Just having a job feels like a blessing. In the spring of 2019, the United States economy marked an amazing milestone. The unemployment rate hit 3.5. The last time the country’s unemployment was that low was 1969 –– when millions of young men were still fighting in Vietnam. Besides the oft-cited unemployment rate, nearly every other category was also matching 50-year-old records. Teens, African Americans, the recently imprisoned –– all were employed in greater numbers than they had been since Mad Men was a reality and not just a late aughts TV show.
What a difference a year makes. The 2020 pandemic drove unemployment to near unprecedented levels. Although December’s rate of 6.7% was an improvement, that month employers cut nearly 150,000 jobs. Hiring in sectors like business services and seasonal retail offset the loss of over half-a-million jobs in leisure and hospitality and private education. So your friends and family can be forgiven for not wanting to hear your complaints. It’s just when is it ever a good time to sacrifice your health? If your mental mantra is repeatedly saying, I hate my job (what should I do) –– there are options.
Consider the Costs
If you dread logging into work, you’re hardly alone. In one Ohio State University study, 45 percent of people consistently disliked their jobs. What bothers me the most about seeing nearly half of all people so unhappy with their work is that I don’t think there’s
a sufficient salary worth so much self sacrifice. Being that unhappy can literally kill you. Stress eating and feeling drained from feeling terrible can lead to weight gain. You’re more likely to get sick because misery often leads to a compromised immune system. Plus, the stress from that terrible job can trash your mental health. The Ohio State study noted that people who were unhappy with their jobs in their 20s had the worst mental and physical health outcomes in their 40. Of course, that only happens to those who stay in the same miserable job. An earlier study in Australia concluded that while in general unemployed subjects had poorer mental health than those who were employed, they were happier than people stuck in jobs “of the poorest psychosocial quality.” So, really what do you have to lose?
When you are unhappy on the reg, you’re enduring dangerous stress levels. Your sleep and personal relationships can suffer. You probably already know you’ve been taking it out on friends and family (which is partly why they’re sick of your complaining.) Exhaustion reduces your creativity, physical health, and productivity. Which means you don’t just have a bad job, you’re probably doing a bad job as well. Your ongoing workplace woes might even shorten your lifespan. The question shouldn’t be about the costs –– either financial or emotional. Instead, the question should be, “I hate my job what should I do?”
If you’ve been stuck in an unhappy job for a while, chances are your confidence and self-worth have taken a hit. Worse, it’s been holding you back. You aren’t going to be better off by flying off the handle and quitting. Patience is vital. Step back. Reflect. Take a personal day or devote a Sunday afternoon to brainstorming solutions. Remember when you fanaticized about being a best-selling novelist or a top veterinarian? What happened? Strategize by incorporating those dreams into a realistic action plan. Maybe it was the creativity of writing that you loved or working with animals. Are there careers similar to your own that also incorporate some of the things you care about?
Figure Out Finances
Money is a factor. Determine how much you have and how much you need to spend. Put out feelers –– maybe you could get laid off or earn a buyout at your company. You’ve probably put up with a bad situation for so long because you were worried about money. Quitting without a cushion increases the chance that you’ll accept another miserable job out of desperation.
Up your networking game. Get in touch with decision makers. Polish your resume and cover letter. Become active on LinkedIn and job placement sites. If it’s the job and not the company that leaves your grinding your teeth at night, then seek out open, in-house positions. Most importantly, be careful who you complain to. Posting derogatory social media posts is a bad idea –– and could get you fired. Stay in control and make sure the decision to leave is yours alone.
Remember, you have value. Not just to your employer but to yourself. And if you don’t care enough about your own health to leave, do it for your loved ones. They deserve to spend time with the happy, connected person I know you can be.