How to cope when you don’t like your job.

Two things prompted this piece;

1. Seeing a social media post from a former colleague stating “ I don’t feel like adulting today”

2. Popping into my old place of employment, where I was greeted with many platitudes of “ I wish I’d gone with you”, “ Do you need someone to work with”, “ It’s really tough”, “I’m hoping to get a package (voluntary separation offer)” — you get my meaning.

In scenario one, he/she was possible just having an off day whilst in scenario two, there were quite a few demoralized ex colleagues who just didn’t want to be there, but unfortunately felt they had no choice but to stay in their roles.

I can understand - the challenge as living on a small Caribbean island, job options can be limited.

But small island or big city, how do you cope with a job that you don’t like when you think can’t leave?

I realize that, as a coach, I’m supposed to deflate the notion that you don’t have a choice with optimistic statements such as the world is your oyster, there’s a world of possibilities open to you — after all no one is forcing you to stay — slavery has been abolished!

But taking a pragmatic stance, where there are bills to be paid, carnival costumes to be bought (once we’re over Covid!) and school fees to be paid, sometimes to be the person you want or need to be, you really can’t leave. Well not right now anyway.

So the practical strategy might be to figure out how to deal with your job right now. It’s one thing to be jaded, it’s another to be exasperated and stagnant. If you’re stuck in a job you’d love to leave, try these coping strategies:

1. Find your creativity

When people are tired of their jobs they often say they’re uninterested, bored, or they’re not maximizing their potential. If your job isn’t exciting you, find ways to excite yourself. Try scheduling blocks of thinking time where your goal is creative ideation. Develop new ways to do your job, how could you improve on a process that’s never changed, what process could remove a long standing bottle neck, write a proposal, restructure your department. Find something that you’re passionate about and can make an impact affect. You’re more likely to find creative time in a job you know well than a new one you’re struggling to learn. Speak to your boss about how you could expand your experience and skill set, maybe there’s a challenging new project you could spearhead. These are great ways to squeeze every last drop of value from that experience, while also potentially reigniting your passion for your role.

2. Reconfigure your job.

No two people do a job the exact same way and you actually have more control over the actual content of what you do than you think. Take some time to consider how your job could be streamlined to take on a different function or become more efficient. Imagine how you’d like your job to exist whilst giving the same if not even greater deliverables, look at it as if it was your first day on the job. Even better, arrange to partner with a colleague in another dept. and job swap for the day — what ways would you do the job differently and vice versa.

3. Start a side hustle or passion project.

The brutal truth is that not too many people finds a job that sets their heart on fire. If you’re feeling stuck in your current situation, consider starting up a side hustle or a passion project that you can throw yourself into outside of working hours. Remember, your day job doesn’t have to be the only professional experience capable of fulfilling you. Think of something that will help you with your job and your marketability beyond it. Start a small support group, a think tank or an industry watch group. Tackle pressing issues utilizing social media to build an online community. It can help your current company, give you a broader outlet, and demonstrate your leadership prowess.

4. Build your personal brand.

Many people don’t think of enhancing their personal brand or network until they’re deep in to their new job search. But you’re missing a trick, this is the ideal opportunity and feels to work on your personal brand while you are gainfully employed. You can attend networking events, organize lunch dates and on a larger scale contribute articles or guest blog for thought leaders in your industry. Offer to speak on panels, or join a corporate or philanthropic board or committee.

5. Focus on your future.

Usually if you’re bored in your job, it’s not your dream job so what can you do to build towards your future or make the best of your current situation. You can choose to do good work, and then invest more energy in your family, getting fit, your hobbies, blowing off stress, or whatever else makes you happy. Take some time to think about some real things that you could get from your job. Could you update your skills, take additional inhouse training? Make some valuable connections? Stop wasting energy on something that won’t serve any purpose — instead revel in the time that’s now with the realization that it won’t be forever. (No matter what the nay-sayers say.)

6. Forge bonds with your co-workers.

You don’t like what you do but it doesn’t mean you can’t like who you do it with. Misery loves company and if we’re miserable at work we think the same of our colleagues. But, in reality, you at least have a couple of awesome team members who could make your days in the office feel less dreary. Ask them to lunch, organize drinks after work. You’ll create some friendships whilst expanding your professional network (useful when you do decide to job hunt).

7. Stay positive

A cliche, I know and it can be far easier said than done.

However, think of all the wasted energy you’re putting into whining about how much you hate your job, negativity breeds negativity and just brings you further down. So, do your best to focus on the positives of your role — even if it’s the obvious ones such you get paid. Think of what you can do with the money — would you rather have it or not? Do what you can to keep an upbeat attitude, and you’ll do yourself and your entire team a big favor.

8. Keep Your “I Hate My Job” Thoughts to Yourself

Even if you do hate your job, keep it to yourself and your family or close friends. Don’t tell the world, because the wrong person is probably going to see what you posted. Social media is used by a lot of people including your boss and you don’t want the wrong thread to land in the wrong hands. We’ve all heard stories of how employers are using social media to vet employees and future candidates.

You don’t want to lose your job before you start looking for a new one, just because you complained about it. But, that doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to your grievances about your job, a little bit of venting can be a good thing for you — as long as you’re careful about how you do it.

So, grab a trusted friend and talk through all of your complaints and annoyances. It won’t necessarily fix anything, you’ll likely feel better after unloading all of those feelings and frustrations.

9. Have the Tough Conversations

If it’s really too much for you too stomach then it’s time to pull up those big girl/big boy pants and those difficult conversations;

  • With the powers that be — Is your workload too overwhelming? Do you feel you’re not fairly compensated for the amount of work you do? Is a member on your team not pulling his weight — contributing to your frustration? Talk these out with your supervisor to see if there are any adjustments that can be made. It’s your boss’ job to support, supervise, and encourage you — but it’s not his duty to read your mind. A good manager is usually willing to go the extra mile to keep top talent around.
  • With yourself — If you’re really that unhappy, it can also show up in other ways such as weight gain; a compromised immunity and greater risk of physical and mental illness; higher levels of stress, fatigue, and irritability; lost sleep and ultimately poor performance. You need to make the decision as to what’s important to you. Either way you could exit the organization — dismissed due to performance or disability.

Janice Sutherland is an award winning women’s leadership expert and founder of This Woman Can an online career network for professional women. She provides coaching and training specializing in helping women and organizations build leadership skills through Executive Mentorship, Leadership Training and Executive Team Facilitation for both corporate executives and entrepreneurs globally. She is a sought after keynote presenter for corporate and nonprofit environments and speaks on issues relating to leadership, women’s advancement, professional success and work/life alignment. For more details, visit www.janicesutherland.com

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