I remember my first day at my first job out of school, an IT recruiter in a recruitment agency in downtown Toronto. I came home that evening and said to my aunt (I was living with her at the time) that it was a good first day but that I don’t know how I’ll be able to last out the year. That was my plan when I took the job, work for 1 year before trying to get a corporate HR job.
Well I lasted that 1 year. In fact I was there for 4 years and I was laid off. I didn’t leave of my own accord. And I’m still working through the why. I was so unhappy and there were times where I did a halfhearted job search but there was always one reason or another that kept me stuck in that job I hated. And yes there were the practical reasons – job stability, money, career progression but honestly I used those reasons as excuses to ignore the things that I was telling myself. That I wasn’t good enough, that I didn’t have time or that I was afraid.
And I know I’m not alone. Throughout my 15 years of experience I have heard many “practical reasons” for staying in a job you hate but upon digging there is always an underlying negative voice that is the real reason. Today I want to talk about the six most common, I’m sure if you are stuck that at least one of these will resonate with you.
1. It’s too late for me.
You have finished your degree, you have had kids, you are over 40, you are close to retirement. You feel that your ship has sailed and that since it is too late that you need to suck it up and be thankful for the job you do have.
Can I tell you something though – it is never too late to change. So what if you have been a teacher for 15 years or just completed a degree in Engineering or only have 5 years left until you are retiring. YOU STILL HAVE TIME. I have clients that are 55 years old and who are done with the jobs that they hate. They want to spend their last years in the workforce doing something they love not something that they are just tolerating. I have clients who have done complete 180s in the career because they realized they had been pursuing someone else’s dream – their parents, society’s and that it is time to start going after their own dreams.
My message to you: YOU STILL HAVE TIME.
2. I am afraid
Change is scary. The unknown is terrifying. The thought of failure is enough to have you quaking in your boots. So you stay, you may say to yourself that there is no guarantee, that the grass is always greener or the whole “devil you know”, all excuses to allow you to succumb to your fear.
Which is exactly what it wants you to do. Our brains don’t like change and fear is the voice that helps keep us in check. So we listen to it because at the end of the day we don’t want it yelling at us. We may think that it is all well and good for other people, that they are different, that they aren’t fearful.
But let me let you in on a secret. We all have fear talking to us, yelling at us to stop. I know fear has a starring role in my life most of the time, not letting it get in my way of joy in my life and career is a constant struggle.
Fear never goes away. That would be like saying we can completely eliminate happiness, sadness or anger from our lives. It just doesn’t happen. But we can change how we respond and react to fear. I know for me, I recognize when fear starts talking. And I calmly welcome it and tell it that no matter what it says that it isn’t going to get in the way of me moving forward. The key is to recognize it because fear is sneaky and it can wear many masks, so you have to be careful!
My message to you: you can’t be brave without fear
3. I am not good enough
Being in a job you hate pulls us into a negative whirlwind of thoughts. The star of the show is typically that you are not worth it, you can’t do it, that you are not good enough or deserving of a job you love.
This thought is like the heaviest of weights we add to our shoulders that we must carry throughout all aspects of our lives. Meaning that it is a dangerous thought, one that has negative impacts. It slows us down on any sort of forward progress, it drains us of all energy and gets in the way of enjoying not just your career and job but your life.
If this is you then surrounding yourself with people who value you, you build you up and who believe in you is a good first step. Finding a cheerleader to stand in your corner, to help lessen the load and to remind you of your worth is key.
My message to you: you are worth it.
4. I don’t have time
Life is busy. Commuting 2+ hours, working 10+ hours, trying to fit in our life obligations (family, friends, etc) leaves us barely enough time to sleep never mind time to figure out what we want and to go after it.
One question I have for those who don’t have time (and a question I often ask myself), is why are you so busy? Overworking and busyness is often a tactic that we use to distract ourselves from our feelings of dissatisfaction, uneasiness and unhappiness. Kind of like emotional eating or shopping or scrolling endlessly through social media – working too many hours may be a coping mechanism that you have so that you don’t have to deal with those feelings.
If that is the case, stop it. Feel those feelings, figure out the thoughts behind those feelings and stop allowing yourself to procrastinate moving towards career happiness by working long hours. Make a commitment to work 30 minutes less each day, 30 minutes that’s it! That is 2.5 hours per week that you can devote to you and your career dreams!
My message to you: carve out some time
5. I’m too stressed
This ties in with the above, when life is busy it often causes us to feel stressed out and overwhelmed so it feel easier to just ignore those feelings and to stay stuck.
I understand, the thought of adding one thing to your growing and never shrinking To Do List is just too overwhelming. It feels impossible, even if it is for something you want.
But we can’t stay stressed forever and when you hate your job that stress is only ever going to get worse. And take it from me, it begins to suffocate you. You feel like you are drowning and that there is no way to be saved.
There is though. Take a mental health day and focus only on you, not on your to do list. And don’t even think about a new job, only focus on how you can reduce your stress load. Like I spoke about on a recent Discover Your Career Q&A – write down all of your problems, brainstorm all types of solutions and then pick one thing. That is it. That momentum will be enough to get you moving.
My message to you: Do 1 thing to reduce stress and start living your life.
6. I don’t know what I want
When we are stuck in jobs we hate, with bills to pay, mouths to feed and constant messages from family, friends and society about what our careers should look like, it can be really hard to know what we want.
Think back to high school, what was the message you heard? I know for me, at my high school, there were only a few career options that were ever discussed. A trade if you didn’t do too well in school, a teacher if you liked school, a lawyer or doctor if you were smart and maybe business in some capacity. 5 career options, that’s it.
But that isn’t the world we are in, especially now with careers that didn’t exist before and the internet allowing us to create niche jobs that you couldn’t otherwise create. So the world is literally your oyster.
There are a few things you can do to figure out what your fulfilling career can look like, some simple questions to ask yourself that gives you direction. Figure out some ideas, talk to others in those roles and narrow it down.
My message to you: self discovery is the answer.
My goal is to help you stop telling these stories to yourself and instead replace them with stories that get you moving instead of staying.
So if you find yourself staying in a job you hate because you are telling yourself 1 (or more!) of these 6 things then it might be time to talk to someone.
A free Discover Your Career strategy call is 20-30 minutes long where we talk about where you are now and where you want to go and how to get there. It is an easy 1 thing to do! Email me at email@example.com to schedule yours.
Have you heard about “hygge”? I first heard about the concept when I read the book, “The Year of Living Danishly” by Helen Russell.
This book is on my list of must reads and another one that I talk about ALL. THE. TIME. I read the book last fall and immediately began implementing the idea in my home. And with another winter bearing down on us and going through an especially gloomy fall here in Ontario I’ve decided to get my home office cozy, warm and all around “hygge”.
What is it? Hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah”) translates very roughly to coziness and creating an atmosphere that gives you a feeling of contentedness and joy.
For me, it helps during those long cold winter months when the sun hardly comes out (remember last January – I don’t think it came out once!). I don’t know how much hygge had to do with my moods but I really found last winter to be fairly “easy” to get through.
This year I’ve extended it to my office space. I’m not a designer by any stretch of imagination and I’m pretty frugal, so I wanted to make a space that was cozy with few purchases and ones that can be multi-purposed throughout the year. I know many people are the same so I wanted to show off my “normal” person’s hygge office.
There are five main hygge concepts that I really focused on:
CANDLES AND SOFT LIGHT
This is the best thing you can do to create a hygge atmosphere in your home and office.
I have these two Maple Praline and Caramel candles that I got at Winners. After taking these pictures I immediately lit them and writing resumes with their flickering light on a rainy day was wonderful.
I also have a light that I got at IKEA years ago when I first starting working from home. It creates a nice soft light atmosphere, exactly what I'm looking for.
Bringing in blankets, putting on the fire, cozy socks and sweaters - the point of this is to really just get warm and cozy. I don't have a fireplace in my office (wouldn't that be the dream!) but I do bring in a space heater. I always have a blanket wrapped around my legs and have a warm sweater on. My aunt got me the Indigo Reading Socks for my birthday and I LIVE in them all winter long!
BRING THE OUTSIDE IN
Since we may not spend too much time outdoors in the Winter, we want to surround ourselves with the outdoors inside. So natural products like wood, marble, and clay are great. I got a set of 4 coasters from Winners that I love - they are wood and marble. I use them as coasters but also as candle holders!
From Holland Park in Burlington, I picked up this clay pot with 3 succulents in it. When choosing a plant, I knew I needed something low maintenance as caring for a plant is not something I'm good at! I love the different colours, textures and honestly I feel so much joy every time I look at it on my desk!
Nothing says getting cozy then curling up with a hot chocolate. During the work day though, that doesn't really happen. But I do love tea, especially tea that is comforting. I recently picked up a STASH tea - chamomile with cinnamon and vanilla, talk about a cozy tea for a cold day!
Years ago I picked up this teapot from Winners or Home Sense and I love filling it up and then drinking it throughout the morning or afternoon. It feels so good for my soul.
FAMILY AND FRIENDS
This is a big one but also a hard one to encapsulate in your office. During the winter months, you want to spend time as a family in your living room all together. We like to grab our books, games, puzzles and all congregate around the fireplace in our living room with our hot chocolates. In my office, I opted for lots of photos literally surrounding myself with my loved ones!
The final result: It isn't designer or maybe even pinterest worthy, but it was created with less than $50 and during these cold dreary weeks has been exactly what I wanted - a comfortable and cozy office to spend my days in.
We have all been in a job we hate, where Sunday dread starts nice and early. Monday it is almost impossible to wake up and our stress levels increase as we struggle towards our desk.
You feel stuck, your happiness nosedives. You spend way too much time googling looking for an answer:
I don’t like my job but I can’t quit
I don’t like my job what should I do
How to be happy in a job you don’t like
I don’t like my job but I need the money
How to stop being annoyed at work
What would you say if I told you about 5 easy ways to be happier in your job while you search for your dream job?
Me 10 years ago…
10 years ago, I was working at an IT recruitment agency. I was there for almost 4 years and honestly I knew from my first week that it wasn’t the right fit for me. It wasn’t the agency by any means, the training I got there gave a strong foundation from which I have built my career on, it was just the nature of the job. What helped me get through was great friends and a great team. But as happens in that world turnover is high and in the fall of 2008 my closest work friend moved to England and my sales partner got a new job.
It devastated me.
But I didn’t think I could leave. It was just around the time of the stock market bottoming out and I was afraid to leave and become the last person in and first person out in another company.
So I felt that I had to stay. And I was miserable. And instead of my usual find the silver lining type of personality I wallowed in my misery. I ate my emotions, I wasted time and had the worst performance of my career. In March 2009 I was laid off (ironic huh?) and honestly it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I have this clear memory of going for a walk after my last day of work with my husband and for the first time in a long time being gleeful and truly excited about my future.
Now, 10 years wiser I realize that I was very lucky to be laid off because the mindset I was in would have kept me chained to that job. I don’t think anyone would have hired me as I was in such a negative space.
And it didn’t have to be that way. I look back and wish that I could speak to that Sara and help her love the job she hated so much. Not as a way to keep her there but as a way to help her move forward.
Are you Happy?
I know now that I wasn't alone – at least 50% of employees are unhappy with their job with 20% matching my disengagement that I experienced. That is 2 million Canadians and 30 million Americans.
That is staggering.
The scary thing too is that in North America so much of our self-worth is tied to our career. So as your happiness declines so does your feeling of worth. Selling yourself is already hard enough as it is, never mind when you don’t actually believe you have anything to offer.
That’s the thing. By wallowing in your misery, letting it get you down and isolating yourself from the world you are in fact holding yourself back from moving forward to a job you do love.
Is the goal to stay in this job I HATE?
I don’t want you to think that I’m trying to force you to stay in a job you hate. As a career coach providing career advice, I would not be doing my job right if I was!
In fact my goal is for you to leave your job as soon as possible. But I know that running away from something doesn’t always lead to decisions that are right for you and your future. Running away muddles your motivations. So while you may be leaving the job you hate, it is very common you are going into a job you won't last at, meaning you'll be back looking for a job within a year.
It is better to get to a place within your current job where you don’t feel so rushed to leave. You can be careful and picky about your next career move ensuring that it is one that will bring you that career happiness.
I also know from experience that a lot of people can get so negative or jaded or so down on themselves that they just never get another offer or even interview. If you are playing the blame game, that comes across to potential employers. If you think you aren’t worthwhile, that comes across too. And those are attitudes that a Hiring Manager NEVER wants to hire!
So how do you do this?
1. Take Back Control
Stop looking to others to make you happy in your job. They may be struggling just like you.
Grab a piece of paper, time for a list. What do you hate most about your job. Come up with your top 3. Let’s break it down from there – what can YOU do about it.
Say the administrative aspect of the job is frustrating and annoying and there just never seems to be time to get it done, but you are always so stressed about it because it is hanging over your head!
Why yes, I’m speaking from personal experience!
You could schedule a meeting with yourself, blocking off the time and NOT rescheduling it, honouring it instead. So when the stressful voice starts talking you can tell yourself – well I have a time already scheduled so I know it will get done. When it comes time to do it, put in your headphones and put on some good music. Or pour yourself a good cup of coffee or tea. Make it an enjoyable chunk of time.
For your top 3, are there any ways in which you can control the outcome or the feelings surrounding them. You not only control your destiny, but you control your happiness.
2. Change it up
This is a “job hack”, can you make your job resemble a job you want? Write another list of 10 things you want in your ideal career (this can come from your Interests, Motivations and Skills).
Is there anything on that list that can be incorporated into your current job, especially if they may help with one of the 3 things you hate?
For me, one of the things I hated most about my agency recruitment job was the nature of the industry. It tends to be very dog eat dog. I like a team oriented and collaborative environment. And shockingly I was able to create one. I sought out Client Managers (those working with clients) to partner up on searches creating a team for those transactions. That led to the partners creating small teams around that model. My best year (happiness and performance wise) was when I was paired up with my sales partner and a team of recruiters. It also helped that I was always very open and communicative about my desire to work as a part of a team which the partners were supportive of.
That is key though. Communication. Once you identify a few things that you can do in your job now to make it work for you, you probably need to talk to your manager! Ask them for more responsibility or exposure to a certain area of the business. You need to advocate for yourself.
3. Get Friendly
Part of my issue during those “darkest days” was that I was isolating myself. I would hide in my cubicle, I worked 7:30-4 which meant I was in the office for 1-1.5 hours by myself and then I would go out for lunch by myself. I would avoid talking to the friends that I did have left. Or when we did talk it descend into a bitchfest.
Not constructive. Not healthy.
Reach out to your colleagues on a personal and professional level. Ask them about themselves. Ask about their goals. Think on it, what could you do to help them succeed? Act on it, it will make you feel better, worthwhile and needed.
It is okay to vent, you need to get those negative emotions out. It is okay to let them vent, you need to be supportive to build a good relationship.
BUT, don’t let it slip into complaining for the sake of complaining. If you put all of your energy into hating your job, how will you have the energy to try and love it! If you see that happening, redirect the conversation. The point of these relationships is to provide you support on this journey to love this job you hate!
4. Be Thankful
Time for another list. A list about what you love, or at least like, about your job, your team/boss, and your company. If you are in a bad place, it could be just a list of 3 things. Then every day make a point to add to the list.
Ruminate on it. Every time the going gets tough take that list out to remind yourself. Read the list slowly, send out a “Thank You” as you read each item.
Gratitude is transformative. It leads to more positive emotions, less stress and the big one – more happiness with our jobs. Let it start transforming you.
If all else fails, get up, dress up and show up. And never give up. You will have hard days where this all seems impossible but slowly those days will either become easier to handle or not happen has often.
Am I annoying you right now? The last thing you want to hear when you are knee deep in dissatisfaction is to "smile" but I'm going to say it anyways. Why? Research shows that the act of smiling can "trick" your brain into thinking you are happy. So why not?
If you put a smile on your face and fake loving your job, eventually it will just slowly start to happen – at least enough to make the last bit of time there an enjoyable experience.
Are you also concerned about what to tell potential employers about why you want to leave? This week in my newsletter I’ll be giving some tips and tricks on how to craft your exit story. Sign up today to get it!
Sara Curto, Career Management Specialist. Working with you towards Career and Job Search Success.
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