Where did I go wrong to be working in a sewer

Postby AthenaTh » Fri Dec 09, 2016 6:23 pm

I've been disappointed with the way my life has been going for a while now and I decided to write about it here because no one I know seems to want to hear it anymore. It's not the worst case scenario for sure so sometimes I feel like I don't even have the right to complain about it because I know that so many other people are in much more difficult situations than I am. I mean, I'm healthy and I make good money so what do I really have to complain about? The guilt of that makes me feel like such a whiney entitled person because I really don't have it all that bad.

I've been working in water/wastewater treatment for over a year now and it's something I got into because I thought it would be a stable career that I can eventually use my biology degree to advance in. I have done sales, retail and customer service and a bit of environmental consulting in the past and everything I was doing just seemed so meaningless to me. I had never grown up with an idea of what I would like for a career unlike my friends who had aspirations of being a doctor, teacher, etc. I just felt lost and like I couldn't commit myself to one thing like that. I went for a biology degree being a person who is interested in nature and environment and I guess I just never pictured how it could all come together in a career for me.

Today, I just feel so discouraged and hopeless. I know I'm not the only one who works here who feels like they're not able to make a difference or have a good feeling about coming to work or are able to advance in the company. This just isn't that much of a team atmosphere here and the bosses dont want anything changed at all. They've been doing it the same way for over 10 years and it seems like they don't want people learning more about their jobs than they need to because so many people have come and gone here that their attitude is "why would we put the effort into training you. You're just going to end up leaving soon anyway". It sort of makes it a self fulfilling prophecy I feel.

It doesn't help me that I'm a female in a predominantly male work force and that I'm the youngest person there by 20 years. I feel that I don't belong and this is alright because this place is really just a stepping stone for me anyway. I find it difficult though because my boss is very condescending towards me and will even make offhand comments that make me feel uncomfortable like talking about my body in an indirect way or talking to me about how all the young girls wear yoga pants these days while looking me up and down. He's very condescending towards me too and will refer to me as "her" right in my presence as if I don't warrant enough respect for him to speak directly to me. It's a small municipality too so I don't feel comfortable reporting this or even bringing it up to him because I don't even think he knows how to not be like that because he's so old that calling me "young lady" is just natural for him. I feel very disrespected and I don't enjoy his company at all. I cringe whenever we have to be in the room together. It's especially bad when he's in the company of other people and not so bad when we're alone together oddly enough.

The nature of this job makes me feel belittled and dirty and like I've failed in my life to end up doing this for a living. The job at this level is the most unglamorous thing I ever imagined myself doing. The other day for example, we had to transfer large chunks of frozen, dark brown sewage with bits of hair and garbage embedded in the ice up a hill from one tank to the next. That's just the way they wanted it done and actually the way they do things around here isn't right and is technically illegal due to contamination of the surrounding area when we were flipping the chunks of ice out of the clarifier. The reason we ever had to do that in the first place is because the process has been upset and this would have never happened if another piece of equipment wasn't down for the last 2 months. They don't even seem to care when there are vital pieces of equipment down or they don't seem too eager to fix things even when it makes our job that much harder.

Being new in the industry, I have little knowledge on what I can do to make things easier. I don't get the mentorship I expected from my superiors and they seem to not care if they develop other employees in order to have the place running more efficiently. The only person around here who allegedly knows how to do all the mechanical work necessary doesn't seem to want to get it done or teach anyone else how to do it so it's like a standstill. Day in day out we just do the same daily routine while the whole place is falling apart and nothing gets fixed. It isn't even always a case of not enough in the budget but usually it's the laziness and apathy of the people in charge.

I feel like I haven't even been given a fair chance to like this industry because of the place I started and their poor attitude towards teaching employees what they need to know to do their jobs. The people who care about me say that I should just go do something else but it isn't easy. I feel like I have no marketable skills and I've already put over $8000 into courses for this industry and I'm going to be doing exams in 6 months to get another level of certification so I feel like I need to see it through. It's just so hard to be in the present here and enjoy my life and feel like I'm making a positive contribution to society when I'm doing something as low down as cleaning used feminine products and rags our of a sewer by the stinking bucketful and that's all I get to do at work besides sit around waiting for the clock. Whenever there is anything technical to be done, I'm never the one who gets to have the experience, they always send me to do the horribly nasty jobs because I suppose I don't complain because at least it's something to do other than sit around and be bored.

My sister says I should go back to school for something but I don't even know what. I feel like if I just up and leave this without waiting to get the next level of certification it will just be another thing I've failed at. I know it doesn't help to make comparisons but my roommate is a teacher and just loves her job and what she's doing is something that actually matters and I can't help but to feel like where did I go so wrong??
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Postby Richard@DecisionSkills » Sat Dec 10, 2016 1:31 am

Where did you go so wrong?

Well, there is a large gap between how you believe the world is suppose to work and how it actually works. You went into a government job with beliefs about efficiency and working together as a team to improve and change things for the better. You see obvious things that can be improved. For a person with your beliefs about the world it is understandably frustrating.

I worked in government for 20 years. It doesn't matter if it is a small, midsize or large municipality or government organization, by design they are inefficient. I was in charge at one point of a group of men 20+ years older than me. I was the youngest manager they had ever had...but that was the problem. It wasn't my age. It was that I was just the next in a long line of managers. The old manager changed it to A, the next to B, the next to C, and now I would be changing it back to A. The employees see this cycle and recognize that true change in government moves at a glacial pace.

You are young and inexperienced so you don't know how government "doesn't work". You want it to work. All the old, experienced people you are working with are teaching you the way it DOES work, not the way it SHOULD work. Like I said, there is a large gap in your beliefs. You want it to work like it should, not the way that it does.

You have two choices:
-1- Leave
-2- Stay

If you leave then you take the experiences with you and don't look back. If you stay, you need to find out how government does work, not how it should work. This means take about 5 years of your life to stop thinking you know a better way of how it should be done and learn how it is being done. Once you learn how it is done and the gap is more narrow, you can begin to use the government system to make positive changes, however glacial they might be.
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Postby AlexD » Thu Jan 05, 2017 11:00 pm

Awesome comment, Richard! Yes, you can see from what is happening in so many countries, how slow governments address let alone solve the true needs of people. It is the exact same with the educational system, which in some cases is guided by the government and in others is not, and yet in others it is a mix, so you have two inefficiencies molded together....And the same applies to government positions left and right.
If you are the type of person who wants to get things accomplished well, at a good efficient pace, you need to be part of a team that has this culture. Normally this is the private sector and even there you will likely have to experience a couple of jobs before you find your fit. Staying for five years at a government job like Richard suggests will definitely change your culture, but you have to be willing to go through that mill, which I personally don't recommend if your work ethic is so different, being the person that like s fast pace and things done as well and as quickly as safely possible.
Your boss sounds like the typical entitled by seniority government employee and rest assured you will never change his mind. I worked at a state hospital for one year and I encountered several excruciatingly lazy and gossipy senior nurses that I confronted directly on a couple of occasions. I was working significantly harder than them yet they got paid three times my salary. I resolved to leave and did so exactly a year and half an hour after my first day of work there. That was the funny part. I left because I recognized how this mentality has the ability to suck you in and encourages the development of very bad work habits indeed. With that being said, I have to add that in that same hospital there were outstanding nurses who were working their butts off and had the seniority as well. Trouble was, they were also doing the jobs of those lazy ones. They had no intent to leave. All the power to them. Do what you think is the best for you. Learn what you have decided to learn at that job and move on with your life.
You have done nothing wrong. You are new and are still learning. Those who commit to lifelong learning are the ones who become successful. Be where you are if you see value in learning. Also keep in mind that your boss has probably seen many people leave and it takes time to earn trust. You will need to learn to set limits with condescending behaviors, but that comes with experience. Then more experience, you have, the better you can fend for yourself. I was very subdued when I first started nursing at age 35. Two years later, I was taking no more BS. It just takes time and resolve. Be respectful yet firm. Learn to grow and you will develop the ability to spot better opportunities.
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Postby cynthialeighton » Fri Jan 06, 2017 12:22 am

You say it is a stepping stone. One way to get through is to have *other* interests that consume your attention when you're not at work. Maybe even something as simple as a blog about biology so that you can explore what you want your future to include. That way you'd be reading stuff you're interested in and, well, thinking about it in the background during your work hours.

Here's a model for you, someone who initially just wanted to explain science to friends in an interesting way (far beyond that now - I don't mean to start being like this but being yourself and growing something yourself) http://www.iflscience.com/
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