Author Topic: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle  (Read 13630 times)

benjamin

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Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« on: October 09, 2013, 11:27:59 PM »
Hello all!

I have been lurking in the shadows for a couple years now. I'm at a crossroads in my Mustachian journey, so I figure this is a good time to get a bit more involved with the MMM community.

I graduated from college in the Spring of 2012 with an electrical engineering degree and $27000 in student loans, which are now paid off completely (as of July). During my time working, I have been living on 50-60% of my take-home pay. I am contributing up to the full company match in a 401k through Vanguard, and I contributing the max to an HSA account. I just added a taxable investment account to my Vanguard portfolio with the minimum level of funding for a VTSMX, and I will add to this monthly.  It won't be too long until I can switch on over to VTSAX and get the lower expense ratio!

I feel good about my ability to save and live within my means, but sometimes question the career path that I am heading down.  Electrical engineering has allowed me to obtain a fairly good paying job directly upon graduation, but a really struggle to motivate myself at times. When I look back at school, I see that it wasn't a genuine interest in the subject matter that motivated me to do well, but it was simply the grades and frequent deadlines that were provided to me. Now that I'm in the real world, it is harder for me to perform at my maximum ability. I get frustrated when I feel like I am spending 80% of my time blankly staring at a computer screen accomplishing nothing.  When deadlines roll around I am able to motivate myself and get stuff done at a high level, but it's a struggle outside of those times. It's always external factors motivating me to work hard. It's frustrating to hear that my manager thinks that I am doing a good job, while I think that I am working at 10% of my capabilities. I CAN'T STAND WORKING IN A CUBICLE.

Part of me thinks that I should stick with electrical engineering (or something in a related field).  It pays well and would allow me to achieve financial independence pretty quickly, while being pretty low stress and providing reasonable work hours. Is the problem just that my current job isn't demanding enough? Maybe if I was in a more challenging position, or a smaller company where my actions have more of an impact on the bottom line, things would actually seem easier because I would be forced to perform at the best of my ability much more often. Working in a cubicle-free environment would improve my work satisfaction by 500% instantly.

The other part of me wants to change course. Some of my colleagues actually do embedded design work in their free time. I have never once had any desire to do or learn anything related to electrical engineering in my spare time. I really don't see myself using any of the electrical engineering skills that I am developing in the FI stage of my life, beyond the general problem solving and design skills. I think that it would be better to spend my working years developing skills that I will be able to directly use later in life. Maybe I should parlay the quantitative skills that I have learned into finance or something?

So, here are a few of my options:

1) Stick with my current place of employment, which is a large fortune 500 cubical farm, filled with thousands of people who are perfectly willing to trade 30 years of earthly existence for a pension.  Low expectations = virtually no motivation or desire to work hard for 80% of my working hours.

2) Stick with electrical engineering, but try a new place of employment.  Maybe a smaller company where I will have more pressure placed on me to perform.
This could result in more stress or longer hours.  I don't think I would like this, given that I don't have any genuine interest in electrical engineering.

3) Change focus completely, but still use quantitative/analytical skills from engineering.  Finance, risk management, or something where I will be more likely to learn skills that I can directly use in my financial independent life. Would this still mean working in a cubicle..?

4) Become a vagabond and travel the country, trying to cure myself of analysis paralysis.  I need to learn how to DO rather than THINK all the time. :)

I hope that this doesn't come across as incoherent rambling.  It's late here. ;) All insight, wisdom, and face-punching is very much appreciated!

Thanks,
Ben

Jamesqf

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2013, 11:34:58 PM »
1) Stick with my current place of employment, which is a large fortune 500 cubical farm, filled with thousands of people who are perfectly willing to trade 30 years of earthly existence for a pension.  Low expectations = virtually no motivation or desire to work hard for 80% of my working hours.

I think perhaps you are mistaken about many of your co-workers.  A lot of them probably enjoy what they do, as you yourself point out when you mention that they do embedded design work in their free time.

What you really need to do is try to come up with answers to a couple of questions.  First, what sorts of things would you be doing if you weren't stuck in that cubicle?  Second, is there a way you can make a living doing any of them?
« Last Edit: October 10, 2013, 12:49:02 PM by Jamesqf »

Richard3

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2013, 11:41:14 PM »
All entry level jobs suck. This is pretty much a fact of life.

You might not have a physical cubicle if you switched fields, but until you climb the greasy pole, you're in that type of work.

If you don't have any debts, then I vote for doing some travel. If it's a working holiday you can break even or better (go work in a ski resort or in a foreign country or something exciting) and it might give you some more clarity on what you want.

Me, I'd embrace the easy job, focus on my life outside work to give me satisfaction, and save lots of money (it's what I did in a different field).


dadof4

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #3 on: October 10, 2013, 12:25:56 AM »
I don't think any of us can really answer that question... It's something you need to work out for yourself.

Don't undervalue good money. If you are diligent, you can achieve FI very quickly. We're lucky to be in a field that allows us this opportunity.

But keep your options open. Network like crazy, there are other options out there.

If cubicles depress you, think about a more customer facing position in the same field. A lot of application engineers in my company are "people persons", and enjoy that aspect of the job. Others are EE graduates who became Technical Marketing Engineers, and they drive product direction without all the nuts and bolts of design.

Silvie

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #4 on: October 10, 2013, 12:50:18 AM »
I would go with option #3. Sounds like you have marketable skills that can be used in another field, and you sound like a pretty intelligent guy too, so changing jobs wouldn't be too much trouble.

The real question is: are you willing to be unhappy until you hit FI? Personally I wouldn't be, that's why I quit my job to become a freelancer with sometimes more, sometimes less income, but a huge increase in happiness :)

By the way, do all American companies have cubicles? I thought that was only on TV! In my country we usually have large, open workspaces.

prodarwin

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #5 on: October 10, 2013, 01:13:41 AM »


By the way, do all American companies have cubicles? I thought that was only on TV! In my country we usually have large, open workspaces.

Nope.  Many have open workspaces.

Know what's worse than a cube?  An open workspace.  Seriously.

Silvie

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #6 on: October 10, 2013, 01:19:21 AM »


By the way, do all American companies have cubicles? I thought that was only on TV! In my country we usually have large, open workspaces.

Nope.  Many have open workspaces.

Know what's worse than a cube?  An open workspace.  Seriously.

Lol. I've never worked in a cubicle, but I like open workspaces. And when I feel that I'm distracted too much, there's always my iPod :)

desk_jockey

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #7 on: October 10, 2013, 06:30:53 AM »
The travel option #4 sounds fun, but probably better if you are looking for something rather than running from something.   Maybe you should hold that one in reserve for a while until you’re ready for a break or after you feel that you’ve “earned it”.
 
You said “It's always external factors motivating me to work hard.”   Those colleagues that do embedded design work in their free time are internally motivated.    As an extrovert, it can be difficult to be passionate about your work while quietly at a computer screen while sitting in a cube. 
 
It sounds to me like you might be in the wrong job within your field.   No doubt there are 1000s of jobs out there extroverted electrical engineers.     Take this next year to learn as much as possible in your current job and field, while simultaneously thinking about the job steps to get you to where you want to be in the intermediate and long term.
 
I can relate… I’m an engineer ex-lab rat who moved into technical sales support.  My salespeople do all the cold calling and early positioning work that I don’t like.   They bring me in for a consulting role that involves presentations, white boarding, idea exchanging, and affecting change.   Talking all this customer interaction back to the office cube helps me thrive during the ~50% of the time I’m sitting there.   
 
If sales or consulting isn’t for you, then look to electrical engineering jobs that require a hard hat and boots.  That’s another great way to get out of the cube. 

galaxie

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #8 on: October 10, 2013, 07:25:37 AM »
I am an electrical engineer, and I can relate.  I didn't love my job at first.  But then I started to like it.  What happened?

Have you read Study Hacks?  The author did a whole series on "don't follow your passion, because all jobs are boring sometimes and you'll be bitterly disappointed when your passion turns boring."  Instead the thesis is that job satisfaction and happiness come from (a) autonomy, (b) competence (including feeling like your work makes a difference), and (c) relatedness (interpersonal stuff).  But autonomy and competence happen when you're already good at your job, so as Richard3 says, "all entry-level jobs suck."

What I think you should do is find out if you are willing to become excellent at electrical engineering.  You'll probably find that once you're excellent at it, you like it - because you get positive feedback from your job, you get to make meaningful decisions about your work, people respect your competence, and you see your creations having a real effect in the world. 

If you can't stand doing the homework to become an awesome engineer, find something else you can become awesome at - but don't expect that your job will be awesome until you're awesome at it.  I came into my job with a PhD and I still didn't start to get awesome until 2-3 years in.  That's your motivation.  If you invest in your craftsmanship and skills, your job will pay out with satisfaction and recognition.  Or you can take your awesome skills and go elsewhere.

benjamin

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2013, 07:51:55 AM »
1) Stick with my current place of employment, which is a large fortune 500 cubical farm, filled with thousands of people who are perfectly willing to trade 30 years of earthly existence for a pension.  Low expectations = virtually no motivation or desire to work hard for 80% of my working hours.

I think perhaps you are mistaken about many of your co-workers.  A lot of them probably enjoy what they do, as you yourself point out when you mention that they do embedded design work in their free time.

You are probably right.  I sit next to a couple guys who are constantly announcing to the world how many days they have until retirement.  I think this skews my view.  Need to try and focus on the positives rather than the sour apples.

Quote
What you really need to do is try to come up with answers to a couple of questions.  First, what sorts of things would you be doing if you weren't stuck in that cubicle?  Second, is there a way you can make a living doing any of them?

This is a great question. Playing sports, eating healthy and reading health/wellness/financial independence stuff on the internet. I don't really have too many productive hobbies. There is quite a bit of time spent reading about things rather than actually doing them. A major problem of mine is that I don't know what I DO like. I will read read read, and make a judgement or decision based on anonymous internet users' opinions.  For example, I have considered pursuing medicine or some health profession many times.  Both pre and post-graduation.  I always go googling and come up with a bunch of negatives and decide against it.  The correct thing to do is to go volunteer or shadow in a clinical environment and see how I enjoy it.

The fact that I don't know what I actually like to DO is a problem. I think I may need to explore this outside of work and really learn more about myself before making any drastic career changes.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2013, 08:01:19 AM »
The fact that I don't know what I actually like to DO is a problem. I think I may need to explore this outside of work and really learn more about myself before making any drastic career changes.

Which can be hard to do when you are tied down 40 hours a week.

I can empathize with your situation. I had a REAL hard time going from the freedom of college and working at the newspaper with other students to a full time desk job. It sucked.

One thing I can say with 100% certainty, is that no matter how much you love doing something, when it becomes a job - you will stop loving it so much.

Good luck on your journey. I don't think we as humans were meant to work in boxes, or even dreaded open work spaces, all our lives. Thoughts of Office Space come to mind. lol

Bank

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2013, 08:09:30 AM »
The fact that I don't know what I actually like to DO is a problem. I think I may need to explore this outside of work and really learn more about myself before making any drastic career changes.

Wise decision.  And cut yourself some slack if you're inclined to get angsty over these issues -- you're what, 23?  You're not supposed to know everything about yourself and your future life.  In fact, I would argue you never will. 

However, one of the reasons that my 30's are so much more awesome than my 20's is that I have a better sense of what I am NOT.

grantmeaname

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2013, 08:37:26 AM »
2) Stick with electrical engineering, but try a new place of employment.  Maybe a smaller company where I will have more pressure placed on me to perform.
This could result in more stress or longer hours.  I don't think I would like this, given that I don't have any genuine interest in electrical engineering.
I wouldn't be so quick to assume managerial/HR competence is negatively related to firm size - if anything, I'd think the opposite.

Quote
3) Change focus completely, but still use quantitative/analytical skills from engineering.  Finance, risk management, or something where I will be more likely to learn skills that I can directly use in my financial independent life. Would this still mean working in a cubicle..?
You'd be in a cube, but for twice as many hours. You'd likely only learn a little bit that you could apply to FI - and all that is stuff you could find out know by heading over to the Bogleheads wiki or picking up a Graham/Malkiel book.

Maybe the problem is you. Figure out how to be excited about what you do in the morning, don't figure out excuses for why your lack of career satisfaction isn't your fault.

brewer12345

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2013, 09:05:39 AM »
I have spent almost 20 years in a cube or (briefly) office.  I am quitting in 84 days and my intention is to spend as little time as possible in a cube for the rest of my life.

I have spent a lot of my career in the same place you are currently in.  Most of the jobs I have worked have been way beneath me, but everyone I reported to always told me how wonderfully I was doing.  Boring as all heck.  The one job I had that was fully challenging right up to the limits of my abilities lasted for 3.5 years.  It was extremely lucrative and I learned a ton.  The problem was that it was extremely stressful and exhausting, hard on me, my kids and my marriage.  So this problem has for me been a damned if you do, damned if you don't issue.  Perhaps you will be able to navigate this better than I did since you don't have a spouse or kids as of yet.

The course I took was to become a mercenary.  I tried to pick the best job (defined as paid the most amount of money and allowed me to learn the most I could with the least amount of effort on my part) I could at any given time.  As a result, I tended to job hop every few years, always looking for the highest bidder and the best opportunity.  I also made damn sure that the money I was earning made it into the kitty so I could eventually escape.

If I had it to do all over again, I think I would have placed a higher priority on escaping the cube.  I suffer greatly by not being able to get outside, see the sun on weekdays for months in the winter, etc.

If I were in your shoes, I would be looking for an adventure that paid.  How about an international assignment?  Another alternative (and one I would heavily consider if I were in my early 20s with no entanglements) would be to line up a job in the North Dakota oilfields, buy a serviceable used camper, and head out there to make a fortune.

AlexK

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2013, 09:37:27 AM »
I was in your shoes 10 years ago, working in a cubicle farm writing up TPS reports and realizing the 6 years in college (MSME) that landed me here could have been a mistake.  I kept an eye out looking for new jobs and found one at a semiconductor company's local R&D facility. It ended up being a great place to work with only 5 people there and a high level of autonomy. And $10k salary increase over the first job.

At this point I am FI and still employed for no good reason. The job is pretty cool at times but there are still marathon meetings, unrealistic customer demands, and project cancellations. My conclusion about the whole thing is some jobs are a lot better than others, but being in control of your own time and what you work on is far better than any job. The previous advice about becoming excellent at your job is true, it will become more rewarding when you are the top expert in your company and everyone treats you that way.

BTW I was at about 0 net worth in 2008, became FI in 5 years of saving, all due to a good paying job and low expenses. Never sacrificed quality of life either.

Megatron

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2013, 09:43:10 AM »
I started out a few years ago in the same position, Computer Science major. I think the best advice I can give you is to travel as much as you can. Try to get off the beaten path and see what it's like for the majority of the people in the world. It can really change your perspective on things and about your "meaning of life" and all that jazz. Some of the countries that have profoundly changed me are India, Bolivia, Colombia and Mongolia. I definitely recommend backpacking them. It's a different experience when you are walking the streets of La Paz, Bolivia and eating your lunch and a bunch of hungry street children holds out their hands asking if they can have your leftovers and are so grateful when you do give them that leftover. Experiences like that will make you question your cubicle job differently when you come back to it. Either way, I hope you find what you're looking for.

benjamin

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2013, 10:32:27 AM »
All entry level jobs suck. This is pretty much a fact of life.

You might not have a physical cubicle if you switched fields, but until you climb the greasy pole, you're in that type of work.

If you don't have any debts, then I vote for doing some travel. If it's a working holiday you can break even or better (go work in a ski resort or in a foreign country or something exciting) and it might give you some more clarity on what you want.

Me, I'd embrace the easy job, focus on my life outside work to give me satisfaction, and save lots of money (it's what I did in a different field).

The thing is, this entry level job doesn't seem that terrible.  I have been the lead (and only) electrical engineer on a couple design projects.  Nothing with too much impact, but way more interesting than most of the work I see being done around here. It's mostly IT grunt work. My main issue is that I know I am capable of performing at a much higher level, but have no motivation to do so.  There have been a couple weeks where I had some pressure or deadlines coming that forced me to perform.  I enjoyed this much more even though it required a few more hours and was more stressful. I didn't stare blankly at the computer for hours at a time because I would fail if I did that.

I guess I want to be doing something that I feel very strongly about where I don't need that external pressure to force me into a productive state.

I am an electrical engineer, and I can relate.  I didn't love my job at first.  But then I started to like it.  What happened?

Have you read Study Hacks?  The author did a whole series on "don't follow your passion, because all jobs are boring sometimes and you'll be bitterly disappointed when your passion turns boring."  Instead the thesis is that job satisfaction and happiness come from (a) autonomy, (b) competence (including feeling like your work makes a difference), and (c) relatedness (interpersonal stuff).  But autonomy and competence happen when you're already good at your job, so as Richard3 says, "all entry-level jobs suck."

What I think you should do is find out if you are willing to become excellent at electrical engineering.  You'll probably find that once you're excellent at it, you like it - because you get positive feedback from your job, you get to make meaningful decisions about your work, people respect your competence, and you see your creations having a real effect in the world. 

If you can't stand doing the homework to become an awesome engineer, find something else you can become awesome at - but don't expect that your job will be awesome until you're awesome at it.  I came into my job with a PhD and I still didn't start to get awesome until 2-3 years in.  That's your motivation.  If you invest in your craftsmanship and skills, your job will pay out with satisfaction and recognition.  Or you can take your awesome skills and go elsewhere.

I haven't read Study Hacks, but I have read similar "don't follow your passion" career advice.  I think there is a lot to that.  Like I said above, there have been a couple instances in the past year and a half where I have actually been pushed to perform at a high level.  In these situations I was able to work hard, put in the time, learn what was necessary, and finish the task/project at a high level in the required amount of time.  This did feel good, and it is those couple examples that provide some hope.  These situations are just few and far between at this point.

As far as becoming excellent at electrical engineering, I will do what it takes when the pressure is on or when other people are relying on me.. but for someone to truly become great at something, shouldn't there be some internal motivation and genuine desire to actually achieve that greatness? I look back at school and see that I never had any desire to further my EE knowledge beyond the classroom.  I would do homework and get it done because it was required, and use the pressure of exams to motivate myself to study hard and do well.  I got good grades, but didn't seem to have that something extra. I didn't join student teams, or learn about concepts beyond what was required by homework/tests, or participate in relevant research projects. I did participate in research early on in a couple different non-electrical engineering fields. I felt much the same about that as I do about this job actually.

Maybe the problem is you. Figure out how to be excited about what you do in the morning, don't figure out excuses for why your lack of career satisfaction isn't your fault.

I'm sure that a large part of the problem is me. :)

galaxie

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #17 on: October 10, 2013, 12:16:08 PM »
It sounds like you don't have any long-term goals.  Perhaps you should get some.

When I started my job, I set some goals: get better at a few particular sub-skills, get a project through the internal R&D program, and stay involved with the wider research community by going to conferences and writing papers and stuff.  Those are larger than "do the project I am assigned to."  I didn't set them because I intrinsically love those particular things.  EE isn't my hobby.  I set those goals because I thought that doing those things would help transform my job into a job I want to be doing. 

It's your responsibility to make those goals and craft your job into what you'd like it to be.  If you don't pay attention to it, you'll end up with whatever people wanted to give you.  If you like your job better when you've got a heavy workload and looming deadlines, ask for more work.  It doesn't sound like you've tried that yet.  Make your job what you need it to be - your management is too busy to try to guess what you want out of life.

... but for someone to truly become great at something, shouldn't there be some internal motivation and genuine desire to actually achieve that greatness?
Short answer?  No.  That's "find your passion" talking. 

Have you ever had the experience of completing a task and feeling pride in your work, because it was well done?  I mean regardless of the subject area - maybe you made a cake, or ran a race, or made a circuit.  Whatever.  Pride in your work.  That's your motivation.  You get that more often if you're good at your job.

Jamesqf

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #18 on: October 10, 2013, 12:56:10 PM »
Know what's worse than a cube?  An open workspace.  Seriously.

+infinity :-)

A major problem of mine is that I don't know what I DO like. I will read read read, and make a judgement or decision based on anonymous internet users' opinions.  For example, I have considered pursuing medicine or some health profession many times.

The problem there is that you are facing an awfully big investment of both time & money before you can find out whether you like it or not.   Could you try something like becoming a personal trainer, or learning massage, that you could train for while still working at your job?

Spork

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #19 on: October 10, 2013, 01:07:43 PM »
Know what's worse than a cube?  An open workspace.  Seriously.

+infinity :-)

[/quote]

Same here. 

There is a combo of:
a) the trend of the day for "the productive workplace" that keeps changing the environment.   This is a pitch to sell more stuff.
b) an effort to shoe horn more people into a smaller space

Neither of these is really a motivator for the workplace... even if (a) is supposed to be.

StarryC

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #20 on: October 10, 2013, 05:08:01 PM »
I think you should wait it out a little longer before you make a decision.  Here's why.

When I graduated from college, I felt like my life was horrible and depressing.  And, compared to college, it was!  In college I saw my friends almost every day.  Every teacher I had was seeking to challenge and inform me. I worked at a relatively boring job, but only 20 hours a week.  The rest of my time was filled with interesting and challenging classes, fun social interaction, and hobbies or interests. 
 In the working world, the goal of everyone is not to help you, teach you, challenge you, or entertain you.  The tasks of living like laundry and cooking cut into your more limited free time.  Your friends aren't available as much and don't live 2 blocks from you anymore.  It is a really rough transition, that I think no one tells you about.    It's worse if you are lonely or poor.  I'm not saying we are "entitled millennials" because I think this is something that happens to people no matter their generation, see e.g. The Graduate.  But also google "Quarter life crisis."   

I found that seizing the free time I did have really helped.  Volunteer, plan things with your friends, find a hobby, date etc.  Find meaning outside of your job.  In fact, this is even more important if you want to retire early.  Try to force yourself to over perform at work and get promotions, raises and recognition.  Finish early and under budget.  Be valuable to the company. If you try this for 6 months to a year and still hate it, go ahead and move on.  But, they pay you money because you wouldn't do it if they didn't.  The fact that work isn't fun and fully fulfilling is why people want to retire early.

galliver

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #21 on: October 10, 2013, 05:51:58 PM »
Hi Ben,

I'm reading your words and it's like I'm reading my own at times.

I'm not an EE. I'm actually doing my PhD in Aerospace Engineering right now; I'm 3 years in. You would think "Grad school! The place where passionate people go to study things they are passionate about!" That's true for some people, and that's what we would all like to be true about ourselves. Our society worships "intrinsic motivation." But I don't think everyone has it; maybe some people grow it over time (I hope so, I'm trying to). Like you, I do much more and much better work before deadlines than when I'm "free." Introspection (what kind of person do I want to be?) and self-discipline (to-do lists, intermediate deadlines, making yourself accountable to someone) can help with that, I think. And as you get more done, like someone upthread said, you do get satisfaction and motivation from it.

Unless you feel a strong calling to another field, I don't think you should give up on engineering. I do think maybe you need to look for a more dynamic job. Startups will have much more on the line than an established mega-corp, and more invested in each employee. Or there are companies in between. You've worked for 1.5 years, learned something about yourself...now apply it! Go put yourself in a situation where more is riding on you, where you are more valuable and more important and more challenged. Now, the tradeoff for more challenge is more stress, of course.

And while you're at it, pick up some hobby projects and remember why you picked this field in the first place. Just because you considered paychecks doesn't mean there wasn't something you loved about it; there was a reason you picked EE over other Engineering, over medicine or law. Or maybe you're still wondering why you didn't choose another field...look into how EE intersects with it. It's indispensable in prosthetics and human-computer interfaces (BME), in all sorts of mechanical devices and tools (generally some kind of power engineering--ME/AeroE), in building electrical layouts and electricity transport (CE/ArchE), in battery design (ChemE). You can basically work in any technical industry; decide what looks fun and go for it.

Melody

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #22 on: October 11, 2013, 09:08:22 PM »
I think you should wait it out a little longer before you make a decision.  Here's why.

When I graduated from college, I felt like my life was horrible and depressing.  And, compared to college, it was!  In college I saw my friends almost every day.  Every teacher I had was seeking to challenge and inform me. I worked at a relatively boring job, but only 20 hours a week.  The rest of my time was filled with interesting and challenging classes, fun social interaction, and hobbies or interests. 
 In the working world, the goal of everyone is not to help you, teach you, challenge you, or entertain you.  The tasks of living like laundry and cooking cut into your more limited free time.  Your friends aren't available as much and don't live 2 blocks from you anymore.  It is a really rough transition, that I think no one tells you about.    It's worse if you are lonely or poor.  I'm not saying we are "entitled millennials" because I think this is something that happens to people no matter their generation, see e.g. The Graduate.  But also google "Quarter life crisis."   

I found that seizing the free time I did have really helped.  Volunteer, plan things with your friends, find a hobby, date etc.  Find meaning outside of your job.  In fact, this is even more important if you want to retire early.  Try to force yourself to over perform at work and get promotions, raises and recognition.  Finish early and under budget.  Be valuable to the company. If you try this for 6 months to a year and still hate it, go ahead and move on.  But, they pay you money because you wouldn't do it if they didn't.  The fact that work isn't fun and fully fulfilling is why people want to retire early.

+1

However I did end up moving jobs, and it worked out for the best. 2 years into my new role I've doubled my previous wage, got shorter working hours, and a more fulfilling job.
Accept that work isn't college and it won't be as fun. Stick with the boring job until you have enough experience to move to something desirable in the same field. This will also give you time to quantify what might be desirable (through networking etc, find out who the best employers are).

Good Luck!

Freckles

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #23 on: October 12, 2013, 02:40:25 AM »

Me, I'd embrace the easy job, focus on my life outside work to give me satisfaction, and save lots of money (it's what I did in a different field).

Yep, that's what I was thinking.  You have it pretty good, honestly.  Figure out how long you have to stay in your field to get to FI, and let that motivate you to stay put.  Fill up yourself in other ways outside of work.

Kriegsspiel

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #24 on: October 12, 2013, 07:51:20 AM »
If I were you, I'd stay there. You said it's low stress, office environment, and pays well. IMO, that's IT right there. If it was high paying and stressful, that would be a different story. Low stress and low paying, different story. But your case doesn't sound like something you should be looking to escape (prior to FI, I mean).

Zamboni

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #25 on: October 12, 2013, 09:12:09 AM »
^This.

Quote
I CAN'T STAND WORKING IN A CUBICLE.

I hated it too.  You know what helped A TON?  Getting a cubicle that was right next to the window.  Seriously.  Lobby to move to the window perimeter, if there is one.  Keep an eye on who might be leaving from one of these and be ready to pounce.  That's what I did and it worked.  You'd think that there would be a big fight for the nicest, brightest spots, but many more senior people just don't want to be bothered with moving their stuff when a space frees up.  If a boss gives you crap about the location (most likely to happen if managers have pissed around their turfs like dogs), then tell him/her that you have seasonal affective disorder and you need more light, period.  At a minimum you should be able to get a sweet new lamp out of the deal, but it would be better to be able to watch the birds.

My cube farm was kind of dimly lit and it took me awhile to figure out that it was really depressing me.  I moved from the interior to a window the moment someone quit and left, and just being able to look outside made me feel better about going to work.  I also tended to walk, run, or sit outside at lunch.

jfLip

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #26 on: October 12, 2013, 04:08:11 PM »
Ben,

Your taking the words right out of my mouth!  I'm 25, graduated in 2011 with a Psychology degree, was a personal trainer for 2 years (very fun & gratifying experience), and just started my first corporate job as an HR assistant.  On my first day seeing my workstation/cubicle, I immediately felt a sense of constraint and thought, "Is this the life I want to live...?"  Keep in mind I'm coming from an upbeat environment where motivating others was a daily job duty.  Granted that I work with a few fun people, the corporate environment reminds of me of the quietest floor of my university library -- I never went there, and had no desire to be in the library (besides to socialize).

If you haven't already, I'd highly suggest to watch this TED talk by Dr. Meg Jay, a psychologist who specializes in adulthood: Why 30 is not the new 20.  She addresses your concerns and like some posters in this thread, she suggests to invest in your "identity capital" -- unique experiences that make up who you are.

When I have moments of complacency or feelings that I should be doing a lot more with my life, I keep in mind to enjoy the journey because you can only connect the dots looking backwards (Steve Jobs).

Another alternative (and one I would heavily consider if I were in my early 20s with no entanglements) would be to line up a job in the North Dakota oilfields, buy a serviceable used camper, and head out there to make a fortune.

Do you have any recommended reading on this?

Argyle

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #27 on: October 12, 2013, 05:16:18 PM »
How long till FI in your current situation?  That might influence your decision.  Going into some other field means starting over from scratch, including enduring the gruntwork of an entry-level position -- and then what if you don't like that field?

And would you like not having a job?  Or would you not know what to do with yourself?

It sounds as if you are not particularly excited about FI either.  Accumulating the money toward a certain goal can make dull work considerably more exciting.  So one question to figure out is what would be exciting?  What would you most like to experience?

brewer12345

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #28 on: October 12, 2013, 05:33:22 PM »

Do you have any recommended reading on this?

Um, google Bakken, North Dakota and labor shortage.

apoclater

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #29 on: October 12, 2013, 08:24:22 PM »
1) Stick with my current place of employment, which is a large fortune 500 cubical farm, filled with thousands of people who are perfectly willing to trade 30 years of earthly existence for a pension.  Low expectations = virtually no motivation or desire to work hard for 80% of my working hours.

I think perhaps you are mistaken about many of your co-workers.  A lot of them probably enjoy what they do, as you yourself point out when you mention that they do embedded design work in their free time.

You are probably right.  I sit next to a couple guys who are constantly announcing to the world how many days they have until retirement.  I think this skews my view.  Need to try and focus on the positives rather than the sour apples.

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What you really need to do is try to come up with answers to a couple of questions.  First, what sorts of things would you be doing if you weren't stuck in that cubicle?  Second, is there a way you can make a living doing any of them?

This is a great question. Playing sports, eating healthy and reading health/wellness/financial independence stuff on the internet. I don't really have too many productive hobbies. There is quite a bit of time spent reading about things rather than actually doing them. A major problem of mine is that I don't know what I DO like. I will read read read, and make a judgement or decision based on anonymous internet users' opinions.  For example, I have considered pursuing medicine or some health profession many times.  Both pre and post-graduation.  I always go googling and come up with a bunch of negatives and decide against it.  The correct thing to do is to go volunteer or shadow in a clinical environment and see how I enjoy it.

The fact that I don't know what I actually like to DO is a problem. I think I may need to explore this outside of work and really learn more about myself before making any drastic career changes.

Um, have I been posting drunk each night and forgetting about it, or do you just sound exactly like me?

Down to a T, I have the same two problems as you.  Good job that pays well that you thought you'd be passionate about but now you feel stuck in?  Yep.  Excessive habit of reading and overthinking everything and not actually doing anything outside of what I consider "status quo" (eating well, working out, occasional socializing/reading for pleasure)?  100%.  Yep, pretty sure you're me.

I can't say I know what I want in life either, other than financial independence, good health, close relationships, and to have had a wealth of experiences.  I also have the same issue as you--not totally sure what I'd do with that FI.  What I have started to do is the following, which might help:

1. Actually do some of the things I've been researching/planning/thinking about, and do it with less analysis.  Last December after realizing I had been reading for over 20 days on what kind of bicycle to buy, I told myself how ridiculous this is and just went out and bought one the next day.  It might not be the 100% perfect one for me, but it's a perfectly functional road bike that I could have bought day 1 and been happy with.  I also took a 3 week trip to Europe that I had been agonizing for 2 years over.  I sent a possible plan to a friend, he agreed and after a couple hours of making tweaks, we bought tickets and just did it.

2. Disabling facebook, cutting down my blog consumption.  I'm a minimalist in terms of physical items I own, but when it comes to my digital world, I'm a complete hoarder.  I have 50+ self development blogs on my Feedly, I have a favorites list of over 500 things I'll probably never look at again but once I thought were cool, and I am a tab-whore with sometimes 20+ tabs open across 2 browsers.  It's ridiculous.  I disabled my facebook and twitter and told all my friends I was unplugging.  I trimmed my blogroll to 5 development blogs and MMM  So now I don't feel like I'm an internet hoarder anymore, and I don't feel bad when I see I have 200+ Feedly articles waiting to be read.

3. Accepting that I don't love my job but seeing it more as a tool to achieve what I want, and using the time I'm not on the clock to progress to something I'd rather do.  I work as an IT project manager.  I don't love it--but I'm getting better at it and it's making me feel like I enjoy it more.  I make a solid salary that will get me to FI in 10 years.  I doubt I will use any of my limited coding and database theory to build anything in the near future.  That being said, I know what I DON'T want to do anymore, so on the side I am using my weekday time to try out things I do want to do.  I used to fool myself about how much time and energy I actually have during the workweek--I used to come home at 6 pm, order food and crash watching TV until 11:30.  Now I get home, workout, make food, and work on my catering side-gig for 2-3 hours a night.  I use my weekends to catch up on reading that I think will further my side gig, and also I see it as time for my "second job". 

I'm going to keep following this thread because I think everyone else is onto something here.  I also am going to read "Die Empty" and the new Cal Newport book.  I think there is a growing contingent of people like us in the "ADD generation" who are thinkers getting stuck in analysis paralysis, never taking action.  That's ultimately what we need to do in life, is take a little more action and feel a little less needy towards the up front analysis.  Just do things, and learn from mistakes rather than seeking out every person's opinion on the internet.  I am a lot happier taking that approach of just "doing things" (like you referenced in reading about the medical world vs. shadowing someone) rather than reading about it, and I think you would be too.
« Last Edit: October 12, 2013, 08:43:53 PM by apoclater »

galaxie

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #30 on: October 13, 2013, 08:09:20 AM »
This story seems really relevant to you: a serial job-hopper ends up as an IT guy at an investment banking firm (an almost stereotypically unfulfilling job), then gets an attitude adjustment that helps him finally enjoy his job by focusing and not constantly daydreaming about greener pastures.

http://calnewport.com/blog/2011/02/14/zen-and-the-art-of-investment-banking-when-working-right-is-more-important-than-finding-the-right-work/

ch12

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Re: Life questions after 1.5 years in a cubicle
« Reply #31 on: October 13, 2013, 10:29:16 AM »

Do you have any recommended reading on this?

Um, google Bakken, North Dakota and labor shortage.

There is evidence that North Dakota is exploding with oil money right now. Here's something I wrote somewhere else on this blog:
Where shall I go? What shall I do?



Here is the link to the NYT column on where to find jobs (North Dakota): http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/05/06/where-the-jobs-for-the-young-are-and-arent/?_r=0

I moved to what the NYT calls the "upper Midwest" (though not actually North Dakota) myself for a job. North Dakota has a huge shortage of people for the jobs that they have available.

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Williston has skipped the recession entirely. Unemployment there is less than 2 percent. The population, the mayor estimates, has grown from 12,000 to 20,000 in the last four years.

"We actually have probably between 2,000 and 3,000 job openings in Williston right now," Koeser says.

From NPR: http://www.npr.org/2011/09/25/140784004/new-boom-reshapes-oil-world-rocks-north-dakota

Anecdotal evidence: My roommate's cousins live in Fargo, ND and when they decided to look for a job as 14-year-olds, they had 2-3 offers each. That was before fracking happened and ND exploded with oil money. If I honestly needed a job, that's where I would go.