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Ask Amy

Entry-level jobs are not challenging enough

Dear Readers: I am stepping away from the “Ask Amy” column for a week. I hope you enjoy these hand-picked “best of” columns in my absence.

Q. I am a 23-year-old college graduate in my second job in two years. I am very intelligent, ambitious, and I know I have a lot of potential. However, it’s not as easy as I thought it would be to get people to see my ability and potential.

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My first job was a bad experience, and my second job is not awful but just makes me listless. It’s boring and the work is not interesting or challenging. A lot of these entry-level jobs are made out to be of greater worth in the interviews, and they turn out to be mainly administrative assistant positions, as my friends and I have found.

I don’t discount the necessity or importance of administrative assistants, but I am not seeing any of these jobs being more in-depth than that, nor am I seeing the “experience” taking me beyond my current level.

I get a lot of “it’s a paycheck” from older relatives I talk to, telling me to “tough it out,” and I am starting to worry that people are trying to indicate to me that few people like what they do with their 9-to-5 lives. I’ve been considering applying to law school for two years now, as I know it would open many more career paths, especially in the fields in which I am interested.

Please pass on some advice for me and for everyone out there in my situation.

Troubled Twenties

A. At your age, I was working as a receptionist. My desk was next to the ladies room door. My job was to answer the phone. Mainly, I listened to the toilet flush and plotted my escape. After two years, I applied for a better job but was told I’d never be promoted because I’d been a receptionist for too long. Eventually I changed companies.

The reason we adults roll our eyes at problems such as yours is because we’ve been there. We know that first jobs don’t last forever and the listlessness you feel is natural. It’s called “work” for a reason. If jobs were more fun, they’d be called “Steve.”

So my advice for you and others in your situation is to both be patient and agitate for something better. The something better might come from within your company, but most likely it’s going to come from within you.

And law school? As I’ve noted before, the unhappy lawyers I know could fill Wrigley Field. Start by researching your options for advancement without another degree.

Q. I am a tall, 9-year-old girl. I am somewhat tired of being asked if I play basketball. I was wondering if you or your readers have any suggestions for some comebacks so that I don’t have to sit there looking dumb while saying “no.” Thank you.


A. I shared your letter with two of my favorite friends, who happen to be married to each other and who happen to be very tall.

My friend Martha says that her tall father taught her to like being tall, which is a pretty good way to feel.

When people bugged her about her height, she would say, “I love being tall! I can’t wait until I’m 6 feet!” (She succeeded in being 5 feet 11 inches).

Bill, who was 6 feet 5 inches by the time he was 14 (he’s still 6-5) said, “I was always the tallest kid in my class — always — and I hated basketball. When asked why, which happened, oh, like every other day, I used to say, ‘When you’re as tall as I am, basketball is incredibly boring. No challenge at all.’ They’d get this blank look and walk away. It was very effective.”

Amy Dickinson can be reached at
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