“I hate my job!”
5 Things You Can Do When You Hate Your Job
“I hate my job. I hate my job. I HATE MY JOB.”
A few years ago, some dude named Daniel Kochanski was working as a professional stenographer, assigned to transcribe what was said during courtroom proceedings in New York City.
But poor Danny disliked his job so much that instead of writing down what the judges and lawyers and such folk were saying, he instead tapped the same four words into his typewriter repeatedly:
“I hate my job. I HATE MY JOB. I hate my job.”
Most people aren’t like Danny, in that they probably won’t mess up dozens of high-profile criminal cases because they hate their job so much.
But most people are like Danny in that they are unhappy at work.
This is a long, comprehensive article. If you don’t have time to read it all now, click here to enter your email and I’ll send a link to your inbox so you can finish it later.
A 2016 study by the Conference Board, a New York-based nonprofit research group, found that 50.4% of Americans – more than half! – are not satisfied with their jobs. 1
So hey, if you’re reading this because you hate your job, know that you’re not alone. Every second person collecting a paycheck feels your pain.
Maybe even more than every second person…
Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called everybody, and they meet at the bar.
It saddens me that there are so many people in the world working jobs they hate, always waiting for the weekend.
We spend a huge chunk of our waking hours working, and so methinks it’s a good idea to be doing work that you love.
Or, at the very least, work that doesn’t make you want to slash your wrists.
Now, I know: it’s easy to get stuck in a job you hate, to feel like you have little choice but to stay there and endure the misery.
But hopefully what follows will convince you otherwise.
What you will learn in this article:
- The 5 options available to you if you hate your job (and which is right for you)
- How to quit your job without destroying your life
- How to quickly and effectively find a new and better job (or change to a more fulfilling career)
- What alternative work options are available to you
- How you can make money without a job
5 Things You Can Do If You Hate Your Job
If you hate your job, the first thing you need to realize is that you have options.
Really, you do. Five of them:
- Do nothing and continue to hate your job
- Lie to yourself and pretend everything is peachy
- Figure out why you hate your job
- Take action to make the job more enjoyable
Do Nothing And Continue To Hate Your Job
I suggest you pass on this option.
Not only will it lead to indefinite unhappiness (and often stress), but it makes you a coward as well.
Do nothing and you’ll most likely end up like this guy…
(Seriously, did you just watch that entire video? And wait… are you at work right now?? Damn, you really need to keep reading.)
Lie To Yourself
And Pretend Everything Is Peachy
This option is also pretty lame.
Do this and you’re just ignoring the problem, closing your eyes and sticking your fingers in your ears. It might work for a while, but eventually you’ll crack.
Figure Out WHY You Hate Your Job
Now we’re getting somewhere!
Before you make any changes, you’ll want to figure out exactly why you’re dissatisfied with your current job.
If this is obvious to you, great, skip on ahead.
But if not, take some time to work through this section with a pen and paper.
Start by asking yourself this question:
“Do I hate my job, or my career?”
Maria Onzain at WayUp poses these three questions to help you figure out if it’s time for a career change:
- What is important to you and what do you want from your new career?
- Are you happy to start at the bottom and work your way back up?
- Are your expectations realistic?
If you determine that a career change is the right move for you, jump to this section for tips on how to make that happen.
If however you’ve determined that it’s just your current job that needs improving, take some time to figure out exactly where the problem lies.
- Boss / Manager
- Colleagues / Coworkers
- Pay / Rewards / Benefits
- Variety / Opportunities To Grow
- Emotional Environment / Company Culture
- Rules / Structure
- The Work Itself
For each item on that list, ask yourself:
“Is this the reason I hate my job?”
Sidenote: Maybe You’re The Problem
Don’t forget to look in the mirror while trying to figure out why you hate your job.
As Dale Callahan puts it:
Fact is, when you say “I hate my job” more is said about you than is about the employer.
Now that’s not always true – the problem may really be your employer – but it’s worth considering.
Keep the following in mind:
If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole. 3
Would you really be happier with a different job/boss/whatever, or would you find something to complain about no matter what?
Instead of wondering where your next vacation is, maybe you ought to set up a life you don’t need to escape from.
To Make Your Job More Enjoyable
Hopefully by now you’ve pinpointed the exact factor(s) that are making you miserable at work.
Next you’ll want to ask yourself this question:
“What would have to change for me to enjoy this job?”
Here are some actions you can take for each of the factors listed earlier.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Boss / Manager
According to a recent Gallup State of the Global Workplace study, fifty percent of employees in the United States have quit a job at some point because of problems with a boss.
So if you’d rather not quit your job, you need to get this resolved.
- First and foremost, take Diane Gottsman’s advice and avoid complaining:
Refrain from gossip and badmouthing your boss to others at work or in your professional circles. Nothing good comes from being labeled as a negative employee.
- Identify what kind of boss you’re dealing with. Marie McIntyre describes five types of difficult boss – Micromanager, Procrastinator, Idiot, Dictator, Abuser – and provides strategies for dealing with each one.
- Take careful note of how you butt heads or become frustrated with your boss. Is it always the same thing that causes friction? If so, is there something you can change there?
- If you find communicating with your boss difficult and frustrating, read Nonviolent Communication by Marshall Rosenberg and apply what you learn.
- If communication doesn’t help, Jennifer Winter at The Muse recommends biting your tongue and letting off steam:
I would let an ex-Marine scream orders at me while I punched and kicked the daylights out of inanimate objects. Not only did I get in fantastic shape, but every encounter with my boss became progressively less frustrating.
- “Speak to colleagues who do get on with the boss. What is it they do that you don’t? Do they have any tips for you?” 4
- As per TD Jakes:
If your company has a union, you might want to use them as a resource on how to deal with conflict management. If your rights have been violated, you can also contact the National Labor Relations Board for information on how to protect yourself.
And hey, if all that fails, you can always resort to recording your boss making sexual advances on an unconscious friend and then blackmailing her so she quits being so horrible to you…
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Colleagues / Coworkers
A recent survey of 2,000 Brits found a third of them admitting to hating their colleagues 5 so you’re certainly not alone if you occasionally feel the urge to slap a coworker.
Not that you should ever act on that urge, of course.
Okay, maybe sometimes…
Aside from that, consider the following:
- First, take a step back and think about why you hate a specific coworker. As Karlyn Borysenko writes:
I’m sure you didn’t walk in on day one, just hate the look of the person, and it was all downhill from there. Really work to get some clarity on why there’s not a better working relationship between the two of you. What did they say to you? What did they do? When was it? What context was it in?
- Hey, maybe it’s not them; maybe it’s you. Seriously, you might be the problem here. Are you pulling your weight at work? Are you preventing your colleagues from getting their work done? Might you have really bad BO? Pull aside your friendliest coworker and ask them if you’re doing something wrong. 6
- Amy Gallo shares advice from Daniel Goleman (he of Emotional Intelligence fame): 7
He suggests that if there is someone who is annoying or abrasive, don’t think about how the person acts, think about how you react. It’s far more productive to focus on your own behavior because you can control it. 8
- “Accept that you don’t have to like everyone.” 9 You’re there to do a job, not to share intimate stories and braid each other’s hair. Not everyone at work needs to be your BFF.
- If you’re dealing with an exceedingly dumb coworker, Adam Dachis recommends you take a deep breath when they mess something up for the 29th time, then string words like these together:
“I’ve shown you how to do this a few times now and you seem to be struggling with it. Is there a better way I could explain it? Am I not giving you enough detail?”
- Liane Davey Ph.D. suggests asking yourself WHY five times to get at the root of the problem: 10
When you think “She makes me want to strangle her!” Why? “Because I hate when she is always trying to sound so smart!” Why? “Because I think she’s pulling the wool over the boss’ eyes?” Why does that bother you? “Because she gets all the attention!” Why is that a problem? “Because I want some attention too!” Why? “Because I need to feel like I’m valued by my boss!” Aha!
- Lastly, consider having a word with your boss if bad blood is lingering between you and a colleague. As per Nonviolent Communication, focus on sharing observations (as opposed to evaluations) and expressing your own feelings and needs rather than focusing on the “faults” of your colleague.
I Hate My Job Because Of Insufficient…
Pay / Rewards / Benefits
If you feel your compensation is inadequate, you need to negotiate for better.
Look no further than Ramit Sethi for excellent advice on how to do this:
Key points from that video:
- First find out if you are actually underpaid or undercompensated and by how much. Use these three websites to find out: PayScale.com, Salary.com, Glassdoor.com
- Before trying to negotiate for better compensation, make sure you deserve it. As per the video, average performers can expect to be underpaid, as they are a commodity and easily replaceable. Become a top performer however, and you are in a much better position to negotiate.
- Follow these three steps to ask for a raise (explained in more detail in the video):
- Make your boss aware
- Marshall defenses
- End on a positive note
To dive deeper into getting a raise and boosting your salary, I highly recommend you check out this free ultimate guide from Sethi.
Lastly, keep in mind that “better compensation” can mean a variety of things:
- A salary increase
- Bigger bonuses
- More time off
- Better benefits
- More training
In other words, there are a lot of ways your boss can better compensate you. If he or she refuses to increase your salary, suggest some other reward or benefit that you’d be satisfied with.
I Hate My Job Because It Lacks…
Variety / Opportunities To Grow
Feeling stuck like this pug?
Well, it’s not just you:
According to a recent Gallup survey, 87% of millennials say on-the-job development opportunities are important to them, while 69% of non-millennials say the same. 11If you feel stuck in a boring, dead-end job, there are several things you can do:
- As per Sarah Winfrey at Wise Bread, first make sure you’re not slacking at work. If you are, you’re unlikely to be assigned bigger and better projects.
- Instead of slacking, “be proactive about your role. Don’t wait for management to assign you additional responsibilities. Instead, look around for areas in the organization that need improvement and create solutions.” 12
- An excellent example of this comes from Andrea Ring:
My first assignment was a data entry job. Bleh. No fun, not something I wanted to do. But I did it, and immediately I started to see possibilities. My editing skills were needed for their reports. They didn’t have a Style Guide, despite having over 100 employees. I knew I could do more.
So I did. I wrote a style guide, made report templates, and they hired me. It turned into such a lucrative job that my husband ended up quitting and staying home with the kids. 13
- If you’re flat out and don’t feel you have any time to devote to development opportunities, consider these words from the Harvard Business Review:
We all managed to make time for our executive MBAs, while still doing our day jobs. When the program ends, don’t let the day job reabsorb the learning time. Keep the time to evolve your work.
- Go to your boss/manager and voice your concerns. They may simply not realize that you’re willing and able to take on more responsibility, or that you want to shift gears and try something different. If they seem hesitant to make a change, suggest doing a trial run for a week or two.
- As per the following video (tip #5), don’t be indispensable. If you are, your boss/manager will want you to keep doing what you’re doing. You should make your current job easy to pass along to someone else so you can be free to tackle bigger and better projects.
Failing all that, it may well be time to look for a new job or change careers completely. More on those options below.
And remember, if you do succeed at getting a promotion in your current job (official or not), you should also receive an equivalent bump in compensation. If that doesn’t happen automatically, refer to the previous section.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Emotional Environment / Company Culture
Honestly, this is a tough one to fix.
Most of the advice out there for improving company culture is for bosses and management. If you’re not in a leadership position yourself, and have no desire to be, then there’s not a lot you can do.
These (summarized) tips from Laura Sims are as good as it gets:
- Resist the pressure to conform to the company culture. You don’t have to be cruel/lazy/uncooperative just because everyone around you is. Keep your integrity, perform at your best, and hope it will rub off on others.
One practical tip related to that: avoid “backbiting,” as explained in this video…
- You can “emotionally de-invest” and just do the minimum required of you to keep collecting your paycheck. This is obviously not ideal, but if money is what matters most to you right now then it may be your best option. 14
- “Find the humor” and “appreciate the absurdity of the situation you’re in.”
- Make up for your sucky work environment by surrounding yourself with awesome, inspiring, and positive people and organizations outside of work.
Those tips aside, you should seriously consider quitting your job and finding a company with an awesome culture to work for instead.
Remember, a 40-hour workweek adds up to approximately 2,000 hours per year. Don’t spend that time in a bad work environment. Life’s too short, and there are plenty of other opportunities out there.
Getting a raise is the fastest and easiest way to make more money.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Rules / Structure
Perhaps you feel like a little like this young lady:
You’re all ready for the work equivalent of a beach party with your four-legged and two-wheeled friends, but those pesky rules just keep getting in the way.
What should you do?
First, make a sincere effort to understand why the rules are there, why your job or your company is structured the way it is.
“The secret of breaking rules in a way that works is understanding what the rules are in the first place.” – Rick Wakeman
Quite often rules appear ridiculous simply because we don’t understand why they were implemented initially, so make it your mission to find out.
When you do this, one of two things will happen:
- You’ll discover that the rule makes sense.
- Or you’ll discover that it doesn’t. 15
If the former, you can put your mind to rest and get back to work, no longer frustrated because now you understand why the rule is in place and why it shouldn’t be broken.
If the latter, however, your next move should be to appeal to your superiors to have the rule removed.
Go to them prepared with clear examples of how the rule is hindering your performance and that of the company, and what advances could be made without it. Think ahead about what objections they might have and be ready to counter them.
Once you’ve made your case, you’ll have a good feel for whether or not a change is likely.
If so, great, you can hang in there until the obstacle is removed.
If not, you can continue to appeal to your superiors or jump ship in favor of a less restrictive work environment.
Or, you know, just break that stupid rule and see what happens…
I Hate My Job Because Of…
The Work Itself
We’ll need to dig a little deeper here to figure out the exact problem.
What is it about the work that you don’t like?
It’s usually one of two things:
- The work is boring
- The work is stressful
“The work is boring”
Okay, how can you make it more interesting?
- Can you challenge yourself somehow, perhaps to get more done in less time?
- Can you take on some additional responsibilities?
- Can you talk to your boss and ask for his/her help to make the job more interesting?
- Can you do something else while at work? For example, if you’re a security guard sitting around all day, can you read books or listen to podcasts during your shift?
Or maybe you could just entertain yourself with a scrunched-up piece of paper:
“The work is stressful”
If this is the case, you’ll need to talk to your boss.
But don’t just present him/her with the problem and hope for a solution. Instead, come prepared with some suggestions.
- Push back a tight deadline you have coming up.
- Hire additional help to ease the pressure.
- Increase the budget for the project you’re working on.
- Reassign you to a more suitable project.
- Send you for more training so your skills better match the demands of the job.
Make it clear to your boss the stress you’re under and how that negatively affects your performance and puts the company’s goals at risk. Then explain how your proposed solution(s) can ease the pressure and improve the chances of success.
I Hate My Job Because Of…
My Negative Attitude
If you’re reading this section, kudos for owning up to having a negative attitude.
Although you should take a moment to consider the following before we proceed…
Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes.
— Notorious d.e.b. (@debihope) January 24, 2010
Okay, assuming you are not, in fact, just surrounded by assholes and do indeed need to improve your negative attitude, here are a few things you can try:
- Use The Five Minute Journal. This will help you focus on the positive and cultivate gratitude. You can use the official app, the official notebook, or just write out the questions and your answers on a piece of paper or on your computer every day (you can see the questions here).
- Whenever you feel the temptation to talk about someone behind their back, use Socrates’s Triple Filter Test, as explained in this video:
MY NEW VIDEO: The Triple Filter Test by Socrates – please do share! We're surrounded by so much gossip and fake news that it is hard to decipher what's true and what's not. This also causes challenges in our relationships with loved ones. I love this triple filter test from Socrates because it helps the mind think logically. There's also an unexpected surprise at the end!
Posted by Jay Shetty on Friday, January 6, 2017
- Frode Heimen lists twelve things you can do to stay positive at work. My favorites:
- Serve coffee to fellow co-workers
- Write a post-it note to someone and thank them for anything positive they have done
- Make sure to find a positive view on every topic discussed
- Try using some of these 100 positive affirmations by Farnoosh Brock.
- Whenever you get stuck on a negative thought, run through Byron Katie’s four questions:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you think that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
An example of this process:
- Stop comparing yourself to others! As per Zen Habits:
try to be aware of when you start comparing yourself to others … once you’ve developed this awareness, try this trick: stop yourself. Tell yourself, “Stop that!” And then start thinking about all the things you DO have, the things you love, the people you have, the blessings that life has given you. Make this a regular practice, and you’ll start to be happier with your life.
- A great tip from Henrik Edberg’s Positivity Blog is to surround yourself with more positive people. Your environment affects you greatly, so try to spend less time with negative people, and more time with positive folk.
- Whenever a problem arises, resist the urge to dwell on it. Instead, focus your energy on trying to find a solution. A great book that will help you stay solution-focused is The Obstacle Is The Way by Ryan Holiday.
Cultivating a positive attitude is essentially about changing habits – negative thought patters are simply a habit – and that can take a while, especially if you’ve been thinking negatively for quite a while.
So it can take time to become a more positive=thinking person. Be patient and keep working at it consistently.
If the rules are such that you can't make progress, then you have to fight the rules.
How To Quit Your Job (The Smart Way)
Great, you’ve decided to quit.
All you need to do now is hire a barbershop quintet and sing your way to freedom…
All joking aside, quitting can be scary, even if you’re sure it’s the right thing to do.
Yasmine Khater lists five reasons why it can be so hard to quit your job:
- Fear of what parents, friends, colleagues and society will say
- Myth of safety of working for a corporation
- Mother of all uncertainty – fear of self-employment
- Fear of losing benefits (health, dental, insurance, etc.)
- Fear of not having enough money
Do any of those ring true for you?
Maybe all of them?
What will help alleviate those fears is putting some serious thought into how you’re going to quit and what you’ll do next.
In other words, you need to quit smart.
Let’s run through how to do that, step by step:
- Decide what’s next
- Get your finances in order
- Set a deadline
- Work hard
Decide What’s Next
Before you pull the trigger, make sure you have a plan.
Quitting on a whim might be right for some people, but you give yourself a much better chance of landing on your feet if you think ahead and get a few wheels turning before jumping ship.
So take some time to decide what you want to do next.
- Do you want to change jobs but stay in your current career?
- Change careers?
- Go back to study?
- Start your own business?
- Take a few months off to “find yourself”? 16
- Something else entirely?
To help make this decision, talk to people you trust. Talk to people who have taken paths similar to what you’re considering. Spend some time journaling, writing out different options and envisioning different outcomes.
You’re not looking to end up with a decision you’re 100% sure of – you can never be that sure as it’s impossible to predict the future – but having done your due diligence and really thought through your options, you should emerge with a direction you feel good about.
Get Your Finances In Order
Okay, so you’ve figured out what you want to do after quitting your job.
But before you go marching into your boss’s office and handing over your nicely-typed resignation letter, you should take a good hard look at your financial situation.
The primary question you want to answer here:
“Do I have enough money to make this transition without stressing myself out big-time?”
Your answer to that question will depend on what you’ve decided to do next.
If you’ve decided to jump straight into another job, then this might not be a big deal for you as you can probably line up your next gig before quitting your current one and never miss a paycheck.
On the other hand, if you expect to go a few weeks or months without income during the transition, you’ll need to figure out how you’re going to get through that.
Some things to consider:
- If you expect to have no income for a while after quitting your job, try save up enough money to cover at least three months of expenses. More is better, but aim for three months minimum.
- That goes hand in hand with slashing your expenses. You can live on very little money once you know your priorities. And your main priority should be to not spend 2000 hours a year working a job you hate.
Here are some solid tips for upping your savings game:
- One great way to get a handle on your finances is to start tracking everything you earn and spend. I’ve been doing that meticulously since 2011, and publishing monthly finance reports online. (Subscribe here and you can browse all my finance reports.)
Check the video below to see how I keep track:
- If you have any debt whatsoever, you need to be extra careful. If it’s relatively small debt like a few thousand dollars on a credit card, get that paid off before quitting your job. If it’s something larger like a mortgage or a student loan, take the advice of Man Vs. Debt and call your creditors. They may be able to offer you different payment options or a hardship plan.
When I decided to quit my job and start my own business several years ago, I got really serious about improving my financial situation to give me the best chance of success.
Some of the things I did:
- I took inventory of everything I owned and began selling off everything I no longer had use for. By the time I was finished I was able to fit all my possessions into carry-on luggage. 17
- I moved out of my $800/month one-bedroom apartment and started house-sitting instead. This allowed me to live rent-free for a few months and save thousands of dollars.
- I cancelled all subscriptions I no longer had use for.
I also found these books especially helpful over the years for getting my finances under control and improving my spending habits:
Set Yourself A Deadline For Calling It Quits
Remember back in college when they gave you four weeks to do an assignment and you ended up doing nothing for 26 days and then rushing to get it all finished in 48 hours?
It might not have been your best work, but you got it done.
That’s the power of a deadline.
When it comes to quitting your job, I recommend that you not only set yourself a deadline, but you make that deadline known to your boss.
That way, it’s harder to chicken out at the last minute and you’re more likely to follow through.
When I decided to quit my job, I gave my boss six months notice.
Which sounds like a lot – and it is – but putting a firm date on my departure forced me to get my ass in gear and make it happen.
No longer could I tell myself that I’d quit “someday.”
You know what else is great about setting a deadline?
Your job immediately starts to suck less.
And that’s because you now know your days there are numbered.
You’ll have the finish line in sight, making it easier to prepare yet another TPS report or sit through another mind-numbing meeting.
For that very reason, my last six months on the job were easily my happiest and most productive. 18
If you do decide to go ahead and give your boss a heads up that you’re leaving, you could always follow this guy’s lead and hire a marching band to help make the announcement…
…but it’s probably better to follow these recommendations from The Muse and keep the conversation “pain free” for both parties:
- If you’re nervous, remember that this happens all the time.
- Lead the conversation and be ready for your boss’s questions. He or she will likely want to know why you’re leaving, when you’re leaving, what you’re planning to do next, and how they’ll replace you.
- Keep in mind why you’re leaving, so you don’t change your mind or get talked out of it at the last minute.
- Even if you hate your boss, resist the urge to burn bridges. Be polite and courteous when telling them you quit. Keeping them as an ally could prove useful in future.
Once you’ve done all the above, you might be tempted to kick back and take it easy until your departure date arrives, spending your work days cruising Facebook and doing the bare minimum required of you.
After all, it’s not like they’re going to fire you now, right?
And even if they do, so what? You’re leaving anyway.
I’d caution against that attitude however.
In my view, you should start working harder at that current job you hate, and during your spare time, because you can’t just magically flip a switch and pick up good work habits when you finally find a job you love.
You need to birth those habits right now, where you are.
- Check out this list of things I did during the home stretch of my last job to prepare for self-employment.
- Start building your skills and experience outside of work, so you can hit the ground running at whatever comes next.
- Ask yourself: what can I do at my current job that will ensure they’ll really miss me when I leave?
There are only seven days in a week, and someday isn’t one of them.
Follow Your Passion?
Lots of people will tell you that life’s too short to work a job you hate, that you should quit that crap and start doing work you love.
“Don’t even worry about the money side of things,” they’ll say. “That will all take care of itself.”
Yeah, I’m not one of those people.
I’ll go so far as to disagree with a renowned Chinese philosopher and his mad eyebrows on this:
Sorry, but that’s bullshit.
Whenever I give talks on this topic, I ask people in the audience to raise a hand if they’ve ever had a job they loved.
Maybe ten people will raise their hands.
Then I ask them to keep their hands raised if that job never felt like work.
Nobody keeps their hand up. 19
Why is that?
Because doing a job you love can be just as hard – if not harder! – than doing a job you hate.
Think about it:
- If you mess up doing a job you hate, no big deal. You don’t give much of a crap anyways and you’d probably be relieved if they fired you. But mess up doing a job you love? That’ll really stab at your sense of pride, accomplishment, and self-worth.
- Most people hate their jobs not because they’re difficult, but because they’re boring. A job you love is usually the opposite. You’ll constantly be challenged and pushed to excel.
- It’s not like finding work you’re passionate about is easy in the first place. Most people don’t even know what their passion is. It can take a while to figure it out. What are you supposed to do in the meantime?
- Even if you are lucky enough to find work you love, there’s no guarantee anyone’s going to pay you good money to do it. What if you’re passionate about carving matchsticks or playing World Of Warcraft? If there’s a way to make a living pursuing those kinds of passions, you can bet it’s not easy.
Words from two highly-regarded texts to back up this argument:
Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.
Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow
The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.
Cal Newport, So Good They Can’t Ignore You
…the happiest, most passionate employees are not those who followed their passion into a position, but instead those who have been around long enough to become good at what they do […] these breakthroughs require that you first get to the cutting edge, and this is hard— the type of hardness that most of us try to avoid in our working lives.
So please don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the only way forward is to follow your passion. More often than not, that’s a bad idea.
Focus instead on building valuable skills and gaining experience.
You shouldn’t hate that process, obviously, but you don’t have to love it either.
How To Find A New Job
Alright, so you’ve decided to stick with your current career but find a new job therein, preferably one that doesn’t make you want to kill yourself.
I recommend starting your search right where you are, as per Jen Gresham:
When looking for new jobs, most people focus on whether or not they have task experience. But don’t underestimate the value of your knowledge about the organization itself. Someone who is intimately familiar with the company, its culture, its goals and its products has an instant perspective that a new hire with lots of task experience can’t provide. If management already knows you’re a reliable and hard worker, it might be easier than you think to convince them to let you do something new.
I know, it sounds crazy. If you hate your job, you probably can’t wait to ditch that organization and move on to greener pastures.
But is it really the organization that you hate?
Could a shift to a different department, a promotion to a new role, or a reassignment to a new project be enough to turn that frown upside down… that hate into great… that crappy into happy?
But assuming not, let’s continue.
Before you start looking for a new job elsewhere, ask yourself this question:
“Can I hunt for a new job openly, or do I need to keep it hush-hush?”
You might be in a situation where it’s best to keep your search secret – so as not to rock the boat with your current employer, for example – which is fine, but it does make things a little more difficult.
Decide now what makes sense for you.
Next, remind yourself why you’re leaving your current job, and what you’re seeking in your new position.
More specifically, ask yourself this question:
“What must be different at my new job for me to be happy?”
Is it a better boss?
More opportunities for growth?
Whatever it is, make sure you keep that firmly in mind as you start looking at job openings and lining up interviews.
Next you’ll want to actually start searching for available jobs that match your expertise.
You can do this in all the usual places:
- Online job sites like Monster and CraigsList
- Newspaper classifieds
- Magazines and trade journals related to your industry
- Websites of companies you’d like to work for
However, I’d recommend you begin your search by tapping into the informal (or hidden) job market…
To do this, start by identifying companies you would like to work for, whether they have a position available for you or not, and figuring out a connection between you and that company.
That connection might be a friend, or a friend of a friend, or (as per the above video) your neighbor’s cousin.
- Note: The connection doesn’t need to be anything special. Research has shown that “weak ties” are a very common way to find a job. 20
When you discover a weak tie to a company you’re interested in, reach out and ask if there might be an opening for you. You may not get a positive response right away, but your interest will likely be recalled next time they do need someone with your awesome ninja skills.
If you don’t find a new job via the informal job market, then it’s time to resort to those traditional routes noted above.
But instead of sending out a bunch of resumes, take the advice of Sophia Bera and be all picky like:
Think quality, not quantity. Send applications out to fewer companies with openings that are more suited to your skills. Write to that specific role. Your application will be much stronger than the generic cover letter and resume you send out to hundreds of companies.
Once you’ve shortlisted some jobs to apply for, you’ll need to put together your resume.
For tips on that, I’ll refer you to Andrew LaCivita, who has looked at more than half a million resumes over the years and gives great advice on how to make yours stand out.
Check these additional posts and videos by Andrew for extra credit:
- How To Build The Ultimate Professional Resume
- The 4 Sentence Cover Letter That Gets You the Job Interview
- How to Get Your Resume Noticed in 5 Seconds Guaranteed
- 8 Great Tips to Prove Your Value on Your Resume
Now, let’s say you’ve sent in a great resume that lands you a job interview.
I recommend giving Ramit Sethi’s “Briefcase Technique” a try:
You should also check out these articles from Ramit ahead of your interview:
- 3 unexpected tips to prepare for any interview
- 3 tips to dominate your job interview and give the perfect answers
Armed with all the above information, you’ll be well ahead of the pack and will have drastically increased your chances of finding a job you love (or at least don’t hate).
One more bonus resource before we move on:
- Classy Career Girl: 10 Best Books Every Job Seeker Should Read
There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it will look good on your resume. Isn't that a little like saving up sex for your old age?
How To Change Careers
Before we dive into this, allow me to restate an aforementioned question from Maria Onzain:
“Are you happy to start at the bottom and work your way back up?”
Depending on your situation, you may not actually need to “start at the bottom” when changing careers, but it is a possibility.
Make sure you’re at peace with that before proceeding.
Next, keep in mind that transitioning successfully to a new career takes time.
“I’m always stunned when people expect major life or career change to happen overnight – or within a few weeks or months. They’re so eager (or desperate) to leave behind what’s made them miserable, that they simply don’t have the perseverance to tough it out over the long haul to get to their desired destination.” – Kathy Caprino 21
Realize that this could take a while, so it would be wise to get your finances and such in order before pulling the trigger.
Once you’ve made those preparations, you’ll want to figure out which new career to pursue.
If you already know for sure, obviously you can skip ahead, but assuming you don’t, a few ideas to get your wheels turning:
- What kind of work or skills have you been praised for in the past, or have you taken the most pride in? Could any of those form the basis of a new career?
- Take an online quiz from The Princeton Review or 365tests to figure out what career is best for your personality type.
- Is there a particular place you’d like to live? Assuming you’d prefer not to work remotely, answering this question can go a long way to narrowing down which careers are available to you.
- What kind of lifestyle would you like to have? For example, if you’d like easy access to the great outdoors, switching to a corporate job in some smoggy metropolis ain’t gonna float your boat.
- How much money do you want to make? As you well know, different careers reap different financial rewards. Would you be happy with a teacher’s salary, or do you want to do something that will earn you the big bucks?
- If possible, test out some careers you’re interested in by doing part-time work in those industries. For example, if you’re interested in a law career, can you get a job as an intern or assistant at a law office to see what it’s really like?
Again, remember that career change is often a slow and messy process, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself to identify your perfect career right away.
Investigate and experiment with different options until you find something promising.
Once you get to that point, take the advice of Jenny Foss and enlist some allies.
Three kinds in particular:
- People who will always have your back
- People who are killing it in your field of interest
- People who have made similar transitions before you
With that in mind, do you know anyone who has made a transition similar to what you’re planning, or someone whose career you’d love to emulate?
If not, can you do a little Google-fu to find them online?
It’s worth spending some time researching and connecting with such people because they can be a great source of inspiration and information.
Here are some examples:
- Jennifer Gresham left a successful career in the military just four years shy of retirement and now runs a highly successful coaching business.
- Leanne Regalla went from corporate America to owning a bakery to teaching music.
- Alex Robinson went from managing music acts to a lead position at an environmental charity.
- Peter Swanson went from working at an SEO firm to becoming a successful freelance writer.
Make a list of names, then see if you can reach out to those people and turn them into allies.
Ask them questions like, “How would you advise someone like me to build a career similar to yours?”
Take their advice and act on it.
Failing that, scroll up to the Finding A New Job section of this article and start implementing the tips you find there, as many of them are equally applicable when changing careers.
If you made a mistake and bought a pair of shoes that really hurt your feet, gave you blisters and such, you’d take them off at the first opportunity and buy a new pair. Why don’t we do the same thing with our careers?
Alternative Work Options
I’ve long been amazed by people who describe themselves as “normal,” as if that’s something to be proud of.
You know what’s “normal” nowadays?
- Working a job you hate, while being heavily in debt and seriously out of shape.
So screw being normal.
I’d rather be weird, exceptional, strange, a bit of an oddball.
If you feel the same way, I encourage you not to settle for a “normal” job.
There are other options, such as:
- Seasonal work
- Work abroad
- Work for room and board
- Build up passive income
- Claim unemployment benefits
- Work for yourself
Let’s dive into each of those a little deeper:
The best seasonal jobs allow you to earn enough money in 3-6 months to cover your expenses for an entire year, giving you lots of time and freedom to pursue your passions or just laze about watching Netflix.
Some ideas for seasonal work: 22
- Ski resorts
- Amusement or water parks
- Oil rigs
- Cruise ships
- Holiday resorts
- Tour guide
- Teacher or tutor
- Construction work
- Farm jobs
To give an example of the potential here, a friend of mine once had a job driving mega-tractors on a farm in Australia. The work was very boring and the days were often long (sometimes up to 18 hours), but he earned about $1400 per week after tax.
He worked there for two months, earning more than $10k, which enabled him to go travel around Southeast Asia for several months without having to work at all.
I found myself stuck in a crappy job in Ireland several years ago. I wasn’t much of a go-getter and I didn’t have much in the way of marketable skills.
So what did I do?
I quit my job and found another.
The new gig wasn’t any better. In fact, the pay was less and the boredom was more.
But there was one key difference: I had moved to a foreign country.
In my experience, getting away really shakes up your worldview and helps you figure out what to do with your life. So, if all else fails, go abroad.
Save up enough for a plane ticket and secure a job, any job, even if it means taking a few steps down the career ladder.
Had I not packed my bag all those years ago and wandered off to a foreign country, there’s a good chance I’d still be working a job I hate.
Another example is millionaire travel blogger Johnny Ward, who began building the life of his dreams by teaching English in Thailand and South Korea.
If you’re a native English speaker, teaching English is one of the easiest ways to get started working abroad, and you can even get well paid for it in some countries.
Check this site for teaching opportunities in various countries:
Work For Room And Board
Who says you even need a paycheck?
Maybe all you need is a comfortable place to sleep and a few good meals each day.
Well, there are plenty of employers who are happy to house and feed you in exchange for some solid labor.
The classic example of this is WWOOFing.
- WWOOF = World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms
Basically, you go work on an organic farm and they provide you with room and board.
Sophie McGovern wrote a great piece about WWOOFing on Nomadic Matt’s blog:
Over our two-month stay, we spent zero on food and accommodation in a region of Italy where it otherwise costs backpackers at least 18 euros a night for a hostel and 15 euros a day for food. Over our two-month stay, that meant a total savings of at least two thousand euros.
For more information on WWOOFing and see where you can do it, check these sites:
And keep an eye out for a farm with big chickens. Heaps of fun.
Build Up Passive Income
For the uninitiated, passive income is “income received on a regular basis, with little effort required to maintain it.” 23
As opposed to “active income,” or trading time for money, with passive income you can make money even while you sleep.
Sounds great, right?
Some examples of passive income:
- Rental income from owning and renting property 24
- Profit or dividends earned from investments 25
- Royalties earned from book sales
- Profit earned from an automated or outsourced business
Subletting a spare room or apartment via Airbnb 26
The key thing to remember with passive income though is that it usually requires a TON of work upfront before you see any kind of significant return.
Before you get too excited about the prospect, I highly recommend you take five minutes to read this article:
If you’re still eager to learn more after that, there’s no better place to get started than this passive income primer from Pat Flynn.
Claim Unemployment Benefits
I’m not advocating becoming a freeloader here, but if you have a legit limitation or disability that hinders you from finding a regular job and making a living via the other methods listed in this article, then consider taking advantage of social welfare.
That’s what it’s there for!
Just make sure you don’t go too far and turn into this dude:
Work For Yourself
Working for yourself can take many forms.
All of these examples count:
- Uber driver
- Dog walker
- Owner of an international corporation
- Party clown
- Assassin for hire
If you’re going to work for yourself however, I’d recommend starting an online business, which will give you the freedom to work from anywhere in the world and whenever you choose.
Of course there are also many different types of online businesses. I went ahead and put together a big list of examples for you here:
And hey, if you’re serious about building your own online business, sign up below and you’ll get access to my free 10-day mini course that shows you exactly what it takes to make it happen.
With your own online business, you could have similar adventures to Shivya Nath, who quit her corporate job several years ago and began working online.
I travel slow, seek offbeat and local experiences, stay in a place for a few weeks or as long as it inspires me, and move on.
I’ve hitch-hiked along Romania’s northern countryside, lived with a Mayan community in Guatemala, journeyed along Canada’s great wilderness by train and swum with black tip sharks on Malaysia’s east coast.
If you’re not happy, a good salary isn’t progress, it’s financial prison. Life is meant to be lived, not sold to the highest bidder.
You’ve reached the end of what might possibly be the longest article on the internet.
Hopefully you found the above content useful and it helps you find a more fulfilling job.
Because it pains me to see so many people in the world working jobs they hate, and I believe such a fate is completely unnecessary for many of us in this day and age.
I’ve given you tons of examples above of people who have escaped crappy jobs and found amazing alternatives.
Now it’s your turn.
Keep this in mind as you move forward:
You know all those cool people with awesome jobs that I mentioned in this article? Many of them were once in your exact situation. And they don’t have anything you don’t have or that you can’t learn.
They did it, and you can, too.
Before You Go
I’d love if you could do the following:
- Decide what action (or actions) you are going to take as a result of reading this article. If you don’t make a plan, nothing in your life will change, so please commit to doing at least one thing that will move you forward.
- Jump down to the comments and share your action item(s). Putting it in writing will make it more real and sharing it publicly gives you some accountability.
- If you found this article helpful, please take a moment to share it with a friend or on social media. That would mean a lot to me. You’ll see some handy buttons on the left side of the page to make sharing easier.
Keep in touch and let me know how everything goes for you.
Cool Internet Dog
This article was first published on May 30, 2017.
- The Conference Board: Job Satisfaction: 2016 Edition
- Note that I’ve made some slight modifications to Marc’s original list.
- Apparently that quote comes from the book/TV series Justified.
- The Telegraph: How to work for a boss you really don’t like
- HR News: 1 in 3 Brits claim ‘I hate my colleagues’
- Related article from The Huffington Post: 11 Reasons Your Co-Workers Hate You
- Harvard Business Review: How To Work With Someone You Hate
- Related to this, see my article on How To Deal With Insults
- GoThinkBig: What To Do If You Dislike Your Colleague
- Psychology Today: What Do I Do When I Hate My Colleague?
- Gallup: Millennials Want Jobs to Be Development Opportunities
- The Muse: Nowhere To Go: Advancing Your Career at a Small Company
- Quora: How do I take a job opportunity, if there’s no room to grow?
- One thing: if you do go this route, you no longer get to complain about hating your job. You’ve made a conscious choice. Grin and bear it.
- Perhaps it did make sense at one time, and that’s worth acknowledging, but if you believe the rule has become nonsensical then it fits into this category.
- Some will scoff at this option but it’s fine to go this route so long as it’s a conscious decision. Sometimes you need time and space to really figure out what you want to do.
- I know, that’s pretty extreme. But I was all the happier and richer for it. Even if you love your big-screen TV, consider selling it to raise some extra cash and free up more time.
- I even got a little cheeky and changed my voicemail message to tell people that I no longer answered the phone and they should email me instead. Amazing how few people bothered me after that :-P
- Okay, so that’s not entirely true. Usually there’s one or two people there – the feckers – who do keep a hand up. But I think you get my point.
- Ref: Weak Ties Theory
- Kathy Caprino: Desperate For a Different Career? Change It, But Avoid These Top 5 Blunders
- Note that you may need a qualification or special training for some of these jobs.
- Ref: Wikipedia
- Related: Career Change I Love!: From average to wealthy and retired. My journey to financial freedom.
- Related: The 4% Rule: The Easy Answer to “How Much Do I Need for Retirement?”
- Related: The AirBnb Experiment: How Much Did I Make?