When the Thrill is Gone: Four Steps to Take When You Don’t Love Your Job

By Andrew C. Jackson

You work a lot. Even if you work from home, you may spend more time working and thinking about work than you spend at leisure activities. So what should you do when you start to dread your work?

The first thing to do is realize that you are never stuck. You may need a job to pay the bills, but there are always things you can do to improve your outlook and your situation. Here are four steps to get you moving in a positive direction.

  1. Make a list of the things you don’t like about your job. Be specific. If you’re working at an office, it could be the commute that’s dragging you down. Or it may be a difficult colleague. In some cases, it may be the actual work you are doing. Only by pinpointing the problem can you begin to solve it. You may also want to list the things you like about your job to get a sense of whether the pros outweigh the cons, or the other way around.
  2. Next write down your personal and professional goals. You may have done this in the past, but our goals can evolve and should be updated periodically. With regard to personal goals, focus on things that you need to feel content, such as spending time with family or pursuing a hobby. As for professional goals, think about where you’d like your career to be in five years.
  3. Answer this question: Can achieve your personal and professional goals in your current job, even though there are things about it that you hate? If the answer is yes, your best bet is to look for a solution that will allow you to be happier in your current job. Talk to your supervisor or a human resources director about your situation. Begin by saying that you are committed to helping your department and your company succeed. Then ask for help in resolving the problem you are having without making specific demands, blaming others or using emotional language. Your goal is to find a solution that works for both you and your company. If you are a valuable employee, your company will do what it can to make you happy. For example:
    • If a long commute or work hours are preventing you from spending time with your children, could your employer allow you to work different hours or work from home a few days a week?
    • If a coworker is the problem, could moving to another desk, away from distractions, make you more productive and less stressed?
    • If you’re not seeing the upward mobility or compensation you expected, would additional training or mentoring qualify you for a more senior role or a raise.
  4. Finally, if you find that your goals are out of sync with your current job – or in the unlikely case your supervisor has no interest in helping you solve your problem – begin quietly taking steps toward a job or career change. Here are some tips:
    • Talking to a professional recruiter can help you determine if your current skills are in demand or if you need additional training to get the job or career you want.
    • Recruiters can also help you determine which companies and work environments might be a better fit for you, so you don’t end up with another job you don’t like.
    • Continue to perform well and be supportive in your current role so that if needed, you will receive a positive reference.
    • Read employee reviews about companies you interview with to help you land at a firm with a supportive culture.

When you are clear about your goals and focus on solutions rather than problems, you allow more opportunities for success to come into view. Good luck in your career!