A few years ago, I wrote a post about taking a job you hate and how it might not be the worst thing. Of course, you rarely realize you hate your job until you’re deep in it and the fear that pushed you to take it, wears off. And, to be quite clear, I actually love the job I’m currently in. I get to learn, spend a lot of time alone at my desk, and am given interesting projects to complete.
But back to the point. I have had jobs I despised.
So, if you’re there, I actually kind of get it. I mean, at my first high-paying job, every morning for months I would imagine how it would feel to crash my car into the median and end it, without it looking intentional. I was there for one year and two months, and it felt like I aged ten years. I gained six or so pounds. My skin was a wreck. I was doubly depressed. It was unfortunate. And the day I left, while I learned a lot and met some hilarious humans, will be forever one of the best days of my life.
But what if you hate your job and have no where to go? I imagine a good number of people are in this situation, because of the pandemic. Maybe a final interview was cancelled, or the company you were talking to went into a hiring freeze; maybe you just don’t feel safe going somewhere new, yet you don’t like where you are.
How do you reconcile not liking the job you have, with the time you have left there?
I have a few thoughts on this, because…I always have thoughts on things.
#1 – You are less likely to hate your job when you expect realistic things.
This goes for first-time job seekers, recent graduates and people who have been in the professional world for years. It is easy for this popular belief to creep in–that, somehow, a job will provide you purpose, a mentor who will take your career to the next level and a welcoming group of people to grow old with. Vacation with. Whose kids yours will probably marry.
Expectation is the mother of disappointment.
It is my job to find a life purpose. It is my job to seek out mentors and maintain relationships with those ahead of me in my field. It is my job to find my tribe and be an active member.
If you expect all of these wonderful things from one job, as many young people do (which is part of why millennials get a bad rap), you are far more likely to be disappointed with the job you get or have. I have learned to keep my list of expectations short and concise: I expect a job to pay me on time, according to the rules in our contract. I expect my higher-ups to be clear about my job responsibilities. I expect to be able to ask questions about said responsibilities, so I can do well. And I expect to not have emotional baggage placed on me. That’s it.
The fact that my current job feeds us lunch then becomes a bonus. The fact that my current job is teaching me a bit more about my role and my career is a bonus. The fact that my current job has friendly people, is a bonus.
If I expected these things and even one of them was off, I would be disappointed and demanding.
This is extremely unpopular. I mean, I may get some hate for this. But what is so bad about taking a job that pays the bills and affords you the freedom to live well? If they are paying you, you know and can perform your responsibilities, and you have time after work to pursue what you enjoy? If it factors into your personal goals?
The answer is, nothing. There is nothing wrong with taking a job to pay the bills, as long as your expectations are in line with that. The disappointment, horrible mornings, and months that stretch into decades come into play when your expectations are disappointed.
Does this mean you should never quit a job? No!
If my boss didn’t make my responsibilities clear, yet blamed me for errors for more than a quarter, I would quit. If my boss started being emotionally manipulative or cruel, I would put things in motion to quit. If they stopped paying me what we agreed, I would quit. I would put things in motion to move on, like informing family I might need a place to stay, like saving as much as I possibly could to have a landing pad.
And, speaking of savings…
#2 – You are less likely to hate your job when you have some savings or fallback.
Now, I don’t know how this relates, but I think it has to do with the way you put yourself forward when you think you have no where else to go, versus when you think you have other options.
That’s why the first thing I recommend doing is getting a small emergency fund, of $1000. Then focus on having 6 months’ worth of living expenses tucked away. I imagine there are a lot of people wishing they had done that, before March 11th hit.
As the Japanese proverb says, “The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is today.”
Get started. You’ll be surprised by what a weight will be lifted off your shoulders, once you have a bit of savings to tide you over.
The fact is, you behave differently in interviews and at the office when you know you have other options. And people are less likely to take advantage of you. They’re less likely to give you more work than you can handle, and are more likely to answer questions you might have.
Additionally, if you really don’t like your job, it’s time to have an enddate.
As soon as I knew the day I was leaving my first big job, everything got easier and better. This also goes to show the importance of having a vision for your life. If you develop an exit strategy, you’re less likely to hate your job and will kind of move into a tolerating or neutral phase.
#3 – You are less likely to hate your job when you actively focus on the good things.
When I say this, I’m not trying to disqualify your experience. And focusing on good things doesn’t say the bad things don’t exist. It’s just choosing what you will and will not suffer over.
Maybe you’ll never get to a place where you love the job you’re in now, but you can sure help yourself out by not focusing on all the drab realities of working there. Don’t get into those post-work group complainy-pants sessions where everyone is droning on about how awful work is.
I realize this could be awkward, but at the very least, don’t join in. It can be really hard to change the direction of those conversations, because (and I’ve been this person) sometimes it feels like it’s all that holds you guys together. So, if you can’t quite shift the tide of the conversation, at least don’t add fuel to the fire.
And, for your own mental health, seek out more interactions with people who are seeing the upside. You’ll be amazed at how much it changes your day to day life! It may take a bit, especially if you’re used to focusing on the negative, but it will happen eventually.
To conclude, you can transform the blistering hatred you have for your job into neutrality and purpose, if you adjust your expectations, develop a monetary fallback or exit strategy, and actively focus on the good things about the job. The bad things will be there when you get back and no one says they don’t exist; you just don’t have to suffer unnecessarily for them!
Thanks for reading,