About two years ago, I quit my job and accepted a position as an administrative assistant in a small manufacturing plant. My new employer wanted someone with an extensive skill set, stating that the position was "extremely challenging and would lead to advancement".
On my first day, it became apparent that I would not have much to do and I would also be working in a small office with only my boss and sometimes alone. I was the first person to hold this new position. After creating the initial spreadsheets he requested, my work pretty much dried up. He instructed me to look for new customers on Google Earth and cold-call them all. I did that for the entire slow season (7 months) and only landed one customer who we subsequently lost. Our product was extremely specialized and required special equipment that is expensive and we did not provide. I hated cold-calling and it was not in my job description. During that time, I usually had less than an hour of other work to do each day. I was so bored it was painful. I was not utilizing any of my skills. I had no coworkers to talk to or work with. I started to stretch the work out to try to make it last longer. But I got caught.
In February, my boss noticed that I had not entered a shipment in the system (yet) and he sent me a scathing email stating that I had no excuse because we were slow. I had not even received the paperwork from the plant for it yet. But I apologized and didn't think much more of it. He followed up with me a few days later stating that if I made these kinds of mistakes, he didn't need me. Soon after, I saw my job posted online. But then the pandemic happened.
My job was removed from the online posting and my boss didn't leave the office from March until June. He then stopped talking to me and took away my responsibilities, except one which required me to make a few entries once a week or so. I sat in silence in the office five feet from my boss for months.
In June, he relisted my job online and began to interview applicants after I left in the evenings. He left the appointment list visible to me. That went on for several more weeks. During this time, I was a nervous wreck. The pandemic was bad enough, but waiting to get fired was too much. I started to make silly mistakes. It had been over one hundred days of the silent treatment and waiting to be rid of this situation forever. Finally, he let me go, stating that he can't trust me in his absence since I make too many mistakes.
Looking back, I realize that this job was a far cry from ideal. I never got a performance review, a raise and my boss never bought me lunch even once. I had no ability to increase my vacation time and the healthcare was terrible. I was never going to advance or even get a raise.
So, why do I feel like such a failure? How do I explain this in a job interview? I know he will not give me a good reference. I feel like this may have been the wrong time to sabotage (by inaction) my job. I also feel personally offended since my boss and I spent so much time working alone together and he never suggested any solutions or gave me any clue that he was unhappy with my work in the prior year and a half. Any suggestions?