You hate your job.
I’ve been there.
When I first took the job, I thought I was accepting my dream position, but I was wrong. It didn’t take me long to realize that the hard-charging company culture was not at all family friendly. Things went from bad to worse when the stock market turned dramatically downwards in 2008 and 2009. The friend who recruited me to serve in the C-Suite with him was fired, and my new boss was not pleased with the schedule I had worked out to split time between Dallas (my home base) and Denver (the Company’s headquarters). Work became a lot more demanding and much less pleasant. I started having to take trips overseas to meet and reassure market leaders in various countries. Relationship building was part of my job, but the trips were long and didn’t feel particularly productive, and that made it increasingly hard to leave my family again and again.
I was starting to feel stuck in a bad job, and research suggests that I was not at all alone. A whopping 69% of all U.S. employees describe themselves as “not engaged,” or as “actively disengaged” from their jobs. That’s a whole lot of people who are unhappy with their work. And if the polls are right and so many people are living with the burden of a bad job, it’s worth asking: “Now what?” What do you do with a job you hate? Do you just write off your situation, either focusing on finding a new job, or simply doing the minimum at work and looking for joy and energy elsewhere? Many people would say yes, but I disagree. If you work full time, or close to it, your job occupies about 40% (or more) of your waking hours in any given week. That’s 40% of your life you’re writing off. That’s a whole lot of living you’d be missing out on.
What’s more, God created each of us with a plan and a purpose. He gave us strengths and passions and called us to put them to work, not for our own gratification, but for Him. “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). We know God can work great good from anything. If you hate your job, you have the freedom to try to improve your situation, but as you do so, recognize that your discomfort might be an integral part of God’s greater plan.
So what can you do with a job you hate?
1. Learn about yourself. There’s a whole lot you can learn about yourself from a job that isn’t working for you. Think critically about what aspects of your job make it unsatisfactory: is it too structured, or not structured enough? Is the culture of the office demoralizing? Is the work too people-focused or too isolating? If you had the opportunity to try to turn your job into a job you love, what specific things would you change?
The summer of 2011, my daughter Annie, an education major at the time, took a job in New York City teaching at a small charter school in the Bronx. She expected to love the work, but as the summer wore on she found it more and more draining. She realized that she loved the kids and she felt led to engage more deeply with them, but the actual teaching felt like a distraction. Her experience led her to change focus and to pursue a career as a counselor.
This one brief bad job experience helped Annie make more informed decisions about her future career, and your bad job can do the same for you. By analyzing what really works for you and what doesn’t, you’ll be better equipped to make decisions about your job in the future.
2. Make the most of what is available to you. Consider your job a testing ground and a chance to learn or try something new. Look around for opportunities to gain valuable knowledge and skills that you can take with you to your next job. Try to make the most of any training programs your company offers. Volunteer for assignments that might expose you to new aspects of the company or to new people. You never know when the skills or experience you build might open up a new opportunity for you.
3. Take ownership. Are there changes you could make or request that would improve your job? Many companies are willing to be flexible in order to get people into the right roles, but no one is going to read your mind. Nothing will change if you don’t ask. In order to ask, you need to have thought through precisely what changes would make your job work better for you (this is a great topic to work through with a mentor or trusted advisor). I have found that if you have established your reputation as a great employee, there’s actually a lot that your company might be willing to do to keep you around and engaged.
At 4word, we’ve found that a certain amount of flexibility around job descriptions and responsibilities has been critical to working with employees’ strengths and passions. We’ve made some major adjustments over the years when it’s become apparent that someone’s original job description wasn’t the right fit. That flexibility has paid off for us in terms of employee morale and engagement, and it has made us a better organization.
Talk to your boss about your needs and look for a win-win solution. They might say no, in which case you’ll be no worse off than you are now. But they might just say “Yes!”
4. Recognize the value in practicing discipline and obedience. It’s easy to “give your best” at a job that energizes you. It’s much harder to bring excellence to a job you dislike. It’s not that your feelings about your job don’t matter. They do. God cares about our struggles, big and small. But He calls us to obedience. God is honored when we humble ourselves to work “all out” for Him, regardless of our circumstances.
Don’t sit idly in a job situation that’s leaving a horrible taste in your mouth. Take the time to consider what is going wrong and how you can remedy your current professional position. The answer to your dilemma might be a minor correction or a drastic career switch. Whatever the appropriate course of action, you’ll always be glad you did something to steer yourself toward a job you enjoy showing up to every day.