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Self discovery, etcetera

Mar 7, 2009 • Karen

So. I'm thinking of going to law school next year.

The Big Plan® was that I'd work for two years, pay down my loans somewhat, wait for Nelson to graduate, and then go off to law school. I applied this year so that Nelson and I would know where I was headed in advance (for job-getting/bar-taking purposes), with the intent to defer. It was a good plan. But I don't think I will be able to stick with it.

Because of my job.

I feel guilty because on every count other than the actual work part, my job is pretty good. I wear jeans and t-shirts to work. My co-workers are friendly. We get free snacks and catered lunch three days a week (though this caused me to gain fifteen pounds, so it's not entirely a good thing). We have a Wii and an XBox 360 in the office, so sometimes if I stay late I'll play Rock Band with the developer team.

But the work part bores and/or terrifies me. I commute an hour to work and go blind staring at a screen in a dimly-lit room (the designers are apparently vampires; they yell if anyone turns on the overhead lights). I explain how to delete guestbook signatures or change one's site title for the thousandth time, again and again and again. Some of our users are merely technically incompetent, which is just fine, but many are shockingly stupid or abusive. Reading help requests in all- or rotating-caps, sans punctuation, and with so many spelling errors that I can hardly decipher them both demolishes my faith in humanity and makes my inner grammar queen whimper in a corner.

When I was hired, I was hired as a support person, but was told that there would be opportunities to other work as well using my Photoshop/webmonkey background. My first project was overhauling the knowledge base (FAQ); I wasn't doing help tickets at all. I did update the FAQ a bit, but then I was pulled off to do tickets and never finished it. The guy who hired me is now the boss-of-my-bosses instead of my boss. My bosses haven't said a word to me about doing other projects; all they care about is getting tickets done. And now they've put me doing live chat with Premium users two days a week, even though I know nothing about billing/premium services and am extremely uncomfortable interacting with semi-hostile strangers in real time. The first day I actually cried a little. The second day the chat software broke so I only did it for a half hour. We'll see what happens next week. Live support terrifies me and is not what I was hired to do. It is not a good fit.

And besides all that, I'm mediocre at my job. I'm honest-to-goodness bad at getting my quota of tickets done, let alone pulling down the numbers of some of my coworkers. Some of it is not knowing everything there is to know about the product. Some of it is always checking to make sure that the problem is with the users, not a bug, even when I know what mistake odds are they're making. I'm not comfortable giving advice that might be wrong. Some of it is Windows XP (SO slow compared with my mac, even though my work computer's specs are better!).

But most of all it's motivation. I neither like nor believe in what I'm working on, so I let myself procrastinate or get distracted at every opportunity. I numb my brain with the Internet and junk food from the office kitchen. I'm not going to be a tech support person--or any related career--for the rest of my life. This job pays my rent and my loans and my savings and that's it. Without some upside to look to--I just don't engage.

I know I'm not lazy. I know there are better matches out there. I loved working at SPARC because my bosses were awesome and I believed in the cause. It helped that I was mostly doing creative work (website maintenance and videomaking), but even the parts that I wasn't comfortable with (event planning/negotiation with conference sponsors via email) were still worth it. What it comes down to is this: I'd rather stuff envelopes in the presence of Heather Joseph kicking John Conyers' ass than help some illiterate 14-year-old add sparkles and right-click disabling to her Twilight fan site.

If I weren't planning to go to law school, or were planning to go later, I'd just go back to job searching to find something better. But even assuming I could find a better position that still paid the bills, no one's going to hire me if they're just going to lose me in a year, especially given the state of the economy. Law school *is* my out. Law school *is* my better match. Getting started on my real career path a year early can't be a bad thing, even if the timing isn't ideal in the short term. Every year I save increases the odds I get tenure while I'm still young enough to have kids. :p

I think taking this job has been a valuable experience, though, much in the same way studying abroad was: it made my weaknesses known. If I take a job I don't believe in, I won't just be unhappy--I'll also probably not be very good at it, defeating the purpose. If I go the Biglaw route, I'll need to do so at one of those IP firms that's roughly aligned with my beliefs, even if it ends up not being the highest-paying of my options. (Wilson Sonsini has been recommended to me as one such firm; hopefully there's others.) I need to make the most of law school so I can get as many steps to getting a professorship--befriending profs, doing research, getting stuff published, getting clerkships--done as quickly as possible so I can get to what I really want in my career.