So what do you do when your job sucks? And how do you go about leaving a job you hate? First, accept that you can do something about it. Then set yourself on the path to change. Career satisfaction is a process, but there are concrete ways to improve your job and your life in the meantime.
As someone who has had to make the decision to leave more than one lousy job, here’s my counterpoint top 10: how to know when to leave. I don’t take the decision to quit lightly, and I don’t think anyone should. See if the problems can be fixed first. Research tactics first before acting.
- You dread coming to work in the morning. You wake up and want to cry yourself back to sleep. This ONLY happens on the days you work, and didn’t happen with other jobs you’ve held.
Fix? Ask yourself if there was anything else that you could be doing at the same company that wouldn’t suck so much. Staying with one company can be good for your career, but sometimes you need to change responsibilities to alleviate boredom.
- You are putting lots of energy into the job, but not making the kind of project and/or overall progress that you feel is reasonable.
Fix?: Ask yourself if you are putting energy into the right areas. Are you spending all of your time arranging meetings and conference calls and not able to put your all into the actual work? Can someone else handle that for you? If your company can’t provide reasonable support, you might want to look for one that can.
- You are putting no energy into the job because doing so makes you want to stab your eyes out with a sharpened number 2 pencil.
Fix?: Put down the pencil. If you hate the job with the passion of a thousand burning suns, ask yourself why, honestly answer yourself, and find a job in which the same problem cannot occur.
- Your lunch break is spent bitching to your coworkers about how much you hate being where you are. This is a really bad sign, even if you are being goaded into disliking the work even more by listening to other department’s woes.
Fix?: Stop bitching to your coworkers. Change the subject, talk about positive things. Listen to people, but give NOTHING away, especially when it comes to criticizing your boss or peers. Word gets around.
- Your boss irrationally hates you. This happens sometimes – some people feel that their bosses hate them when their bosses are merely being, you know, bossy.
Fix?: Politely quit.
- You’ve bounced laterally around the company for years without a promotion.
Fix?: Have you gained any skills during your career mambo around the corporation? Think about it – do you really bring valuable skills to the table? Are you unfairly being denied a promotion, or do you work for an industry (government, civil service) in which it’s damn near impossible to fire you? If you think you’re worth it, you often have to ask for a promotion. Make a list of everything that you have done to make your workplace better. If it’s not much of a list, put your nose to the grindstone.
- You’re not being given what you were promised. When you first started working, did they tell you that they had an educational fund for employees that seems to have disappeared. Are other employees sensing that they were sold a fantasy job, too?
Fix?: If you had a goal in mind for this job, but the job is keeping you from the goal, consider finding something better. If you can achieve the goals on your own, such as taking night classes to earn that extra degree or certificate, then do it on your own and find a better job with your newfound skills.
- You’ve slept with one, or more, of your coworkers and things ended badly. First of all, don’t do this. But if you do, get out while before things turn nasty.
Fix?: Apologize if you can. Try to set things right if you’ve wronged them.
- There’s this exiled Nigerian businessman’s widow who’s wiring you a bunch of money, and you get to keep a few hundred thousand.
Seriously, you should quit your job and move to Canada if this happens.
- You’re making the same amount of money that you were when you first started working for the company. Five years ago.
Fix?: Ask for a raise. Even if you are doing the same work, as long as you are a valuable employee, you should be eligible for some kind of raise.
- You’ve just found a better deal. Better pay is nice, but really fun jobs don’t always pay well. The high-paying jobs are often the most tedious, so money alone isn’t everything. Find another position with a win-win – get more money and more leadership potential.
You reached a point in your life where quitting the job you hate is not an option. So what’s next?
Accept that you have this job for now.
That can be a hard pill to swallow, but to be effective anywhere else, you need to accept this. Responsibility for moving forward rests entirely on you. Fighting what is wastes energy better spent other places. Instead, focus on what you like about your job. No matter how rough a job is, there’s always something positive you can latch on to, something you find valuable. Whatever it is, identify that something and hold on to it like a life raft until you find another job. Your sanity might depend on it. Positivity will make your life a lot easier. Negativity is just going to make a bad situation worse.
Throw Yourself Into Your Work
That rut might be hard to get out of, even when you do land another job. On the other hand, throwing yourself into your work can make things a lot better. If nothing else, it’s a great way to blow off steam. Have you ever considered that what sucks about your job might not be the job itself?
Is it possible that you’ve conflated the circumstances of your job with the quality of your career? Maybe you like your job, but you want more money. Or maybe you like where you work, but you want more responsibility and a promotion. Or perhaps you’re bored with your role and are hungry for a new set of skills. There are dozens of factors at play that we call “work,” when in fact a job is really a set of responsibilities and a number of circumstances which can change.
Keeping your head down and grinding out top performance, however, will — it is the one variable you can control, and the one behavior most correlated with career advancement. Because work has a funny way of getting better when you get better.
Find Other Areas of Fulfillment in Life
Working hard can make things more tolerable. But if your career isn’t fulfilling — and if it isn’t going to change anytime soon — then no amount of high performance will totally offset that. So you need to start looking for fulfillment in other areas of your life. Personal fulfillment comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe you need an artistic endeavor, like painting or writing short stories.
Everyone has a different version of the thing their life needs. What’s yours?
Make time for it. A simple way to make that happen is just waking up an hour earlier every day. Carving out a single hour every day that exists just for you can make a big difference in your outlook. When you go to bed at the end of the day, you can reflect on that hour as time you spent doing something just for you. That can be a really powerful feeling, and it will make going to work significantly easier.
Look for Another Job
First, if you’re not just underpaid or underutilized the longer you’re there, the more it’s going to grind you down. One great antidote to that feeling, at least in the short term, is to start looking for another job. You’ll at least be doing something about the problem.
So if you’re considering leaving a job you hate, there are some things you need to know. Looking for another job comes in two parts: Planning, then looking.
Planning means thinking about where you want to be in five years. There’s no point in finding another job if you’re just going to be stuck where you are now, emotionally and professionally. Be intentional about looking for another job. Ask yourself what kind of job will be good for you in the long term. That might mean a total change of career. It might mean just being very mindful of where you apply and selective about where you work. But don’t just take another job for the sake of getting away from where you are now. You’ll probably regret it and you won’t have actually done anything about the underlying issue.
Sometimes the problem isn’t your job per se. It’s the career path you’re on.
The second part is applying. Set specific goals. How many jobs will you apply to in a given day? Be selective. Spend the time crafting your resume for each application. Draft the best cover letter you can. Not only is this going to increase your chances of getting the right job, it’s another great place to direct the negative energy you have about your job. And again, at the end of the day, you’re going to be able to reflect on the time spent as an accomplishment.
Spend just a little bit of time putting spit and polish on yours increases your chances of getting a good job. You’re basically sitting down and creatively bragging about yourself every time you work on your resume, while remembering — sometimes even discovering — all the things you know how to do. It’s an excellent way to self-reflect, celebrate your wins, and communicate your talents. For all those reasons, working on your resume is one of the most productive forms of aspirational daydreaming, which is essential to building a better life.
Be Empowered By Your Job Search
A job search can be frustrating, but it doesn’t have to be. For one, it’s a lot easier to find a job when you already have one. Don’t forget to talk to your contacts, cast a wide net or even consider relocation. All of these offer opportunities to improve your quality of life while you look for another job. Talking to old contacts can make you remember professional aspirations you’d forgotten you had, or discover ones you didn’t know existed. Casting a wide net offers opportunities to change careers in ways you hadn’t thought of. And few things are more exciting than the prospect of a new job in a new city. Embrace this part of the process and you’ll get sustenance from it.
Having a draining job can be a real drag. Don’t wait around for your professional life to start. Take charge, make small progress every day, and look forward to the time when you have a career you’ve built for yourself. You’ll never have to utter the painful phrase “My job sucks” ever again.
Here is something to think about: If you say your job is something you don’t plan on doing forever, then why are you doing it right now?