Author Topic: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.  (Read 2923 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Hi, everyone!

Just want to start off by saying how fascinating it has been finding this site. I'd never before been remotely interested in financial matters, considering them something for posh people. But seeing them framed (by pleasant, down-to-earth people!) in the context of sensible living is changing that.
So, thought it couldn't hurt to ask.

Anyway, nearly age 25 now. Currently living in the UK with a year left on my visa - prior to this, was studying and working in the USA.

Upbringing, observations, and general nature have always led me to equate work with success. Paid my way through Stateside uni and all that.

First job out of school was a temp role as a sort of clerical role in a hospital, mostly doing data entry - take procedures from patient profiles, use a little booklet to convert them into ICD9 format, and re-enter them into a different database.
In my second week, I prototyped an automation script to the department director. Finished the script by the end of the first month, put in a polished UI and idiot-proof instructions by the end of the second. Within four months, had cleared up what had been presented to me as a year's worth of backlogged entries, and had turned daily database maintenance from a four-hour job into a 30-minute one.
In short, I sort of ended up eliminating my own position. Had been hoping to transfer onto the wards or into a lab, but instead they said I was now redundant. Really regret idiot-proofing the script, now...

Anyway, a while after that, moved to the UK on a work visa, and started as a tech at a research clinic. On paper, my job is just to perform checkups on people, but have been bending over backwards to stand out.
Also working as specialist/representative for a fairly complex trial, gave a study talk in front of the whole department (which is usually the job of a physician or manager), and have been maintaining the company site on the side. Also custom rewired the instruments the ward nurses are now using, and have been coordinating repair/calibration of the stuff I can't fix.
Also, recently have begun volunteering for the odd night shift on the ward in between my usual day shift - counting in lunch breaks and 6 hours' sleep, that means 32 hours spent at work from arriving to leaving.
Between these extra roles, voluntary night shifts, and arriving 30min early every day, I've done about 140 hours over the last 3 weeks, at what is supposedly a 40-hour-per-week position.

Not meaning to sound resentful or arrogant. Just really want to make a mark. Plus, well... I sort of did eliminate my own position at my first job, and have essentially been juggling the roles of three people at the second.
Also managing to live extremely cheaply, especially by London standards. Managing to put away about 2/3 of each month's income, while still living a decent life. 11 months after arriving as a broke immigrant, have about 2.5x the savings of most of my peers, including the ones who live nearby with their parents.

Yet something doesn't feel right.
At the first job, I basically coded away my own position and was laid off as a thank-you - granted, as a temp, it was inevitable, but could have spent 4-5x as long getting paid and trying for permanent transfer if I'd only sat back and gone through the motions like a good drone.
Currently, at the clinic, have taken on three peoples' worth of roles. However, getting the second-lowest pay of my life (lower than construction work during uni!), and requests to be formally promoted to the roles that I'm already performing have been casually dismissed - 'ask once you've been here 18 months', they say, regardless of the fact that my visa will nearly be up by then.
Meanwhile, many colleagues stroll in late, leave early, and spend half the day texting, with no functional difference between us. Some of the ones with Master's degrees have started with higher status than I hold after nearly a year of running myself utterly ragged.

Basically, it's starting to feel like initiative and dedication don't matter that much. Loads of peers are doing just as well for themselves while putting in a fraction of the effort, and saving 66% of your income doesn't seem to accomplish much when that income is peanuts to begin with.
Feels like everything has been a waste of time, and that I could accomplish just as little by pissing everything away on fun.

Granted, didn't do any favours by moving to the UK - lost most of my US savings that way.
Plus, they do say that a Master's carries massive weight in the sciences. But I can't afford to do a MS without spiralling into the same cycle of debt that many friends are trapped in. Plus, accruing debt in and paying in NZ/AU$ would be devastating.

Don't really know what else to do. Don't think I can work much harder, and my expenses are already lower than is probably healthy. Am I just being impatient? Or do I need to make a change somewhere? Would the school debt be worth it later on?
What are your thoughts? Can't be the first person to face this sort of situation.

P.S.: Ugh, sorry for the massive text-wall. If you're reading this, thank you for pressing on through to the end.
« Last Edit: October 22, 2016, 01:32:49 PM by kiwiphoenix »


  • Magnum Stache
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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplish much.
« Reply #1 on: October 22, 2016, 12:47:11 PM »
This is going to be cliche, but what do you want to do with your life?
What trips your trigger? You seem like you're good at coding, and like you have a knack for efficiency. These are good, marketable skills. Why are you funneling yourself into more school and administrative roles? (I'm an administrative assistant. It's actually a skill set, although most people think of it as a 'well why not' job). I mean, don't get me wrong, I chose a role like that and it works for me, but it sounds like it's not working for YOU.

When people talk about early retirement and financial independence, even at young ages like yours, it's usually because they have an enormous wish to spend their lives under their own control, doing what they want.

So... what is it that you want? :) For me, it's to be creative as much as possible, and have a full life with friends and loved ones. That's it. That's what I want. I want to make things, and I want to do it surrounded by cool people who appreciate me (and who I appreciate back).

Figuring out that will help you figure out what the next steps are. The money is a means to an end.


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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplish much.
« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2016, 01:05:28 PM »
You are burning yourself out. You need to back off, or you won't even be able to be happy. Regarding the first position, there's a valuable lesson there, but without hearing it in advance, you could miss out on it. When you build something of value, you need to know that people see the value as you build it. Then, before it's finished, start to ask where the same skills can be applied. Then, instead of making yourself redundant, you make yourself irreplaceable.

At the current job, you are doing something of the opposite. You seem to be doing a good job, but the individual aspects don't stand out. Further, you are demonstrating that you don't hold your own time at a high value by doing the same work for free. It makes you a doormat and doesn't do anything that wasn't getting done.

Now is the time to step back and think strategically about a specific course that will move you to where you'd like to be.


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.
« Reply #3 on: October 22, 2016, 03:02:56 PM »
@Orvell: Hahaha, y'know, that's a fair point. Haven't given much thought to non-work stuff in months.
Studied vet sci, but now have come to really enjoy working with medicinal research and medical tech. Would be nice to be a proper researcher one day.

The coding is actually an auxiliary thing! No training or anything, but it's something you pick up along the way, you know? Everything is computerised nowadays, and every computerised process can be improved with a script here and there.
In fact, mapped a couple buttons on this keyboard to the mouse functions, because the actual mouse buttons click too loudly.

Anyway, the admin roles have always been intended as stepping-stones - something to be completed, and then exchanged for a different role. At the hospital, the whole original point from day 1 was to try and internally transfer to a permanent hands-on post. Whereas at this clinic, it's more the nature of the beast; for every minute you spend on procedures, you'll spend 10 doing paperwork - experimental medicine is just as rigidly controlled as you'd expect/hope.

As for the MS... well, can't really afford it, but thinking it might be necessary? Not thrilled about the idea, frankly, but it's the biggest thing I can think of that peers have and I don't.

Yes, independence is the primary goal. Or rather, the peace of mind that comes with independence. So tired of desperation.
Not in this to build a cottage out of cash bricks, but it would be nice not to have to worry about the future so much. Am naturally pretty low-upkeep (about 600/mo, hilariously low by London standards), but it's not a lifestyle I'd expect from a partner, let alone want to foist upon a hypothetical kid. Also, it'd be nice to drop a little on hobbies, nice food, and travel from time to time without feeling guilty and vulnerable.

Yeah... think that's it. To contribute to progress (in some small way), to have a handful of close friends, and to see the world a little bit at a time. Oh, and to get out of the inner bloody city.

Your setup sounds quite nice, actually. Friends, fulfillment, and freedom... don't think anyone could ask for more.  :)

@thd7t: Also fair. Really don't mind the extra work so long as it's appreciated... but that is the issue, isn't it?

Interesting points you raise.

Did sort of make the hospital program as a low-key side project; don't think anyone else really knew what went into it. The director herself said that she didn't want to know the details so long as it worked.
Did write a couple of similar programs as favours for co-workers - you're saying it might have been better to keep the higher-ups more directly informed and involved throughout the process?
Had thought that quietly automating my job without fuss would garner an 'ohmigod, this guy's a wizard, we need to keep him' response... but perhaps that just made it look too effortless (and replaceable)?

And another good point regarding the current place. Had thought that destroying yourself for the good of the clinic would be seen as a good thing - 'dedication' or suchlike (gah, turning into my dad).
Hadn't thought about the bigger picture; suppose it doesn't really matter if it's me or someone else who keeps things ticking, eh? So long as somebody does? And saving one or two techs' wages is probably completely meaningless to a pharmaceutical company. Hm...

From a strategic perspective, a MS degree might just be the best move, then?
Truth be told, there is an element of cowardice involved - never been in debt before (never even owned a credit card) and don't know how to manage it, and am seeing a lot of friends get wrecked by student debt right now. Ex is ~$40k in the hole, for example, and while she now has a nice lecturer position to show for it, she still probably won't be fully paid off until age ~32+.
Don't really know where to go from here, to be honest. Guess that's why I'm asking for advice on the internet, heh.

@lhamo: Heh, appreciating the vote of confidence; but in that case, how does one avoid ending up in the wrong places, or identify when they've done so? Have a little problem with excessive loyalty - spent four years in a relationship that was honestly unsalvageable after two, for example.

Freelancing - or any form of self-employment - is forbidden under my visa, though.

Changing jobs is possible - in theory. Been trying to break into the NHS for a while now, but without results thus far.
Honestly don't have many proper on-paper qualifications or certificates, beyond a BSc. Everything else is self-taught, which doesn't hold up well against specialists.
Trying to figure out if the time investment and debt load of graduate school would level the field enough to be worth it.


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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.
« Reply #4 on: October 22, 2016, 06:14:49 PM »
I think that you seem to be willing to listen to the advice you have sought, and based on your writing, I believe that you are taking a critical eye to it. As lhamo has pointed out, you are a stellar employee. You go above and beyond all the time and you use your initiative.

I think that without making the work/improvement to overall workflow that you provide clear, higher-ups don't realize how good they have it with you. You don't have to self-promote, but you might want to run your extra work/projects by people above you, so they see the benefit continuously. They may also have ideas that help. Either way, it makes them feel like you are part of the team. That can go a long way to making your jobs better.

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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.
« Reply #5 on: October 22, 2016, 06:50:10 PM »
Where do you want to live? If you've only a year left on your UK visa, why are you trying for a permanent position - will it give you a longer visa?  Do you want to stay in the UK?  If so, you need to read up on the immigration rules and find out what options are available if you are to stay past the 26 year old cut-off, and start going for the jobs which will meet immigration requirements.

Don't underestimate your ability to write programs, you are way ahead of what most people can do.  A good programmer in London will be in demand, reasonably well paid and probably in the "skilled visa" set.  Make yourself a CV that emphasises your strengths (self-starting programming skills that solve problems and make administrative processes more efficient, with real world examples, for a start) and look for a new job. 

Good luck.


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Re: Am I doing something wrong? Don't feel like I'm accomplishing much.
« Reply #6 on: October 22, 2016, 07:37:23 PM »
From my perspective it sounds like a mix of impatience and the wrong employer.

It takes time to gain the experience to move up. It takes time for new positions to open up (hence always be looking outside your current employer).

My 2cents keep job hopping until you find an employer who values your ability to do more. It's unlikely you'll find this from a government department (don't rule them out, but pay special attention to their internal culture when interviewing).

Don't write off your previous work as a waste, it looks fucking good on.CV I if you articulate that you completed 12 months work in 4 months.


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