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Did I Waste 4 Years In College And $30,000 To Get A Receptionist Job?

I didn't start college until I was 25. My parents had a good income but they blew it all on garbage, so I didn't qualify for many grants, but they didn't help me out so I had to wait until their income no longer counted against me when it came to loans and grants. I worked all through college as an administrative assistant, graduated when I was 29, then worked abroad for a year. When I moved back to the USA, the only job I could find was as a receptionist. An almost 31 year-old receptionist with a degree working alongside 20 year olds who are there for their first job.

I hate my job. I feel like people treat me like I'm an idiot because of my position. Most people act like they are better than me, but I have to smile through everything or else I get yelled at. What's worse is that I've interviewed for other positions at the company I work at, but I feel like I can't get a more satisfying job because people can't see past me being a receptionist. I think that I look/sound younger than I am so that doesn't help with people treating me seriously. I want to quit and find something else somewhere else, but I need the (little bit of) money. I know that I'm supposed to be grateful to have any job right now because the economy is tough, but it's so hard to go to work each day and suffer the mental rot of a job that is unchallenging and unsatisfying, especially when I know that it's not going to lead to anything else. I know that I am smart and that I can do so much more, but no one will give me a chance.
classydame classydame 31-35 33 Responses Jul 18, 2011

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You have to strive for success it does not simply fall in to your lap

This is my exact situation. After I graduated college, I went abroad to teach English for a year. When I came home I couldn't get a job. It was so difficult to even get an opportunity for my current job as a receptionist. Now I'm really depressed because I feel like there's no where to go from here. It's not going to lead anywhere else and I just feel stuck. Four years of school, thousands of dollars in debt, only for a minimum wage job answering phones and scheduling appointments.

I am in pretty much the same boat as you but I started my job out of college I've been there for 13 horrifying years. I wish I was dead everyday I am there. It's a dead end job and everyone treats me like ****.

Omg, I feel exactly like you! I was wondering if maybe it was my attitude that made people look down on me, but it isn't i'm a perfectly confident woman. What I hate about this job the most is that, these idiots I work with think they have the right for they have a little better position than me, to treat me like an idiot and flaunt their orders at me, like I am nothing. I hate this job! And sometimes I wish I could quit and never return, but I can't... economy sucks, there are no jobs out there, at least none in my career...

It provides me some relief just to know that there are others in the same situation! I'm also a college grad, got a degree in communications because I thought it would make me marketable yet I am so afraid of being stuck with higher ed. assistant/receptionist jobs for the rest of my life! I'm only 23, so don't have much to complain about I know, but I'm still worried. Just took a new job after working a year as an office assistant for a small college. This job looked good on paper ('specialist' sounded better than assistant) but it turns out all I'm doing basic admin stuff, plus now I get to take on the responsibilites of my direct supervisor (also assistant) since she decided to retire all of a sudden. So now I'm overworked & underpaid. Already looking for something else & will bolt at the first good opportunity, though I worry it will just be another assistant job.

And I'm with cancan9! While there is nothing wrong with working as an assistant, it can be hard to explain to people that you are a college grad yet now you're just filing & answering phones. Makes you feel like everyone is looking down & judging you.

Thank you! Now I know I'm not alone! I have a student loan to pay off, and have a Bachelor's Degree. I've been pigeon-holed into "assistant"-type positions most of my life now. Do you know how embarrassing it is to say I have a degree, yet I'm someone's filer/faxer/phone answerer? While I'm grateful to be employed in this economy, I'm horrified to have this kind of job. I have 20+ years until retirement--how am I mentally going to cope with the unsatisfying, unchallenging job for that long??

Yes, yes I do! Wtf it's horrible and yes it is embarrassing. This lady retired and they made me start doing her job too, ordering **** for the company and makes copies? Really that's what I was hired for? I wish the place would burn down with everyone in it

Perhaps so but at least i'm not impolite.

I have a bachelors in accounting. I run the office for a family owned commercial real estate company and besides being the bookkeeper and office manager and leasing space to tenants, i also am the company secretary. Basically, i do everything. I've had two rich arrogant older men be extremely nasty to me over the phone in the 2 1/2 years I have worked there. They were not familar with our company dynamics and treated me like a I was some worthless idiot because I am the secretary (on top of everything else). Our tenants love me and I always try to help them out asap and as a result, they are always kind to me when something goes wrong (such as maintenance issues). <br />
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My advice, tell your boss about the super nasty people you come across. Not all but just the particulary offensive people. Your boss should know who is disrespecting his/her employees. Also, i never get defensive over the phone/in person. I am always pleasant and helpful so people NEVER have a reason to be rude or nasty. In fact, I am nicer to the mean people- don't give them ammo against you, CYA (cover your A$$) but make your communication with them short and succint..

Take up kundalini yoga and learn to connect with your higher self. This will point you to the more important things in life and you'll see your job for what it is. It need not define you. Learn about the economy and wny things are so tough and will continue to be so by viewing the documentary The Money Masters. They don't teach the truth about money in school or on the news because an enlightened populace is what the controllers fear the most....namaste!

This is the type of story I often hear and it makes me wonder why you would want to continue being down graded disrespected and often un reconized when you are actually in one of the most important positions in that business. There are options but now-a-day getting a degree is often like getting a receipt from a supermarket kind of a reminder of how much money you spent. My question to you is do you feel like you are getting paid what you are worth, and its it worth heart ache and pain?

I hear you honey! I'm one too (a receptionist). I've been one for a few years.<br />
When I was leaving school I had no idea what I wanted to do in life beyond writing and Irish dancing. I'm now nearly 30 and finally realised that I'm supposed to be in the graphic design industry because I LOVE all types of art and am forever making greeting cards for people and experimenting with graphics. I'm now studying for my diploma in graphic design around full time work.<br />
I hear your pain, and please don't think you're on your own. It's taken me ages but I've finally been able to turn my care factor down to zero. I work with a bunch of guys who think they are just "IT" and they're forever making stupid remarks and being condescending.<br />
Always remember that people that put you down will eventually get their karma; I strongly believe that and have witnessed it more than once.<br />
And always remember your own self-worth. Yes, it's tough, but the more you keep affirming to yourself how good you are, it'll keep you going. Trust me, because I'm there as well at the moment!<br />
Keep biding your time, be patient, and your time WILL come!<br />
~ Kristie xx

Whenever I see stories like this I have to wonder what you went to school for? Generally speaking people who find their way into your situation get a degree in a HIGHLY saturated field. I am guessing a business degree of some kind. At which point you are pretty much going to have to rely on connections alone. <br />
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The flip side to that you get a degree in a skill that is not really in demand. A good example is physics. Even multi-billion dollar companies only hire one or two of these guys. <br />
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Your age is another thing to consider as well. My former boss often times preferred to hire fresh out of college kids because you can pay them beans and exploit them without them realizing it. I know I was one such kid. <br />
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Anyway, I recommend finding a job applicable to your field. If you do not know what kind of job that is then search the net. If you have a fine arts degree then you will likely need a masters or PhD. Even then you can only really teach and you have to wait for professors to retire then. I guess all that is left to say is good luck.

I feel your pain. If I were you I would quit. No heads up, just an FU. That's what I did and I never felt better in my life! It opened up a whole new world for me. I got tired of the boss coming in at 1pm and saying "good morning" to me, then off for lunch at 3pm, back at 5pm then asking for a company meeting. I'm like, boss everyone is ready to go home. NO FING CONSCIENCE! One day we were having lunch in the middle of winter and his kids asked to go swimming afterwards. I laughed and reminded them it was snowing outside. They said, no we have an indoor pool. That was it! The next day I left a message on his machine telling him to take his job and shove it. Now I have my own business and I'm the boss. No indoor pool, but I come and go as I please! Good luck and don't let them hold you down!

Most people act like morons to people that who do jobs that they think are below them .I once worked for a gentleman that told everyone that worked for him that we were the ones that were important to the well being of the business and he owned the company. We all worked hard for him. Every Holiday he would get large jobs from our clients with unreal deadlines. Since these clients were our bread and butter we had to jump and jet done. We would fire up the place around the clock. It was nothing to see the owner at three in the morning come in and do some low grade task or fire up a grill out in the parking lot at noon to fix everyone lunch. He was also known for walking thru and handing everyone Gift cards from their favorite place. They can take everything you have away but the knowledge from you college degree you will always have. Remember these rude/crude people may find themselves doing a low grade task one of these days. Karma is a b……

I know this story is almost a year old. I just wanted to let you know that your story sounds very familiar. Where I work alot of the Administrative associates are educated people. Our front desk AA has a master degree in Social Work. I have a bachelors degree and my job does not require it all.<br />
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Good luck and no you did not waste your college years.

Be grateful that you have a steady job and income. There are executive assistants who have been unemployed for years because of the recession and people with degrees who cannot find work at all. Companies are choosing to be more selective and picking degree-holders for lower-skill jobs.

Your problem it seems is your image try some classic literature during your breaks or be seen to do something else that makes you look more intelligent.<br />
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Or be like musashi miyamoto (A peasent Samurai) and try to work outside of the system your in to acheive for example you could run your own business for a few years.

You're an idiot

I'll second Red Rubies' comments, with a bit of appending of my own. I retired early from a very well-paying career to go get an education in '07, and in four years, walked out with degrees in Poli-Sci and History. Now, I can't "get a job" with either of those degrees; I can, however, substitute at the local schools, and pursue a Masters in Education with certification in Social Sciences Education while doing so. <br />
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The problem is, there are too many college graduates. Think at the margins, as my micro-economics professor used to explain: The more college graduates there are (the greater the supply), the less valuable per graduate they become, so it becomes a buyer's (or "hirer's," as it were) market; *they* dictate the cost (negotiated salary) per graduate, not the graduates; only when the supply is reduced or the demand is increased will the "price" (negotiated salary) of college graduates increase. <br />
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Meanwhile, hang in there, and become an asset to your company, no matter how much it sucks. A highly competent clerical worker can run a department when the management is absent, if he or she knows how the department works. He (or she) can smooth out ripples, can move mountains. Think Radar O'Reilly, the character of MASH, who was the company clerk. Same thing. <br />
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Hang tough. Work hard. But not too hard. But recognize that you are not "indispensable." Case in point: Go to your local cemetery, and look around. You'll see a plethora of gravestones--some massive, some hardly visible. All identify someone who may have thought himself indispensable. But when he died, the company opened its doors the next day, did business, moved cash, moved products, moved services. As if he never was there. More important than your ego is your loved ones. *THEY* are the only ones for whom you are truly indispensable. Today. Right now.

Hmmm, a few points, if I may…<br />
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I agree with everything kyosaku stated. Years ago I worked at a company that had one of the most amazing employees. She was the receptionist and one of the smartest, most competent individuals that I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. She could multi-task anything and made herself very valuable. <br />
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She could have been promoted at any time, but she volunteered to me that she liked her job because it gave her flexibility, the pace made time fly, and at the end of the day she could leave and not have to bring any work “home.” She made good money (by her own admission, I never asked how much) and she was 35. <br />
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It is all about perspective.<br />
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When I read your story, and I’m sorry if this seems blunt, I noticed that you seem to have a fair amount of entitlement when in fact you have been extremely lucky: you went to school, finished your degree, worked abroad and are employed at a time when many people have been out of work for months. You appear to hold animosity towards your parents, your job, and your lack of progression in your professional life. I suspect (I can almost guarantee) that this can be seen by your employer.<br />
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So you have a degree and you are in a job you aren’t thrilled with. What are you doing to change this? Do you need more schooling? Gone are the days of a Bachelor’s degree guaranteeing you a job. Save up or look into the possibility of tuition reimbursement from your company. Even if they do not officially offer this, if you make a good enough case, I’m quite certain that they will help fund some job related education that you could take with you should you decide to leave.<br />
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It is tough to have a job that doesn’t challenge you, I understand this completely. That being said, I am a huge proponent of personal responsibility. Nobody owes you any sort of living and it’s up to you to make the changes you’d like to see.

Sometimes I feel the exact same way... I feel like I tried to do everything right. Go to college, get a graduate degree, work hard, care about the communirty but I am not being compensated and I struggle everyday- I should have done things differently cause I see a**holes/jerks/bullies make off better than me. I would try something else but at the end of the day, i am exhausted (not from teh work) but the emotional tiredness that comes from hating every second of my day and have no energy left- I need the money coming in from my job, but if I had 6 months to focus on me and my life w/o the headache of a job I hate and the drowning debt- I could move mountains! Good luck to you!

Having people settle for underemployment rather then unemployment is not much of an improvement. It's a wast for the workers and for the economy not to use resources, human to the maxim effect. Paying your dues, is a term to merely placate workers, since the competition for better jobs is fierce and opportunity is low. There is a big imbalance with workers far out numbering jobs. With the manipulation of the economy favoring the very rich who have little or no tax to pay, there is little need for a lot of products to be sold. If the middle class cannot afford to buy cars because they are heavily taxed and have low wage jobs, then you will just be selling Mercedes, BMW's and Ferrari's to the only remaining customers the super rich. The big factories making modest cars will close firing thousand of workers, while the low production, expensive cars will still need few workers. Henry Ford, a ruthless businessman knew enough that he had to pay his employees enough to buy the cars they produced, so that he could make more money. Greed has a toll.

The economy stinks and the companies no longer care about their workers, they only care about making a quick buck. I don't understand why more people are not upset. Not that long ago if you had a college degree you were set for life . The companies wanted smart people who could learn though out their life. The companies figured they could teach you everything you need to know. Now they want skilled workers with skills they can employ from day one, and when that knowledge becomes stale they can fire them and hire someone new. Colleges are expected to train you now for specific work tasks, which is something that should and used to be done by your employer. The mission of a liberal arts school used to be to expose you to many different areas of knowledge and prepare you for life long learning. Now in less you get a technical degree, college is worthless.

Hi dear, the best thing you can do is to just take time out fro a day or at least a week and get another job/ work/ etc. You can apply for annual leave/ unpaid leave/ replacement leave, etc to do this. if all else fails , just quit and sign up for a jobsearch company. worst case scenario, just sign on to a jobsearch ba<x>sed outside your country. and this is also making good use of your degree of journalism which is specialising in good English/ writing for news. Anyway, there are lots of positions for able bodied and inteeligent, creative English teachers in Asia; China, Malaysia, Indonesia, Middle East. you would be very welcome here! if they don't appreciate you there, other parts of the world will welcome you and your expertise (teaching English, language skills, etc) with open arms. At least go to United nations website; they always need people to be ba<x>sed in all parts of the world; esp developing nations (where there are ample opportunities for you, ok!). all the best, so get on the www and check in to whichever company/ organisation you want to share your expertise with and voila! you get a breath of fresh air to rejuvenate your career and reason for being in this world!!!!make a difference.

Consider getting a graduate degree in Education---despite what you may here--big city schools are desparate for teachers---and English is certainly a subject that is in demand. Then if you so choose, after a few years-you can even go into the Administration track.

good luck i hope things work out for you,I currently work 2 jobs in order to support myself i work as a sales assistant in a petrol station and also as a cleaner in a pub,i hate both jobs and am always looking and applying for other things,I would love to return to education but at the moment i dont have the money to do so,I hope that next year my financial situation will mean that i can as i am willing to work to support myself through college and uni.

Have you tried to take on more responsibility at your current job? I was stupid when I was young and never went to college so I have to try a lot harder. I have lived all over the world and every time I take a crap job and within a short time, I move up and into management. I make myself valuable and irreplaceable to them. I do the work of three people and then know it. Every time I have asked for a raise, I get it because they know it is cheaper to pay me a little more than train or two people to replace me. An example is I was given the job to work for a gambling cruise ship to create a databa<x>se for reception. They were still building out the interior of the boat, I said why don’t you install those touch screen terminals for the wait staff. I knew nothing about them but a quick call to a salesman for this product gave me all the info I needed. I ordered it and they taught me how to program it. I asked how are you going to control the food cost and inventory? They had no idea, so I took over that… before the boat opened, I was the most important person at that company. They paid me more than anyone because I was valuable to them. By the way, I did not know how to make the reservation system I was originally hired for. I just went online to Microsoft access groups and got a ton of help and figured out. Can you help with payroll? Or use your media background to think of some ad campaigns or do whatever you would do if they were paying you do it… Just do it, work hard and the rewards will come.

Actually your story resonated with me. For the past two years. I have been in a job I would consider as beneath my capabilities. I was hired ostensibly as a medical sales rep but had the misfortune to work for a handicapped boss who because he had lost the use of his legs. Felt that the only way for him to hang on to some semblance of dignity was to belittle and insult me. It was his way of making himself feel more "important". I was his P.A more than I was a sales rep. I couldn't cover the customer ba<x>se because I was running errands for him. He felt I had to do it at the expense of my more important responsibilities because he was the one who hired me and he felt justified to make me spend time on useless tasks that didn't move the sales along. i.e I inventoried the stocks that came in, handled the customer service, investigated on faulty units and made sure that our protocols and paper work adhered to our country's strict requirements for Medical Devices.<br />
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To cut a long story short. When the sales tanked.....I was kicked out and blamed for it, even though I had done everything he asked me to as he directed. As he was my direct boss there was no one else to take my side. But after that....everyone in the company lost their respect for him. For his decision for letting me go and also for the way he treated me when I was there. <br />
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So feel better.....I've been there. I will never make that same mistake again.

These people all have excellent advice and positive things to say. Take their advice, most of them speak from experience and they all have one thing in common. They believe in themselves and have a positive attitude. I'll add my two cents worth as well. I've been through the job market and am now done with it but believe me, I've paid my dues. First of all, I never thought any job I had wasn't good enough for me. I always gave each job my best and a little more. (Never too much as some jobs will take advantage of that). What I also did, even when I was working as a temp, was to learn all that I could about the companies I worked for. A little of their history, etc. This is good info to have when interviewing for a job also. It shows real interest on your part if you can slip in a bit about what they are all about. At your current job the best advice you got was to treat it as more than "just a receptionist'. Your position at any job is important or they wouldn't waste money paying someone to do it. Be proud of what you do, learn what you can about the company and the various other jobs people do there. Get to know co-workers and be friendly. They are a key to moving up in the company. It is who you know and what you know that will help fast-track your career and move you onward and upward to better things. Expand your education thru night school as well, it's never to late to change your choice of careers and never, ever refer to your positions as just a job. You cannot be important unless you feel it. So, evaluate all the advice you've been given and go get your future!

did not let anyone put you down,you have a degree for a reason, never wasted the time you at school doing your degree,the best thing is that you know who are not look at the negative part of working as a recepionist,but look at the postive that's how you are going to pass all the negativity of the my LECTURER SAYS ONLY YOU,CAN MAKE YOURSELF AN ingorin them,and just do your work.

Oh honey, <br />
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I totally feel for you and am TOTALLY on your side 100%. I hear you and completely understand your frustration.<br />
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Been there, done that, have the tee shirt, and the footprints on my back. No matter that you are "only one year" at your job. You still are entitled to feel what you feel and deserve to be respected for that.<br />
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We can still offer suggestions without tearing you down for feeling what you feel, right people? Are we really THAT insensitive??<br />
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OK. That said, here's what I would say. Look for a new job. Keep on keeping on where you are until you find something else because in these economic times it will likely take you a while to find something. And that something may still not be a good fit. It could take you several jobs to find something that really works for you. That is not unusual for someone at your age and at your stage (as in a relatively new college graduate).<br />
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I've been a secretary (they like to call me support staff or administrative assistant, but I'm just a grunt really) for 11 years at a seminary and I have a Master's degree. They treat support staff like crap. Don't practice what they teach when it comes to us.<br />
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I chose this job for many very good reasons. Now I've outgrown those reasons and am chafing at the things that I do not like about the job. It is time for me to take my own advice and start to look for another job, and I've got 25 years on you. Makes it even harder to get something "better." But I'll find something. It will likely take a year or more, but I can't stay here forever. <br />
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Good luck. You really can make it happen.

It isn't really clear what profession was the focus of your college education. I think however, that there is a very important question here. If you were working in a career slot that afforded you the status that your college degree prepared you for, what would you think of the person doing your job? Do you think that you are too good to do your job? Would you think that the clerical staff or the receptionist is beneath you?<br />
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There is such anger and resentment in the tone of your post, that I cannot imagine that you are able to conceal your feelings completely. You resent your parents because they didn't make it easy for you. You are angry at the world for not making opportunities for you, and you have no idea of the effect of your attitude on the people and the world around you. I don't think people are snubbing you...I think they are trying to stay away from your negativity bubble. You scare them.<br />
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As a are the first point of contact and the first impression anyone gets about your company. Your job is vital, powerful, and, potentially, very creative. Do you actually think that the strangers you talk to don't hear your hostility, lack of interest, resentments, and all the rest of your angst? Has a caller ever complained about your phone presence?<br />
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Make the best of, and be the best at every job you do. All jobs done well are honorable and should be a source of pride. What you believe others think is most often a projection of what you think. And my bet is that no matter what you do, you will not be satisfied...because real satisfaction comes from within and from a job well done. And others will respect a job well done.<br />
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BTW. I went through 5 years of college and graduated with two completed majors at the age of 30. I had a BA in Social Work. I worked with children, for minimum wage, for the first 5 years of my 30 year career. I have done some real grunt work, just like everybody else. I didn't make as much as you do now until I had been in the business for 12 years. I am semi-retired and work as a training consultant, am well respected in my profession, and I am very good at what I do. But then I have always done my best regardless of the task, because I like to be proud of my work.<br />
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You have worked for a whole year, and complain that your job is unsatisfying and unchallenging. Sounds to me like you have a challenge right in front of you...making your job challenging. Being a top drawer receptionist can be very challenging. I think that you will find your satisfaction when you decide to see the challenge in front of you and make it into the best job you ever did.<br />
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Everybody starts somewhere so, stop are just beginning to pay your dues. Forget how badly you feel that you are treated, and love those around you. I am pretty sure you will find that you get back what you put out. If you are getting back negativity, consider your contribution.<br />
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Please forgive my presumption to lecture you. It is just that your rage and pain hurt me, so I know you are in a lot of hurt. <br />
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"There is no labor a person does that is undignified; if they do it right."<br />
Bill Cosby <br />
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"I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn't arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I'm going to be happy in it."<br />
Groucho Marx

I suggest you wear very classic style of clothes, at work. Not old fashioned but ageless.That could make you look older without you looking like some sort of Grandmother. If you don't wear glasses. Get a plain lensed pair to give you a studious look..Try to " Project " an air of confidence, in your voice.. That might stop people treating you like a door mat. Another phase to use is to say " in my experience " I would advise you to do this regarding this project. ECT., A timid mouse will not get listened to.

I have a few suggestions.<br />
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First, you have to think of yourself differently. You obviously have charm and charisma and you're great with people. But you're not "just" a receptionist. You might be doing that right now, but not for much longer. I strongly encourage you to be kind to yourself and start thinking of yourself the way you would like others to see you. You can be bright, cheerful (as required by your current temporary position) confident and ambitious all at the same time.<br />
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Second, you need to think about what kind of career you want. Nobody else can tell you that. Interviewers are looking for people who have drive, a strong sense of identity, and a good fit for their company. Once you know what you want to do, you'll be able to breeze through any interview given your natural charm. Even if the position isn't quite the right one, they will remember you and may call you back if a better fit comes up (this happened to my wife).<br />
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Third, target entry-level positions in companies where there's potential for upward movement or that will help you develop skills that are in demand. This is where you need to build your own value in the eyes of other potential employers. If you can do this in your present job, all the better. Does your present employer offer to pay for any courses?<br />
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Finally, get networking. Start meeting people socially who can open doors for you. I can't stress this one enough. Socializing might be a pain (as it is for me) but it pays off in spades. Most of the best jobs are never advertised. Take a night course in a field you want to work in and talk to your fellow students. Get a part-time evening job or do some volunteering.<br />
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Good luck!

I have a very similar story. I graduated with a degree in History in 2005 and started working at a supermarket deli to pay off some of my debt (and because there were no other jobs available in my area.) I kept looking for a job while working at the deli and then the economy fell apart. I am currently in grad school studying library and information science. Hopefully it will pay off and not turn out to be a boondoggle. <br />
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AlmostAristotle: Thats not a bad idea about becoming a manager but it wouldnt work, at least not in my store. They are no longer accepting applications to become managers. Then again, our company is doing poorly, so maybe a better company would still offer that opportunity.