I’ve talked to so many people lately who absolutely hate their jobs but are staying put because of fears of switching jobs in an unstable economy. While I wouldn’t recommend that anyone remain years in a job he or she dislikes, timing can be very important when changing employers. There is much to be said for a steady income, health insurance benefits, and other necessities. But if you’re in an unpleasant situation, whether it just be a job that doesn’t fit your goals or a boss who is a jerk, you need an action plan to maintain your sanity while waiting for the right time to make your move.
Assess Your Situation
First of all, examine what is wrong with your current situation. This step should come before all others because it will help determine what kind of action you need to take. Ask yourself:
- Am I in the right career and it’s just this company that is a bad fit for me?
- What is my ultimate dream job?
Define Work for Yourself
Someone recently told me, “Well, it’s called work for a reason.” I balked at that statement because I refuse to accept the belief that work is a pejorative. After all, Webster doesn’t define work as “A tedious, miserable task that humans do out of need to support themselves financially, usually with hopes of someday being able to retire and finally enjoy life unless they die of a stress-induced illness before then. See retirement and myocardial infarction.”
We’ve all done work, paid or not, that required skill but was enjoyable. While involved in work that suits us, we are immersed in the activity and lose all track of time. Interrupted from the task, we look forward to resuming it later. Occasionally, you’ll hear a story of someone who won the lottery and, when asked whether he’ll quit his job, replies, “No, I’ll probably cut back my hours, but I’ll still work.” Or consider the examples of people who had the option to retire but continued to work due to the sheer enjoyment they received from work. Why should we settle for anything less?
Find Your Path
If you know that you’re in the right career but your company is simply a bad fit for you, your task becomes easier. You simply need to examine where things went wrong to see if you can prevent repeating this experience. In retrospect, should you have asked for more – both of the company in terms of pay and benefits, but also of yourself? Did you settle for a job that didn’t fit you because you didn’t believe yourself capable of more? In the interview were there signs that this job wouldn’t be a good match for you, but you decided to overlook them?
If you know you detest your work and will not be happy in a similar job, it’s time to ask yourself what you truly want to do with your life. Let your mind run wild with the possibilities. What would you do if you didn’t place limitations on yourself? What would you do if you really believed in yourself? Would you like to make a living from the activity that you now refer to as a hobby?
10 Ways to Bide Your Time
- Ramp up your networking. Join LinkedIn and Plaxo, and ask for recommendations from current and past coworkers. Use Twitter to update the world on your current projects as well as network with other like-minded individuals. Look for local networking groups, and start attending them.
- Prepare for success. Consider registering a web site in your name. You can then create a professional-sounding email address that will encourage people to visit your web site. Get a professional photograph taken. This is for your web site, your advertising, or anything else that you will be doing to promote your image as a serious professional. Order your own business cards in your name with your web site and business number. Basic business cards can be obtained for a very reasonable rate at Vistaprint. If you don’t want your cell phone ringing with business calls at work, consider a SkypeIn number, which will cost you just $60 a year.
- Expand your skill set. If you’re in the right career, critically examine where you may be lacking in experience or qualifications. If you’re weak at giving presentations, now is the time to join Toastmasters. This will improve your public speaking ability and eventually add solid achievements to your resume. Upgrade your credentials. Is there a certification of some sort that you can achieve? Perhaps it is time to consider finishing your MBA.
- Start thinking of yourself as who you want to become. Rather than being a banker who paints as a hobby, you are an artist who supplements your income with your banking job. This inner psychology is very important to realizing your dream. If you always think of your dream as something you’ll be doing in the future, there’s a good chance it will always remain in the future. Claim it as your reality now, and that will encourage you to take action. If you’re in the habit of thinking it and believing it, doing it becomes much easier.
- Do something to earn money outside of your current job. Consider consulting or selling your creations. Having an outside income helps take the sting out of a miserable work situation. Working in a job that is a bad fit can be a demoralizing experience. Earning a second income is a consistent reminder that you are able to earn money apart from your main source of income. You may eventually find that you can turn your secondary income into a full-time business.
- Post a visible reminder that this job is only temporary. When I once worked in a job I hated, I helped bide my time by hanging a reminder on my bulletin board that said, “This is only temporary. De-invest.” Now this was a home office, so I had freedom over my environment. However, I would suggest you post something at work that will symbolize this concept for you. It could be a phrase like this abbreviated in a way that only you will understand. For example, if you want to become a novelist, post an image of your dream home office or the front cover of a book. Make sure this is in a location where you will see it frequently; every time those stressful moments at work arise, you’ll have this reminder: This is only temporary. I will not be doing this forever.
- Get busy in your off-work time. There are two halves to achieving a new reality: You must have time to dream, and you must take action. Give yourself time for creative visualization daily. Note ideas that come, and keep a record of these. Make a rule that you spend X amount of time daily taking action on your dreams. Artists produce artwork. Writers write. If you are not taking action, you will not achieve your dream.
- View your current job as paid practice for your future dream job. Even in a miserable job, you have a wealth of opportunities to polish your skills. Have a boss who’s a hothead? This is your time to get paid to practice dealing with difficult people. Read about neurolinguistic programming (NLP), and give it a try. Find ways to streamline the processes at work. How can you be more efficient in dealing with email and phone messages? How can you better manage your time? Build good habits now that you will take with you when you leave.
- Maintain a satisfactory job performance, but de-invest emotionally. This one takes practice, and meditation helps with this. Keep in mind that this job is temporary, so it is not worth your losing sleep over. Practice not engaging with people who try to push your buttons. Think of yourself as working for yourself, not for the company. Do your best to stay below the radar by making sure you are performing satisfactorily, but as much as possible, reduce work-related activities that consume your energy but have little to no return on investment.
- Get a life outside of work. This is vital to biding your time in a job you hate. When you have an active social life outside of the office, it becomes so much easier to tolerate mundane or stressful work. A balanced life helps to keep things in perspective.
Employing all of these techniques will help reduce stress while you wait until the appropriate time to change jobs. By taking these steps you retain your sense of dignity and worth as well as prepare for success in your future work.
- Do What You Love and the Money Will Follow: Discovering Your Right Livelihood by Marsha Sinetar
- I Could Do Anything if I Only Knew What It Was: How to Discover What You Really Want and How to Get It by Barbara Sher
- Fire Your Boss by Stephen M. Pollan and Mark Levine
- The 4-Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris
- Toxic Work: How to Overcome Stress, Overload, and Burnout and Revitalize Your Career by Barbara Bailey Reinhold
- The Dip by Seth Godin