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What to Do When You Hate Your Job, but Can't Leave

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 14/03/2016 Patricia Thompson, PhD
EXHAUSTED WORKER © demaerre via Getty Images EXHAUSTED WORKER

If your Instagram or Facebook feeds are anything like mine, they're filled with inspiring quotes about living the life you were born to live by pursuing your passions and following your dreams. (Heck, I've posted plenty of such things myself)!

Here's one to chew on by Quincy Jones:

"The people who make it to the top - whether they're musicians, or great chefs, or corporate honchos - are addicted to their calling ... [they] are the ones who'd be doing whatever it is they love, even if they weren't being paid."

In my own personal life and work with clients, I have found this to be entirely true. It may seem like a cliche, but when you love what you are doing, you feel exhilarated, excited, and eager to create. In turn, you put in more effort and energy, and often enjoy greater success.

But, what do you do when you're in a job you're not passionate about? What if you dislike or even hate it? And, what if this realization also happens to coincide with the reality that you have plenty of bills and responsibilities that won't get attended to if you quit on the spot to become an artist, or run off to Bali, or even just put yourself out of your misery while you look for another position that you'll like a whole lot better?

Despite what your instagram says, sometimes the best thing to do is to make the most of the job you have while looking for the one that will stoke your passions. After all, a lot of us have hard time feeling blissful when we're concerned about being evicted or don't know where our next meal is coming from! So, if you find yourself in this position, here are some tips that can transform the way you look at your work while you are in the midst of getting ready for your next move.

1. Self-Reflect
Take a hard look at yourself. Are you one of those people for whom the grass is always greener? Have you gone through a string of jobs and been miserable in each one? While it's not entirely out of the realm of possibility that you're just having a hard time finding something that's the right fit for you, it's also worth exploring whether something else is going on. After all, the common denominator in all of these situations is you. If you're someone who makes a habit of pointing the finger at other people and circumstances to explain your dissatisfaction, it might be time to do some inner work to get happier. In turn, you'll likely put yourself in a better position to appreciate your future professional opportunities.

2. Make a Plan
Being in a job you hate can feel paralyzing. It's not uncommon to feel hopeless, stressed, or just plain stuck when you're working in a position that you know isn't right for you. To deal with this, I encourage you to fight the urge to succumb to helplessness and instead, take your power back by creating a plan.

Consider what would you prefer to be doing. What steps could you take to get there? Unsure of the steps to take? Make a list of people you talk to in order to get more information, and reach out to them. Completely at a loss for what fields interest you or how you can best use your strengths? Look into working with a career coach.

3. Work Your Plan
Once you have your plan together, it's possible you could feel overwhelmed. After all, getting more education or building a business from scratch, for example, are no small feats! To make things more manageable, think of one thing you could do right now that would move you towards your goal and do it. Whether it's reading a book, conducting an online search, editing your resume, saving money, or talking to someone in the field, moving forward can break your feeling of inertia. Continue taking these small actions, and not only will you feel much more empowered, before you know it, you'll have some serious momentum going that will propel you forward to your next adventure.

4. Don't Check Out of the Job You Have
I once worked with a client (I'll call Sarah) who was sick of her job. She respected her boss and was good at what she did, but she was at a place at which she could work on autopilot. Her dream was to get a company assignment to an international position in which she could do bigger and better things career-wise while living in an exotic locale. But, since it looked like that wasn't about to happen anytime soon, she became disengaged -- showing up late and putting in less effort. She felt justified in doing so because she was "in a rut and hated her job."

Now, the average person reading this might think, "If you want a promotion, what the heck are you doing slacking off?" However, Sarah was entirely blind to this point. It wasn't until I said to her, "If you were leaders in the company, trying to select the person who should get a great assignment, would you pick someone who is constantly late and doesn't seem to be trying that hard?" Once she acknowledged the irony of her situation, she got her act together and became much more productive.

And, even if you have already decided that you are going to leave the company, this advice still applies. After all, is there a possibility that you might need a reference in the future? Make sure to keep the long game in mind, and put in your best effort as you prepare for your next move.

5. Change How You Look at Your Job
As you're planning your next move, it's certainly not in your best interest to continue to feel overwhelmed with misery in your current job. After all, what if your next career move is a few years in the making - is it worth it to be unhappy for that whole time?

To address this, it can often be helpful to reframe how you are looking at your work. One way to do this is to consider what there is in your professional life for which you can be grateful. Do you have a funny co-worker? Has the work helped you to develop new skills (even if it's the emotional intelligence to deal with your ornery boss)? Does the job keep food on your table and a roof over your head? We often take these sorts of things for granted; however, acknowledging them can help you to better appreciate your work.

Finally, consider how your work aligns with your values. For example, if you're someone that enjoys helping people, think about how your job contributes to a better world for others. If you love learning, think about where there are opportunities to learn in what you are currently doing. Being more mindful of how your values can be expressed in your work can increase your level of satisfaction. And, it might even give you some ideas about projects to pitch to your boss.

Finally, when all else fails, you know there's always an inspirational Maya Angelou quote for you: "You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it."

Hmmm... might just put that on my Instagram!


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