or even policy.

      P.s. I volunteered for years in a community legal clinic, which was really useful in reminding me exactly what the law could do when it wasn’t about billable hours, and also, I was good at working – and good at helping people. Maybe you could try volunteering to build your confidence a bit? My guess is that once your in a different environment it will help highlight how ‘not-your-fault’ your work is, and also it’s a nice way of feeling happy doing something nice for others.

  12. LW, I could have written a very similar letter last year (and actually I used to write it in my mind over and over during the workday but couldn’t bring myself to send it in). I was miserable at a job that wasn’t a good fit for me, but I wouldn’t let myself leave until I found something else. I am very familiar with fantasizing about illness or injury severe enough to keep me from work! Looking back now I wish I’d made plans to leave when I noticed those thoughts cropping up, but at the time I was really invested in downplaying my discomfort and “sticking it out” because I felt like quitting would be admitting failure.

    Every time I’d talk to friends about the things at work that frustrated me, they all said “just get out!” but I felt really paralyzed by my situation; I think there was a bit of not feeling like I deserved to leave, especially not if I couldn’t find another job first. There was a last straw that finally got me to throw up my hands and leave, and even though I was incredibly scared to do it, after that last day my anxiety about finding work was mixed with such an intense feeling of relief that I knew it was the right move.

    If you’re worried about putting too much strain on your husband when you quit, have a conversation where you talk about your specific fears. This was a HUGE part of not wanting to leave for me, but eventually my partner and I talked about it enough that I finally felt comfortable with it. And as I said in a comment upthread, I am pretty sure that even in my “holy shit, I just quit my job” panic I was much easier to comfort and live with then when I was trapped in a whirlpool of misery at my old job.

    Lastly: the Captain mentioned this but I want to say that self-care is so important right now. Find something that makes you happy and make sure you give yourself as much time as you can to do it. Knitting, baking, and playing Mass Effect kept me from going completely over the edge those last few months at work.

    Many Jedi Hugs from me to you. <3 You can do it!

  13. Nomie said:

    I keep thinking of that Dear Sugar line about “wanting to leave is enough.” And in this case – it’s a job, not a romantic partnership. You really don’t owe your current employers anything other than an appropriate amount of notice.

  14. wondering said:

    Hey, I just want to say that I’ve been in the position that LW’s DH is in. My partner has had a difficult time finding jobs that are a good fit for him. They’ll be okay for a while, but then they will make him miserable. Which means he is then miserable at home and all the time that I am with him. This sucks. I have a good job that pays well – I am very happy to have him leave those jobs when he is done with them ESPECIALLY the ones with super sucky work hours.

    We’ve discovered that my partner is better at working WITH people rather than FOR people. So. We are starting our own business (science and nature store – we expect to launch online in a month or so at http://www.quarkyscience.com) with some friends where we can be our own bosses. I am keeping my old job to retain the good regular income while my partner and some friends take on the new challenge. We are happier than we’ve been in years. You have the luxury of a safety net in your DH – so TAKE THE RISK. Quit the bad job and explore for a while to find the right fit for you – whether it is working for someone else or making your own job.

    DOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIITTTTTT!!!111!!!

  15. You need to leave your current job. I understand your hesitation however. I was feeling the same way about my previous job and *let* myself be laid off Jan 2012. It has been over a year and I still have not found another job. While my husband and I have faced significant financial hardship, I still don’t know if I would have changed anything.

    The fact is that you can’t stay where you are forever. So start making a plan for what you *want* to do. One of the simplest – and most productive – activities I have done this past year is make a list about what I liked about all my previous jobs. And what I didn’t like. That list helped me to narrow down what I really want to do. I discovered I *want* to take my career in a completely different direction, yet I can tie all the skills I used in my old job to my new career.

    Life is what you make of it. Don’t stay somewhere that is unhealthy forever. But by starting to thinking about what you want to do next, you can elevate some of the pressure of feeling like you are stuck where you are now.

    Think outside the box. Dream about what your perfect job would be. And then go get it. You have shown that you can accomplish anything you want to do. Now is the time to figure out what that is and GO FOR IT!

    God bless.

  16. kate said:

    Oh, yeah, been there. Right down to the profession! One of my former clients, as I struggled to extricate myself from the practice, used to call me a “recovering lawyer.” And y’know, when I talked to people about my decision to stop practicing law despite investing all that time and money and angst into getting qualified and surviving my early years in the field, it was NEVER fellow lawyers who expressed surprise that I would consider abandoning all that to go do something — anything! — else.

    It sounds like you went into the profession for some of the same reasons I did, and that you want out for some of the same reasons. Among other things, you sound no happier than I was with the realization that being a lawyer involves spending an awful lot of time dealing with angry, combative, inflexible people (clients, opposing parties, and other lawyers) at their angriest, most combative, and least flexible (though yes, we deal with nice people, too). Some people sincerely don’t mind that; they like the adrenaline or whatever. However, you aren’t one of them. And since neither what the job is nor who you are is likely to undergo a fundamental transformation, scolding yourself into sucking it up is not a solution… any more than it is a solution for someone who is miserable in his/her marriage to say “my spouse doesn’t actually beat me and we do have food, so I should suck it up and count myself lucky, because I’ve invested __ years in reaching this pinnacle of unhappiness.”

    You’re staying because you’re not sure your alternatives will make you happy, and because you can’t quite envision how it will all work out if you quit. But at least there’s a chance they will, which is more than you can say for where you are now! So make yourself a mantra: “Even a small chance of happiness is better than certain misery!” If Plan A doesn’t work, there are always Plans B through Z, AA through ZZ, etc.

    I second the recommendation that you look at the things you can do with a law degree other than practice law. But don’t stop there; you’ve learned a lot about yourself and the world since you embarked on this course. Consider afresh: if you were just setting out, but knew all you know now, what would you like to do? You have a supportive husband. Understand that what he is probably thinking, along with the fact that you will be happier if you get out of that job you hate, is that HE will probably be a happier person if you get out of that job you hate and stop exuding unhappiness and stress into the atmosphere of your home. At least, I know that’s how my husband (and kids) felt about it! I’m still working on what I want to be when I grow up, but I am a lot happier bumbling about with that as my goal than I was when my only goal was to endure.

    • JfC said:

      This is for starting over in a new field, btw. Not sticking it out in your crappy job.

  17. Great advice all, but let me echo one in particular:

    #4! #4! #4! #4!

    Whenever your quit date is, also make a note of when you need to give notice. GIVE THE MINIMUM REQUIRED NOTICE!

    I gave too long a notice for a job that I was ready to quit immediately, thinking they needed the time to get ready for me to be gone. In fact they did nothing (actually less than nothing; they got rid of everyone on my team with any experience and kept sending me and only me to the trainings) and I would up quitting in a huff and giving no notice at all, and thus being ineligible for rehire. I basically screwed everything up by trying to be “nice” instead of looking out for #1.

    Most businesses have poor knowledge management practices and thus are unprepared when employees leave. This causes management to be very snippy and unprofessional and imply that the employee is somehow betraying them. This is not your problem. They don’t own you. You can quit when you want.

    Also, after you’re gone, they can’t call you to ask you to do stuff. This is very important. Say to them “if the building is on fire and you think I’m the only one who knows where the fire extinguisher is, DO NOT CALL ME.”

    • G said:

      Good advice. Until the day you walk out, you owe your current job a day’s work for a day’s pay and (if you’re in the US) two weeks notice when you leave. That’s it. Nothing more. Do the best you can during the standard office hours and then put your coat on and leave. If anything’s not done you can get back to it tomorrow.

      Once you’ve cut down your work and worry to this minimum you can devote the rest of your time to working on all these interesting projects people here have suggested for making your move to a great career.

    • solecism said:

      Ha! Totally right about this one. Please stop expecting me to answer your emails. This is my work email, and I lost my job. Since you replaced me, you are aware of this. Why would I check an email account for a job I no longer have? Really. So if they call you anyway, despite you clearly stating your boundaries, practice saying, “I’m sorry, I can’t help you with that, I no longer work there. Maybe [person X] is who you need to talk to. Good luck figuring it out.”

      My last job was a dream job. It was in my chosen field, and I felt like I was making a significant contribution and using all of my skills. My boss was fantastic, a good mentor and great with constructive criticism and support. But the institution was amazingly toxic, and our little department of 2 got the boot last year, our service handed off to another institution in a different state. My boss jumped ship on her own terms a few months before our official layoff date, and I struggled along to the bitter end. Amazingly stressful!

      But once the job was gone, so was the stress. True, I was unemployed for 3 months (job-hunting for 6) with no immediate job prospects and unsure how we were going to pay our brand new mortgage. I still had worries, but I was out of that awful, toxic environment. And I ended up in another job I love that pays way better than the other one. It’s not in my field and I don’t have a mentor encouraging me anymore, but it is interesting and rewarding. And my work is valued and supported by the department instead of being considered “not core to mission” and therefore expendable.

      I still worry about the friends and colleagues at the old place that continues to implode in slow motion thanks to the cumulative attrition of layoffs and retirements, political turf battles, and an extreme crisis in leadership. The problem is that the people believe so strongly in the mission and fear so much the uncertain political and economic climate and are so exhausted by the ever greater demands that they cling to what they have (or can’t muster the energy to aspire to something better). I almost expect someone to gnaw off a limb to escape the trap. Don’t be that. Get out.

  18. Bethany said:

    Oh Letter Writer, quit your terrible job. It is against my religion to hold a job that makes me miserable, especially since I quit a call center job a few years ago.

    I have delivered pizza for years. I know people who have degrees who work in pizza because their profession made them miserable, and they’re happier delivering pizza than they ever were at their ‘real job’. My former boss (former because I quit, he’s still there) at the pizza place used to work on Wall Street, making lots of money. He outright hated it. A driver used to work for state governments helping with elderly patients who needed advocacy, and taking care of them. He said it was rewarding but crushing- everyone you ended up liking died anyway. I’m only not working there because my physical health prevents me, as soon as I get my health issue fixed (it is fixable, thank FSM) I’m going back there for work. Between that and writing, I think I’ll be all right if I never get a ‘real’ job.

    Find a job that won’t shred your nerves and your heart. It may take some looking, some time, some energy. Your husband has said he’ll support you- believe him. Do what you need to do for you to take care of yourself and get a job that won’t grind your heart into miserable paste.

  19. Synaesthete said:

    I agree with the Cap’ns advice. I think you need to quit your job!!

    However, I think there is another issue here that desperately needs to be addressed.

    It’s the line “I have always harboured doubts about whether I was cut out to be a lawyer,” that triggered a red flag for me.

    The big questions I want to ask you (but ignore the self doubt when you answer this) are: Do you enjoy being a lawyer? Do you find you find the day-to-day activities of your job reasonably interesting? Do you want to continue being a lawyer if you found the correct environment?

    To me the problem is not “The Job” (separate from the work environment), but instead is your self-doubt about the job. The solution may be as simple as doing the same job you do in a more friendly, understanding work environment, or it may be something deeper within you that needs some serious attention.

    If it is the latter, there’s a word we use in academia (although I’m sure the feeling isn’t restricted to academia) for people who are just entering the field but still feel like they don’t know enough to be credible. The term is “imposter syndrome.”

    I know all about “imposter syndrome”. I was a second Psychology grad student in a pretty technical lab. I was working on a project with optics, which of course I have no experience with since I was a Psychology major. The lab left me to my own devises to try and figure out how to conduct an experiment on this massive, incredibly expensive piece of technology. So, yeah… let’s just say I did the one thing to that optical table that you SHOULD NEVER DO!! In fact, when I explained it to a friend, they jokingly said “well, it’s not like you broke the Hubble Space Telescope,” and in my head I thought, “well, actually it’s exactly like that!”

    I was so embarrassed, for a few days I couldn’t even admit to myself what I had done. I worked day and night for months trying to repair the mistake (again, with no knowledge of how optics work!). On top of that, my husband and I were living in separate cities while I was going to school, and he expected me to finish my Ph.D. within 3 years, so I didn’t even have the support from him I needed. When I would drive home on the weekends to see him, all I could think was “If I get into a car accident, at least this will all be over.” I almost dropped out of school multiple times in that period.

    The worst part was everyone in the lab was so upset, no one talked to me for almost 3 months. In fact, some of my relationships in that lab were never repaired. Everyone except my adviser (you know, the one that actually had to PAY to have the WHOLE DAMN THING REPLACED!!). Thank GOD for my adviser. One day, he walked into the room where I was desperately trying to fix things, and he said, “You know, this is how your learn. If you can figure this out, you’ll deserve that Ph.D.”

    That sentence was apparently all I needed to hear. I stuck it out, I got my Ph.D., and now I have a position in a different lab with amazing coworkers and an amazing environment. But, the feeling of being an “imposter” has still not left me. I am constantly asking my colleagues for their opinions on my theories, constantly double checking myself (and yes, I have made more mistakes!), and still constantly wondering if I am fit to be in this field. The difference is that in this lab, I am not made to feel “wrong” for having those thoughts. I am encouraged to be more assertive and confident in my thoughts, sure, but my colleagues also understand that I do not have vast knowledge of the field yet, and that the imposter syndrome does not disappear for many years. (I also see a counselor regularly to work on my self-doubt issues.)

    My advice is to decide if it really is the job that you do not like, or if you just don’t feel cut out for the job and can’t get past the self-doubt. If it is a self-doubt issue, maybe changing environments and reevaluating your own opinion of yourself and your capabilities will make all the difference. It did for me.

    Lastly, mistakes happen!! BIG MISTAKES HAPPEN!! That’s how you learn. It sucks, and its embarrassing, but looking back on my experience, I realize I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for that enormous mistake. I learned SO MUCH, and I wouldn’t trade that. I love where I am now, and am really thankful I didn’t give up.

    Whatever you decide, you are fabulous, and you deserve to be happy. Take care of yourself, and the other stuff will fall into place.

    • G said:

      Speaking of impostor syndrome, here’s a Twitter conversation between two people of my acquaintance who are very well-known and well-respected in their field. They write books and give speeches at conferences.

      A: The process of writing my book and related research has felt like a process of knowing less and less.
      B: Same with my lecture series. I have to remind myself that no one else knows WTF they’re doing either every time I record one.
      A: We are all impostors! Run us out on rails!

      So if you’re feeling a lack of confidence maybe it’s not you. Maybe you’re like them and just think you’re not doing well but other people are so impressed they’ll buy your book or lecture.

    • Zed said:

      Oh, god, imposter syndrome! I’m a librarian, not an academic, but I suffer from this something fierce. (“Why did they give me that Master’s degree? I can’t even find this article!” “This undergraduate has a question I don’t know how to answer. I’m such a failure!” “A real librarian would know what to do!”)

      But I have noticed something. Sometimes my colleagues, even ones who have been librarians for decades, say, “I don’t know how to find this” or “I will have to make some calls because I am not sure if we can get this book.” And sometimes they say, “Hey, Zed, do you have thoughts on this?” And these colleagues do not even blink when I say to them, “Hey, Coworker, how would you approach this thing I do not have much experience with?” And I listen, and they listen, and together we become some kind of super librarian Transformer and answer all the reference questions ever. Or something.

      Now, because I am a perpetual Smart Kid, it is not easy for me to ask for help or admit I don’t know something. Every time I do, I feel a little tug at the back of my brain, and suddenly I am once again the Smart Kid who was too afraid to admit she didn’t *get* high school geometry and ask for a tutor or the Smart Kid who just couldn’t go to the professor for help the first time college threw a curve ball and just felt worse and worse let all the anxiety fester. I am trying to unlearn this, and I think my professional life will be SO MUCH BETTER for it. And the less time I spend reliving the times when I did not know something, the more productive I will be at work, and the happier I will be at home.

      • J said:

        Are you my missing twin? :) I, too, was branded as the “Smart One” and struggled with Geometry (re-took it in summer school) and a recipient of a MLS.

        Do you have any suggestions as to how I can re-enter my chosen profession?

        After taking a few years off, I am having trouble getting another position. I have had to take other jobs for financial reasons.

        There is a post-MLS certificate available at my former university and I have started studying for the Archivist Exam next year.

        I have worked in a public, academic and law library and as an assistant archivist.

  20. CPALady said:

    Yes, please get out while you still have a soul! My husband is a happily practicing lawyer but I think this happened to about 25% of his friends from law school. It’s okay! Leave!

    Also, I would like to reiterate talking to your network (friends, law school buddies, neighbors, whatever) once you are sure you will be looking for work. I’m a CPA and I’m not kidding you I get calls from recruiters three times a week asking “do you know anyone who is interested in JOBX?” I assume it’s the same for lawyers in large firms, so your friend from law school who works at Big Shiny Law Firm you would hate? Might still be able to give you leads to something you would love. Meet her for coffee! Tell her about what you WANT to do now (not what you hate about current sucky job)! Trust that everything will work out and you’re going on to UNIMAGINABLE AWESOMENESS

    • CPALady said:

      Just to be clear… you would hate Big Shiny Law Firm… not the friend. Obvs.

  21. There are a lot of ways to be in the legal profession. This is just one of them.

    THIS, so hard. “Legal profession” could be replaced with anything here, but yes. It’s very easy, especially when you’re working your first or second job in a field and it sucks, to think, “I am not cut out to work anywork anywhere in this industry.” Getting together with old classmates might open some doors for you to not-yet-posted positions, but also, you’ll find out about what they are doing. Some might be working for worse bosses than yours doing things they despise, but some are probably doing really, really cool stuff you could totally see yourself doing. I don’t know where you are writing from, but most US law schools have career centers that can help connect you with work but also provide advice about salary negotiation, etc. If your alma mater has anything similar, maybe you can connect with a career counselor who can go over your resume with you and chat with you about your strengths and interests. And yes, lots of lawyers end up jumping ship to totally unrelated professions — it’s OK! Just don’t think that the job you have is your only option for succeeding in the field.

    Also, I don’t know the nature or severity of the mistakes you’ve made on the job, and I agree with others who suspect you’re being unnecessarily hard on yourself and that this might relate to the gaslighting that goes on at your workplace. My own jerkbrain tends to exaggerate the severity and relative importance of my mistakes (“typo = NO ONE I REALLY WANT TO WORK FOR WILL EVER HIRE ME” or “I can’t look for work while I have this writeup in my file!”) and diminish or actually forget the things I do right. Assuming the mistakes you’ve made are as bad as you say, know that a work environment that sucks for you can make you anxious, which makes it hard to focus, which makes you more likely to miss deadlines or make mistakes or whatever, and that makes the job suckier, which can make you even MORE upset and anxious and heeeeello vicious circle! Know that making a few mistakes at a job you hate does not automatically mean you are a terrible lawyer. It means that you are 1) new at this 2) stressed out 3) going to do a great job working somewhere awesome.

    • Ethyl said:

      Speaking of work mess-ups. I actually was on “probation” at a previous job, which I left for unrelated reasons. It was ok, honestly. Everyone was as nice as they could be about it, but it was a stupid mistake, and so there were consequences. Something they told me though was that internal disciplinary actions are confidential. So between that and the fact that most companies who are contacted to verify past employment will ONLY verify past employment (i.e., people who are not references typically don’t give out additional information), I think you can safely count on your references to give you glowing reviews and not worry overmuch about previous work fuckups.

      • Yes! The fact that I even thought “oh my god that mistake I made last week is going to screw me forever unless I can be mistake free for six months” rather than “the fact that I made that mistake is a good reason to start sending out resumes” tells you what a hold that particular job had on my psyche.

  22. Jason said:

    LW.

    I am a lawyer. It DOES GET BETTER. Leave. Since graduating from law school, I’ve worked at 5 different legal jobs. Hopefully, the one I have now, I will keep- for the first time in forever, I actually like my job. A lot. There’s one for you, out there. Last year? I could have written your letter, except I’m a dude, and in the US.

    Here’s what you need to do:
    1) Find a good therapist. Srsly. You need someone you’re not living with to vent to about how you hate your job. This will make your home life better. It will also make you more able to deal with what goes on at work. Start with this.

    2) Join committees, or other organizations that deal with whatever interests you in the law. Meet people who do things you might be interested in doing. Try stuff that sounds interesting.

    3) When you find someone that has a job that sounds interesting to you, ask them to go to lunch, so you can find out more. People enjoy talking about themselves- you can find a mentor this way.

    4) Quit. Quit, quit, quit, quit, quit, quit. Quitty quit quit. Quit-a-ring-a-ding. There are 24 hours in the day. Assume you sleep for 7- that leaves 14. 1 hour getting awake and out the door, probably another before you get back home, that leaves 12. 8-10 hours a day of work, leaving 2-4 hours of you time. 55-71% of your waking time every day is spent at work. You have to enjoy it, or you’ll lose it.

    5) Take care of yourself. Quitting does not mean you’re a failure, or a bad lawyer. It means this is not the job for you.

    6) Did I mention quit? Do that. You’ll be happier. Your husband will be happier. The plants will be happier.

    • Hanna said:

      I’m a lawyer too. This letter made me angry at your boss because to me it sounds like you have been given way too much responsibility. At this early stage in your career your work is supposed to be supervised – so you shouldn’t really be in a position to make serious “mistakes” affecting clients. I am sure your boss makes you feel like it’s all your fault but it just isn’t. I just want you to know that not all law practice has to be like this. I think big firms rightly have a reputation for being tough and heartless (I started in a big firm) but actually it can be way more stressful for junior lawyers in small firms where they get chucked in without any support. And when a small firm goes toxic, it really goes toxic. So yes, quit! But know that just because you hate this firm it doesn’t mean you aren’t cut out for being a lawyer. You can’t know that yet. I work as a lawyer (but not a litigator) in government now and I love it (most days)… It does get better, if you proactively move towards better things.

  23. Colonel Panic said:

    [warning: mention of suicide]

    Oh, LW. I was you. Different field, but same “this job is objectively quite good; why do I feel like I’d rather get cavities drilled than go into the office in the morning?” feelings. Yeah, the problem is, objectivity is crap. All that matters is your subjective experience. And your subjective experience is lousy. I mean, you’re fantasizing about your own incapacitation, maybe even death. That is very much not a good road to be on. A lot of times it can lead from passively wanting to be dead to taking active steps to get there. Flip on your turn signal and get the hell off that road! It’s a bad road! Take it from someone who’s driven down that bumpy, axle-breaking mess before.

    You know the person who will never stop and ask for directions no matter how lost they are? You know how annoying that person is to be in the car with, and then you end up somewhere with a population of 63, half of whom are cows? Congratulations, you’re not that person! You’ve asked, and Captain Awkward’s handed you a map, so now you can sit down and figure out which road you’d rather be on. And, y’know, maybe you need to sit at the gas station eating terrible greasy road food for a while before you’re ready to start driving again.

    (I suspect this extended metaphor’s shelf-life is sharply limited, given the growing ubiquity of GPS.)

    • xenoglossy said:

      Hey, you can still get hideously lost and end up in a town full of cows with GPS! … Well, I can, anyway.

      • Colonel Panic said:

        So can my husband. Which is why I laugh like loon anytime someone decides to bloviate about how men are better at spatial relationships than women.

        Bloviate IS SO a word, Chrome! You’ll accept “bloatware” but not “bloviate?”

  24. Teresa said:

    You’re getting good advice here, I can only second it based on my own experience (below). Get out. You’ll be a better partner without these anxieties and stresses.

    Old, bad job made me doubt myself, change the way I spoke, and ultimately made me really dislike the person I was there, because of my “failures” at that job. Nevermind that I wasn’t provided with training, clear instructions, help, or feedback beyond the negative for my first two years there, I came to believe that that was just an excuse, a justification. I blamed myself for every negative thing about my situation, when really the only thing I had full responsibility for was not getting out sooner (I stayed five years). The people around me pointed out how different I was after leaving that job right after I had, even before I found a new one. At my new, good job, I’m treated with respect and given encouragement and criticism with the same level of sincerity. And have the energy, patience, and relative peace of mind to be better toward/to give more to the people in my life (boyfriend, parents, friends).

  25. Amy said:

    When I had that job, my brain spent a lot of time yelling at me about what a terrible person I was for wanting to quit when employment is the responsibility of all responsible people and I was lucky to have a job at all blah blah blah, but sometimes for kicks my brain would change it up and yell at me about *not* quitting when I was so miserable and what a terrible person I was for wasting my life and not taking care of myself. I basically simultaneously felt it was imperative that I quit and that I not quit, and it was paralyzing and horrible.

    I was never able to resolve this through thinking about it – I finally got out by setting other events into motion that broke the stalemate. (Namely, my partner and I really wanted kids and agreed it would be nice for me to stay-at-home-parent and we eventually managed to get me knocked up. Obviously this isn’t a solution with wide applicability but I wonder if “discovering a call” to some sort of volunteering or something could work similarly to break mental deadlock.) But! What I really wanted to say here is that the day I left, all the brain-yelling went instantly silent, and I felt this amazing wave of freedom and satisfaction, *both for having gotten out and for having stuck it out as long as I did*. I was never going to be able to think my brain quiet – the situation actually had to change – but my fears that my brain would guilt me forever about having left were *totally baseless*.

  26. JC said:

    Hey LW I’m assuming you’re in Aus or NZ (“sooky lala” gave it away). I’m in Aus. I know a heaping great heap of lawyers who do not work as lawyers. There’s quite a bit of work for people who understand the law available in government. Look for jobs that are about policy development especially if they relate to subject areas that you have some experience in. You might also want to look at jobs that have some investigative aspect (auditing, ombudsman, tribunals, etc). People with law degrees are often favoured for this type of work. These jobs do involve working with people but usually they are not clients and you are merely interviewing them and writing reports.

    Also, quit the job that makes you miserable.

    • Hanna said:

      Great advice (at least iif the LW is in Oz, which I also guessed). Policy needs good legal brains, and there’s loads of jobs around – some where you would be acting as a lawyer.

  27. drst said:

    LW, I hear you. So much. I’ve been in a job I hate for four years. I gave notice last month. I knew when I came for the interview I didn’t want to work here, but I needed a job, so I came. It’s been MISERABLE. Why did I stay for four years? First it was financial, then it was a brief period where it seemed things might get a little better. The last two years have been mostly fear.

    I think this is common with a lot of people with advanced degrees. Other people tell us how easy we must have it because there’s always work for someone with that much knowledge and training. But we know there actually isn’t. The job market is harsh. I had a lot of fear about quitting, most of it “What if I can’t get another job in this field? What if all that effort was for nothing? What if I quit and the next place is worse?!? Everyone will be going ‘Jeeze you ungrateful fool, look at what you did!’.”

    But the thing is, if the next job environment sucks, I’ll hopefully be able to recognize the warning signs and extract myself faster. I learned something in my four years in purgatory. And I hit the point where I realized “Anything will be better than this” (right about when I burst into sobs on the phone with Mama Bear, to her deep consternation, as I rarely cry). Even being unemployed would be better than this, and I have very serious fear of unemployment. I’ve been unemployed before and it was so soul-crushing, I want to smack every politician calling unemployed people “lazy” with a frozen trout.

    I got my PhD because I loved learning and researching and I wanted to know I could get the degree. I did not want to teach. I’ve been teaching for 6 years and I’m thoroughly convinced I do not want to do this for the rest of my life. And it’s okay. I didn’t sign a contract in blood to become a teacher in exchange for the degree. I have the degree, it can’t be taken away from me, so now it’s on to what next. I would urge you to explore other options related to law – it may be you haven’t found the application or environment for your degree that you like yet. But you’re not obligated to do Being a Lawyer a certain way forever.

  28. East said:

    When I started grad school, I’d taken the summer off and in that time the fun lab I’d been working in since undergrad had somehow metamorphosized into a soul-crushing pit. My experiments weren’t working and I was told it was because I wasn’t trying hard enough; my students loved me but I was told I was a terrible TA who couldn’t do anything right; I gave a presentation that the other grad students praised and offered me help with my floundering project, and I was scolded for revealing that my work wasn’t successful and making the lab look bad.

    Luckily I only put up with this for seven months instead of any number of years– I was seeing a therapist for anxiety to begin with and she immediately started steering me toward finding something different when she saw how miserable I was– and now I’m doing an engineering degree at another university and I am relatively free of soul-crushing despair.

    So, slightly different situation, but just to echo all the other posters– get out, you have support, there is something out there for you that won’t make you imagine your own death. Jedi hugs!

  29. Lyla D. said:

    Oh, LW, I’m backing up the Cap’n 100% here.

    I stayed in a job for years that a) was so ridiculously demanding that everyone I told about it gave me bug-eyed looks when I told them about it b) had very little in the way of benefits because the boss was a penny pincher and c) very dismissive of its employees concerns. But I should stick it out, right? Because the economy! Because I was new in my field and needed experience! Because everyone else was living with the situation, so why couldn’t I? It was like being a frog in a pot of boiling water–I didn’t realize how bad the situation was because I was in the thick of it, and the gradual nature of how things became worse passed my notice.

    Being laid off from that job was one of the BEST things that ever happened to me. It forced me out of the rut and now I’m in a job with a boss that actually *gasp* cares about my well-being. It was such a shock to know there ARE great work situations out there, but it’s so worth it to go out and find them.

    This job is not a good fit for you, LW. Maybe it fits for the others working there because Reasons but that doesn’t mean your Reasons why it doesn’t work for you aren’t valid. And I think once you’re out of the situation, you will have many instances where you look back and think, “Wow, I hung in there for so long but it was really worse than I let myself believe. I’m so glad I’m out.”

    There are better things out there for you. Maybe a more friendly work space, maybe a more behind-the-scenes type of legal job that lets you deal with the subject matter without dealing with the clients. Whatever it is, you’ve got the backing and love of someone to support you until you find that good work environment. I know it can be hard to rely on that, but it sounds like your hubby only wants good things for you, so I’m sure wouldn’t want you to continue to struggle on in quiet desperation.

  30. Heather said:

    LW, one thing that really struck me in your letter was your mention of being an introvert, and not being confident or assertive the way you feel you need to be.

    I really, really feel you on that. I’m a highly introverted person who is studying for a degree in communication and public address. I know the feeling of “Oh my god, what am I doing here? I’m never going to succeed in this field unless I learn how to assert myself! Be more talkative! Really get out there and SELL IT, whatever “IT” is!”

    Recently, though, I read a book that made me think differently, and I think you might benefit from it. It’s called “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.” The author, Susan Cain, is an introvert who spent many years working as a successful lawyer. She talks a lot about how introverts can work with our personality type, rather than against it, to succeed in fields that we usually think of as requiring more extroverted personalities — including law.

    Cain goes into how to do that, and what our strengths are, much better than I can, but her point is that introvert =/= less competent. The book blew my mind, in the best possible way, and I highly recommend the book to anyone — but especially other introverts.

    Of course, you may find that law really isn’t what you want to do, but being introverted doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it, or any other job you want to do, very well. You’re clearly awesome, and I hope you find a job that makes the most of that, and makes you happy.

    • JenniferP said:

      Thanks for the book rec?

      And let me say again – that whole perception that Introverts aren’t assertive and/or good at being around people is a crock. It’s not a descriptor of your ability, it’s where you feel more comfortable. Introverts just need time and space by themselves to recharge. Can everyone stop using it as a shorthand for “bad at other people” now? Thanks!

  31. LW, I was you a year ago and I agree COMPLETELY with the Captain.

    Set an end date — this is huge and will help your mental state enormously. Then, save save save. Save a crapton of money. This is your Eff You Fund. Save until you can’t save any more — you can go 6 months without expensive bath goodies and new clothes and pricey booze and nights out at bars if it means you will be FREE of that place in 6 months, yes?

    There will come a time when you feel more disgusted with yourself for NOT quitting than you feel scared about quitting. If that makes sense. Once I got to that point, I knew I had to get out.

    Also: do as I say, not as I do, and after you leave, take some actual time off. Sleep when your body wants to. Relax and do things you enjoy and decompress from all the stress that hellhole put you through. Do NOT leave your job and then the very next day start running yourself into the ground working on your own business so that you never actually get a mental health break. Ahem. Not that I’d know anything personally about that. ;)

  32. Mel V. said:

    As someone who was in a job where I fantasized about throwing myself in front of the commuter train every morning: Make a plan and quit! It’s normal to have good days and bad days, it’s normal to have jobs that you don’t particularly enjoy. It’s not normal to find yourself at the doctor’s office praying it’s something serious so that you can take time off.

    You don’t get any brownie points for dragging it out longer. Honestly I wish I would have quit when I realized that my job-from-hell was not going to work out, rather than waiting until it came down to quit or be fired. I could have started looking for something else before I was completely burnt to a cinder.

    Two and a half years after quitting the job-from-hell, I’m doing work I love at a company I really like, with a former boss trying to hire me away and my current boss fighting to keep me. Turns out I wasn’t stupid, or incompetent, or weak, or any of that. I was just really, REALLY not suited for that job. Like you, I’m also introverted, but to my surprise confidence and assertiveness have followed naturally from being successful in a good working situation. My timidity was a symptom of a bad situation, not something inherent.

    There are better things out there, I have confidence that you will find them. Trust your husband’s safety net and JUMP.

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