Being unhappy in your job can be incredibly difficult — especially because the majority of us rely on employment for not only financial stability, but for achieving our career goals as well.
However, there’s a lot you can learn from these challenging experiences. If you find yourself wondering whether or not you should begin searching for the next opportunity, here are a few key tips to consider.
Embrace the Positives
It can be difficult to recognize the benefits of a situation, especially if you feel dissatisfied. Seeking out the good in a negative situation can help you find the silver linings to keep you motivated until you decide to make your next steps.
Look for positive aspects like:
- Your role aligns with your chosen field or industry
- Free office coffee or snacks
- Convenient location
- Flexible work schedule
- Friendly coworkers
Factors like these are not a replacement for more long-term necessities such as fair compensation or benefits like health insurance, but they can help tide you over while you find something that better suits you.
Work friendships are important to a positive work environment and can help make a difficult situation easier. They can support you during the most demanding days.
Work friends may also make important professional references or maybe become your cheering section as your respective careers take you down new paths. These connections are some of your most valuable assets in both the short and long term — and you may have the opportunity to make a lifelong friend!
Consider Growth Opportunities
All experiences have learning opportunities. Even if your current job is not the right fit, you are still likely learning new skills, building your network, and honing in on what your vision for your future will look like.
A negative job experience can also teach you:
- How to identify a culture that best suits you
- How you want to be treated as an employee
- How to advocate for yourself
- How to identify red flags — and how to address them!
Examining what you can take away from an unfavorable job can help ensure success in your next position. Examining past challenges can give you a better idea of what you’re looking to get out of a new role and what type of environment works best for you.
Identify the Problem
Examining exactly where the issue is rooted can help determine how to address it. This can largely be broken down into three main categories:
This job isn’t for me, i.e. this isn’t the path I want to take
The first job is often difficult to feel passionate about as it is the start of your career. You may feel you’re not doing important work initially, but these first jobs are often just a stepping stone to getting to where you’re going next.
I don’t like my coworkers/boss, i.e. I don’t fit in here
Of course, exceptions like harassment, feeling purposefully excluded, and discriminatory microaggressions are all causes for more serious action — but if you just don’t feel like your coworkers are personally compatible with you, that’s totally normal.
The cast of characters at any job can be highly variable and dynamics will naturally shift over time. If you truly don’t feel like it’s the right fit for you, remain polite and professional, and move on with a clearer idea of the kind of environment you’re looking for.
The way things are done here is not for me, i.e. low pay, limited benefits, etc.
Organizational or institutional-level issues can be very difficult to change unless you are in a senior position with others to back you up.
If you are experiencing communication issues with management, unresponsiveness when trying to negotiate a salary increase to reflect increased workload, or a lack of opportunities to participate in projects, it may be time for a change.
It can be challenging to identify what a positive workplace truly looks and feels like, so take your time to find what works best for you.
If the job isn’t what you thought it would be and you have the opportunity, try to negotiate with your manager for something that works for both of you. To prepare for these conversations, refer to your company’s policy handbook, which all companies should make available to their employees.
Some examples of negotiation topics include:
- What responsibilities are you taking on that don’t fall under your job description?
- Are there any projects you are interested in taking on, and how can you be compensated for them?
- Are there opportunities for growth, such as shadowing one of your more senior colleagues, or participating in additional skills training?
Prioritize Your Wellbeing
For many of us, our jobs are just one facet of our lives. If you’re in a job that isn’t serving you, put in your required hours, look after yourself, and prioritize activities you actually enjoy doing outside of work.
Spend time with friends and family, invest in your hobbies, and seek help and advice from mentors, trusted relationships, or a therapist.
Invest in Yourself
If you’re dissatisfied with your job, attending a conference or participating in professional development might help. There are programs that might help you address what’s making you unhappy, such as poor team dynamics — or you may just find taking a few days away from your routine revives your outlook on the future. Professional development can also help you stand out in a pool of applicants by showing your expertise in your field and a passion for continuous learning.
Not sure where to start? Read our guide on how to choose a professional development program.
It can feel good to rant to your coworker who you only bump into at the coffee machine, but remaining professional is important to the lasting impression you make when you do decide to depart for the next opportunity.
Do your best to be cordial, continue to do your work well, and don’t burn any future bridges. You never know when you might need a reference or a networking buddy! Chances are, you could run into your old colleagues later on in your professional life, and it should be a pleasant reunion rather than a bitter one.
Have An Exit Plan
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still unhappy at work, it may be time to move on.
It’s often inadvisable to leave a position before the one year mark. At minimum, one year gives you the opportunity to get to know your role, your coworkers, and the way the company functions. It also gives you a chance to build relationships; after all, it’s hard for someone to give you a recommendation or be a reference if they didn’t actually get the chance to know you.
However, there is a point when sticking it out is just not worth it, especially if your wellbeing or personal life are suffering. If you are at that point, make sure you have a strong existing resume and build professional references outside your current company. It is also important to ensure that you are not making a pattern of an early exit and remain in your next role for at least a year or two.
It might feel good to quit in the heat of the moment, but considering your future happiness past that moment is even more important.