Hating your job isn’t particularly uncommon. In fact, a Gallup study found that around 70% of workers find themselves “disengaged” from their job. Doing the same things day after day, while feeling you’re hardly making a difference in the world, can certainly contribute to a feeling of disengagement in the workplace.
I was once that disengaged employee who hated my job. I dreaded getting up in the morning, and every minute spent at work felt like the clock was ticking by – way too slowly – until I could finally clock out and head home. Sometimes I’d hide in the bathroom for a few minutes, just to get away from my desk.
I was miserable. Lucky for me, I wasn’t trapped. That dreadful job was just for the summer, and I was lucky enough to go back to school at the end of the season.
Unfortunately, many of those who don’t enjoy their job can’t simply get up and leave. Many factors — from a steady paycheck to a feeling of security — make it nonsensical for workers to leave, at least in the present. So what can you do when you hate your job but can’t leave?
There are several options:
1. Pursue Passions on the Side
When I worked that sales job, it was becoming quickly apparent that it wasn’t the job for me. I had no clue what to do at the time, as I needed to pay rent. So I started doing something I enjoyed in my spare time: writing. I had always enjoyed writing and soon realized there were places online that paid for quality work. I began working for a copywriting business in my spare time. Eventually, when the time was right to leave my sales job, I had already built experience and connections within an industry that made me happier and more properly utilized my strengths — thanks to pursuing my passion on the side while working days.
Whether you have an hour or several of free time after work, it’s recommend to keep your passions intact while working at a job you hate. It could be something artistic like writing or graphic design, or maybe it’s an idea — like starting your own PR company or inventing. Regardless, a dull job shouldn’t keep you from pursuing your passions and things you’re good at.
2. Use Your Job to Identify Weaknesses
Your job right now may be boring, but you can still use it to your advantage as a device to identify which things you wouldn’t possibly want to do at your next job. For example, I found the constant phone calls in sales to be annoying, which helped me narrow down my future options and resulted in deciding on something like writing — where phone calls aren’t nearly as non-stop.
While working at your current job, write down a list of things about it you don’t enjoy, along with things you do enjoy — if any. This will help you discover the best industry for you when the time is right to leave. Making a list with two columns — “too much” and “not enough” — should make your next career move a lot clearer when the time is right.
3. Identify Lifelong Goals
It’s natural for humans to live day-by-day. It’s difficult to brainstorm about where you want to be in 20 years when rent is due and you’re worrying about affording groceries. Still, when your job isn’t the right fit, it’s a great idea to keep in mind your lifelong goals so as to better associate yourself with businesses that share similar values.
I may not have worked my sales job for long, but it was long enough to know that I needed more to strive for. Now that I’ve had that experience, I can appreciate my current position all the more. Still, some days are harder to get through. That’s where goals come in. On the days you don’t feel like working, or you feel as though you have nothing to work for, having a goal can be like having a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s your out, your way to a better job, to happiness.
Take learning as a goal, for example. Since millennials are the most educated generation in history, many businesses are beginning to adopt lifelong learning values, such as opportunities for continued education and training. If this is important to you, keep it in mind as you plot your next move. Make it a lifelong goal to work for a company that shares that value.
The second part to that goal is to work towards it in the short run, too. If you lack the experience or training to make the move to a job you want, make it a goal to start learning anything and everything you can to get to where you want to be. I make it a goal to read at least two books a month that can help me grow – both as an individual and as a professional. You’ll develop the skills you need to make the move, and that dream company of yours – the one that values learning – will take this as a sign that you’re a good fit. Now you’re not stuck anymore.
Your current job is also useful in this sense, since you can look at your current employer’s general philosophy and workplace and identify areas you don’t enjoy, such as an over-emphasis on profits over community or a lack of communication from managers. Add these aspects to either the “too much” or “not enough” columns as well.
4. Consider Staying, but With Adjustments
If for whatever reason you absolutely cannot leave your job in the near future, it may be better to hunker down and try to maximize your situation there the best you can. For example, if your job leaves you feeling unstimulated, speak with your employer about handling greater responsibilities. Not only will it make time go by quicker, but the more substantial responsibilities are a good look that can result in a pay raise down the line. Also, ask about your current employer’s educational benefits or volunteer opportunities, as both provide a way to hone your talents while working at a job that does not properly use them.
This is also a good strategy when you love the company, but hate your job. Most bosses want to retain employees and are open to horizontal movements within the company. If you’re feeling unsatisfied but aren’t interesting in leaving behind the company (or the benefits), switching to a new position within the company can sometimes be the answer.
While being at a boring job is less than desirable, these tips can either help you tolerate your current situation or move onto a new one when the time is right. Whatever you do, remember that you’re never stuck.
Sarah Landrum, the author of this post, is the founder of Punched Clocks, a site dedicated to helping others find happiness and success in their careers. Follow her for more inspiring tips at @SarahLandrum