should I just be grateful to have a job, even though I’m bored?

A reader writes:

I started my job about eight months ago, and I’m so, so bored with it. It’s customer service/phone type work at a shipping/transportation company. I only work about 15 hours a week because I’m a full time student. The company is great to work for; they really treat their part time employees well. My manager is great, and my coworkers are mostly great.

My issue is that I really am not suited to working in customer service. I’m naturally an introvert, and although I’m good at my job and don’t HATE it, it’s just not really for me and it’s a lot more draining and stressful than it would be to a non-introvert. Also, it has nothing to do with the focus on my studies (a social science field). I just feel like I answer the same questions from customers over and over again, day in, day out. There really isn’t much variety, and I never feel like I accomplished anything. They can’t really give me any additional jobs/responsibilities either because I’m just here part-time. The unfortunate thing is that I’m not really qualified to do much else until I get a BA or higher.

I talked to my manager yesterday and said that if there WERE any projects she could put me on to assist with, that I’d really appreciate it because I think my talents are really better suited to working with data, reports, etc. She agreed with me about that and said she’d consider it and see what she could do, but there are rarely projects like that.

The other issue for me is that since I’m working in a field that has nothing to do with my actual field of study, I feel like I’m missing out on opportunities to get hands-on experience in my future career, but I haven’t come across any paid internships yet either. I’ll have my AA in a couple weeks, and I’m transferring to a university to finish my BA in the fall. I just feel like I’m missing out on valuable opportunities by working here, and I need the hands-on experience for grad school (my field is one in which grad school is basically a requirement to work in it professionally).

So what should I do? How can I try to maintain interest in my job and deal with the fact that I’m stuck with a bad fit due to a lack of credentials? Am I just being totally ungrateful that I have a job that treats me decently?

If I understand correctly, the following is true:

* You have a paid job because you need money, but you find the work boring.
* You would prefer to work in your field of study, but you’ve been unable to find a job in your field that you’re qualified for and that pays.

If those things are both true, then you resign yourself to staying where you are because you need money and there aren’t currently options to get it in more interesting ways.

Or you decide to pursue an unpaid internship in your field — either in place of your paying job if you can afford that, or in addition to it.

But paying work isn’t always about fulfillment. Sometimes it’s about earning a necessary income, and it sounds like that’s the case here.

As for how to maintain interest in it, you maintain interest in because it is paying you, and you are interested in having an income.

However, if you need experience in your field to get into grad school, and you’re sure that grad school is the right path for you, then you need to work with your school to find ways to help you get that experience. That might mean taking an unpaid internship. If it does, you’ll have to decide if it’s worth it to you to do that in order to meet that prerequisite for grad school.

(And just to freak you out further, I’d be cautious about this line of thinking: “The unfortunate thing is that I’m not really qualified to do much else until I get a BA or higher.” Your BA probably isn’t going to qualify you to do much else in and of itself either. And by that, I don’t mean that you need a graduate degree — I mean that a degree on its own isn’t much of a qualification for anything. You need work experience, and you need a demonstrated track record of achievement, and you need the ability to communicate clearly and concisely, and all sorts of other things that a degree won’t give you on its own. So make sure that you’re being really realistic about what it will take to get a job you’ll be happy with, so that you can start positioning yourself well for that now and aren’t blindsided after you graduate.)

As for your last question, about whether you’re just being ungrateful that you have a job that pays and treats you well: I’d don’t know that it’s useful to think of it as ungrateful (although it’s certainly true that many people would simply be glad to have a job that pays right now), but it’s perhaps a bit unrealistic to think that you should be able to find a job that’s fulfilling and interesting when you admittedly don’t have many qualifications. Being really honest with yourself about what you are and aren’t qualified for right now will probably help you make better decisions and see what options you do or don’t have, as well as point you toward a path that could eventually take you somewhere you’d rather be.

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