What strategies can I use to successfully do a job I don't like?
May 21, 2013 5:52 PM   Subscribe

I need help constructing mental snowshoes that will prevent me from falling into deep drifts of work BS and frustration at a job I can't leave.

I have spent more than a decade working in a field I finally realized I don't like. I have identified a new career and am now beginning the long process of taking prereqs so I can go back to school (it's health care so a degree is a must) and embark on this new career. I'm already taking a class and am very excited about this career plan.

The problem is: how to deal with a job I hate in the meantime? I need to work fulltime for at least another year while finishing the prereqs at night. I have a family and my spouse is only employed part time, with no immediate full time prospects (he works in a relatively low paying field.)

My current job is well paid, stable and the people are friendly. The work itself fills me with dread each day, however, and I think this unhappiness spills over into me being frustrated with the normal dysfunctions of organizational life. I am trying to change my role so it requires less dread-inducing work, but still, my heart is not in it.

So how can I survive day to day without either feeling miserable myself or taking out that misery on those around me?
posted by lastwomanstanding to Work & Money (14 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I should add: I have held a number of different jobs in this field already, and I don't think finding another job that uses that same skill set will make me any happier (and in fact I've learned that other orgs can be much worse than the one I'm at right now.)
posted by lastwomanstanding at 6:08 PM on May 21, 2013

Maybe a work-focused gratitude journal? Every day write down three to five things that you are thankful for, related to your work.
posted by jeoc at 6:12 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

It might help to know more about what you dislike about the job - the strategies for dealing with, say, abusive coworkers are kind of different from the strategies for dealing with monotonous, boring work.

Also, maybe you could have a gratitude journal AND a bitch/vent journal? Everyday try to write down at least one good thing and one bad thing that happened.
posted by mskyle at 6:25 PM on May 21, 2013

Earlier this year I googled a similar question to yours and this AskMe question came up. (It's what brought me here, basically.)

I still have a way to go, but I have seriously tried to implement a number of the suggestions and it is helping!

Good luck!
posted by loveyallaround at 7:26 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to Pema Chodron -"The only antidote to misery is to stay present." I think it means, in your case, that you should spend you time at your current job doing the best job you can do and be very conscious of the work instead of spending your time thinking about how miserable you are. Once you are present your misery will lessen.
posted by JXBeach at 7:27 PM on May 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you actually get along well with your co-workers and feel like your work performance is viewed positively, that is encouraging. You mentioned your office being friendly, so that's good -- but do you feel like you are able to do a good job? Or does it fill you with dread because you find it difficult to meet expectations? Is it boring, or is it hard? Do you find it has no point? Do you find your work is never acknowledged or appreciated? Is working with your co-workers difficult? Usually when people hate jobs, I say they probably hate that job and those co-workers and that office environment, but if you've had several jobs in the career and consider them to have all been bad experiences, then I will take your word for it. But it would be helpful to know exactly what about it is so awful.

If the work is simply just boring, I might try taking breaks. I am big on breaks to get me through the day. They cut up the time so I feel less like I've just sat there all day. Work on something for an hour, take a walk. Work on something for 45 minutes, go on Tumblr on your phone. I definitely "went to the restroom" by leaving my office entirely and walking to Macy's next store or something and just walking around for a few minutes, or I'd go to a random floor in my building and just go for a walk. No one notices, they assume I'm doing something. If it's a small office, maybe they will assume you have a bladder problem -- who cares if they do. I don't know how strict your office is, but maybe you can get TweetDeck running on your desktop and be as up-to-date on funny tweets from comedians you like or on the news of your favorite sports league as you've ever been. You have to sit in your office and do your job, but you can fill moments throughout the day with stuff you're interested in or distract you from thinking about work. I don't know anyone who sits at their office and just works, works, works without finding better ways to pass the time. If you can get paid to exchange snarky tweets with your friends in between work, go for it.

If it's possible to find some greater meaning in your work by thinking about how it will help people, maybe that would be beneficial as well. But without knowing what field you work in, can't offer much there except to say, maybe if you stop viewing it as menial tasks you are doing for your supervisor and thought of it as something you need to do or else people wouldn't have X, perhaps that would be inspiring in some way.
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:03 PM on May 21, 2013

posted by flabdablet at 12:08 AM on May 22, 2013

What field are you in and what do you dislike. I have a head full of ideas but need focus.
posted by BenPens at 5:05 AM on May 22, 2013

Oh boy, you beat me to posting this exact question.

For me, my strategy is based on trying to gamify my job. When I started working in my field, my org and role were very competitive. There was a literal "scoreboard" that tracked accomplishments for all the members of my team and I wanted to win so I did. I was promoted early and often and I equated pride in my success with actually caring about the job and industry, which I definitely do not. I was eventually promoted into a role where my responsibilities were more subjective and I had fewer "direct competitors," at which point I realized my unhappiness and found it difficult to perform.

So, that said, I'm trying to gamify my performance again. It's hard because I can't really try to incent myself on something like "implement five creative solutions to X this quarter" or whatever, but I'm working at that. Maybe you'll be able to apply this strategy to your job.

Best of luck.
posted by telegraph at 6:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice and questions. I work in media on the editorial side. I pretty much hate writing at this point - you need a lot of creativity and motivation to face the blank page, and I no longer motivated. I am trying to transition to an editor role but with mixed success (meaning i end ip having to write because no one else can/will do it.) I don't care much for the media we are creating. I work in a highly ambiguous job situation with a lack of clarity around roles, responsibilities and strategy -- that annoys the crap out of me, and also makes it difficult to stay motivated (eg priorities change week to week) AND makes it hard just to "do my job" when it's not even clear what that job is. I've made small efforts to improve the situation, but ultimately I'm a short timer and I don't think the management style will change. All of this to say: I don't know what can be objectively changed about my work conditions, and am therefore more in the market for coping strategies. Thanks to all for the thoughtful comments.
posted by lastwomanstanding at 9:36 AM on May 22, 2013

Response by poster: Dear Telegraph, interesting connections around structure, motivation and happiness. In other words, we can be highly motivated to do a job we don't care about when the environment is well-structured. The problem is without that structure you have to fall back on inner motivation -- only to discover it is lacking.
posted by lastwomanstanding at 9:40 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can you outsource your job at all? I bet there are lots of wannabe writers who would love to get paid for it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 1:52 PM on May 22, 2013

I can suggest a few strategies, although who knows how helpful they will be.

1. You mention motivation a fair amount. There is a saying that motivation follows action, not the other way around. Are there some defined tasks you can start your day with every day, to get things happening? Doing something, anything, will build your motivation to keep going.

2. Check out. They have your body, but not your mind, energy, or commitment. Do sub-par work and enjoy it. Stop caring, become indifferent, and shake things off -- daily annoyances will roll off you like water off a duck's back.

3. Try yoga and meditation. They really do work. Also, read "The Feeling Good Handbook".
posted by acridrabbit at 6:30 PM on May 22, 2013

From the sounds of it, switching fields entirely is a little rash. It sounds like you could stay in publishing or media or whatever, and just in a different role or maybe a different medium (i.e. switch from newspapers to websites or magazines or trade publications, etc.), But that's not what you asked about.

I have worked in the editorial side of writing. I got bored of churning out the same types of articles every day. We'd play games with our work to make it less tedious. We'd write an article spelling "(inside joke word)" with the first letter of every sentence in the lead. Another game we'd play is for article sub-headline "kickers," we'd try to get away with including the most random, awkward words possible, like the word "cuddle." Haha. Something like that might help. And adding boundaries can actually free up your mind. "I must somehow find a way to mention (random thing) in this article." Have fun. ;)
posted by AppleTurnover at 8:29 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]

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