Enduring a Job You Cannot Stand

I was once recruited to a job that wasn’t what it claimed to be. I never would have said yes to it if I’d realized exactly what I’d be getting myself into. After about a month I’d had enough, but my financial situation was such that I couldn’t quit without having something to replace it. So, I found ways to endure the horrible job while actively seeking out employment elsewhere. Here are some of the tips and tricks I developed during that season of captivity:

Formulate mantras

Mantras can give you courage and strength. I put mine on pop-up reminders on my phone that interrupted my distress throughout the day. Some of them were:

  • “You can only do what you can do. Everything else must wait til tomorrow.”
  • “It’s not your fault, don’t let it ruin your day.”
  • “You are not Super Woman, you cannot save the day.”
  • “The worst thing that will happen is they fire you, and you can overcome that, too.”
  • “Honey badger don’t care, honey badger don’t give a f***.”

Pretend every day is your first day

This helped me lower my too-high expectations I had for myself that I should be more capable than they trained me to be, it removed baggage from previous bad days (what bad days? Today is my first day!), and it gave me freedom to reinvent myself every day into a more mellow and emotionally-detached person rather than feel the pressure to remain the same chipper and fake-friendly person I pretended to be on the first day (#socialintrovertproblems).

Shut off your work brain at home

I.e. “think happy thoughts.” After venting or crying to my husband for an appropriate amount of time when I got home, I needed to get my mind off of work. I didn’t want that place to own me at home, too. We planned activities or had conversations that made us happy, which gave me something to look forward to as I trudged through the workday, and it let me leave work at work while I was distracted by more worthy thoughts and activities at home.

Form an alliance / friendship at work

It may be difficult to find out who hates working there as much as you do, especially if they are afraid of being fired. But if you do know someone who wants out as much as you do, consider them your ally, the person who “gets it” and makes it more bearable to be there. Vent to each other, encourage each other, and console one another when necessary. I’d advise if you’re married, that you limit the venting / consoling to coworkers of a gender you are not (or would not in the future become) attracted to. Just don’t risk it.

Milk it for every resume-building skill you can

Learn as much as you can, volunteer for the projects that will be great to brag about on your resume, and write down any accomplishments you make along the way (also to add to your resume).

Apply your way out (or up)

Don’t feel guilty about looking for something that works better for you. Keep in mind, however, that future employers may question your reliability if you hop around too frequently. So weigh your pros and cons, determine if there’s a minimum number of months you will stay for your resume’s sake, and look around. It doesn’t really hurt to look. And if you find a possible dream job, it doesn’t really hurt to apply (as long as you check the box that says you want the potential employer to NOT contact your current employer—definitely don’t want them to catch wind that you are hoping to quit before you’re ready to).


May you find your own ways to endure your horrible job for the time being, and may you hold on to hope for something better.

Gratitude

During a month-long experiment to try to become a more positive person a few years ago, I identified lots of things worth being grateful for. I know that when I focus on the good things in my life I tend to have a better attitude, complain less, and be more generous with others.

This is not to say that giving attention to negative circumstances is wrong. In fact, sometimes it’s necessary so that wrong things can be made right again. Like complaining about a pain can cause a loved one to drag you to Urgent Care to address the problem. Or talking to your roommate or spouse about something you want to be different in your home or in your relationship brings up a desire you otherwise would have internalized and grown bitter about if you’d said nothing. Or writing to your senator about an important issue you feel isn’t getting enough attention (if enough constituents agree with you and do the same), may encourage the senator to prioritize it more. Sometimes giving attention to the negative things is just what is needed to make positive change.

But if we get so caught up in the wrong, the irritating, and the painful, we may miss out on some fantastic opportunities: things to celebrate and admire and draw energy from.

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My Year of Yellow

My life was consumed in my twenties by my ministry job which was devoted to helping people. It was hard but fulfilling work, and I didn’t have a lot of energy, time, or money outside of it to have much of a life or to develop hobbies. My color-coded schedule in my google calendar represented the major categories of my life: blue for work, red for church, green for finances, and yellow for fun. There was very little yellow in my calendar.

So at the end of my twenties I decided to change that.

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The Gift of Sex, by Clifford and Joyce Penner

This book was given to me by a friend at my bachelorette party. She called it a “classic” although it had only been published in 2003 and I’d never heard of it before. But the more I read, the more I could see how The Gift of Sex could easily become one of those “classic” books that get gifted at bachelorette parties, much like What to Expect When You’re Expecting being a staple at baby showers.

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Periodic Life Review

Every once in a while I reflect on where my life has been, where it is now, and where it is going. Retrospect can offer so much of what we need in life—joy, encouragement, lessons, rebukes. When Facebook throws memories at me from 1, 3, 5, or 8 years ago, sometimes I cringe, sometimes I laugh or smile fondly, sometimes I get a little nostalgic and sad. It’s good for us to remember those things and to reflect on what has changed, what stayed the same, whether we’re happy about it, and whether we can do anything if we’re not.

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Penny Pinching: Recycling the Old Calendar

When you live month to month and have retired your credit card, sometimes you have to decide between getting paper towels or getting toilet bowl cleaner; face moisturizer or a fresh, non-rusty razor blade refill. There’s not a whole lot of wiggle room for extraneous purchases, so you either go without some things for a while, or get creative with the things you already have.

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Stress Magnet

I figured out a few years ago that I carry my stress in my jaw. It’s an ache that comes from constant jaw-clenching, and it’s my body’s way of telling me to lighten up or take a break. And it’s been talking to me a lot lately.

The problem is, I don’t have enough going wrong to warrant that kind of constant tension in my jaw. I make stress when there is none, or at least when there is very little.

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Twice as Inefficient

I love efficiency. I love getting things checked off my to-do list, and the more things I check off (and the more quickly I do that), the more accomplished I feel. And subsequently, the more happy.

So when I got married and acquired twice as many to-do’s and a to-do partner who doesn’t value efficiency as much as I do, I became twice as inefficient. And I got a little depressed. I mean, who was I if I wasn’t being super-productive??

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The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin

I’ve been fighting off (and, if I say so myself, coping fairly well against) deep-rooted unhappiness since I was 6 years old. It manifests itself most-strongly around the winter holiday season when I struggle with a bit of depression. So last Christmas I got myself a book about happiness to combat the annual slump: “The Happiness Project” by Gretchen Rubin.

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