What Do I Do When I'm Stuck in a Job I Hate?

10/03/2016 07:01 pm ET
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Only a few months into one of the first jobs I had, it became difficult to get out of bed in the morning. We were in the middle of a slow period, where I had approximately four hours worth of work to complete in a week's time. Because of the confines of corporate America, regardless of the amount of work I had, I was required to sit in my cubicle and let time pass me by. Not only did I hardly have anything to do, I didn't even enjoy the minimal work I was doing. Worse than that, I didn't know what type of work I would enjoy doing.

I was told that if I left my job too quickly, it would reflect poorly on my resume and impair me from potentially getting future jobs; that I should stick it out for a few more months. I felt stuck, I felt unfulfilled, and I felt like I was quite literally watching life pass me by.

After a few weeks of allowing myself to wallow in self-pity, I finally decided to make a change. I couldn't (yet) change my environment, but I could change my productivity levels. With that, I began writing my own daily, personal to-do lists. These typically consisted of the following:

1. Research jobs

A mentor of mine taught me a process on how to help determine what kind of job you would enjoy through a simple Excel spreadsheet (or piece of paper if you'd rather). I won't go into the step-by-step process, but the end result was to find people who currently have a job you would love to have and collect their contact information. Eventually, once you've narrowed down your prospects, the goal is to reach out to them. This process, matched with my unwanted free time, gave me the ability to really fine-tune what I liked doing, what I could excel at, and who currently held those positions. I would not only research job descriptions, I would research the people behind the job to figure out where they started to get where they are today. What was their first job? Did they get their MBA? What type of person are they? The more information I could find, the more I began to figure out if they had a role I could aspire to obtain. This gave me knowledge on my field (and other industries) and more fulfillment throughout of day, as I began to find roles with job descriptions that genuinely excited me.

2. Stay in the know

Each day, my to-do list would statel read an article related to your industry; read an article related to general business; read an article on current events. I wasn't absolutely sure what I wanted to do or where I wanted to go, but I wanted to be prepared when I got there. Reading these articles kept me aware of current and emerging trends. There's a quote from one of my favorite motivational videos that has always stuck with me:

"There are things that you think you'll never need to know. That you may only need to know one time in your life, but that could save your life because you had that knowledge."

Knowledge doesn't need a purpose. If you acquire knowledge with expectations, you likely will be disappointed. During this time, and still to this day, I strive to learn as much as I can for no further purpose other than that - to know. This "to-do" not only kept me sane, it kept me relevant and continuously thinking.

3. Write

You're reading this, so you know I have a passion for writing. During this disappointing period of time, I had gotten severe writer's block. Without purpose, I didn't have the passion. But it was on the to-do list, so I did it anyway. Each morning, I would write about whatever came to mind. this served as a small little journal for me and me alone to keep my creative juices flowing and my mind sharp. I still go back to these notes and ideas for inspiration. That journal is actually how this topic came to mind.

Whatever your passion may be, if you're stuck in a job that you don't like you should make a point to use the passion a little bit every day. If you don't think you have a passion, I suggest you write. You might not be the best writer. You might not have anything to write about. But believe me, there is something very gratifying and therapeutic about writing (or typing) your thoughts down.

4. Read

All I have ever known is that I want to be successful. While I still haven't quite pinpointed where that success will come from, I know that other people have found it. Each day I would read at least a chapter from a business book from a successful businessperson or entrepreneur. I didn't just read the books. I took notes, typed up them up into a little SparkNotes version of the book, and kept them all in a binder for future reference. Yes, I was going too far. But, think about it, you're more likely to skim some book notes than re-read a book, especially a business one. And it's not like I didn't have time to kill.

It is easy to fall into a dark hole of self-pity and loathing when you're stuck in a job you don't like. If you can't change your situation, you might as well change your attitude, it will eventually affect your outcome. Making these to-do lists gave me purpose throughout my workdays and awareness of the world and the jobs out there that were more suitable for me. Actually making a point to write down these tasks, no matter how minute reading a business article may be, encouraged me to make sure I got it done. There's only so much your Facebook feed can change in an eight-hour workday. Take advantage of your days to learn, grow, and have enough knowledge to be sure you don't get stuck in a job you hate ever again.

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