What to Do When You’re Unhappy with Your Job
Chances are that your first job won’t be your final one. Most people today switch positions, companies, or even fields every few years for a variety of reasons. Perhaps something upsetting happened at work or they’ve simply outgrown their job or company. Notably, these employees may have new needs, want to move states, or no longer like where they are or what they’re doing. However, if you’re unhappy with your job, there are a few do’s and don’t’s that can save you some pain down the road.
Leaving a company poorly may affect your ability to find a job later or can hurt you financially if you quit before you have a new one lined up. While it undoubtedly would feel satisfying to look your least favorite manager in the eye as you tear up your schedule, you need to make sure your needs are taken care of.
Of course, there are always those nightmare jobs where the best decision is to run away and run away fast without a glance backward. But this article is not about those jobs. This article is about jobs that are draining, boring, or frustrating. The jobs that have left you in a permanent state of burnout where your manager drives you up the wall each day. Not the ones that have you hoping that you get in a minor car crash just to get a few days off.
What to Do and What Not to Do When You’re Unhappy with Your Job
Whether it hits you all at once or you slowly discover that you’re unhappy with your job, there are a few steps you need to take. Mainly, you need to figure out if you’re able to rediscover satisfaction at your current company or field or if it’s time to move on. Moving jobs can be scary, especially when the economy isn’t at its strongest. But you also shouldn’t stay somewhere you hate for long.
Notably, work is work. While you may be passionate about the field, your clients, or your role, it’s still a job. It’s not going to be fun or enjoyable at all times. But there’s a difference between having bad days here and there and having a bad job. Indeed, being dissatisfied with your job can impact your life in other ways.
If you dread getting out of bed every day for work, the stress will begin to affect your overall mood and health. Stress doesn’t just make us gain weight and get acne. It can be fatal.
However, joblessness can generate the same if not more stress than a bad job. Leaving a position suddenly would leave many Americans struggling to make rent, pay bills, and afford groceries. Thus, you want to make sure that do things right when you recognize that you’re unhappy with your job. Keep reading to learn more.
DO figure out what is making you unhappy.
The first thing you should figure out is why you’re unhappy with your job. Maybe it’s one thing or maybe it’s several that have built up into a toxic environment. Perhaps Debby in HR seems to be out to get you and denies your PTO every time. Or the office is constantly in disarray no matter how many times you organize it and the mess is starting to get to you. You might have also outgrown your position and are ready to move on to bigger and better things.
If there’s no obvious “one thing,” consider other factors. Are you overwhelmed by the workload? Are there a bunch of little problems that keep building up that management won’t fix? Or are you simply bored by a job you outgrew?
Everyone’s reasons will look different. But once you have them figured out, you need to ask: can they be fixed?
Obviously, you can’t make Debby quit. However, you can see if there’s a way to peacefully coexist with her. Never leave a job you otherwise like before trying to talk things out. Have you tried talking to your Debby? If not, it may be time to try and ask why you almost had to use sick leave to attend your cousin’s wedding.
Unfortunately, many larger-scale issues with companies often can’t be fixed by one employee. Some businesses will gladly find new ways to organize the office and inventory vital supplies. But many are stuck in the past, whether due to bad management, employees, or an outdated system that no one cares to fix. Debby has been in the office for decades and management loves her. She’s going nowhere. Which may mean you have to. But not yet.
DO NOT rage quit.
Never rage quit a job unless it poses a serious risk to your mental or physical health. What can feel like self-care can wind up turning into a costly mistake. It’s no secret that the job market isn’t the best right now. You may think that finding a new job would be an easy task thanks to your experience but there’s no guaranteed position waiting for you out there. If you’re unhappy with your job, explore your options before you tell your boss you’re done.
What may feel good at the moment may endanger your livelihood and leave you without viable job references. If there’s no way to fix your current job, we recommend biding your time as you look for your next job.
While it can be frustrating, you can dedicate that energy to applying for new jobs. Notably, “rage applying” has led to employees finding jobs that pay $10,000 to $20,000 more than their old position. Truly, it’s worth it to find a job that both matches your skill level and pays you your worth. So, hold onto that resignation letter for now and wait until you find the job for you.
DO consider your needs and goals.
That leads us to our next question: what is the job for you? You may have a vague idea of what you want to do or it may even be the same thing you’re doing now – just somewhere else. Maybe it’s simply an issue of pay. If you’re not making enough to support yourself and your family, then your only goal may be a higher salary. If your job isn’t willing or able to make that happen, then you know what to look for in your job search.
Generally, when you move positions, you should aim for a promotion or, at the very least, a lateral move. Unless it’s an emergency, avoid applying to lower-level jobs.
Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. If you’re starting in a brand new field, you may not have a choice but to start anywhere but the bottom. Specialized fields will benefit from your experience in the workforce in the form of professionalism but can’t always use your skills. Consider if you move from retail to lab work. Your soft skills will benefit you in many ways, but your company will have to train you from scratch otherwise.
Alternatively, if your issue is with your role, not your company, you may have opportunities to move up where you are. Watch your business’s job board, but also make sure you talk to your supervisor. While there might not be any open positions, you may be able to create your own with the support of your boss.
Most companies want to hold onto good employees, even if it’s not the same role they currently hold. Thus, if you’re unhappy with your job, see if another position meets your goals and needs.
DO NOT take the first job you see.
If your company can’t offer you a promotion or raise that meets your needs, you’ll need to look elsewhere. However, you should avoid jumping ship at the first job offer you receive. Taking a job without doing your research may leave you in a position with the same or worse conditions. Again, there are exceptions to this rule. But different doesn’t always mean better.
As you’re applying for jobs, do your research on each company before you apply. Look at reviews from clients, customers, and old and new employees. If almost every review is bad, you can feel confident that their rating isn’t from one or two disgruntled employees.
On the other hand, if every review is sparkling and perfect, you might be running into a different issue: fake reviews. Some sketchy companies will bury authentic bad reviews by praise-spamming themselves. And because employee reviews are anonymous on most websites, you can’t fact-check them. Watch for repetitious, overly praiseful, and very official language. When you see these posts, you’re probably reading reviews from management or HR.
You may try reaching out to current employees via LinkedIn to ask about the company and work environment. However, you shouldn’t be offended or concerned if you don’t receive a reply. The current employees do not owe you their time, and they may not check the site often.
DO look at growth opportunities.
So, what if you’re not able to find a job or get promoted in your current position? If you’re able to stay at the company, you should. A position may open up somewhere as you wait and you can use this time to boost your resume and skill set. And, truly, when you’re unhappy with your job, it may be because you have stagnated and need a new skill to pursue. It’s easy to get bored when you’re doing the same thing daily.
Thus, you might consider enrolling in a certificate or degree program as you work. Online and night classes will allow you to keep your job and enhance your education at the same time. Your current or new employer might also be willing to help you fund your education through tuition reimbursement. Alternatively, you may try taking an unaccredited skill course on sites like Udemy. These programs won’t provide you with a diploma, but the abilities you build are just as valuable.
You should look at your goals and see what type of certifications would fit the path you’re trying to take. Consider enhancing your soft skills, such as public speaking, or highly sought-after skills like coding, SEO, cyber security, etc. These new abilities will not just make you more attractive to new companies but may be the last step you need to take to get promoted.
DO NOT burn bridges.
As we’ve mentioned, it’s a smart idea to not burn bridges at your current job, especially if it’s the only relevant job you’ve held. Consider what it looks like to a hiring manager if you ask them not to contact the only real job reference you have. They may worry that your skills aren’t up to par, you lied on your resume, or you’re difficult to work with. As it takes a lot of time and money to train a new hire, most will hesitate to hire someone that can’t back up their statements.
On average, companies spend around $1,200 on training per employee. While that might not sound like a lot at first, you must account for other factors. First, consider company size. It won’t sound like much money for a business with hundreds of employees but think of how many new employees they need to keep up with growth, retirement, and general turnover. That $1,200 becomes $12,000 rather quickly. Similarly, a small business can be seriously hurt by one bad employee, especially if the role is customer or client-facing.
Second, think of company turnover. There are fewer and fewer employees willing to stay on with a business for decades today. And those who do stay usually get promoted and outgrow certain roles. Naturally, that means some positions open up regularly at many businesses. And every new hire won’t work out. So, if you’re training someone new every few years, that $1,200 may end up closer to $6,000 per position. Thus, it makes sense for companies to hesitate when it comes to bringing a total unknown into their ranks.
Ultimately, our point is that companies need those references to know they’re making a good investment. If you’re unhappy with your job, you may still need the company’s good word to find a new job. If you know that your current supervisor won’t have anything truthful or good to say, a reference matters less. But most won’t be purposefully malicious.
DO talk to someone you trust.
Before you make any big decisions, try talking to someone you trust. This person might be a family member, a friend, or even a coworker. Let them know what’s going on, why you’re unhappy with your job, and what your plan is. You may also consider asking for advice. Someone at your company might know who to talk to about getting a promotion or raise or tell you how they did.
Truly, it’s good to run life-changing decisions past a few people. Their insight may influence your choices or they might be able to help.
DO NOT stay too long.
Notably, defining your goals and planning for the future are important steps when you’re unhappy with your job. But you don’t want to stay in the planning stage forever. Truly, leaving a position is scary. Your new career may be just as bad or worse than your current one. Or it may be the dream job you never thought you would find.
Thus, make sure you’re not sticking around out of fear. Chances are, you will never be happier at your current job than you are now, especially if you’re already on the verge of quitting. Sure, some things might change. Debby from HR might retire, and your boss may finally update the office tech, and maybe they’ll throw a 3% raise at you from time to time. But unless management completely changes its tune, the cause for these problems will remain the same.
Truly, the people that let Debby bully her employees will hire a new Debby. That new technology will go out of date again. And they will continue to think 3% is a good, economically driven raise.
If you’re comfortable enough to wait around for your dream job, then do so. But don’t let a company eat away at your peace of mind for too long.
DO what’s best for you.
Ultimately, when you’re unhappy with your job, it’s up to you to make a change. You should put your needs first before other considerations. Never sacrifice your goals, put off a big move, or ignore your health for a company that doesn’t satisfy your basic needs.
Work is work and a job is a job, but you should never dread leaving your bed or spend your days stressed and burnt out. Work stress causes real, serious health problems that can affect your quality of life from now until well past retirement. While finding a new position can be stressful and difficult, it’s worth it.
If you’re not sure what field suits your needs, first research your options. Not everyone has a dream job, but there is something out there that you will find interesting and rewarding.
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