I really hope I’m wrong, but it seems like everyone at some point has come to the sudden realization that they hate their job. I know people who still technically love what they do, but the current incarnation of their dream gig is just BAD.
Lots of different factors can make a “good on paper” job go south of cheese: crazy leadership, incompetent management, slacker colleagues, lack of resources, too much work, not enough work… When the dial moves from “things could be better” to “I hate my life,” it’s time to start crafting your exit strategy.
It can take a while–sometimes months–to lock down a new position, which means you may find yourself stuck in a bad job for longer than you think. Not to get all Pollyanna, but you can actually learn a lot during this trying time.
Here’s a roundup of 5 good things you can get out of a bad job:
1. A Game Face
You may have a solid case in a workplace disagreement, but if you come at your boss or colleagues like a raving lunatic, they’re going to pay more attention to the steam coming out of your ears than the words coming out of your mouth. Dealing with confrontation without emotion is difficult and takes a lot of practice, but it’s such a valuable skill. It makes you look like a pro and can help create an environment that’s more conducive to problem solving. And a crappy job with lots of issues is good training ground.
2. A Vision of the Boss You Want to Be
Smart, creative, humble bosses are great teachers of leadership skills, but I’d argue that stupid, mean egomaniacs are even better. If your boss is a total troll, learn from their mistakes. Pretend you’re collecting data on some creature in captivity and really analyze what makes them so horrible to work for. Flip it and reverse it, and you’ll have a manual for being the best boss ever.
3. Solid Questions for Your next Job Interview.
Before any job interview, you always prepare that list of questions that shows you’ve done your homework. Ask those standard questions, for sure. But also use the time toward the end of the interview to investigate your next potential workplace. Thanks to your horrible manager and jackass coworkers, you know EXACTLY what your deal breakers are. Ask about culture, workload, management style, and anything else that’s been making your life a living hell.
4. How to Prioritize and Accept “Good Enough”
This one’s for the ninjas who face unrealistic to-dos and deadlines. And zero support. The upside of being constantly swamped is that you get really good at identifying what’s really, truly urgent. You also learn when to say “when” on projects that you could, if it were up to you, spend weeks getting just right. This is a hard lesson for anyone who values craftsmanship, but the reality is that sometimes you have to accept output that’s “good enough” because you have approximately 1 million other tasks to complete.
5. A Free Pass for Your Crazy Idea
This one’s a little risky and should be reserved for when you are truly, honestly at your wit’s end and have nothing left to lose. Maybe you’re pretty sure you’re going to get fired. Maybe you’re hoping they’ll fire you and put you out of your misery. Is there one crazy/potentially revolutionary idea that’s been rattling around your brain? Maybe you haven’t shared it because it’s radical and will likely piss off 50% of your office. DO IT! Why not? You have one foot out the door anyway. Maybe it’ll turn everything around. Worst case scenario: you’ll go out in a blaze of glory.
To quote Ovid, “Be patient and tough; one day this pain will be useful to you.” A bad job sucks, but you WILL learn something from it. And chances are that whatever you learn will help you find a much, much better job the next time around.
Ever have a bad job? What did you learn?