Benny Hsu of Jacksonville, Fla., works in a restaurant. Like many employees, he finds himself in a tricky situation: He dislikes his job but believes he can't quit. "I feel like I have no other option," Hsu says. "If I leave, I won't have enough money to pay my mortgage."
While workers may bemoan "sticking it out" until prospects or finances improve, there are actions they can take to benefit both their current situation and their future career path. Here are seven strategies for making the most of an undesirable new job.
1. Give it some time
Being the new person can be tough. Allow some time to bond with co-workers and become familiar with workplace operations. Days may pass more pleasantly as you begin to feel comfortable with others and more confident about your performance.
2. Be realistic
When you're unhappy, it is easy to dwell on everything that is wrong and to glamorize other places. "The fact is that the grass isn't always greener, and every workplace has its share of good and bad," says Elizabeth Freedman, author of "Work 101: Learning the Ropes of the Workplace without Hanging Yourself" and "The MBA Student's Job-Seeking Bible." "Lousy bosses and office politics exist everywhere, so don't assume that your job woes will disappear if you get hired someplace else. Be sure that your expectations are in check so that you don't wind up leaving a job for something that doesn't really exist."
3. Make it a learning experience
Evaluate why you hate this job and what would make you happier. Failure to do so may lead to repeating the same scenario down the road.
"You can get a job offer on the other side of the planet, but you're still going to be the one working in it," Freedman says. "If you hate the 9-to-5 lifestyle, don't know what you want to do with your life or simply are feeling worried and anxious about the future, those issues will be right there with you, too, no matter where you work."
- Who am I as a person and as a professional?
- What do I value most?
- What are my goals for the next quarter, year and five years?
Then, see how your answers conflict with your present position. By focusing on what you truly want, you'll know what to look for as you bide your time until a better fit comes along.
4. Look at the bigger career picture
While sticking around may benefit your wallet now, it might help it in the future as well. "Don't leave before you've got some meaty accomplishments and tangible results to put on your résumé," Freedman says. "Leaving too soon may hurt your chances of being competitive against other job seekers at your age or level with more expertise than you." Another good reason to stay: Job-hopping gets mixed reviews from hirers. If your résumé lists too many jobs in too short a time, employers may rightly question your motives and loyalty.
5. Be good to yourself
If a career situation has you down, do what you can to make yourself feel better both physically and mentally. Regedanz suggests:
- Getting enough sleep.
- Exercising regularly.
- Scheduling time for quality relaxation that leaves you feeling refreshed.
- Spending time with people you care about.
- Finding ways to bring more meaning into your life, such as by volunteering or taking a class.
6. Know that this too shall pass
Have you ever convinced a skeptical child that a shot would hurt only momentarily and then things would be better? The same holds true for a bad job. Frustration becomes easier to tolerate when you treat it as a temporary state rather than a lifelong sentence.
7. Find the bright side
Finally, while you need not be a consistently perky Pollyanna, thinking about the benefits that come from your labor may offer a new perspective.
Hsu admits that he used to have problems seeing beyond his dislike for his job, but he says he has learned to focus on the positive. "Be thankful for the simple things in life and what you have," he says. "Appreciate that you have a roof over your head, hot meals and a bed to sleep on every night. Don't always think about how much you hate your job because you'll keep digging yourself into a hole that'll be hard to get out of. Change your thoughts, and it'll change your situation."
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