Nearly everybody has suffered through a horrible job at some point. When we’re unhappy at work, we tend to feel sorry for ourselves, and that’s understandable — but there’s a lot more we can do to relieve our misery than just dragging ourselves to work every day!
If you can’t job-hunt right now because you haven’t been at your job long enough or for some other reason, you can still take steps to make your situation at work more manageable.
Here are 15 tips for making a lousy job better. Try them!
15 Ways to Make a Bad Job Better
- You can start improving your work situation by getting a journal and writing in it. Write about the job you want when you finally get free of this job. Write about what’s keeping you from striking out for greener pastures right now. Why can’t you job-hunt? Is that impediment temporary – or is it that you could job-hunt if you wanted to, but you hate to go through the trouble? Get a clear view of what is blocking your forward motion. If that obstacle is within your control, writing about it may help you see ways to surmount it!
- Even the most horrendous job has something of value hidden in it, like an easter egg in a video game. Is your job the kind of job that will look good on your resume for years into the future? If so, figure out how you’ll describe this job on your resume (choosing the exact words). The powerful descriptions of your Dragon-Slaying Stories will help salve your wounds after you’re no longer working there. Instead of telling your friends “I hate my job!” and changing the subject, look more closely to see what good things you can take from this assignment, as unpleasant as it is.
- Decide how long you will stay in your job, because you can’t stay in a terrible job forever. Make a timeline and write it down. Your plan for the remainder of your time in your current job is important, because it will shift your mind from “Poor me, stuck in this awful job!” to “Well, I’m planning to be in this job for about nine more months, so let’s see what I can learn, accumulate and accomplish in that time!”
- Make it your personal mission and priority to bring your best attitude and positive energy to work every day. One person can change the mood in a workplace just by choosing to see the glass half full when it used to look half empty. Who can you learn from at work? Who can you talk with to shift your view from “This place stinks!” to a healthier, more positive outlook?
- Every day at work, do something concrete for your future. One day you might introduce yourself to the CFO, whom you’ve never met. Even if you hate your job, your new acquaintance the CFO could become a valuable contact of yours for years to come. Another day, practice leading a staff meeting, or volunteer to create the company newsletter. Use whatever the job offers you to your own best advantage. You may start to hate your job less and less!
- Get plenty of sleep and exercise. When you hate your job you may start to let your health and well-being slip. That can only make things worse. Nelson Mandela was in prison for decades and was elected President. You can survive this experience at a job you’re not in love with. Think of the muscles you will grow!
- If you find yourself complaining about your job when you’re at work, stop it immediately. Complaining to your co-workers about a lousy job or listening to them complain about it is a victim’s move, and you are no victim! It’s your career to run. If you don’t hate the job enough to bail, zip your lip and look at the bright side. You are employed, and many qualified people are not.
- Think of small ways you can bring yourself to work more fully than you do now. Think of ways to brighten your days at work. You could bring a bud vase and keep one perfect flower in it all the time. You could create a small piece of artwork to hang in your workstation. You could focus on your professional image and choose a new hairstyle or clothes that suit you now. You have more control over your life at work than you think you do!
- Make a list of everything you’ve accomplished at your job. Now, pat yourself on the back. Even in a tough work environment, you have made wonderful things happen. Claim those triumphs. They are part of your story!
- If your dissatisfaction with your job springs from the fact that the job seems beneath you, take heart. Many if not most great artists and thinkers spent time — sometimes years — doing work that didn’t use all of their brains and hearts. People without much conviction let the sub-par job define them. People with more heart viewed the unexciting job as a springboard to their true calling.
- If you have conflict with somebody you work with, take a step toward changing that relationship for the better. Give up on any grudges you may be holding. Give up the idea that so-and-so in your office hates you. It is very unlikely that anyone you work with hates you. Most people are too focused on themselves to feel very strongly about any of their co-workers.
- Step into the new habit of acknowledging and thanking your co-workers. When our mojo fuel tanks are depleted, it can be hard to think about the feelings of the people around us. That’s why it’s a great thing to reinforce your colleagues every chance you get. When people are in crisis, they often find it helpful to focus on helping other people. You can do the same thing by making sure that your co-workers know that you see and value their help.
- Diagram your work on a piece of paper. Draw a picture that shows the inputs and outputs for your position. Get altitude on the work you do. What could you do differently or more effectively to get a better result? Even the most hopeless-seeming jobs often give us opportunities to try new things and grow our skills. Maybe that’s the reason you wound up in this job. Maybe you got this job to learn something powerful about process improvement!
- Pay attention to anybody at your workplace who sails above the discord, politics or dysfunction that causes you so much stress. Watch these people and notice how they operate. How do they stay so calm in an environment that drives you crazy? Maybe they are on their path and see this difficult assignment as a necessary step in getting wherever they plan to go. Can you do the same thing?
- Finally, give yourself a break. If you hate your job because you don’t feel that your career is as impressive as you wish it were, stop worrying about that! Careers are not linear things anymore. We all make sideways steps, two-steps-back-one-step-forward movements and other random and unexpected career moves now. No one is judging you on your career advancement — or, if anyone is judging you for that, you don’t need that person in your life anyway.
It was only years after I left my painful early work experiences that I realized how valuable those not-very-fun jobs were.
They taught me lessons I needed to learn. Mother Nature never promised us that all of her lessons would be pleasant ones. She promises that every lesson she dispenses will serve us well — if only we are open to her teaching!