Trapped in a Job You Hate? This is the Solution

trapped in job you hate solutionIf you are trapped in a job you hate there is only one true solution:

Quit.

Seriously, quit.

You might be thinking “now wait, there are other solutions out there. I could try to work through all the problems and maybe it will get better.” Sure, you could try that approach. From my experience, if you detest your job and it is not the right situation for you, then all the attempts to fix it will ultimately fail. You might get some immediate relief or temporary improvement. In the end, you’ll still hate it.

I contend life is too short to be working a job you hate. There are too many negative ramifications in forcing yourself to trudge everyday to work a job you hate.

Now, I am not advocating for anyone to walk into work tomorrow and give your boss the big “F you I quit.” In fact, you should never quit in that manner (never burn bridges!). You do need to start planning your exit now though because the ultimate solution is to quit.

Being Trapped in a Job You Hate Makes Life Miserable

A while back I wrote about being burned out at my job. Being disillusioned or burned out is one thing, despising your job is another thing entirely.

I actually left the job I was burned out at for a new opportunity in July 2014 (this is one of the reasons Personal Finance Utopia went on a hiatus for a while). The decision to accept the new job offer was easy. My old company was stagnated and downsizing in our region. Opportunities for growth were few and far between. The proverbial “writing was on the wall” and I chose to leave on my own terms instead of getting laid off.

The new job was promising – before I started that is! Things began on the wrong foot when, on the day before my start date, I received a voice mail from my new manager welcoming me to the company. The problem was – I had never heard of this guy! That is correct; I was moved to a new manager and team before I even began working there. In fairness, they did disclose during the interview process there were some “organizational changes” ongoing. However, I had no idea I would be reporting to a manager and be placed on a team with which I had not even interviewed. Talk about a bait and switch.

Everything only snowballed from there. Here are some of the major reasons why I hated my job:

  • Skill set did not match – My background and education are in accounting and finance. While the team was technically in the Finance department, the work itself was unrelated. Instead, the job was centered on operational forecasting and support. From the get go I could not rely on my skills and expertise much. I was capable enough to do the job, but felt like I was handcuffed and could not excel. Plus, most importantly, I simply did not enjoy the work. At all. Period.
  • Expectations too high – I was assigned to support a complex business unit that had been neglected for quite some time. In essence, I was charged with building a sophisticated model from the ground up. The problem was, as mentioned above, I did not know much about operational forecasting. There was no training and virtually no guidance, just a “get it done” directive. The stakes were huge too because the output of my work was to determine the size of the workforce for the area I supported.
  • Long hours/stress – I started at the beginning of “budget” season and the hours worked were insane. Everyone around me was working 6-7 days a week for 12-18 hours a day. Those are investment banker hours without the investment banker pay! I was told the hours would die down after the budget was over and they did – slightly. Stress emanated from the top ranks. Everything was always an urgent fire drill, so people worked the crazy hours to meet the deadlines.
  • Competitive – Most of my co-workers were friendly, but there was definitely an air of competiveness. That competiveness, combined with the skill set mismatch, made me constantly feel behind. That was a deflating feeling for someone who is generally a top achiever. It made me realize sometimes it is easier being a big fish in a small pond than a small fish in a big pond.
  • Turnover – The turnover was insane. It seemed like people came and left before you could even learn their name. This was not a fly-by-night company either. It has been around for approximately 80 years and has a decent reputation. Some left for internal opportunities, but morale takes a hit when so many co-workers come and go.

What Working at a Job I Hated Did to Me

Plain and simple, I hated my job. I was miserable. I felt stressed beyond my limits and this took a huge mental and physical toll. There were sleepless nights. I had a constant lump in my throat. I dreaded getting out of bed and going to work each day. Most of the time there was an underlying panicky feeling that I could not shake.

Worse yet, I became frustrated and depressed. I complained a lot. It was so easy to get trapped in the present and lose focus of the long term. I was not fun to be around most of the time. My family and friends could notice the difference. I felt bad from bringing them down. It was a vicious cycle.

I was able to eventually realize I was caught in a horrible cycle of doom and gloom. I had to break it. I did.

My Advice on Dealing with a Job You Hate

Ultimately you are going to quit and find something that is a much better fit for you. Do not forget, life is too short to be working a job you hate. While that process is unfolding for you, here are some things I learned to help get you through:

  • Don’t push yourself unnecessarily –Try not to drive yourself into an early grave. You know it will only be a matter of time before you leave for greener pastures. Give an honest effort, but do not break your back and bring more stress upon yourself in the meantime.
  • Don’t shoot yourself in the foot – You can’t just up and quit and leave yourself or those who depend on you (family) high and dry. Quitting with no backup plan or an unrealistic backup plan is foolish especially with mouths to feed and other financial responsibilities. Also, do not let your unhappiness manifest in the form of a bad, uncooperative attitude at work. That will only make things worse.
  • Find an outlet – Do something to periodically take your mind off the dread of work. Go to your “happy place.” Get out and take some walks. Take some breaks and read a book for leisure. Daydream. Do whatever provides a bit of relief.
  • Use your support network – Rely on family and friends for encouragement. They likely will not be able to directly solve the problem, but they can be a sounding board and offer words of support. Sometimes just talking about the situation makes you feel better. Be careful to not abuse your support network by constantly whining and playing the victim. If you keep bombarding them with stories of how you are in a helpless situation, they might tire of the negativity because it brings them down. As a result, they might withdraw.
  • Try being honest with your manager – This is a risky option. I do not necessarily advise this tactic, but I am mentioning it because it can help to take some of the pressure off. Try approaching your manager and letting him know about the situation. Choose your words carefully. I did this. My manager had been asking in our regular 1:1 meetings how I liked the job. Finally, I could not hold it in any longer an I explained how I did not think this job was the best fit for me and my skill set. It was nerve wracking being that open, but he indicated he understood and was supportive of me looking internally for another opportunity.

You should gauge your relationship with your manager beforehand to see if he or she will be supportive. Otherwise, you might shoot yourself in the foot and we already talked about avoiding doing that.

  • Think about the future – When you hate your job, getting stuck in the present is an easy thing to do. You need to start planning what you want the future to look like for you. The more you focus on your future the more you will find yourself moving towards it.
  • Get a job search started! – A new job is not going to magically appear over night. Job searches can take a while. Plant the seeds now. Begin to look internally and externally for new positions. Reach out to your network. Start working with a recruiter. The sooner you start, the sooner your plight will improve. Oh, and do not just settle for the first opportunity that comes along. Do your best to make sure this new one is the right fit otherwise you could very well end up hating your new job too.
  • Be optimistic – When you hate your job and feel trapped, getting mired in negativity comes naturally. I know this firsthand. Do not insult yourself with pie-in-the-sky unrealistic optimism. However, negativity breeds self-defeatism. That’s bad. Be optimistic that things will soon be changing for the better.
  • Be patient – Above all, be as patient as possible. Keep reminding yourself that “this too shall pass.” Think back to other difficult situations you have overcome and realize you will do the same this time around. The days seem to pass ridiculously slow when you hate your job. It is easy to feel like there is no end in sight and you will be trapped forever. Do not give up hope. Time flies but think back to how different things were just a year ago. As difficult as it is, keep reminding yourself that each day you are one day closer to finding something better.

Trapped in a Job I Hated: Aftermath

My ordeal only lasted 10 months. It seemed like it was forever but looking back I realize 10 months is only a small fraction of my life. While not necessarily a dream job, I now have something that is much better fit (knock on wood) with a slightly shorter commute and a pay raise to boot. Jumping ship was the best thing for my career – and for me.

Are you in a job you hate? What do you plan to do about the situation? If you have been in a job you hate before, how did you handle it and what were your coping mechanisms?

Image courtesy of Phillip Richter at flickr.com

8 Responses to Trapped in a Job You Hate? This is the Solution

  1. Jim Wang September 28, 2015 at 6:33 am #

    I think a job is like any other relationship, it should be mostly happiness with challenging periods you need to fight through. If it’s mostly challenging with brief moments of happiness, you should be planning your exit.
    Jim Wang recently posted…Why Do You Work?My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 28, 2015 at 8:13 pm #

      I like the analogy, Jim. Just like relationships, sometimes people keep trying to make it work when it’s just not the right fit.

  2. Kate @ Cashville Skyline September 28, 2015 at 6:43 am #

    So, it’s been a year since I quit my job without another one lined up. And I can say, without a doubt, it was the right choice. But I did have somewhat of a plan. I saved up about six months of living expenses in case it took a while to find something else. And I ended up working a part-time job to help that stretch even longer. Luckily, I was hired for my current gig after a few months.
    Kate @ Cashville Skyline recently posted…Why Setting Intentions Matters (#FinCon15 Recap)My Profile

    • Mr. Utopia September 28, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

      I am glad you had a plan in place before quitting, Kate. Even with some savings and an eventual part-time job, that was pretty adventuresome to quit before having something else lined up. Sometimes that is what it takes though – putting yourself into a situation where you have to succeed or else.

  3. Janet Fazio September 30, 2015 at 10:36 am #

    I was in that place several years ago, and thankfully had enough freelance work and contacts of my own (I worked in an advertising agency) that I was able to quit and start my own business. It’s awful when you hate a third of your day, then waste another third of the day thinking about how much you hate it.
    Janet Fazio recently posted…Your Next Vacation Could be FREE!!My Profile

  4. DC @ Young Adult Money September 30, 2015 at 7:19 pm #

    Wow, sounds like a crazy ten months. Stories like this sometimes make me fear the “unknown.” You never really know what you’re getting when you go to a new job. I think it’s important to go into a new job with an open mind. It’s good to be positive and hope it works out, but there’s always the chance that it’s not the right fit and you should always be thinking of backup options. The one nice thing about the workforce these days is that it’s not that odd to leave a job after 12 months. It’s becoming the norm to stay in an area for 1-3 years and then move on. You can certainly stay longer (some stay for decades!) but it’s nice knowing that it’s the norm to move on.
    DC @ Young Adult Money recently posted…5 Reasons to Love Savvy Spreadsheets Super Starter BudgetMy Profile

  5. April October 15, 2015 at 8:43 am #

    Thanks for the advice on how to deal with a job you hate. You must be happy of what you are doing in order to have a successful outcome.

  6. David November 13, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    I was wondering, after you left, did you feel a sense of relief like a weight had been lifted? You also mentioned a panicky feeling, did that go away as well when you found your new job?

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