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.