Take This Job and ... Never Mind

Part 1: What to Do When You Can't Quit

Man with head in his hands
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Jim graduated from college last year and is now working at what he thought was his dream job. He was recruited right out of college. Right after receiving his first pay check Jim moved out of his parent's house into an apartment of his own. A couple of months later he bought a new car. All sounds great, right? Wrong.

About six months into his job, his employer merged with another company. Jim's boss, who was also his mentor, got transferred.

Jim now has a new boss who pays little attention to what Jim is doing except when he criticizes him. Jim's job is still a dream — a bad one!

With a few more months of experience, Jim could start looking for a job elsewhere. Right now, though, jobs aren't plentiful in his field — at least not for someone with as little experience as he has. He's also not assured of a good reference from his current employer. Jim's situation isn't all that unusual. Many people get stuck in jobs they don't like (or even hate). As in Jim's case, quitting isn't always an option. You may have a mortgage to pay or a family to help support. Or you may not have the experience you need to get a better job. Whatever your reason for staying at a job you dislike, there are ways to make the best of a less than ideal situation.

Figure Out What You Don't Like and What You Do

The first thing you need to do is sit down and make a list of the things you don't like about your job.
Now come on, don't say "everything." Sometimes when you hate something, or several things, about your job, it makes you so miserable it seems as if you hate it all.

Pick a time when there is a little distance between you and work. This will allow you to see things more clearly. Vacation time is ideal, but a weekend will do.

Be specific. If you say you don't get along with your boss, list the things about him or her that bother you.

Now, list the things you like about your job. Again, don't say "nothing." Sometimes all the bad stuff overshadows the good, but if you look hard enough I'm sure you can find something that you like about your job. Maybe it's your boss, or your co-workers, or part of your job.

Part 2: Fixing What's Broken

Look at the list of things you dislike. Are there any issues that can be resolved? There probably are. Most situations are not as hopeless as they seem. For example, if you're having problems with your boss, can you sit down and discuss them with him or her? Before you do, try to look at the problem objectively. There are two sides to every story. Try to see your boss's side. Maybe you can make some changes that will change the relationship.

Are you unhappy with the work itself? Sometimes a job evolves so that what you were hired to do isn't exactly what you are doing. If you are doing only work you aren't interested in, you need to do something about it. Don't let your employer decide your career path for you. You must be proactive, or you'll just be dragged along. You need to get experience in your field of interest. This is how you build your resume. Of course this isn't what you want to tell your boss, but you should speak up.

After a downsizing, remaining employees end up with an excessive amount of work to do. Having additional responsibilities isn't necessarily a bad thing. Your boss may have given them to you because he or she felt you could handle it. If you are truly overwhelmed and can't complete your work within a reasonable amount of time you should talk to your boss. In some companies overtime is a given, not an option. Include that time in what you consider to be a "reasonable amount of time." If everyone walks out the door at 5:00 PM, but you have to stay until 8:00 PM, something is wrong.

Now, consider the list of things you like about your job. Are there particular things you enjoy doing. Try to take on more of those responsibilities. Most likely, if you enjoy what you're doing, you'll do it well and your work will be noticed.

Do you get along with your boss, but hate the work you're doing? A smart boss will be hesitant to give up an employee with whom he or she has a good relationship. He or she will probably be willing to accommodate that employee. Let your boss know that you'd like to do more of the work you enjoy, but are willing to pick up the slack where necessary.

Looking For More?

I've heard people complain that they are bored with their jobs. They feel they can handle greater responsibilities then they've been given. In that case, ask for more responsibility. Express an interest in projects you know you can handle. If you get turned down, don't worry. Prove yourself instead. Find volunteer opportunities where you can hone your skills. Call your boss's attention to what you're accomplishing outside of work. If your new experience isn't acknowledged, be assured it will be appreciated sometime in the future when it becomes part of your resume.

Find out what educational benefits your company offers. Many larger companies provide tuition assistance or reimbursement for their employees. They sometimes require that you stay at the company for a time after completing your education. With the cost of a college education as high as it is, making this commitment might be worth it.

Following the suggestions in this article can help you make the most of a less than perfect situation. If you have no choice but to stay with your current employer, you have nothing to lose anyway. You may even gain something — new skills, an education, etc. You may not only find that you can tolerate your job, you may begin to enjoy it.

Part 1: What to Do When You Can't Quit

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