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Surviving a Job You Detest

Posted by Brooke Lockhart on April 19, 2012

This is a practical article about survival.  It’s about what to do if you are in a job you actively dislike — perhaps hate — but for whatever reason, you can’t quit and walk away.  There are bills to pay and no new job beckoning.  So you’re stuck.

Alina Tugend, writing for The New York Times, offers advice on what to do when you're stuck in a job you hate. She quotes Dawn Rosenberg McKay, a career columnist, who suggests first making a list of all the things you dislike about your job. Don’t cheat and write, “everything.” “If you hate your boss, write down the things you hate,” Ms. Rosenberg said. Do you like what you do, but dislike your colleagues or boss, or do you despise the actual tasks? Then write down all the things you like about your job. “Nothing” is not a satisfactory answer. “Try to find something positive, even if it’s just the view from your window.”

If you want to switch careers, not just get out of that particular job, then focus on “developing skills rather than serving time,” suggests Cathy Goodwin, a career consultant. What can you learn that you can put on your résumé? Computer skills? Public speaking? “If your company offers education benefits, use them to make yourself more marketable."

Has your job changed so that you’re now doing a lot of things you find mind-numbing or off your career path? Is there any way to talk to your boss about this? Before you approach your manager, “consider whether how you are being treated is unique to you or is shared by your colleagues,” Tugend writes. As firms downsize, many employees are being forced to take extra work. If everyone is in the same boat, you may just have to accept it. But if you feel you are being unfairly singled out, talk to your supervisor.

If you feel underappreciated or completely unappreciated, look outside your job for positive feedback. Can your family and friends supply it? Complaining to friends or family might help some, but career columnist Rosenberg cautions against grousing too much to colleagues at work. “Misery may love company, but you don’t want to set a bad tone in the office,” Ms. Rosenberg said.

Be  aware of self-sabotage, the experts advise. Sloppy performance, talking back to co-workers or managers or showing up late — that’s what people do when they are unhappy at work. And it can get you fired. There are times, of course, when you have to leave your job before you have another lined up, especially if it’s making you physically or emotionally ill.

If you’re thinking about quitting your job, Ms. Rosenberg provides a useful quiz to help with the decision.

And beware of idealizing other jobs, Tugend says. It may well be that another position will suit you better, but just because you’re unhappy in your current job doesn’t mean the next one will be perfect.

Topics: Career Advice