Do resent your boss? Does the guy sitting next to you smell eternally like salmon? Do you think hourly about how you ended up here in the first place?
These things happen, and they normally result in the harshest of personal miseries: being trapped in a job that you hate.
It’s a bummer, sure, but it helps to remember that plenty of people are working crummy jobs and there are ways to deal with it. Assuming the workplace isn’t toxic and that you just flat-out loathe your job, here are a few tips to help you through.
Maybe you don’t want to hear this, but it’s important. Most people feel like up and quitting on bad or uninspired days (and indeed fantasies of extravagant exits can be fun for a few minutes), but quitting without an action plan may cause you more grief in the long term. Stay put for now. Breathe. Patience is crucial.
Keep everything in perspective
First ask yourself: Is it really that bad? What do I need from a job, anyway? Is there anything positive about my current situation?
These are important. If in the end you know you need to make a career change, or if there’s no way to realistically quit, a shift in perspective is essential.
“It’s about mitigating the inner critic,” says Rachel Newton, a Vancouver-based career counselor and owner of Life Career Studio.
“Sometimes, when you feel trapped, all you can see is the negative side. Helping to change that perspective, to help get out of that spiral of feeling trapped (is important).”
Newton says a lot of people can gain that perspective on their own. Others need some professional help – which is where career counselors can help.
While it’s important to look at other jobs as research for what you might want to move into, Amy Lloyd, another Vancouver-based career counselor, says that getting depressed by other people’s successes can be destructive.
“Comparing incomes? Comparing what you believe to be status? Comparing all those things is kind of pointless, because it doesn’t get you anything – other than sad,” she says.
She adds, “Even your dream job of coaching an NHL team, there’s a boring element to everything.”
Explore your passion outside of work
A lot of the tension or unhappiness can arise from having skills or a passion that can’t be utilized in your job. Lloyd says exploring these passions – writing, playing music, weaving, etc. – outside of work can help bring some contentedness for people dissatisfied in their work life.
“Some people find that it’s all about the art and they’re willing to live on a shoestring,” she says, “and others find that’s cool when you’re in your 20s and not so much when you want to buy a house and have five kids.”
Alternatively, try to find ways to incorporate these skills into your work, even if you’re planning to eventually leave.
Plot your escape
Obviously, if you’re unhappy with your job, then you need to quit…eventually. Be smart about it. Network. Explore opportunities within your industry, or research what exists outside of it.
But you need an action plan.
“The exploration should be done parallel to a job you dislike,” Lloyd says. “It’s almost like dating – you need to think about what (quitting) looks like before you break up.”
She says that creating an action plan while sitting at your desk (time permitting) can alleviate stress. Make a list of dream jobs – what’s the theme? The act of preparing a resume, by jotting down their experience and transferable skills, alone can provide a sense of relief. Then start looking for something new.
Again, this is vital. That dream of being a big-shot editor for a New York magazine is maybe unrealistic when you live in B.C. and have two small kids. Take that list of dream jobs and see how you can incorporate it into whatever opportunities you look for next.
Try not to let expectations outweigh the reality. Vancouver and its suburbs are expensive places to live – Lloyd says to be realistic about how much time you have, how much income there is to pursue other careers that might require some training or school.
That’s not to say stop dreaming. Keep dreaming, kids.
(Images via ThinkStock)