Ask Amy: Recent graduate isn't happy at work

February 25, 2014 

Dear Readers: I am stepping away from the "Ask Amy" column for a week. I hope you enjoy these hand-picked "best of" columns in my absence.

Dear Amy: I am a 23-year-old college graduate in my second job in two years. I am very intelligent, ambitious, and I know I have a lot of potential. However, it's not as easy as I thought it would be to get people to see my ability and potential.

My first job was a bad experience, and my second job is not awful but just makes me listless. A lot of these entry-level jobs are made out to be of greater worth in the interviews, and they turn out to be mainly administrative assistant positions, as my friends and I have found.

I don't discount the necessity or importance of administrative assistants, but I am not seeing any of these jobs being more in-depth than that, nor am I seeing the "experience" taking me beyond my current level.

I get a lot of "it's a paycheck" from older relatives I talk to, telling me to "tough it out," and I am starting to worry that people are trying to indicate to me that few people like what they do with their 9-to-5 lives. I've been considering applying to law school for two years now, as I know it would open many more career paths, especially in the fields in which I am interested.

Please pass on some advice for me and for everyone out there in my situation.

— Troubled twenties (2003)

Dear Troubled: At your age, I was working as a receptionist. My desk was next to the ladies room door. My job was to answer the phone. Mainly, I listened to the toilet flush and plotted my escape. After two years, I applied for a better job but was told I'd never be promoted because I'd been a receptionist for too long.

The reason we adults roll our eyes at problems such as yours is because we've been there. We know that first jobs don't last forever and the listlessness you feel is natural. It's called "work" for a reason.

So my advice for you and others in your situation is to both be patient and agitate for something better. The something better might come from within your company, but most likely it's going to come from within you.

If you feel listless, have another latte and start swing dancing after work. If you want better work, then find it by networking and making the most of your potential.

And law school? As I've noted before, the unhappy lawyers I know could fill Wrigley Field, and frequently do. Start by researching your options for advancement without another degree.


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