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I've been working in the tech industry for the past 5 or so years, in various roles as Business Analyst, Scrum Master, PM, etc. But I haven't been able to hold a job for more than 2 years. I've never quit a job in my life, it seems like after a while I just run out of steam and lose my job.

My first job was at a more dev focused company. I lasted about a year and a half there before I was laid off. It was a pandemic related layoff which makes it easier to sell in job interviews, but I know it was because at the end I was one of the lower performing people in my role when cuts needed to be made. Despite starting in person, about a year in we all went fully remote for pandemic reasons and eventually I found my work quality going down hill. I find working from home way more enjoyable, but I can also self introspect and say my work output is better in an office with my teammates, and I think that has a role in me ranking low.

My second job was fully remote, and I worked there for 2 years before eventually being PIP'd and then let go. I once again started out strong, and I had good evaluations for the first year or so, but eventually my work product went downhill and in the end a poorly handled project was the end. I think never working in person got to me; everyone said I was great at running scrum meetings and other work that I could lead collaboratively, but I know that work I needed to do on my own suffered and I struggled to get things done on time. There's a bit of work anxiety that played into that, and some ADHD as well, but I think mostly the lack of the in person structure did me in.

I'm on my next job now, I've been here a few months, and things were mostly going well, but we've started getting into my first quarterly evaluations and I'm seeing myself start to fade. I've got 3 different meetings with direct supervisors on my calendar, and post-meeting emails with a list of items to improve on. Suffice to say I'm getting flashbacks to the precursors to my last PIP.

I'm terrified that maybe the reality is that I can't hold a job. It's clear the common factor here is me, and this is a repetition of my own failings and not just a bad employer. But I just don't know what to do with myself if I can't work a real job.

I'm setting myself to the task of diligently implementing the improvements recommended by my boss. But I know in my heart of hearts that once your set for a PIP all the emails and meetings are just building a paper trail to fire you; they're not actually looking to improve you.

So I'm trying to figure out where I go from here? Do I jump back in the job pool and try again? Do I accept that I'm bad at remote desk work and pick up a job that's 100% collaborative in person and hands on? I'm sure I could succeed in work as a barista or a shelf stocker, but that's not the life I thought I would have or went to school for. I'm willing to accept that I may never climb the corporate ladder, but I fear the reality is that I may never manage to hold on to the first rung.

What advice can you give me to put me back on the right track?

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    I think remote work isnt for you. Also, you'll need to reword this question so it is in a format that is useful for everyone (see workplace.stackexchange.com/help/how-to-ask) or the question will be closed as being in an incorrect format.
    – solarflare
    Apr 2 at 1:40
  • I think you're right about that. I have a sleep issue which makes waking up early difficult, so being able to roll out of bed at 9:00 has been a godsend. But it really puts into perspective how nice my first job was for me with a work culture of starting around 10:00 or 11:00. Apr 2 at 2:41
  • Sounds like you've identified the problem, which is the first step toward fixing it.... If you're starting out strong and then fading, do you know what causes the fade? Can you make some change to recapture that initial strong stretch on a regular basis? Apr 2 at 5:38
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    Does all your feedback across all the jobs say roughly the same, or is it a different area that is lacking each time? Also, did you see a doctor for your sleep problem? What did they say? If they said "just live with it", maybe it's high time for a second opinion?
    – nvoigt
    Apr 2 at 5:41
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    Whether a PIP is a paper trail ready for a firing or a genuine attempt to help you is very company specific, you're doing the right thing by taking it seriously - that's all that is under your control.
    – deep64blue
    Apr 2 at 20:55

1 Answer 1

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Your situation sounds very familiar to me, though you're a little worse off than I have been. I was diagnosed with ADHD as an adult. It affects me at work and affected me as a student. I've had two jobs where, in retrospect, it wasn't working for either party. I wasn't enjoying myself, I wasn't focused and I wasn't delivering value. I was keenly aware that this was a 'me' issue and felt like I was failing at life. At the time I considered going back to being a postman or a forklift driver. In retrospect, I was Peter principled: In both cases I was hired into a position where I excelled. And then I grew into a position which required skills that I had demonstrated previously, but cannot reliably apply.

The takeaway is: I put myself into an environment where I was never going to do well. And I did so because I didn't know what I needed.

You've asked a rather general question: Where to go from here?

Well, I decided that it doesn't matter what job I picked next. I could either waste time on a dead-end job, or on a 'career' job that doesn't work out. So I picked something that kept my hands busy and left me plenty energised to do some self-reflection.

Essentially, I needed to figure out my "owner's manual". I learned:

  • To list characteristics of a 'me'-proof environment, so I don't take a job that definitely won't work out.
  • How motivation and attention work for me. (Hint: INCUP)
  • To understand what tasks I find energising and draining.
  • Ways of evaluating my performance.
  • Strategies to apply the above. This I needed help with from a therapist / job coach specialising in ADHD.

My goal was not to maximize my productivity, but to understand the general shape of my reward function. And to understand my capabilities, the coping mechanisms I have at my disposal and what early signs of being overtasked are. Mostly, I learned to accept failure and to move on.

Took me a few years to lay the groundwork. I am now more productive, don't suffer from impostor syndrome as much and have a job and work-life balance that are sustainable in the long term with opportunities for personal and professional growth. It's not easy, not perfect and I'm not done, but I am content and often happy.

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