How I got fired from the worst job of my life

This was my view. All day.Working 9-5 in data entry for a widget manufacturer on a Birmingham industrial estate may not sound very exciting. And by God you'd be right. It made life at The Office look like a dream job.

And yet there I was, typing numbers into a stock control system all day. I'd finished college and couldn't decide what to do with my life so I went to a temp agency and asked them to give me something to keep me ticking over.

I sat in a small grey office with 2 other people (who frighteningly had made this company their career choice) and typed numbers from 3x5 cards into a computer.

After a couple of days of doing this, I started to get creative. Some of the entries were already on the system and I noticed that if the first screen of data matched what was on the card, the second screen of data was also up to date. So I started to skip the second screen for those cards.

At the end of the week, I was called into another office. The man told me that many of the entries I was supposed to be updating were wrong. And so he was firing me.

There wasn't much else to say so I left.

As I walked through the concrete streets of Aston, I realised that my assumption about skipping some of the entries had been wrong. I felt ashamed. I'd been fired from a job so crappy, a trained monkey could do it.

And I also felt enormously relieved. I had my freedom back. From that point on I never took another dull, ill-fitting job.

I was fortunate that my data entry job was such an awful fit that it was obvious (to both me and my employer). The real danger is when you're in a job that seems bearable so you stay just a little bit longer... and then a little bit longer...

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  • I know that feeling of going to a temp job, looking round the room and feeling a mixture of pity and awe that other people were choosing this as a permanent job. The day I saw an intern look the same way at me was the day I realised I had stayed too long in a 'bearable' job myself.

  • Wow, yes that's a good sign - though not a very comfortable one!

  • Annamunford

    This is so true. Having made several moves in my past career before becoming a freelancer, it always amazed me when I met people who had been in the same company for their whole careers - treating me like I was unsuccessful, simply because I made decisions at the right time to leave roles, when they spent the whole day moaning about their job and really needed a wake up call themselves!  It's all to do with the FEAR... and those who don't tackle the fear... don't get anywhere in life.

  • Phil Barley

    Love it, John.
    I did two weeks work experience at a truck garage in Norwich where my job was greasing the axles of freshly hosed-down rubbish lorries. Being covered in household waste concentrate STILL wasn't enough to deter me from pursuing a further 7.5 years in the motor trade before I finally 'gave in' and followed my passions.
    5 years later and I was standing in front of a 16 piece big band in the West End playing Dean Martin in The Rat Pack. (and I smelled a whole lot better, too).
    I have since been paid to travel to some amazing places, do a 'job' I love and been thanked for the privilege. 
    Keep up the good work, John. 

  • Morgs2k

    John. Your e-mails are awesome and good brain fodder for the weekend ahead. Keep it up

  • What a wonderful transition Phil! Would love to know more - have you written about it anywhere?

  • Odd how some people look down on freelancers isn't it? Always been a mystery to me.

  • Thankyou! I really appreciate that.

  • carolwanderwoman

    I've had some shitty jobs in my life, like licking envelopes but at least it gave me a chance to daydream.  Its those bearable ones that are hard to extricate yourself from.  When I gave a former boss of mine my notice he said better the devil you know i.e. stay here with the rest of us and rot.  I was screaming in my head NO and it was the kickstart to my long and varied freelance life  from working in the music industry to running a session agency - setting up one of the first on-site massage companies in UK - stress management - psychosynthesis therapist - hypnotherapist and writer. Boredom is just not in my vocabulary.

  • Rosa_sutcliffe

    Oh, so close to the bone!
    When you're out the other side seems so possible....
    Sitting in real danger - in job that doesn't fit
    How to move into the next square?

    Help?!!

  • Love it! I got fired from an abysmal job stacking shelves for a supermarket (not that I'm bitter or anything, but I have refused to shop there ever since). You could say it was rather a low point in my life. But since then I have become a happy freelancer and I'm now starting to carve a creative living for myself...I'm not exactly rich, but my life is my own and I never have to clock-watch!!

  • Freedom.....aah...just can't get enough of it! Freedom is the new creative!

  • Freedom! That's it in a nutshell 🙂

  • Jaybezo

    John, I can so relate. And what's even worse is when you're good at something and are working in an impossible environment. Good pay can make people stay at toxic jobs long after they know they should leave, especially in this economy.

    It takes courage to leave a bad fit and jump into the unknown, but sometimes that's what it takes to begin the next chapter of your life.

    (And I'll bet after you were fired from that job, your friends said it was the best thing that could ever happen to you.)

    Thanks for your honesty, and for all you do.

    @jaybezo on Twitter

  • PLB

    Not yet... Any tips?

  • I like your comment about "so you stay a little bit longer.. a little bit longer" AND can relate to the comment below. I've completely pigeon holed myself where I make good money doing something pretty specialized and when I consider looking for other opportunities... I realize I would be starting all over, and at the beginning with regards to money.

    All I want is to walk into my boss' office and tell her I'm giving her my notice and leaving the industry for GOOD to persue my own dream (http://marriedtoachef.com)

  • Sab

    Love this. It's much easier to leave a job that makes you want to bawl your eyes out than leave one that is 'doable' or that you can 'put up with'. Although maybe ultimately they're two sides of the same coin - one breaks your spirit pretty much after the first week, the other can break your spirit over the course of a few years. Here's to taking chances and knowing you're worth more! x
    http://liferockstar.wordpress.com

  • Jules

    I love it ! I've done loads of jobs from working in a bakery filling cream cakes at 18 (enter my lifelong weight problem), to training as a nurse, doing an engineering degree, being a production manager, training as a teacher, and finally winding up as a freelance management consultant. Each time, as soon as I started HATING it, I left and did something else. Am just about to do the same at 49. My Dad says - "Will you never just grow up?". The answer is NO!!!
    Feel the fear and do it anyway!

  • wow, thank you for hearing my silent scream as I waver between the insanity of doing what I always did, cave in to the need to justify my existence / pay the mortgage with jobs that would just end up stealing my identity, and the glimmer of motivation to reach for my personal star.  

  • A great story.  I cleaned men's toilets, A1 northbound - and then southbound.  It's always encouraging to hear how other people moved onto something infinitely more rewarding. 

    http://findyourdreamjob.wordpress.com

  • Jacki Crowe

    I am in a job which I used to like more than disliked but now I am like a caged animal and feeling trapped. I am working through your book but its slow going and work is getting in the way!!!!
    Its good to know that it is possible to 'play' for a living. Great help. Thanks

  • If you do something every single today to further your escape, you'll get there Jacki

  • Nice blog Sarah - is that yours?

  • Make sure you hang out with people who have escaped dull work so you can keep motivated - makes a huge difference

  • Sounds like you're a scanner Jules!

  • Indeed Sab!

  • Yes earning good money can be too enticing to leave. If you're disciplined, you can start saving a buffer to give you more freedom...

  • Thanks Jay!

  • That's great Katherine!

  • One step at a time - one play project at a time

  • 'Better the devil you know' - wow, I should put that one in my book in the powerlessness bit! Glad you didn't listen to him Carol.

  • Nancyhey

    Maybe that widget company was someone's passion.

  • Jacki Crowe

    Its so good to know there are other people out there like me. I have gone from job to job but am driven to leave when the boredom sets in even when its left us without an income. My family dont get it but I just cant carry on when I dread the day ahead and am not giving my all. I am 52 and still dont really know what I want to do when I grow up! Someone said to me yesterday that his job feels like an endurance test. A perfect description of doing something you dislike for a living.
    So happy my daughter introduced me to your book John. She, thankfully, is finding her way at a young age and doing more of what she wants.

  • Jacki Crowe

    And my intent is to remove the word 'boredom' from mine

  • And it sounds like you might be a scanner too Jacki

  • That's absolutely true. But it was most certainly my nightmare.

  • Michaeljjmcdonald

    Yea your last comment so Right I stay on in my job as it's bearable but very stressful but pays well but it's just grinding the zest in me down!

    Really need to get out but with a mortgage kid at uni and another
    One doing gcse's the realist in me says stay? The system has got me by the proverbials...

  • It's not something to be rushed Michael but also not something to give up on

  • My last job as an employee, I quit after 5 hours. Best decision I've made in years. Freelancing has given me: more spare time, better pay, less stress, no mandatory commuting, flexibility, freedom. Whenever a recruiter calls now, it's like a meaningless whiff from a distant, dreary past. And to think that I never pictured myself being self-employed sooner. It's quite astonishing, really, that so many of us accept the employee reality as the only viable option.