How to Deal When You Hate Your New Job

In 1994, I started a new job in an entirely new field. The gig seemed perfect: It was a step up financially, it was ripe with opportunity … and it was a complete disaster.

Within days, I had a sinking feeling that my new dream job was actually a nightmare. But I was stuck. Without a clear plan, I stayed in that job for two years and hated nearly every minute of it. If your new job feels like a bad dream, here are seven things you can do.

1. Determine if it's the job or the transition

Starting a new job is a huge change, and one that can be very stressful. It's easy for that stress to be misinterpreted and misplaced. Ask yourself, "Is it the job I hate, or is it the transition?" Many times, once we settle into a new job, get acquainted with co-workers, and begin to understand the expectations, that "nightmare job" becomes just a job.

2. Focus on the good

OK, so you've determined that it's the job — not the transition itself — that's the nightmare. Now what? At the risk of sounding like a blind optimist, focus on the good. It can help you tolerate a job when there are no other options immediately available. What duties do you enjoy? Are there co-workers that make the day-to-day grind easier to manage? Is there a nearby coffee shop or park where you can unwind for a few minutes every afternoon? All of those things, even though small, are positives you can look forward to.

3. Retreat

Sometimes the smartest strategy is a hasty retreat. Contact the supervisor of your previous job and explain the circumstances — you made a career misstep and would like the opportunity to return to your old job. If you left on good terms, if the position is still open, and if you're willing to eat a little crow, this tactic just might work.

4. Set a deadline

Toiling away at a job you hate year after year can sap your motivation and keep you poor. If you have a financial cushion, don't stay in a nightmare job one minute longer than necessary. Set a deadline for your departure and stick to it. In the meantime, polish your resume, build a better LinkedIn profile, and save aggressively so you can weather gaps in employment.

5. Work your network

There's a kernel of truth to the adage, "It's not what you know, it's whom you know." If you need to find a new job quickly, tap into the power of your professional network. To avoid the deadly "job hopper" wrap, frame your situation carefully but honestly. Be ready to explain to potential employers why your new job is a bad fit, what you learned from the experience, and how you're applying those lessons in your current job search. (See also: The 10 Best Networking Tips for People Under 40)

6. Be willing to take a step backward

Even if going back to your old job is out of the question, be willing to take a temporary step backward. Though it may bruise your ego, a strategic step down the career ladder allows you to regroup, plan your next move, and build additional experience in a more positive environment.

7. Once you're back on track, purge it from your resume

Mistakes happen, but there's no need to document each one permanently on a resume. If your nightmare job was short-lived, don't include it in your work history. Instead, own the mistake on a personal level. Use it to learn more about yourself, improve how you research new career opportunities, and — perhaps most importantly — make sure all your future jobs are nightmare-free.

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