This is it, you tell yourself excitedly as you accept the offer. This is where you’re meant to be. Your boss is going to be amazing, your work is going to be exhilarating, your future incredible—it’s all up from here. Until it isn’t. You thought everything about this new gig was going to be perfect, but it turns out, you were so very wrong. Again.
Just like your last job (and the one before that)—you thought it was going to be world’s apart from you were just doing, and maybe, for a brief second, it was—until it suddenly became terrible and unendurable, and you must face the fact that you made yet another mistake.
If your track record leaves much to be desired, it might be to time to consider that you may be the problem, or at least part of it. If you’re looking for perfection, your quest will be unending. The perfect boss, job, colleague, work environment just doesn’t exist.
Yes, ideally you will enjoy what you do, have friends at work, and mostly feel good about your employer. Just because things don’t go as planned, it doesn’t give you license to start the search all over again with the hopes that you’ll find something better. If you do that every time you disagree with or are disappointed with someone in your workplace, you’ll find yourself in a revolving door of jobs.
Instead, if you want to maintain your sanity and advance your career, you’ve got to figure out how to weather challenges so that you’re making the most of every position, and only moving on when it’s the right move for your career. After all, it’s easy to explain constant resume changes when they’re the result of a new opportunity. It can get really tricky to explain all those moves when the only motivation is your dissatisfaction.
Here are some ideas to help you break out of this cycle:
1. Agree to Disagree
Sometimes your boss will make a decision or request something from you that you dislike. If it isn’t unethical or harmful, then it’s not worth quitting in a huff. Ask yourself how you can get something out of the situation that’ll benefit you. Maybe you’ve been appointed to a committee you’d rather not be part of. Will you meet at least one new person, and can you view that as beneficial? Maybe you got assigned a crap project while your colleagues got the enviable ones. What can you do to make the unappealing assignment better? If nothing else, can you handle it quickly and leave yourself time to focus on something you do like?
If you find yourself in constant disagreement with your manager after a year or so, you might start putting out feelers for a new gig. It’s still not worth doing something rash if things are otherwise fine. Better to buy yourself some time to sort things out and build your reputation.
2. Manage People
Colleagues making you crazy? Instead of running for the exit, set boundaries. This is an incredibly important soft skill to develop for your long-term career. Keep conversations short when you’re busy. Close your door or block out time on your calendar to minimize time with problem colleagues. Politely decline invitations to spend extra time bonding outside of work. Keep your nose to the grindstone, turning out great results. Some of those obnoxious colleagues may find their way to different pastures if you can just wait it out. Why should you be the one to bolt?
Meanwhile, look for new people in the organization you can connect with. You’ve no doubt heard that employees with a work best friend are happier and perform better than those without. So look for someone that you “click” with—someone whose company you enjoy. That friendship may help you both be better and happier employees, in part because you can help one another maintain a sense of perspective with your workplace and save your energy—and resignation letter—for situations that actually warrant it.
3. Build the Right Relationships
Speaking of relationships, it’s important that your relationship with that work BFF is a healthy one. If the only thing that brings you together is your toxic attitude toward everyone else, well, you may not be any better off than if you had no friends at work. Make sure your office buddies are supportive and encouraging and not constant complainers. While they don’t have pretend to love everything about the company, they should have some positive things to say some of the time. Surrounding yourself with optimistic and positive people will help you avoid the work blues.
Bear in mind, too, that the best and most supportive person will grate on your nerves or disappoint you eventually. Instead of washing your hands of him or her and marking one more hash mark in the “I should quit this job” column, try just taking a bit of a break from your friend.
Use a few of the tactics from the previous section to stay busy and unavailable for a couple of days. During that time, remember that you’ve made a few mistakes in life, and your friend may get annoyed with you sometimes, too. Think about the things that make your friendship work. When you’ve calmed down and put things in perspective, then you can reconnect. Just make sure you’re truly ready to move past the issue. Otherwise, your career path is destined to be a lonely one because perfect humans just don’t exist.
4. Be Patient
For at least a minute. If your awesomeness isn’t rewarded with a raise or promotion the minute you think it should be, make sure you understand what’s typical and standard at your place of employment. It’s possible you aren’t eligible for advancement until you’ve reached six months or a year. Also bear in mind that if you’re going to ask for recognition of some type, you’d better go into that meeting with evidence of your effectiveness or you’ll be branded as entitled, presumptuous, or just plain obnoxious.
A better approach than worrying about a raise right out of the gate might be to tell yourself you’re going to use your first year on the job to build. Learn everything you can about your role and department as well as the company. Go above and beyond on assignments. Build your relationships across various departments. Document as you go, and you’ll be in a good shape to request a raise after you’ve put in at least a year.
Being miserable all day is no way to work. But it’s crucial to keep some perspective and to recognize when you’re creating or at least contributing to your misery with unrealistic expectations of perfection and glory. Before you pack it in, ask yourself if it’s really the job that’s a problem.
Can you adjust your mindset and your habits to make life better? Sometimes, making a few small adjustments in your own behavior makes the rest of the world look very different. That healthier and more realistic outlook can put you back in the driver’s seat of your career, making changes strategically instead of impulsively. And that one change—strategy versus impulsivity—can be the difference in your long-term career trajectory.