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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

Hate Your Job? Here's a 4-Step Plan That'll Get You Out of There

It’s Sunday night and once again you find yourself dreading the upcoming start of the workweek. You know your company is all wrong for you, but you’re not sure if there's anything better out there. At the time you accepted it’d sounded like a good offer, but now you’re stuck in a position you hate.

Even though you’re not happy, you’re hesitating to actually do something about it, because—let’s admit it—leaving a secure job is scary. Instead of taking a leap, maybe you’ll just wait it out: Something else will come along soon, right?

It might, but it might not, and the only way to know for sure that a more satisfying job is in your future is to be the one driving the change. Here’s how to go about that:

Step 1: Know It’ll Take Some Time

Change doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you’re ready to make a move, job searches can drag on (and on!). Don’t give up if it’s taking months instead of weeks.

Or, it could be that the delay is on your end. You might need to stay put until you shore up your savings, or resolve something in your personal life, or maybe even just figure out what exactly the next move will be.

But that doesn’t mean you have to stagnate. By just identifying the steps you’ll need to take eventually, it’ll be easier for you to continue in your current job. After all, you’ll know that you are working on your escape plan.

Step 2: Be Honest With Yourself About What’s Holding You Back

I had a client who had taken a job she thought she’d love, in part because it paid more money. She was enticed with a bonus to move her family, and once she realized she hated that job, she felt stuck. She feared that if she quit the job she would be telling her family she asked them to move for no reason. But by having a conversation with them and finding out they were happy in their new environment, she felt better prepared to tackle the issues with her career. Eventually, she was able to get over her sense of failure and simply look for a new job in her current city.

The lesson here is if you're feeling stuck based upon the opinions you think others have about your career, open a dialogue. You might find that your spouse, children, parents, or whomever else are more supportive than you give them credit for.

And even if they’re not 100% on board? Keep in mind that it’s your career: You shouldn’t stay in a job you hate forever just to make someone else happy. So be honest about what it is you want. Then, let everyone know you intend to do something about it.

Step 3: Research the Change You Want to Make

Is it really necessary to obtain another degree or certification? (Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t.) Before signing up for a new class, review job descriptions for the position you want. Look at the education and skills section to determine general industry requirements, as well as specific employer requirements.

Schedule a few informational interviews to talk to professionals in the industry and specifically within companies where you might eventually want to work. It’ll give you insight into true salaries, actual job requirements, skills that are valued, and any barriers to entry you’re unaware of.

Then, review your past jobs and identify areas where you have performed the tasks listed in the job description for your desired role. When you take the time to do this step, you’ll often find that you have transferable skills that’ll qualify you. (And if you see a gap, you’ll know investing in that degree or course is worth it.)

Step 4: Put Your Research Into Action

What did you discover in your research? Whatever it is, start to put into into action—whether it’s signing up for a class to gain a very-needed skill, or buying a book you learned everyone in your position needs to read, or just figuring out which of your past experience are transferable and how exactly to position them on your resume.

Worried that your research led you to the conclusion that you need way more experience than you can ever get without starting at the bottom? That’s no reason to give up. You have a lot of options, but one that’s commonly overlooked is volunteering. It’s a great way to give back while moving your career forward. Really, it’s a win-win situation! You’ll get to showcase different abilities on your resume and a deserving organization will gain some free labor.

By working with a volunteer organization, you can test drive the skills needed for your new career. Need to brush up on your marketing skills? Want to keep your accounting experience sharp? Love event planning, but you’re chained to your desk in your current role? Look for a nonprofit in need of someone to pitch in in those areas.

Going back to number one, you don’t need to do this all right now, today. But, at some point, you do need to start. Because you spend way too much time at your job to be unhappy. So, instead of just hating it and hoping something will change, start planning your escape now. Your future self will thank you.

Photo of annoyed worker courtesy of laflor/Getty Images.

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