So, You Hate Your Job. Now What?

Advice for Those Stuck in a Rut

woman hating her job
South_agency/iStock

There’s an old saying that has been paraphrased many times over the years. It goes something like this:

“Do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.”

It’s true, for the most part. Even jobs you really love can be incredibly hard work at times. But they usually bring rewards that far outweigh the downsides. The late nights, the weekends, the poor diet, the lack of a social life, these can all be by-products or a job that makes many demands on your time.

However, if you really love what you’re doing, you won’t notice the time go by.

Then, there’s the flip side.

You used to love your job. A lot. Now, you hate it. In fact, you find every excuse you can NOT to do the job you’re actually paid to do, whilst not getting fired or reprimanded. In advertising especially, whether client or agency side, it’s possible to find ways to kill time and look productive.

However, sooner or later, the hammer will fall. Your lack of enthusiasm will show through, and you will spend your days being depressed, whining about “the good old days” until you become another statistic, looking for work with a huge chip on your shoulder.

So, what can you do? What are your options? Should you quit? It’s time to ask yourself the following questions, starting with the obvious…

Do You Really Hate Your Job?

It may seem like a dumb question. If you’re reading this, and have gotten this far, you will answer with “of course I do.” But really think about it for a moment.

Do you hate your job, or do you hate what the job has become? Are you comparing what you have now, with something you used to have that was so much better?

A prime example: When you first got to your agency, you were working on a great account, doing awesome work which really made you feel fulfilled.

You loved coming to work, and you stayed late because you lost track of time. You were happy.

Over the years, the clients you loved to work with moved on, and now, you’re on something else. Something dull. The bloom has definitely gone off the rose.​ The work isn’t rewarding. The clients aren’t as fun. Your portfolio is not getting updated with great pieces. Yes, compared to the way you used to spend your days, it’s not as good.

However, to an outsider, you may still have a job they’d kill for.

You get to go to work in an air-conditioned building surrounded by smart, creative people. You get paid a great salary. You have 4 weeks of vacation. You can come and go as you please. You get holiday parties, and attend events. To the guy cleaning toilets for $8 an hour, you are living the good life.

It’s all perspective. Do you actually hate your job, or do you just wish it was as good as it used to be? Think it over. You may simply need to shift your paradigm. Make a list of the pros and cons; you may just surprise yourself.

Why Are You Sticking Around?

OK, so you got through that first question and said, “yes, I really do hate my job.” The next logical question then is, why are you enduring it?

Remember, we only get one shot at this thing called life. We spend at least 40 hours of every week doing the job that pays the bills. Hopefully, it’s fulfilling as well, but if it is literally something you do for money, and it’s making you miserable, you have to ask yourself…is it just the money keeping me here?

If the answer is yes, you don’t have enough reasons to stay. Money is important, but your happiness and sanity trumps it. While it may be easy to say “well just leave then,” it’s obviously not that easy. However, you should start making strides to move on, as soon as you can. Get your resume together. Look around, see who’s hiring, and which agency has just won some new accounts. Be proactive. The mere act of preparing yourself to leave can often lift your spirits enough to make the job you hate bearable for a few more months.

In your head, you’re in a better place.

What Can You Change to Make It Better?

If you hate your job and moving to another one is absolutely not an option, what else can you do? Well, one positive step is to look at your current job and identify all the things that are wrong with it.

Start by making a list. Write down all the reasons you are unhappy in your current position. Whether it’s the people you work with, the company culture, the hours, the lack of personal growth, the clients, or even the money, you need to know what the problems are before you can work on solving them.

Once you have your list, prioritize it. What is the biggest problem right now, and what is the problem you can realistically overlook?

Let’s say the biggest problem is the company culture. That’s a tough one, because it’s often engrained and impossible to change completely. However, there are things you can do to make a difference. Stop listening to gossip, and stop contributing to it. Try and avoid the people who really make you unhappy, or cut down on your interactions with them. Can you move to a different department, or work on a different client? Can you find ways to work different hours, perhaps coming in early and leaving early so that you can spend more time alone?

You won’t be able to fix all of your problems, but you can make changes that will help make things more tolerable until you do have the chance to leave.

Can You Do More Meaningful Work on the Side?

One of the biggest complaints many people in advertising have, especially in the creative department, is that they are not happy with the work they’re doing. And to be fair, that’s a big complaint. The work you do generates content for your portfolio. That, in turn, builds into selling tool for your talents, so that when you want to move on, you have a body of work to show off. If that work is not good, you have a problem. But, there is a way around it; freelance.

By taking freelance jobs, you can actively control the kind of creative work you’re doing. Now, freelancing while you have a full-time job can be a challenge. You may not have a lot of free time as it is, and adding more work on top of that is tough. However, it doesn’t have to be a lot of work. One good project a month may be all you need to build that portfolio, and that could take as little as 20 hours. That’s 5 hours a week, or less than 1 hour every day.

Do You Hate Your ​Job, or the Industry?

That’s an important question, but one many people in advertising and design overlook. They mistake their unhappiness with their career choice for their unhappiness with their role. And when they move on, the same problems raise their heads.

The fact is, there are certain aspects about the ad industry that will never change, regardless of where you work. Clients will always give you feedback that you dislike, and want changes that make the work weaker. You will always have to work longer than 40 hours per week, and that includes working on weekends. You will always have to make some choices that you don’t agree with, like doing advertising for products or services you disagree with. And, the industry will continue to be one of the first to lay people off in a recession. The ad budget is always the first to get cut.

So before you quit to take another job, ask yourself…am I running from this job, or do I want out of the whole industry? If it’s the latter, you need to start making some major life decisions, and quickly. But it can be done.