A couple of years ago, I decided to bid adieu to the comfort and security of my full-time job (and a steady paycheck) in order to pursue a career as a freelance writer. And, while that decision has been one of the best ones I’ve made in my professional life to date, it definitely didn’t come without a hefty amount of agonizing.
That’s right—it’s the side of the story you hear much less about. Before taking that brave, courageous, admirable (or, some might even say stupid) leap that everyone loves to applaud, I dealt with months and months of torturous indecision and uncertainty.
During that time when I was feverishly weighing my pros and cons, I felt incredibly frustrated with my job. I was unchallenged, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled. I knew I wanted more out of my career—but, the mere thought of actually going out there and trying to get it was enough to paralyze me with fear.
Luckily, everybody and their brother seemed to have some sort of fortune cookie-worthy advice they wished to bestow upon me. And, while some of it was definitely helpful and encouraging, a lot of it was simply frustrating.
In fact, a few of the sentiments that were echoed over and over again stand out as the most eye roll-deserving—and these four definitely fall into that category. Read them, know them, and promise to never repeat them. Trust me, your friends will thank you.
1. “Well, You Can Always Just Quit”
There were plenty of times when I would air my grievances about my current position to my friends. And, while I’m sure that became somewhat obnoxious for them (sorry, dear friends), I don’t think it was nearly as annoying as the oft-repeated, “Just quit!” advice I typically received in return.
I get it—this recommendation is supposed to be well-meaning and encouraging. But, in reality, it usually just inspired visions of throwing myself across the table to shake them by the shoulders while yelling (and, admittedly, crying), “Please, just stop!”
Yes, leaving my position was the ultimate objective. However, as everybody knows, quitting your job involves a great deal of careful thought, consideration, and prior planning. It’s not something I could march into the office and do on a whim after a well-intentioned friend suggested the idea over a shared plate of nachos. After all, if it was that easy, wouldn’t I have done it already?
So, while your intentions of illustrating that everyone’s in the driver’s seat of his or her own career are admirable, they’ll likely never go over that well. If you feel this phrase burning at the back of your throat, you’re better off keeping your mouth shut.
2. “You Just Don’t Want it Badly Enough”
Since my eventual goal was to build a career as a freelance writer, I spent quite a few months working my full-time job and attempting to grow my freelance side hustle. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy—you often feel like there’s never enough time, energy, or resources to accomplish everything you need to get done. Something’s gotta give.
I remember one distinct moment when I was lamenting to a friend about how I just didn’t have the time necessary to get my freelance business off the ground. To my surprise, she responded with, “Well, you just don’t want it badly enough. You’ll always make time for the things you really want.”
Listen, I don’t want to sound like a total whiner who scoffs at the first sight of constructive criticism. And, honestly, in many instances I think her sage advice holds a lot of water. But, I ran into one big problem with it: I really did want it bad, and I already was making as much time as humanly possible.
I was only sleeping a few hours each night. I hadn’t taken a lunch break in weeks. I worked all weekend. I did my best to make smart use of every single moment I had available.
So, when she slapped me across the face with this seemingly helpful advice, it didn’t really serve as encouragement or inspiration. Instead, I just felt completely deflated and disheartened.
Yes, there are plenty of people out there who would rather complain than take action. But, unless you feel 100% certain that you’re dealing with one of those people, it’s wise to keep your harsh judgments to yourself.
3. “It’s Called a Job for a Reason”
This is one I heard a lot—especially from older people—when sharing my complaints. It was as if they all assumed that my desire to pack up my desk and wave goodbye was rooted in some sort of cliché Millennial entitlement, that I didn’t want to have to work at all—that I thought I was above that.
Of course, this couldn’t be further from the truth. I was never so naïve to think that enough right moves would land me in a position where I could just kick back and watch the dollars roll in. I know that careers involve a fair share of elbow grease, and that there’s really no such thing as a perfect job.
But, that wasn’t what I was looking for. I didn’t think that I was entitled to not have to work at all—but, I did think I was deserving of work that made me feel challenged, fulfilled, and proud of the hours I put in day in and day out. And, in the end, who doesn’t want that very same thing?
Needless to say, being talked to as if I was a lazy whiner who was only looking for loopholes through which to shirk my real-world responsibilities wasn’t really the rousing pep talk I needed in those moments of frustration.
If you have friends stuck in a similar situation? Well, keep that in mind.
4. “My Job Is Awesome”
To this day, I still don’t really know what people who attempted to cheer me up with this very phrase were trying to accomplish. Perhaps they were subtly suggesting their own career paths as something I could test out. Or, maybe they were simply trying to bask in the fact that at least they didn’t have to deal with the same crummy situation I had somehow found myself in.
Regardless of the intentions behind this sentiment, the point remains the same: It’s not a helpful thing to say to someone who’s frustrated with his or her own 9-to-5.
Yes, I’m truly happy for you that you’ve found something that inspires you to do cartwheels into the office each morning—that’s awesome for you! However, in all honesty, whenever I would find myself so wrapped up in all of the things I hated about my own career, hearing your cheery tales of your awesome boss or your incredible project would only make my lip quiver and my eyes well with tears.
Why? Well, feeling so enthusiastic and inspired by a job is an emotion that seems completely out of reach for people who feel stuck and frustrated in their current careers. So, try your best to avoid gloating about your perfect gig.
I know, it’s a completely selfish request. But, do it in the interest of humoring your discouraged friends—at least for a few minutes.
For people who feel disheartened and unsatisfied in their jobs, it often feels like everyone around them instantly transforms into Oprah Winfrey or Dr. Phil—everybody has some little nugget of wisdom they want to share.
But, before opening your mouth to spit out any sort of sentiment that you think is encouraging, make sure to give it a little extra thought. Is it really helpful, or will it only make that person feel that much worse?
If you find yourself wanting to say any of the above phrases? Well, take it from me—it’s best to just bite your tongue.
Photo of two people speaking courtesy of Beatriz Molina/Getty Images.
Kat is a Midwest-based freelance writer, covering topics related to careers, self-development, and the freelance life. In addition to writing for The Muse, she's also the Career Editor for The Everygirl, a columnist for Inc., and a contributor all over the web. When she manages to escape from behind her computer screen, she's usually babying her rescued terrier mutt or continuing her search for the perfect taco. Say hi on Twitter @kat_boogaard or check out her website.More from this Author