What to do when you realise you hate your job and are trying not to panic...
A third of your life, or roughly 90,000 hours, is spent at work. Therefore where you work and what you do for it really counts. Your job should never be a source of unhappiness or anxiety. Of course, there can be those tough days where you just can’t face the 7am commute, but if going to work is overwhelmingly awful, it might be worth reconsidering your options.
It might feel like you have to commit if you’ve worked especially hard for a particular job role. It doesn’t matter how far into your job you are, there is always time for change. Even if this isn’t the job for you right now, it might be the gateway to your dream job (even if you don’t know what this is yet). It can also feel especially hard if you love your co-workers and working environment, and yet can’t stand the actual job.
Start out by sitting down and making a list of specific aspects of your job that are causing the issues. And next to each problem, write down whether they are temporary or permanent. It might be the case that your issues are temporary or can be solved by a number of simple changes.
If the source of your unhappiness feels permanent, it might be worth taking some time away from work (if possible) in order to gain a clearer perspective and enter into a different headspace. Don’t rush any decision, and make sure your thinking is verbalised to those who have your best interests at heart to gain some further perspective.
Bruce Hazen, a US career coach and author of ‘Answering the Three Career Questions’ describes the confusion and information overload we experience when at a career crossroads as being like a tornado, a whirling mass of information, advice from those around us, and our own feelings that can seem uncontrollable and overwhelming.
Bruce says there are three questions to ask yourself when finding yourself at this career crossroads:
- “Is it time to move up?” Is there another role in the organisation you could be aiming for that would suit you better?
Discussing your concerns with your manager, as scary as this may feel, may be the most helpful thing to do (phrasing your dislike for the job as politely as possible of course). It might be the case that you don’t need to completely up and leave your current job. You might be able to move into a slightly different role in the same company that is better suited to you.
- “Is it time to move out?” Is this job just not the right place for you and is it time to move on?
If your job is really making you unhappy and there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel, it might be best to move on to something different. It can feel like a daunting task to know where to apply and to make yourself go through this process again. But in so doing this, you’ll almost certainly find a role that is more suited to you and will make you happier in the long run.
- “Is it time to stay and adapt your style?” Is the job okay but could the way you’re approaching the work, the team, or your manager change or make your situation better?
If when making your list of issues, you found that you had more temporary problems than permanent ones, it might be possible to make some internal changes that make your overall working experience all the better for it.
Sometimes, when you find yourself in a bit of a negative mental rut, it can be hard to get out of this and find the motivation to work. If this sounds like you, and maybe your attitude towards areas of your work could be changed, again, take some time to realise what can be changed and speak to those around you for advice.
Simon Sinek, a British-American author and motivational speaker, discusses the significance of your attitude when doing your job in particular if it’s your boss that’s causing a negative work environment. He suggests trying to use your mindset in order to learn from bad experiences in the workplace to help you grow as an individual or a future leader, by learning how not to treat people.
Another popular model that experts claim can help you find what your calling in life is, is the Japanese Ikigai purpose venn diagram. Ikigai in Japanese loosely translates to “a reason for being” or a reason to feel motivated on those 7am commutes.
This venn diagram draws upon these areas of your life to find the area of your life where all of these meet:
- What You Are Good At
- What You Can Be Paid For
- What The World Needs
- What You Love
Finding where these four factors overlap is your ‘Ikigai’ or life’s purpose.
We also spoke to 27-year-old Charlie, who has had her share of job changes post-graduation and is about to undergo a complete career change. After graduating with a 2.1 in geography five years ago, she started work as an account executive at an ad agency in London.
After a year, Charlie realised she didn’t enjoy the industry, and decided to move into something more aligned with her environmental interests. She entered a graduate programme with an energy management company which has turned into a permanent job for the past year.
But during this time Charlie has found herself disliking aspects of the job. Working behind a desk all day, not feeling like her job has purpose, and an uninspiring work environment have been her three key motives in wanting to leave.
Charlie’s main advice is not to panic and think you need to quit your job straight away.
Keeping hold of her job and an income has allowed her to explore other interests through taking evening classes and courses outside of work. Also setting aside time every week to research other options like you would for a gym class for example, she says is crucial in helping pin down what it is you want from a career.
However, if your job is a major source of worry and unhappiness (and even damaging your mental health), quitting might be the only option. And there is absolutely no shame in quitting. Quitting to work in a temporary job might be the change you need to figure out what it is you want to do.
“Take time to think about what you like and dislike about your current situation. What is important to you in a job? Flexible working or having a structured day?”
Charlie is planning on leaving her job to train as a yoga instructor, after realising over the past few years that she wants to pursue a more hobby-based career.
Charlie says that her main piece of advice would be to talk to everyone and anyone, as you never know where conversations might lead.
Like Charlie, Bruce Hazen’s key advice is also to verbalise thoughts and bounce your ideas off others. His “Thinking Out Loud Laboratory” idea is to talk about career questions with one or more trusted people, in order to get you to a place of clarity that merely thinking about it won’t do.
“...talking and thinking use two different brain processes...this is significant for you in discovering what you really want and believe about your work.”