How to Get the Most Out of a Job You Hate
If the phrase "I hate my job" had a section in the dictionary, my name and headshot should have been right next to it. I was the queen of bad jobs - from working as a telemarketer, to selling knives in an MLM scheme, to even working at an airbag facility, I've hustled many jobs (from a young age) and subjected myself to a number of work environments that were sub par. I survived bad bosses, crazy coworkers, feelings of deep unfulfillment - I was on a train of sadness down to Dumpsterville.
Having a bad job can lead to bad health, and may be worse than being unemployed! 63% of workers worldwide are extremely dissatisfied with what they do day in and day out, which is a major problem. The first resounding answer to this dilemma is usually 'just quit,' but we all know it's not that simple or easy. You have bills to pay, children to feed, brunches to eat and need that job to keep that Sallie Mae monkey off your back. In the meantime, here's how to make the most out of your situation:
MAKE A HATE LIST
Write down all the things you really dislike about your job and do the following:
- Look at each item and see if it's something you can or cannot control. For example, you can't control having to roll out of bed with your eyes sealed shut with crust if you need to be at the office by 7 a.m., but if you also hate working on a project with that coworker who throws everyone under the bus, that can possibly be changed. Write a symbol down next to each hate item on your list - C for control and NC for no control.
- Take a look through the C (control items) and start to brainstorm some solutions. You'll shock and awe yourself with how much you actually can control in your job when you start pinpointing the things you don't like about it. Even small changes (project, work environment, the people you are collaborating with) can make a major difference in your hatred for your place of employment.
- Scan the NC (no control) items and really make sure they are things outside of your control. Are these NC items things you can talk to your boss about? Even NC items can have some sort of wiggle room if you have a strong enough argument and a stand out work ethic to see it through.
- Categorize the these items into environment, people, and work. If you love your actual work but would rather gouge your eyes with a hot spoon than deal with some of your coworkers, are there certain people you can avoid or try to work less with? If the problem is your actual work, are there tasks that drive you crazy but others you don't mind? Is your work environment too formal for you and you'd like to blast Miley Cyrus while scanning your excel sheets? Pay attention to the triggers, and start to map out small solutions to the things that are actually making you want to scream.
LEARN SOME SHIT
Take advantage of any opportunity to learn on your job. Whether that's through a formal program if you're lucky enough to have resources at your job (such as conferences, discounted classes, or materials) or through taking on projects that have parts that interest you. Job dissatisfaction can be tied back to feeling disengaged and unstimulated. By pumping your brain full of the stuff you actually care about, you can start to ease up the hatred you have for the place. It's difficult to feel motivated to learn on a job you really dislike, but even taking on a small informal project, or exposing yourself to a new part of your organization, can make a huge difference.
If you have not mentioned any of your concerns, goals, or wishes about your job to your higher ups, you're fucking up. I repeat, if you have not mentioned your concerns, goals, or wishes about your job to your higher ups, you're fucking up. You can have an awful boss who makes the anti - christ look like Mother Teresa, but you still take some of the blame for the pain if you haven't done anything or said anything to fix the problems. No one can read your mind or realize you really want to learn how to code, or work with kids. The more you can voice exactly where you see yourself going or the things you want to be doing, the better. If your boss doesn't take heed or listen up, it's a sign you should start looking elsewhere, while maintaining as positive an attitude as you can at the 9-5 until you land something new.
You're obviously eating everyday unless you're a robot, but I cannot believe the amount of people who take lunch at their desk day in and day out. You need to take a mental and physical break from your work. Take a 5 minute stroll around your building or outside at the minimum, and allow yourself to be in the present and removed from the grind. If you don't have 5 mins to spare, you are probably using that 5 minutes to stalk that one ratchet friend you like to laugh at on Facebook or Instagram when your boss steps away, so think about how you're using your time before discounting the idea of disconnecting and getting some fresh air.
LEAVE ON TIME
There is nothing worse than losing your free time to a job that is raising your blood pressure (only bad food should be doing that). Procrastination is a natural response to discomfort, and you may be procrastinating on the job because you really hate whatever you are doing. Unfortunately, procrastination only makes you have to stay at a job even longer, so cut it out. Create To Do lists, and put the most unpleasant things at the top. The quicker you can get them over with, the faster you can move through your work and get the hell out of there at a decent hour. You will feel more balanced and sane knowing you don't have to spend every waking hour at this job you dislike. Even if you liked the job, you will experience major burn out from having no personal life, so really prioritize leaving at a good hour most days of the week. Overtime work can happen (I've worked a 24 hour shift before, ask me about it sometime) but try to make leaving at a good time a priority, even just a few nights a week. The world will not end if a project takes one more day to finish than planned (your boss's head may explode, but meh).
OR, JUST LEAVE COMPLETELY
If you're reading all of this and going "Yeah, I've tried all that, this place sucks, I hate you, and I hate my life." You need to do the following: leave. You are in control of your own happiness and health, and it makes absolutely no sense to have early on set high blood pressure from stressing about a job that kills your soul. STOP THE SOUL KILLING. Start small by doing some self reflection about where you want to be, who you are, and what you want to do. Even if you aren't 100% sure of what direction you want to go, take a risk on something you're interested in, by looking into the field, the jobs, and the education requirements necessary to get there. Start to work on your resume, and tell everyone and their mama (except your coworkers and boss of course) that you're looking for a new job in the field you're interested in. It may take a little while, but even the process of looking for something new can be cathartic. You may not be able to ditch your job this second, but you'll be on your way to closing the deal on something else that can fulfill a part of you that you haven't explored yet.
If you are too lost and burnt out to start looking for a new opportunity, dedicate 2 weeks at the minimum on getting to know yourself better. I'm a huge fan of meditation, career guides, exercise, sitting quietly, going to bed on time, anything that can help you focus and center yourself. Think through the following questions deeply, and etch out 20-30 minutes of each week to write down some answers:
- If money wasn't a factor, what would you want to do with your life?
- If you were guaranteed success, what would you want to do with your life?
- What activities and hobbies did you really enjoy doing as a child?
- What tasks and projects did you enjoy doing on all the jobs that you had? What did you really dislike?
- What sort of work environment do you enjoy? Formal, informal, office, no office?
- What sort of people do you want to be around everyday? Creatives? Corporate types? Criminals? (Ok maybe not the last one).
- What skills (both hard and soft skills) are you good at? What do you feel you're not so good at? Do you do great with people but struggle with numbers?
- Do you want to work for yourself? If so, what are some first steps you can take on getting there? (Big fan of this one right here).
We run through life on check lists, but hardly check in with ourselves about our values or vision for the future. Once you gain clarity on what really matters to you, you can start to feel focused and happy in making conscious decisions about where your life is going. You don't have to have the next 10 years planned out to make a move. If you're interested in trying a field, especially if you are young, now is the time to take the risk. I changed industries three times in my career so far, and have learned an incredible amount about myself and what work makes me want to harlem shake with excitement. If you aren't young, it's never too late to start again. Change isn't easy, but it's not impossible and definitely more fulfilling than the challenges of going to a job that you despise.
There's an overused (but true) saying that life is short. Our life expectancy keeps climbing through the roof compared to our ancestors, so make the most of this extra time by choosing happiness over being miserable.