How do I get by day-to-day in a job that I don't like but is temporary?
June 21, 2011 11:16 AM   Subscribe

How do you cope with a job that is only temporary and you don't love?

We took a leap and moved for new jobs this year. Neither of our jobs are what we expected (both in terms of tasks and in hours), but we're stuck so that we don't have to reimburse our move, one of us gets a big year end bonus (that we could use to ride out the next move), and that we find new jobs. (We've done the math, and leaving these jobs early isn't a good financial decision. We both have a number of leads for employment, thankfully.)

At the earliest, we have to make it through to January 2012. More likely, however, will be a spring or summer 2012 move.

We're good on the "light at the end of the tunnel" front for remaining positive, but how do we get through the day-to-day for another 6-10 months emotionally and work-wise (I personally don't feel motivated to try hard...)?

What I've already tried:
- Think about my salary in hourly terms and what (little) I had to accomplish each hour to get that money. This helps personal satisfaction a little bit.
- Think about how these blips on our resumes will look good (we're both at big name places that attract attention).
- Spend as much time as I can get away with at work organizing my job hunt.
- Using as much of the resources (benefits, travel) at my current job as possible without looking greedy.

But regardless, feeling motivated to do more than the bare minimum at work is really tough for me, even though I am traditionally a hard worker. Important factor - I will never been in this line of work or need to interact with any of my coworkers again. (Not saying that I would burn bridges, but long-term opinions of me don't matter much.)

Spouse has a much more antagonistic work environment with an unkind boss and I can see that it is wearing her down emotionally. She is personally unable to do the bare minimum and keeps working really hard. (She will continue working in the same industry though, so people's long-term opinions of her does matter.)

(Hobbies and/or distractions aren't very possible. We spend all of our free time with our kids, housework, and doing what we can to ensure those new jobs.)

Any little survival tips for both or either of us would be welcome.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (11 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I have always found that there are three positive things a job can offer: money, relationships, and meaning. I've been lucky to experience all 3 in one place, but usually it's 2 out of 3 or even just 1. The trick is to focus on the positive.

It sounds like in your wife's position, it may be finding positive work relationships, people to go to lunch with, take a 10-minute walk outside each afternoon, bring donuts in for, etc. Good people (even in other departments) can make all the difference when the job itself sucks. That will help her down the line with references and networking in her field.

For you I wouldn't recommend spending time at work looking for your next gig. It just will reinforce for you how much you hate this one, which will make time slow down considerably. Instead, get into the work as much as you can to make time speed up, and think of whatever meaning there is that will come out of your efforts. Could be that someone, somewhere down the line will benefit from the gadget you're marketing, or your kid will get to go to a summer camp on the company's dime that you otherwise couldn't afford. Even if you are shoveling shit, there is value in the work. Find that & you'll pass the next year in a much happier frame of mind.
posted by headnsouth at 11:31 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

In my mind, I try to frame my less-than-perfect-job as "The Way To Pay For The Things I Want." So if you're using the money you earn to do/buy things that make you and your family happy, just allow the crappy jobs to be a means to an end.
posted by angab at 11:32 AM on June 21, 2011 [2 favorites]

Try focusing on the fact that you are where you need to be right now. Accept that you may be feeling stuck, unhappy, frustrated and unmotivated but don't hold on to the feelings. Recognize that you have a choice in how you think and feel about the situation. Furthermore, even though there is much you don't like about the situation, you have chosen to stay for a while because you think this is better than the other options. So, you can get upset or you can focus on maintaining your own peace of mind - the choice doesn't change the facts but it does change your experience. So, practice thinking "yes, this sucks, but it is where I need to be right now so there is no point in letting it bother me.' Repeat as often as necessary (which may be very often - this isn't easy but it does make life easier)
posted by metahawk at 11:36 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

First, your job sounds cush and awesome. If you're bored, spend your time doing some shit that will make the world a better place. Organize taking a day off work to volunteer as a group (team build!). Raise money. Bother your coworkers with the plight of the less fortunate. This will make you more thankful about your current position as well.

Looking for jobs while you're at work is silly if you can't leave for a year. It puts you in danger of getting reprimanded and/or fired and it's unlikely to be particularly practical.

Find a way to get your partner out of her job sooner if at all possible. Not you, just her.

If not possible, get her into therapy and/or regular massage, pay for it, and watch the kids. Do more housework.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:43 AM on June 21, 2011

Depending on your interest in mindfulness/buddhist approaches to this sort of thing, you may find listening to Getting Unstuck on the way to and from work to be useful. I've found it's really helped me cultivate a kind of compassionate disengagement (if that makes sense) in response to anxiety-provoking situations that aren't fully in my control and which have tended in the past to trigger endless arguments-in-my-head-with-that-jerk-who-does-that-thing, which of course then amps up the emotional misery rather than dialing it back.

As metahawk says, this helps by putting the focus on your own response to the person/situation (rather than the person/situation provoking you) so that you can give yourself the mental and emotional breathing to step back -- even if it's just a tiny step! -- from the habitual anger/anxiety/frustration dead-end path that is easy to take but ultimately makes you feel worse instead of better.
posted by scody at 11:46 AM on June 21, 2011 [3 favorites]

er, "mental and emotional breathing space"
posted by scody at 11:47 AM on June 21, 2011

Having goals I have found a very successful way to suffer through working through several jobs I didn't like. I always tried to find some goal that I wanted or that would benefit me, be it I wanted to save up enough money to do XYZ or I want to learn a new skill (even if that skill is how to get through the day without killing my boss).

Maybe in your wifes case, encourage her thinking of the job as temporary, knowing that what I was doing was simply a temporary step to get to where I wanted to be made me a lot less emotionality attached to my job and so made it all a lot less stressful that my boss was a sexist idiot. Just repeat to yourself "This too will pass" over and over again, its been my go to mantra for surviving work for years. That and remembering its just a job not my life.
posted by wwax at 11:49 AM on June 21, 2011

(we're both at big name places that attract attention)

This is key, from my perspective. Big name places are always really good at something. Maybe it's a specific process or approach to the work, maybe it's access to experts or influential people; it's different for each big name company, but there's always a reason they got to be a big name.

Figure out what you can learn from the big company, and then make it your side project (during working hours) to be educated by the best. Use your time in the company to be curious. People love talking about themselves and what they do, so take people out to coffee or lunch, and ask them about it. Soak it up. Keep a notebook of insights and lessons, like an anthropologist or a student.

Even if you're not staying in that industry for long, there's something interesting it can teach you. From a management position it'll look like you're taking initiative, but really you're making yourself more well-rounded, while pursuing the things you find interesting to bide your time.
posted by nadise at 12:20 PM on June 21, 2011

Can you take a walk together as a family once or twice a week?

Or let me expand on meditation and suggest family meditation!

If you could manage 10 or 20 minutes together as a family for listening to a guided meditation together - wow.

That's what we do when we start feeling off track, regular walks or meditation.

Seems so simple, and it's hard to make time for at first - but it's lifestyle improvement GOLD.

Try it.
posted by jbenben at 12:40 PM on June 21, 2011

Oh! And remember--IT people can't see what books you're reading. They can see what internet you're using. Choose wisely.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:45 PM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've coped with boring/irrelevant/unsatisfying jobs by presenting myself with the challenge of learning something important/relevant from them anyway. I found it helpful not just because it ended the frustration of wasting my life on this crappy job, but because it put the control back in my hands. If your job is stamping widgets, and your passion is textile arts, you could apply yourself to learning what the commonalities are between widget-stamping factory equipment and textile-spinning equipment. Or whatever. The idea is to keep yourself engaged at some level.
posted by gingerest at 6:12 PM on June 21, 2011

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