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I hate my job—but I can’t afford to quit. What can I do?

Student Career Placement Consultant

A woman sits at her desk, frustrated.

Sometimes you find yourself stuck in a job that you really don’t like. It could be that it’s boring, or that you don’t get along with your boss, or your commute is too long. Whatever the reason, your best solution is to find a new job, but sometimes that just isn’t feasible. Or at least not immediately. So what can you do in the short term to make it more bearable? Here are some suggestions. 

Make friends with your co-workers. Or at least with one of them. If you have someone to talk with, socialize with, and spend time with outside the office, you won’t mind going to work as much. Look for people with similar interests (sports, cooking, children, movies) or who are in similar life situations (single, parents of small children) so that you have points of contact for those initial stages of friendship.

Focus on the positive. It’s only natural to allow the things you dislike to consume your attention—if something is keeping you awake at night or interfering with your life in other ways, you’re obviously going to have it at the forefront of your thoughts. Try keeping a journal where you not only list the negatives about your job, but also find things to say each day about something you enjoyed, or that worked well, or that made you feel productive or appreciated. The negatives may outweigh the positives, but by keeping track of those things that are okay,  you may be able to switch your emphasis over time with the realization that many aspects of the job actually are working for you.

Take time for yourself.  There are really two ideas here. The first is to make sure you’re doing something just for yourself during your non-work hours. It could be spending time with friends, watching favorite TV shows, going for a walk or to the gym, or reading a good book. Make time to do those things that make you feel good about yourself and that give you the energy to face the rest of the week. The second part of this concept is to try to find some aspect of your job that you really enjoy, and take steps to make sure that you get to do some of that each week. It could mean taking on a special project, volunteering for a committee, or just shutting your door (assuming you have one!) and focusing without interruption for an hour or two. Many of my former students are lucky enough to work for an organization where everyone has a private office and a “do not disturb” sign that they can post when they’re trying to meet a deadline or just need some quiet time to complete a task. 

Keep at it. If you hate your job, you may be inclined to just do the minimum (or even less). According to a Gallup poll conducted a few years ago, about 20% of American workers are actively impeding the work of their organizations. But this doesn’t do you any good in the long run. First of all, you want to ensure that you can get a decent recommendation if you do find another job that you want to apply for. Secondly, you’re likely to start to feel worse about yourself for not meeting your obligations. 

Make plans. If you really, really hate your job, make plans for how you can change your situation. This could involve spending some of your free time looking for another job, looking internally for other positions within the same organization, or finding ways to alter the composition of your work load so that you are doing more of the things you like (and fewer of the things you hate). Even if it takes a long time to make a change, the simple fact that you’re creating a plan for change will give you hope and a sense of accomplishment, both of which will make it easier for you to stick with it as long as you feel that you must. 

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