Career Advice

What to Do When You Hate Your Job, But Can’t Resign

You Hate Your Job

So you hate your job? Join the club. It’s a badge of honor in certain circles. Hating your job goes well with an angry, anti-authority stance and some schoolboy macho posturing. If, however, you’ve outgrown the need for bravado and wannabe martyrdom, then read on.

If you find yourself in a job that you genuinely want to walk away from but feel you have to stay, I have some ideas for you. But first, some questions. I want to challenge your beliefs and assumptions about what having a job and quitting a job really mean for you. Are you actually stuck, or could you resolve the situation with the help of a fresh perspective?

Question: Why can’t you quit?

There are relatively few jobs where quitting is a complicated process. Writing a letter of resignation and walking out the door a month, or even a week, later is usually all it takes. Do you have a contract that forbids that, with no get-out clause? Are you in the armed forces and committed to a certain number of years?

Even in these situations there’s usually a way out, though the consequences may not be desirable. But, assuming you’re not actually a slave and physically chained to your desk, there will be a way out. So what’s stopping you?

Question: What are the consequences?

If there’s nothing truly preventing you from handing in your notice then here’s the reason you can’t quit. You fear the consequences. There may well be some weighty consequences to such a course of action, but what are they, exactly?

Will you bring about the downfall of Western civilisation? Will millions die? Unlikely. Will you die? Also unlikely. Will you face court martial, or a hefty fine for breach of contract?  That could apply in your case, but for most people it’s not true.

For most people the anticipated consequences of tendering their resignation are more mundane. Not that it’s not still a scary proposition. Will you have no income and thus no way of paying the rent? Furthermore, will you be homeless? Or will your parents disown you? Will your partner abandon you? What is it that you fear?

Question: Is that true?

Leaving aside possibilities, and even probabilities, of all the things that could happen when you quit your job, how many are actually true? Write them down: These Are The Things That Would Definitely Happen As Soon As I Quit My Job.

Would you have no money to pay the rent in 3 month’s time? Or next month? Write it down; you need to know the truth. Would your partner definitely leave you? If you believe that to be true, here’s another question for you:

Is that okay?

If your parents and/or partner know how much you hate your job and won’t support you in leaving it, what are those relationships based in? How authentic are they? And, most importantly, do you want to be living the rest of your life like that?

Knowing the truth…

So, having identified the real ramifications, and your fears around them, here’s one final question. Would it be worth facing, and dealing with, those consequences? No matter how severe they might seem, most will likely be survivable. How much do you hate your job? Imagine tendering your resignation tomorrow; how does that feel?

What if you had to downsize to a smaller apartment, or a trailer, or a tent, but were debt free? Evermore, what if this did cause the end of a relationship that wasn’t serving you? What if you did get fined for breach of contract but were free to be your own boss? It’s always worth considering. If nothing else, it’s a thought experiment that might free up your thinking a little.

Should I stay or should I go?

Given that you’ve got this far, you’ve probably decided to stay, but hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought. So what to do now?

You have two options:

  1. Stay in the job and find ways to make it more bearable.
  2. Start working on a plan that will you allow you to quit at a specified future date.

These two are not mutually exclusive, quite the opposite in fact. If you’re intent on your exit plan you may stop caring about the awfulness of your job. And, if you work to find ways of improving the job, you’ll find it that much easier to create a way out.

The psychological and metaphysical reasons are beyond the scope of this article. Accept it as one of those ironic truths and set to work knowing that everything is in your favor.

Improve The Job

How could you improve the job, or at least your experience of it? Let’s start simple. If it’s boring or repetitive, can you make a game of it? How fast can you do the work? You should never compare yourself to others, except in this case! Can you do it quicker than them? How efficient can you be?

As a next step up, can you change the way the job is actually done? Are there systems you could improve? Can you increase efficiency or productivity?  You may not have the authority, perhaps that’s part of the problem. Can you do it anyway? Perhaps you can change your working conditions? Can you move to a different office? Could you work from home for part of the week? Have you asked this question?

What is it about the job you hate? Is it the people? Could you change teams, or change departments? Could you go for promotion? If you really hate the job then you may not have the best attitude. You may need to work on that before pursuing a promotion. That’s always a good plan anyway. When you’re seeking to improve your situation, first look to improve yourself.

Do you see any possibilities here? Could you become so efficient that they simply had to give you a promotion? Would a payrise make things any better? How would you feel about yourself if you were doing the job better?

If none of these things seem to work then at least work on improving your attitude. And remember, you no longer have to feel that you’re stuck with this forever, because now you’re going to have an exit plan.

The Big Exit

Or better, a quiet exit, as often it’s going to be best to keep your plans quiet until the last minute. Few bosses take kindly to knowing you’re more interested in finding a way out than in you are in the job! Keep it to yourself, or to those you can definitely trust.

So what does an exit plan look like?

Once again, two options, not mutually exclusive. You might well do both. Your options are:

  1. Get a new job.
  2. Start your own business.

And the ways of getting there are very similar; leverage your skills. If you’ve got to the stage of hating your job, you may have considered, and dismissed, both options already. Why not? Do you not have the skills? So get some!

It may not be true; you may be selling yourself short. But if you really don’t have any skills that could get you into a new job, or your own business, then it’s time to start learning.

Get yourself to Udemy, or any other of the many online learning sites, and take some courses. Lack of skills or knowledge is not a justifiable excuse today. Pretty much anything you could hope to know is available online, cheaply or even free.

If you’re not prepared to learn then best get used to being stuck, but understand that that’s a choice. It may not be a choice you like, but wishing and hoping is not going to make your job any better. Actively taking charge of your life and doing something about it can, and will.

What skills do you need?

Well what sort of job do you want? Online learning sites tend to be heavily weighted around online skills. You don’t have to go this way, but I recommend it, for two reasons.

First, if you work online, the world is your marketplace. It doesn’t matter what hours you keep, ideal for something you do alongside your current, much hated, day job. Second, if you want to build a business that gives you the kind of freedom and security that a job never will, online is the way to go.

Like a job, but not a job

Do you want something that feels like a job, in that you get to work pretty much every day, and get paid according to the work you produce or the hours you put in? Start a freelance business.

Learn some skills and learn how to sell them. There are courses that teach you how to do this too. You can build a freelance business to any level of income you desire. The better you get, the more you can charge. When your freelance income exceeds the salary from you day job, is there anything left to stop you quitting?

The longer view

If you’d rather put in the work now, with the idea of getting paid a lot for doing very little in the future, then start a blog. Start a review site. Make videos or start a podcast. Build your email list.

What are you interested in? What do you love to do? Create a business around your passion and you’ll never go short of content. But be aware that the money won’t come as quickly as it will with freelancing.

You’ll have to offer something of real value, build an audience and establish relationships before the money shows up. You’ll probably need to stay in your current job a lot longer if you choose this route. Unless…

You Do both!

It’s perfectly viable to start freelancing and build a website around your passion at the same time, whilst continuing to work a day job. Don’t have time? Don’t get me started! I’m telling you; you can do it. If you want to debate me on that subject, well it’s your life. Remind me – how much do you hate your job again?

Or maybe…

I hinted earlier that interesting things can happen when you focus your attention on doing something you love. Especially when you’re freelancing, you get to see opportunities that are otherwise hidden from you.

The goal, for many people, is not to avoid having a job altogether, but to find something that works for them. What would work for you? There are many possibilities. You may have noticed that I didn’t have too much to say about getting a new job. That’s because I don’t really recommend it. I much prefer the freedom of having my own business, but I’m not completely anti-job.

What if you got a job which paid well and afforded you the freedom to work wherever and whenever you wanted? Sounds far-fetched? Are you at least open to the idea? It’s more likely when you run your own online business but, when you’re open to opportunity, it’s amazing what can turn up!

Here’s the TL;DR plan.

  • Work on your attitude
  • Improve your current job
  • Create your Exit Plan, with a quitting date
  • Get new skills if you need them
  • Start a side-business, or two
  • Stay open to new opportunities
  • Quit when your side business pays better than your job

Working on your new business will mean you have much less energy for hating your job. Working on it consistently will give you a way out, I promise.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Benjamin Ehinger

    August 11, 2017 at 3:36 am

    That exit plan is so very important. Getting out and away from a job that isn’t right needs to be done as fast as possible without hurting anybody else around you. Where there is a will, there is a way, but it usually requires sacrifice.

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