If you’re part of the millions that are rethinking your jobs after Covid, but haven’t quite made the move to join the Great Resignation, you might be feeling a bit stuck. We’ve all been there, doing a job you dislike, but somehow the pandemic is instilling a new urgency to do something about it.
Covid aside, life is not always as simple as flicking a switch. I’ve left jobs because the work wasn’t aligned to my values, because my development was being stifled, and because the new CEO was a psychopath, but they didn’t happen overnight. It’s completely reasonable that you might need to put up with a disagreeable work arrangement, at least for the short term.
Here’s a couple of tips to help make it more bearable.
Start making an escape plan
If the end goal is to get out of there, whatever the reason, you need to spend some time making a plan for that to happen. Even if you are super busy, spend your lunchtime and evenings working out what kind of position you want to apply for, and how you might make yourself competitive. It might be the same role in a new company, a new role in the same company, or a complete career change, but whatever it is start figuring out what your net move will be.
It’s easy to feel like you would take any job just to get out of an unenjoyable job, but make sure you are making an intentional career move and not just running away.
On the other hand, don’t be the frog that boils to death in the slowly heating water. Don’t put up with an increasingly dissatisfying workplace just because it happens gradually.
Start making a plan, and you will feel like you are halfway out already!
Establish some degree of financial independence
Most people are trapped by their jobs because they are dependent on the salary that funds their lifestyle. You’re not going to gain complete financial independence before you get a new job (hopefully!) but you can make the situation feel a little less desperate.
Take a look at your budget to make sure that you are spending well within your means, get rid of any high interest debt, and put aside an emergency fund.
You can vastly open up your options if you can take a pay cut in exchange for a career shift, if you have a little nest egg that you could use to move location, or in the worst case could use to cover the essentials if you quit tomorrow and focus all your time on finding the perfect job.
Look for learning and networking opportunities
Even if you are fully focused on moving on, make sure are making the most of any training or development opportunities in your current position. Not only will it give you a bit of reprieve from the day to day grind, it can also help you make the leap to something bigger and better.
I always gain something from even the most basic training sessions. Regardless of the content you can always get some perspective, and network with other people. You never know – you might hear of a great team that is hiring!
Find a mentor
Having a mentor is fantastic for career development in general, but it can make the most impact when you are at a decision point. Always find someone outside of your direct work area, and try to get someone two levels above you. This gives a good degree of separation for you to be open and to receive non biased input.
How to find a mentor? Start by talking to people in other areas or companies in the sector. Ask about seniors that they admire or are good leaders, and are approachable. Then send them an email! It’s perfectly normal to cold contact someone to seek mentorship.
Find a passion project
If the day to day work in your role is not doing it for you, try finding a side project that you can work on. Ideally this will be something that helps you shift into a new area but it will still need to align somewhat with organisational goals. It doesn’t need to be directly for your team though, if you have a supportive supervisor you might explore a part time secondment arrangement to work on a project with another area. By the end of it you’ll also have a strong achievement to put on your resume.
Focus the hours you spend at work
Not enjoying a work environment means that you should be trying to avoid spending any unnecessary time there. Try to avoid longer than needed work days by focusing and being productive when you are in the office. No more idle web browsing, just get your work done and get out of there!
Of course work load might be the reason you are planning to leave in the first place. Talk to your boss if possible, don’t take on extra tasks, and think about the ‘minimum viable product’ when producing work. Don’t leave your job with a poor impression that will give you a bad reference, but if you tend to be a bit of a perfectionist or say yes to everything, it’s ok to lean back a little.
Inject some joy into your team’s work day
Chances are, if you have some frustrations with your job, so do your colleagues. Try to avoid creating a cynical atmosphere though and don’t engage with bitching and venting (see my post on why I don’t think it helps). It might make you feel better in the short term, but it can also do you harm.
Instead, try introducing some positivity into conversations, arrange a team lunch or go for coffee with someone each day, or start a Friday morning half-hour Spotify playlist. It’s a very short term patch but helping others can feel better than helping yourself.
Have you had to endure a job you disliked? How did you cope?