How to Survive (and Thrive!) in a Job You Hate
Somewhere, sometime in life, everyone has a job they hate. Whether the hours are terrible, the pay is awful, the coworkers are wretched, or the boss is horrid, hated jobs are very much a thing of the present. We work them for different reasons, for different lengths of time, and with different levels of satisfaction, but almost all of us work them at some point. For many people, these jobs are a drag that make them feel like hollow shells of their former selves. However, there are a few people who manage to survive and thrive in jobs they really don't like. Here are a few of their secrets for making that hated job easier. (See also: What to Do When You Want to Quit Your Job)
Know Why You're There
Whether you took the job in the first place because you thought it was something other than it turned out to be or because you absolutely had to make rent and couldn't do it any other way, knowing why you took the job will help you maintain perspective while you're there. Remembering the process that led up to your current situation: the job search, the interviews, your conversations with others about the job, your conversations with yourself about it, hearing that you had the job, your acceptance of it, and anything else you went through during that time will remind you that you are more than your job. YOU took IT for a good reason. If that reason isn't so good anymore, well, then it's time to reevaluate. But you can do that, because you are more than the job.
Know What You Really Want
Often, a terrible job will help you know what you would want in a good job. So go ahead and note what these things are! Are your current coworkers loud? Note that you would like a job where you can have quiet time to focus, at least when working on large projects. Is your boss always second-guessing or changing your decisions? Note that you would like a job where employees are trusted and tasks are truly delegated. Go through the process of actually writing these things down. When you have a physical list of what you want, your current job won't seem so worthless. After all, it helped you learn what to look for next!
Once you have this list, add to it the things you've dreamed about doing. Would you like a job that requires a lot of problem-solving instead of a set group of tasks? Include that. Would you rather work for yourself? Note it. Have you always dreamed of writing for a living? Put it down.
Whether you're in a position to actually go out and look for another job or not, this list shows what you know about yourself, job-wise. And knowing what you want is often the first step towards getting it.
Know Your Motivation for Staying
If you're planning to stay in a job you dislike, it's important that you know why. Is your current job the only one in your area that fits your skills? Or do you need it to keep your children fed and clothed? Whatever the reason, remembering what it is and keeping it at the forefront of your consciousness makes working a difficult job easier. When you do this, you end up working not for the job itself, but for whatever the motivation is behind your being there. The job becomes more than a job: it becomes a way to fulfill whatever desire moved you to take it in the first place.
Make a Conscious Choice to Stay
Knowing your motivation also makes it possible for you to evaluate it. Maybe you wanted a job close to home because you were newly married and wanted to spend as much time as possible with your new husband. Now, he's working regular hours and taking some night classes, so your short commute doesn't net the two of your more time. While working the hated job might have been worth it for the time together, it's not when it doesn't produce that result. Or maybe you realize that you qualify for lots of different jobs of the same type that you're working now, and you realize that a different work environment might make things much more tolerable. Whatever your motivation, consider carefully whether it's enough motivation to stay at the job.
If your motivation is enough for you to keep the hated job, make staying a conscious choice. Own your choice. You do not HAVE to stay at the job, but you CHOOSE to. And you know the reasons behind your choice, and that they are enough to outweigh the fact that you hate what you're doing. Deliberately choosing to stay will help you own the job. It will help you to feel, in some small way, like you are doing what you want to do (because you do want it, even if only from the perspective that it is better than any current alternative).
Make that Choice Again If You Have To
Even after you choose to stay, there will be parts of the job that you dislike. Those parts may even make up the majority of your time there! If you can notice those parts and notice the feelings of frustration/rage/anger/sadness/hopelessness/whatever that rise up in you, you can choose to make your choice again. Run through the motivations, and the reasons why those motivations are worth it. Remember that you are more than this job, that you chose it.
This is really hard (particularly when you're used to letting the negative emotions take over)! Stick with it. Remember that you will fail sometimes, and go home complaining and pissed off again. Over a long period of time, though, your choice will become the habit instead of the emotions.
Feel Your Feelings
When something comes up in your job that you hate, feel that. Let yourself feel whatever emotion comes over you. Don't try to hide it inside, or it will just blow out later. If you need to take a walk, or go to the restroom, or even put the emotion on an internal shelf to feel later (just be sure to take it back out!), do that. Letting things build up until they might explode is never a good idea. So let yourself feel. And, in the midst of your feelings, remember your choice. Remember why even these awful feelings are worth sticking it out.
Have Realistic Expectations
Don't expect yourself to ever love your job. Don't think that you should be loving it so something must be wrong. Instead, expect that you won't like it. Expect that the things that have frustrated you since the first day will still frustrate you now and will probably continue to do so as long as you stay at the job. If you expect that, the job will never sink below your expectations. However, at this point, you know that you are more than the job. You don't expect all of your satisfaction to come from that, because there are more areas in your life than just that.
Take Advantage of Any "Extras" the Job Offers
Some jobs suck, but have great perks. Right now, I work a job that I actually like (well, most of the time!). But, even if I didn't like it, I'd probably work here because it gets my husband huge discounts on his grad school tuition (I work at the university). Knowing that my working here helps us financially like that can make a big difference when I want to throw in the towel. Different jobs have different perks, but almost every job has at least one. My husband is a server at a local restaurant. He doesn't like it, but he gets to bring home any mistakes they make. Knowing that we'll get delicious pasta for lunch the next day often makes his shifts feel lighter and go faster. I know it sounds crazy, but taking advantage even of these small things makes staying easier.
Personalize Your Space
Put up pictures of the people who are your motivation for working. Decorate the walls of your cube with colorful material. Decorate your computer screen with sayings that inspire you. If your workplace won't allow any of those things, wear a locket with a special picture in it or carry one in your wallet. Put something small and special in your pocket so you can at least touch it whenever you want. These things help make your space, your computer, you person YOURS, and if they're yours then they don't belong to the horrible job that you hate. Once again, these things help you feel like you are more than your job, help you remember why you're really there, and help you choose to stay.
It's pretty clear that no one wants to stay in a job they hate. But if you choose to, whether because it satisfies some deeper motivation or because it's the best of a bad situation, these ideas should help you thrive there without feeling dead inside.