Updated May 30, 2021
There have been many times when I’ve said to myself, “I hate my job.” But I’ll never forget one of the worst.
I was a telemarketer. And I sold meat over the phone. Yup… meat. Over the phone. You read that right.
If you’re wondering who the hell buys meat over the phone, I can tell you. Nobody.
I sat in a windowless room from 3:00-10:00 p.m. every weeknight. I had a small cubicle with a phone in front of me. I would take a page out of our local phone book and start dialing. When the phone was slammed down or someone laughed at me, I’d scratch the name out and dial the next one. For 7 hours.
One day, one of the top door-to-door salesmen decided that we weren’t selling enough—meat over the phone that is. He came in his aviators and cowboy boots and screamed at us. He talked about his corvette and his playboy lifestyle. Since we sold on commission, he pointed out that most of us weren’t making any more than we’d be making working for McDonald’s.
“Is that what you want?” he screamed at us.
I realized he was right. I walked out at break time and never came back.
I’ve had almost every job under the sun. And I often found myself saying, “I hate my job.” I hung on because I needed the money. Or I was too scared to leave.
I imagined people who actually loved their jobs, and I figured that was just a pipe dream.
So, if you’re working in a job you hate, here’s what to do.
7 Steps for when you find yourself saying, “I hate my job.”
Step 1 – Make sure it’s really about the job
Step 2 – Identify what it is you actually hate
Step 3 – Look for ways to grow in the role
Step 4 – Work on the relationships
Step 5 – Ask yourself what you really want
Step 6 – Start networking
Step 7 – Start something on the side
Step 8 – Apply for other roles
1. Make sure it’s really about the job
Sometimes it’s not about the job. You’ve got a lot of crap going on in your life. You’re stressed. And the things you might have once enjoyed in your work become grueling. Look at your life outside of the office and try to figure out if something has changed that’s making you miserable.
If it is about something other than the job, if you have family stress, a bad relationship, or something else that’s making you hate your job—try to deal with that thing first and see how you feel. Or, even if you can’t change it, at least recognize that that’s what’s making you hate your job. Then, re-evaluate whether you want to make changes in your work role because of outside pressures.
2. Identify what it is you actually hate
Is your boss a belittling, micromanaging asshole, or is it just that you’re tired of entering data into a computer? Do you hate dealing with customers but love your coworkers, or do you find yourself rescuing customers from your coworkers?
Whatever it is, see if you can identify what it is you actually hate about the job. This will help you to assess what your next move is.
Some bad situations are temporary, while others are unlikely to change. Do you hate the CEO and all the management? That probably won’t change. You might be the one who has to give. But if you’re just tired of dealing with customers, is there a way you could shift your duties to a less people-facing role? Is it a conversation you could have tactfully with your boss?
3. Look for ways to grow in the role
Depending on your personality, sometimes there’s nothing worse than a stale job that’s the same day in and day out. I’m a person who needs to be growing, always. When you look into the future and see the scary sight of you—ten years from now—still miserable and poor from this crappy job, it creates a natural feeling of terror. Heck, it can feel like you’re choking.
Look at your current role and see if there are any ways you can grow and be challenged in it. Talk to your boss about taking on new responsibilities that are of interest to you. Maybe you can get some training in a new area or attend a conference that will inspire you. See if you can find ways to grow in your current role.
This might help you rekindle your love for your current job. OR, it might just help you to plan your exit better as you find new things you love and look for ways to do them.
4. Work on the relationships
A lot of the time when we hate a job it isn’t about the work. It’s often about the people.
A co-worker we hate. A boss we can’t stand. Working with people you don’t like day in and day out can be a major drag on your mental health.
Is there a way you can work on those relationships? This might mean having a tough conversation with the person you have trouble with. Name the friction in the relationship, if you can, and see if you can mutually agree on how to make it better. This is a good article on conflict in the workplace.
5. Ask yourself what you really want
I get asked non-stop, “What job can I get with X degree?” It’s the way we’ve been taught to think about careers and degrees. No wonder so many people are miserable.
For some reason, nobody taught us to ask, “What do I want?”
This is a problem with how we teach students to think about careers. We train them to look for jobs they can get, but not necessarily the jobs they want.
A lot of times when someone tells me, “I hate my job,” I will ask them, “What do you want to do?”
They often have no idea.
You deserve to be happy, whether you’ve been working your crappy job for 2 months or 20 years.
So before you yell “I quit” and storm out, do some introspection to find out what you actually want in a job. What makes you happy? What parts of your current role do you like? Is there anything about it you would love to do going forward?
Maybe it’s the time to be really courageous and admit that you’re in the wrong career path. Maybe it’s time to take some steps out, for your own good. These kinds of drastic changes are terrifying, but in my experience, are often worth it.
Take the time by yourself to think it through, or maybe even talk to a career counselor about it.
6. Start networking
If you need to make a career transition, there are a lot of things to do. But networking is probably the most important. Most people sharpen their resume and send in applications, but ignore this critical step.
Networking is everything. (I wrote a guide to building your network here.)
Start reaching out to people who do interesting things. It might be people in your industry, someone working for a similar company, or at a similar role. Or, it might be someone in a role that’s nothing like you’ve ever considered.
Be open-minded. Chat with everyone you can. Don’t be afraid to let people know you’re considering what your next move might be.
Ask them about what they do, how they got in, and where they’re seeing openings. Talk to everyone you can. Because one of those people, maybe a stranger today, holds the key to your future.
7. Start something on the side
One of the best ways to get momentum in your career while doing the role you hate is to start something on the side.
When I was starting this website, I was commuting to work an hour each way. I had a “good” government job, but I was unhappy. I started using the commute to write blog posts. That meant stepping onto a dark commuter bus at 5:30 a.m. and, while everyone slept around me, I’d pop open my laptop and write a post.
I’d also listen to podcasts and motivational speakers on breaks at work.
I still hated my job, but I cared a whole lot less once I could see that it would not be my future. It was just my role for a time, my slush fund to pay for my dream of starting a careers-with-degrees website and business. When my boss was a jerk, I’d smile to myself and think: This isn’t my future. It doesn’t matter.
If you can, try to start working on something on the side while you work the job you hate. Start a business, a side hustle, with a dream of turning it into your full-time gig someday.
You could also start learning a new skill. If you actually just hate the type of roles you’ve been doing, perhaps there’s some training you could do that would prepare you for a new role. (I love the website Skillshare for this, and I used it to teach myself SEO, Copywriting, and bookkeeping when I was transitioning. You can check our Skillshare here!)
8. Apply for other roles
You could apply for other roles on the side while you keep the job you hate. This might help you to see a light at the end of the tunnel and getting a job offer can be the immediate ticket out of your role that you hate. Although applying for jobs can take a lot of work and energy, you could set yourself a goal of applying for one or two a week. This is enough to mentally give you some traction, but hopefully won’t take every ounce of your energy.
It’s never easy to feel like you hate your job, but one of the worst things is feeling powerless to change it. Follow these steps and you’ll create the life and career you want.