In my lifetime, it’s surprising how many friends and family members I know who have, at some point, said to me that they were in a job they hated so much they would “rather have jumped in front of a car than go into work that morning”. I never thought that feeling existed until I had a similar experience myself when I first moved to London. Needless to say, I lasted just over a month in that job before I handed in my notice and became unemployed for the first time in my adult life. But as I walked out into the street at 11am that day, I felt so much relief that I didn’t care. And really, if a job makes you feel those kind of emotions, is it worth it? I honestly believe that the answer has to be no.
That said, I had a month of utter turmoil in that job and felt unable to leave straight away. My reasons were that I had just signed a contract to a ridiculously expensive London flat, and was terrified to lose my salary so soon after having started. For others, their reasons can be so much more worrying; a mortgage to pay, food on the table for their family, paying off debt, elderly relatives to look after, and so on.
Even with dreams of one day owning our own business, many of us have to stick it out for days, weeks, months and sometimes even years in a job that we do not love, or even worse, that we hate. It’s difficult and mentally draining, but there are some things you can do to make this stressful period easier on yourself.
Decide if it’s fixable
The first thing you must do is decide if this is a long-term hatred that isn’t going away, or a short-lived problem that you can identify as one individual factor of your job. Is there a line manager that you are clashing with? Is there some element of your job description that isn’t gelling with your personality? Is there a regular task you have been set that fills you with dread? Think about whether you can identify one aspect of the job that is making you feel this way, and then think about ways to improve it. The sooner you can start to fix the problem, the happier you will be.
This could mean discussing your worries with a colleague or manager, taking a course to improve your skills in a particular area, or working with your company to shape your role more effectively around your own personality. Before you hit the panic button and walk away, try to figure out if the situation is in any way fixable.
Set a get-out goal
If, based on the above, you know there is no changing the situation and you are certain of your desire to leave, it’s time to set a get-out goal. You should never be dreading going into work each day without a plan of action for how you are going to eventually escape. If your goal is to become self-employed then you are in a great position, as you get to decide the date you want to flip over to freelance life and work towards this in the meantime.
If you want to get another job, however, you may be reliant on an alternative role coming up, and even if it does there’s no guarantee you will get it. Setting your get-out goal in this case means, in a way, deciding what you are willing to settle for as a means to an end. Allow yourself to sit with the idea that, if by a certain date you haven’t found an alternative job that you love, you will accept an alternative job that you simply like, or tolerate. This doesn’t ever need to be a permanent position, just something that will keep you earning until you find “the one”. If you are really struggling to stick it out in the job you are in currently, then sticking it out somewhere else has got to be an easier choice.
Of course this advice isn’t for everyone, so it’s each to their own when it comes to what you are and are not willing to accept, but if your job is making you miserable then I would always suggest that its time in your life story should be limited, and you should begin looking for an alternative arrangement so that you can focus on the end goal while dealing with the job you don’t want to be in.
Choose a way to count down
Knowing that you will be leaving in a certain amount of days, weeks or months gives you an end goal to focus on, but it’s the days leading up to it that you need to tick off in some way in order to stay positive and know that the current situation won’t last forever. Whether that’s crossing off the days on your calendar every evening when you finish another day, or counting up financially what money you are saving by staying in your job that little bit longer, putting some kind of numerical value onto each day at work can help turn a very negative situation into some kind of a positive, even if it seems silly to you at the time.
Find a way to put things into perspective
Getting up and heading off to a job you hate every morning can feel awful, and can have a huge impact on your mental health, so putting it into perspective daily is important so that you never let the black cloud hovering over you turn into a huge storm. If you’re stuck at your desk all day in the office, get out in the fresh air at lunchtime to escape the situation and remind yourself of what is important to you, and of your goals. If you can’t stomach the thought of driving into work one morning, find your favourite album to play in the car on the way there, to remind you of things you love outside of work. Even simple things that can distract you from your work life misery, or bring you back to your true reality outside of work, will make all the difference.
Spend time with friends and family regularly to put your 9-5 into perspective and know that whatever happens to you in work before you quit, cannot affect your life outside.
Talk to someone who understands
Moaning about your job to everyone and anyone who will listen can have a negative impact on both you and the people around you, but letting someone you trust know that you are really struggling with your job and sticking it out until you hand in your notice, can be a healthy way to release the tension. I’m a big believer in a problem shared is a problem halved, so talking about it in a way that isn’t just generalised ranting can help you put problems into perspective and get advice from someone outside of the situation who can be objective.
Also, it’s a good idea to give yourself ‘venting goals’, so that each time you moan about work, it’s with a purpose in mind, i.e. getting someone’s outside opinion on something that was said in a meeting, running an idea past a trusted friend, or taking their constructive advice that, as long as you agree that it is good advice, you will actually put into action instead of ignoring it and continuing on in despair.
Start a side hustle
Whether or not your get-out goal includes leaving to become self-employed, I believe having a ‘bit on the side’, or a side hustle, is a great move these days. In this case, it serves two functions: number one, it distracts you from your day job and allows you to be creative, working on something outside of your usual tasks, and two, it has the potential to provide another source of income. Even if you are only making a few extra pennies each month, every little helps if you do decide to leave your job earlier than planned, and having anything to fall back on is a great way to prepare.
Are you in the final stages of a job you dislike? Let us know your plans in the comments below!
If you’re feeling down…
Not every piece of advice in this blog will be the best path for everyone, as each person’s situation is completely different, however I hope that you will find some advice in here that resonates with you and helps you get through a difficult time in your career. As someone who has been in this position, and who knows many people who have been too, I always encourage people to talk about their frustrations with someone else who can help them to see things in a different light. If you don’t feel you can talk to friends or family, please feel free to reach out. Myself and Desk Life Project are always on hand to discuss difficult work situations with anyone who needs to talk. And remember, if your job is affecting your mental health, please seek the appropriate help (such as from a counsellor or doctor) who can advise you further.