We all have heard great stories about people who are working in soul-destroying jobs, then quit in some spectacular fashion and move on to fabulous second careers.
This column is rather about what to do if you’re in a job you dislike—or actively hate—but can’t move on. Maybe you need to pay the rent or the mortgage and you’ve sent out endless resumés and haven’t gotten a bite. Whatever the reason, you’re stuck. Are there ways to make going to work every day more palatable?
Dawn Rosenberg McKay, who writes the career-planning guide on About.com (which is owned by The New York Times Co.), suggests first making a list of all the things you dislike about your job. Try to do it when you have a little distance, like during a vacation or on a weekend. “If you hate your boss, write down the things you hate about her,” Rosenberg says. Do you like what you do, but dislike your colleagues or boss, or do you despise the actual tasks? Try to separate these.
Then write down all the things you like about your job. “Try to find something positive, even if it’s just the neighbourhood you work in or the view from your window,” she says.
If you want to switch careers, not just get out of that particular job, Cathy Goodwin, a career consultant who specializes in career transitions, suggests focusing on “developing skills rather than serving time”. What can you learn that you can put on your resumé? Computer skills? Public speaking? “If your company offers education benefits, use them to make yourself marketable,” she says.
Roy L. Cohen, author of The Wall Street Professional’s Survival Guide, says “a bad job may be a necessary placeholder while you take classes or network for a new and more satisfying job”. And yes, I can hear the groans out there. I know people who have been networking and applying for jobs for a year or more in the hope of moving on. No one said it would be easy in these tough economic times, or quick.
If you’re stuck, are there particular tasks in your job that you like? Has your job changed so that you’re now doing a lot of things you find mindnumbing or off your career path? Is there any way to talk to your boss about this?
But before you approach your manager, “consider whether how you are being treated is unique to you or shared by your colleagues,” Cohen says. As firms downsize, many employees are being forced to take on lots of extra work. If everyone is in the same boat, you may just have to accept it.
If you feel, however, that you are unfairly singled out, or if you are truly overwhelmed, think whether there is a way you can talk to your supervisor, Rosenberg says.
One trouble in many jobs is that workers feel underappreciated or completely unappreciated, says Cohen. There are some companies where “your boss sees you and your colleagues only as a resource to be used and exploited,” he adds. “Don’t expect or look for appreciation to be expressed or for your good work to be acknowledged. In this situation, ‘employee appreciation’ is an oxymoron.” So what can you do? Look outside your job for positive feedback. Can your family and friends supply it? Perhaps volunteering or joining a professional organization can give you some sense of purpose if you can’t get it from your workplace, he says.
A.J. Russo, a pharmacy technician in Pennsylvania, US, says, “I try to remind myself that it’s not my co-workers or boss,” she says. “We’re all stressed. There are three of us doing 300 prescriptions a day. I try not to take it personally.” With car payments and student loans, she says, “I would rather be employed than unemployed.”
Rosenberg cautions against grousing too much to your colleagues at work. It can get back to the powers that be.
Be aware of further self-sabotage, adds Goodwin. Sloppy performance, talking back to co-workers or managers or showing up late can get you fired. You may find out how much you liked, or at least needed, that job once you’re forced out.
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, Rosenberg says.
And beware of idealizing other jobs. It may well be that another position will suit you better. But remember, just because you’re unhappy in your current job doesn’t mean the next one will be perfect.
©2012/The New York Times
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