Are You Stuck In a Job You Hate, Want to Quit, But See No Way Out?
If you feel stuck in your job and are wondering whether to quit, you're not alone. Many people feel trapped by a job that may have made them happy at one point – or at least served their needs. But now all they can think about is how fast can I get myself out of here! So what's holding you back?
Well, maybe you can't leave yet because you need the money. Or you just don't feel ready to for reasons even you can't quite put a name to. How can you change things for yourself when you're stuck and miserable and don't know what to do next?
Making a "why I want to quit my job" pros & cons list
When you feel down about your job and can't figure out what to do, sometimes it helps to sit down with a blank page. List everything you can think of that's good about your job. Now list what's not working. Remember to include the small stuff – it all offers clues. If it's an especially bad day for you, maybe take a deep breath first so you can come up with at least some pros amid all the cons! You might even want to keep the list for later so you can add to it when you're home, away from the immediate stressors.
What you need to know about that list
Just like with love relationships, when you are making this kind of list, during the worst times the list of what's wrong is going to get big and full of things that really bother you. Things you know are wrong. Things that should be changed. Things you feel like you have no control over – and they can be utterly maddening. And, not surprisingly, the list of good stuff, which you dutifully try to come up with to be fair, can be very very small.
But some of that small stuff can be something like "pays the bills." In math, there's a concept called weighting. Meaning any one element might carry more weight than 3 or 5 or even 10 elements. Only you can know for sure how much weight to give to each item of your list. And unfortunately, when you are feeling most stuck, every item on the cons list can weigh a ton. So it pays to look at your list at different times. Just to help you get a good feel for what really matters to you.
What can you do to get unstuck?
While I can't address every possible situation you might be up against, here are some things you might want to think about:
(1) Even if you think you can't leave right now, this is the time to begin laying the groundwork for that next job, just in case. And exploring can help give you perspective.
(2) Look at the things that bother you, and think hard about any place where you might be able to help bring about some change. Even if at first thought your answer is "nowhere," please think again. Give it some time. There may be things you can talk to your boss about that your boss isn't aware of. Or there may be a way for you to work with your boss to help improve things for yourself and others.
(3) Take another look at your list, and think about anything you can get some control over. I recently heard about a man who felt he wasn't being respected by his boss, but always was too nice to make it a huge point. One day he lost it and told his boss strongly how he felt. His boss now treats him with more respect. And he suddenly enjoys a job he was hating! Not a guarantee with all bosses, but sometimes it pays to stand up for yourself.
(4) Going along with the last point, make sure you ask for what you need. Don't hold it all in – especially feeling left out of the loop. And it helps if you've established good communication with you boss and co-workers. If you haven't done this yet, you may be amazed what some two-way communication and 2-way respect can do for the way you feel about your job. Just give it time.
(5) Look at your list again. Is there any aspect of what bugs you that you can minimize? Can you find other things to do that you do enjoy, so you are less exposed to certain annoying people or tasks?
(6) Following up on that last point, are there any skills you can acquire that you would enjoy more and might help you get into new duties – and away from things you don't enjoy?
Are you looking at the elephant's rear end?
I saved this point until now, since it may take a little mental readjustment to see it for yourself. But there's a wonderful story about three blind men who were asked to describe an elephant. Each stood in a different part of the body, and described what they felt, since that's all they knew from their particular point of view.
Sometimes a job is just like that elephant. We start to see it only from where we are and how we feel. And we miss what else might be there for us. And we also miss the moments when we can take back control and make things better for ourselves. Especially if "pays the bills" is a huge part of what makes the rest of our lives happy.
Some final thoughts
I don't want to in any way tell you that you need to be miserable just to earn a living. As I said, when you feel that it might be time to start thinking about a new job, begin the steps to make it happen. If you need different training or need to start making networking connections (including ones online), start now. (Remember to protect your identity if you don't want your boss to know.)
But there are also times when we can change things around for ourselves, even if at first we can't see it through all the frustration. It may begin with small changes and take a while, but if there is any chance that you can slowly decrease the size of that cons list while adding to the pros side – well, you may have shifted things just enough for yourself to feel a big difference. Meanwhile, keep that resume up to date.