“I hate my job.”
If you’ve ever woken up first thing in the morning with a feeling of dread as you contemplate the workday, these words are probably familiar to you. It’s a strong statement, but when you fear you’ve fallen into the wrong job, sometimes it’s the only one that fits.
There are plenty of reasons you might feel negatively about your current position. Perhaps you’re new to the organization and the job isn’t what you expected. Now you’re looking for an escape route to something more satisfying.
Maybe you’ve been at this position too long and you crave a new challenge. Or maybe it’s not the job at all, but a change in your environment — a new team or a shift in company policy can radically alter your work experience.
Unhappiness at work impacts your output, mental health, and overall life quality, so you shouldn’t let your misery fester. But resist the urge to jump ship at the first sign of discomfort, particularly if you’ve recently started the job.
One quick note before we continue, this article is directed at people in permanent, full-time jobs, not contractors or consultants. Those positions allow more flexibility for taking new opportunities as they arise, and I certainly don’t want to discourage you from pursuing them.
The Importance of Toughing It Out
New jobs aren’t easy. They’re not supposed to be. Career moves challenge you and help you grow, which isn’t synonymous with immediate gratification. Sometimes it takes months to feel competent in your new role or fit in with your coworkers. As my colleagues and I often say, “If you’re not uncomfortable when you make a change, you’re not pushing yourself far enough.”
Related: Why I Stopped Doing A Job I Loved
You need to immerse yourself in the work and the environment to determine whether you really hate your job or you’re just encountering growing pains. High achievers tend to experience frustration at new jobs because they’re used to excelling. At their previous positions, they likely knew their teammates well, enjoyed the respect of their bosses, and could finish their work in their sleep. When they find themselves in a new job where they hardly know anyone and can’t even find the copier on their own, they wonder, “What have I done?”
But that discomfort will be there no matter what job you choose. Everyone feels out of their element during the first weeks and months with a new company, but that doesn’t mean the circumstances won’t improve.
When It’s Time for a Change
Give yourself at least two months to adjust and learn the ropes, though recognize that it could take up to twelve months to ramp up in a new role and see the full cycle of work. The longer you hold each position on your resumé, the better (again, this applies to permanent jobs, not contractors or consultants). Candidates who appear to be serial job changers send off warning bells in hiring managers’ minds, so try to work through your issues before deciding to leave.
But if the thoughts “I hate my job” or “Should I quit my job?” become constant refrains throughout your work day (and your free time), then it’s time to reassess your situation.
Everyone gets a free pass to have a short stint or two on their resumé — but too many quick moves between permanent positions can become problematic. Sometimes a position just isn’t a good fit, and no amount of due diligence could’ve determined that, and you don’t need to grind through the next three years of your life before you make a change.
Here’s how to leave your job, or improve your work circumstances, without burning bridges or jeopardizing future opportunities.
Once you’ve given yourself sufficient time to know whether you’re unhappy or just uncomfortable, own it. Yes, your managers want to help and support you. But this is your career, and no one is as invested in your success as you. You interviewed and accepted this new position, so now you need to figure out if you can make it work.
Examine your situation and ask what you could be doing to improve it. Are you communicating effectively with your bosses and colleagues? Have you voiced concerns about inefficient processes or confusing chains of command? Did you ask your boss for feedback or help when your own attempts at problem-solving failed?
Don’t just be miserable day after day or throw in the towel too quickly. Own your problems and look for solutions before you complain or quit.
Assess the Underlying Problem
When you’re miserable at work, it’s easy to conflate a lot of elements. If the work itself is uninspiring, that might color your perception of the company, which is an otherwise great environment. If your boss is demanding and unhelpful, your interactions with them might sap your love of the work.
Think about each aspect of your job and distinguish the good from the bad. Does the company’s mission resonate with you? Are you happy when you’re working on your own but not when you’re interacting with colleagues? Do you enjoy learning from your co-workers but struggle to apply that knowledge to your day-to-day duties?
List everything you love about your job. Then write down everything you don’t enjoy. There’s a good chance you’ll realize that a few tweaks is all it would take for you to feel happy and fulfilled at work again. You might be in the right company but the wrong job, or vice versa. Maybe you’re not a fit for your current department and would be happier among a different group of peers. Or perhaps you simply need a different role.
I often hear from candidates we’ve placed who love their companies but dislike their jobs. I always suggest they figure out what it is they’d like to do and whether they can develop that role at their current companies. People assume that just because a position doesn’t exist right now, it never will. But you’d be surprised at how open many organizations are to creating new jobs if they make sense for the business.
Leaders are thrilled when employees raise their hands and ask to contribute to their companies in new and interesting ways. Don’t limit your ideas of what’s possible for both the company and yourself.
Realize Nothing is Perfect
Even after you’ve done your soul-searching and looked for ways to improve your situation, you may conclude the job isn’t the right fit. That’s OK. You don’t have to stick with it forever.
But while you figure out your next step, make the most of your time there. Seek out interesting projects and opportunities, and help your bosses and colleagues whenever possible. You may stumble across a new field that interests you, or someone might refer you for an external position better-suited to your skills and values.
If you’re feeling disillusioned because you’ve been with the same company for a long time, look for new ways to add value. This will energize your work experience and help you see the organization in a new light. It will also put you on executives’ radars. They might offer you opportunities you didn’t even know were available, and your attitude and sense of job satisfaction could change overnight.
If you leave the company after all, your superiors will be more inclined to help you if you’ve communicated with them throughout the process and contributed value right up until your last day. Give them a chance to support you when you’re struggling. They might offer a solution that makes your job viable in the long term. Even if you eventually resign, they won’t be surprised by the decision and they’ll appreciate the good-faith effort you gave to make it work.
No job is perfect. That’s why they call it “work.” No matter how hard you look for a position that ticks all the boxes, there will always be challenges. But how you meet them is up to you. And your response could make all the difference in your career satisfaction and success.