Ask Amanda: Stressed senior needs advice

Dear Amanda,

I’m a senior and I’m struggling with my workload.  (You’d think I’d have it figured out by now, right?)  The problem is I took on a new job working over 20 hours a week, and I’m having trouble keeping up with the demands of school, work, and various other commitments.  I don’t want to quit the job because I have a feeling it could lead to a career after graduation.  I also signed a contract, so I don’t know if quitting would even be possible.  I know athletes can manage their work within an even tighter schedule, but I just can’t.  Classes have barely started and I already feel like I’m failing.  What should       I do?

Signed, Between a Rock and a Stressed Place

Dear Stressed Senior,

First of all, it seems as if you are far from failing. Almost graduated from college, with a job that could lead to a real career?  Sounds like you are moving in the right direction. Whether or not this direction leads into a collision with something hard and painful remains up for debate, but I don’t want to thrust an existential crisis upon you during this stressful time.

However, I do not want to discount the stress you are feeling.  You do have a lot going on.  I assume that this job of yours involves some sort of intellectual work similar to schoolwork that is adding to your brain overload.  While I do not deny that athletes need to perform with some level of cognitive engagement, the physical exertion does provide a break from the grind of pure mind work, so again, don’t judge yourself too harshly by comparison. 

Now that I have hopefully made the rock of failure seem somewhat softer, or at least a bit more distant, you will forgive my overwrought metaphor and we can move on to a concrete solution. (Concrete, get it? Please accept that the puns are involuntary.)

According to my knowledge of the job world, all-knowing deity that I am, a typical part-time job is generally 20 hours a week.  You say that you are working over 20 hours a week. Is that due to the hour requirements of your employer or to the amount of work with which they task you?  If possible, have an honest conversation with your employer in which you lay out your concerns about time.  Stick to a strict 20 hour work week, and if you cannot complete all of your assignments in that time, perhaps your employer is being unreasonable, especially if you are being paid a fixed instead of hourly rate.  The fix lies in fixing a fixed schedule. 

If you are really miserable with this job, consider the detriments of quitting versus the detriments of staying on. Quitting will reinforce your lowered self-esteem, put an end to the possible career prospect, and you will have less money, but you may be happier with your workload.  Staying will lead to more stress, more money, and better post-graduation prospects. Quitting is not the end of the world and neither is staying.  Think of which decision you will regret more come graduation. At this point in your life and career, are you willing to trade a stress now for a great job later? (But keep in mind that, at this point in your life and career, does anything really matter?) Ultimately, I leave the decision up to you to avoid any liability for the broken nose that may or may not occur if the scales tip one way or the other. Try to remember that you will be fine either way, and that hard impacts generally have a numbing effect so you won’t feel anything anyway if you suddenly hit the rock or the stressed place. 

Your trusty cushion,

Amanda

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