What to Do If You Hate Your Job, with Jessica Sweet

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Find Your Dream Job, Episode 120:

What to Do if You Hate Your Job, with Jessica Sweet

Airdate: January 3, 2018

Mac Prichard:

This is Find Your Dream Job, the podcast that helps you get hired, have the career you want, and make a difference in life. I’m Mac Prichard, your host, and publisher of Mac’s List.

I’m joined by my co-hosts, Ben Forstag, Becky Thomas, and Jessica Black, from the Mac’s List team.

This week we’re talking about what to do if you hate your job.

It’s Sunday night. Do you dread going to work the next day? There’s probably no better sign that you may hate your job. Before you quit, however, you’ll want to listen to my conversation with this week’s guest expert, Jessica Sweet.

She says, you need to think carefully before you resign from a job you hate and you need to know what you want next before you walk out the door. Jessica and I talk later in the show.

You may feel you can’t quit a job you don’t like. Maybe you’ve built your career at one organization. Or you don’t want to lose pension rights and other benefits the company offers. Ben has found an article that shows how to change jobs without changing employers. He tells us more in a moment.

You know you want to work for one employer. Should you apply for different jobs inside the company or will this harm your chances as a candidate? That’s our question of the week. It comes from listener Jon Hernandez in San Francisco. Becky shares her advice shortly.

First, as always, let’s check in with the Mac’s List team.

Every week Ben Forstag is out there searching the nooks and crannies of the Internet. He’s looking for websites, books, and tools you can use in your job search and your career. Ben, what have you uncovered for our listeners this week?

Ben Forstag:

Mac, in this world there are two different types of people.

Mac Prichard:

There are, now tell me, what are the two categories you have in mind, Ben?

Ben Forstag:

There are the people who went to Harvard University and then there are people like me who did not go and must just suffice with reading Harvard Business Review on a regular basis.

Mac Prichard:

Okay well, I’ll bring the Alumni magazine next month. I’d be happy to share it with you.

Ben Forstag:

Let me live vicariously through you.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah, so anyone who’s listened to the show before knows that this is one of my favorite resources, the Harvard Business Review. HBR, for short.

Jessica Black:

Mine too.

Ben Forstag:

Good. I guess you’re also a fellow non-Harvard person.

Jessica Black:

Agreed.

Mac Prichard:

I can see you two are going to be squabbling over the Alumni magazine, aren’t you?

Ben Forstag:

That’s right.

Mac Prichard:

Okay.

Ben Forstag:

In preparing for this week’s show, I was looking for resources there and I came across this article from Harvard Business Review from back in 2012. It’s called Don’t Like Your Job? Change It Without Quitting. It’s by Amy Gallo, who actually also wrote the Harvard Business Review’s Guide To Dealing With Conflict At Work.

The reason I like this article is that I think that a lot of times, people when they’re unhappy with their job, think that the only recourse they have is to quit and go on to something else. That’s certainly something I’ve done in my own career, where you just cut and run.

One of things that Amy says is that that isn’t necessarily the only option you have, and frankly, sometimes it’s not even the best option you have. She makes a real point about thinking about the situation you’re in and then trying to find what’s not working in that job and separate it from what is working. Then you emphasize the things that are working and try to minimize the things that aren’t working.

Just real high level stuff. She’s got a few bullet points I’d like to talk through here.  She says if you’re really unhappy with your job, things you might want to consider trying are:

Make more connections with people you like at work. Find ways to work with them more.

Assess what you don’t enjoy about the job so that you can minimize the time you spend doing those unwanted tasks.

Keep your options open. You may not be able to leave your job now, but circumstances always change

But the key thing here is, don’t do these things:

Don’t assume that the job is the problem — you might be someone who’s prone to not liking certain kinds of conditions, and leaving that organization or that job might just put you in the same position in a different organization.

Jessica Black:

It doesn’t guarantee happiness.

Ben Forstag:

Exactly. You’re just shuffling around the board there.

Don’t think that you’re permanently stuck. There is usually a whole lot more leeway to your job than you think.

I think this is the key one:

Don’t complain incessantly about your job. I know no one else likes to hear complaints like that, although I think having the periodic, folks-getting-together and grumbling a little bit is a nice way to get steam out. But don’t make it a habit of you’re the negative person in the organization. Other people don’t like it and I also think that feeds in on yourself and is really negative for you. The more you start dwelling on negatives, the worse things get. Sometimes you just have to remove yourself from that negative. Frankly say, “I’m not going to care that this is bad”, and things will get a whole lot better.

Obviously she goes into more depth on all of these points. It’s a good article to check out. Again, it’s Don’t Like Your Job? Change It Without Quitting in the Harvard Business Review. And since we can’t send you a copy of the alumni magazine, you can click those links to read the article.

Mac Prichard:

Well if you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by and we’ll have the alumni magazine on the coffee table. We’d love to see you.

Those are great suggestions, Ben. If you’ve got your own idea for Ben, for a resource he should share on the show, please write him. We would love to share your idea. Ben’s email address is ben@macslist.org.

Now let’s turn to you, our listeners, and Becky joins us to answer one of your questions. Becky, what’s in the Mac’s List mailbag this week?

Becky Thomas:

This week we’ve got a question from Jon Hernandez. He emailed us from San Francisco, California. He asks,

“If I’m trying to get in at a large company, is it a smart move to apply for multiple roles, or will the employer be put off by that?”

I think it’s okay to apply for multiple roles and only in specific circumstances. If you’re looking at all the job openings, if you search for a specific title and then multiple things come up and they’re very similar roles, I think it’s okay to apply for more than one. But if you’re applying scattershot, all over the place, like lots of different roles, different departments, different responsibilities. You’re like, “I just want to get in, I’m going to apply for everything.”  An HR screener can see that and they’re going to look at you and be like, “What is this person’s deal?” I think that I would avoid that sort of thing.

Keep in mind most large companies have an ATS, an applicant tracking system. They can see your profile, all of your activity, all of your past applications within their site. Your activity should really paint a picture that you want that HR person to see and understand what this person is about and really show you in your best light. That’s the advice I would give for that.

Also, the best practice in getting in, especially at a large company, is to use your network. Talk to people you know, if you have friends in the organization; if not, use your existing network. Start asking around and get introduced to people within that organization. Hopefully find people in the area where you want to work.

Then you can ask for referrals, get informational interviews, get more of a foot in the door. That’s always going to be more powerful than submitting cold applications online.

In summary, it’s okay to apply for multiple roles but only if they’re very similar to each other and they will support what you’re trying to show that brand.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, I agree. I think that’s really good advice. I was going to say that it is okay to do that but be very intentional. Which is, I think, really what you were saying at the heart of that. Don’t just apply for everything just because you want to get in there. Make sure that it is a strategic choice and it’s okay to apply for something that’s not your direct… exactly the job that you want to do there, and get into that job and move around. But make sure that it’s at least within your skill set so that you do have a better chance and it’s shows that you are creating that narrative. You can show that this was a very intentional, strategic choice and I can still provide value. I just want to work for this organization. I can still do that within this job but my ultimate goal is something else.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Jessica Black:

At that same organization.

Ben Forstag:

I think this is a tough one because almost anyone who’s ever applied to a job has gotten a response that goes something like, “Thanks but no thanks. But we’ll keep your resume on file and consider you for future jobs.” I think most of time that’s not the case. Your resume is going into a special filing cabinet and being ignored. I think in some organizations, particularly larger organizations where they’ve got a more advanced HR department, I think they actually do keep your resume on file and scan it. If you’re not a good fit for the job that you applied for, but might be a good fit for another position, an HR representative might reach out to you, and say, “Hey, I saw you applied for x, but we think you might be a good fit for y. Would you be interested in that?”

I know that’s happened to me on two or three occasions.

Becky Thomas:

Yep, me too.

Ben Forstag:

Certainly talking to recruiting agency, or recruiters, they do that a lot, because that’s their model. So I think you need to be strategic here. Don’t carpet bomb the organization with applications. Frankly, if working for the organization is your true culminating passion, try to get some face time or at least a phone call with a recruiter. Explain that and say, “I really, really want to work for this organization. Here’s what I’m good at. If there’s a position now for me, great. If not, keep me in mind for other positions where I could create value for you guys.” I think that’s going to help, having that relationship with the organization’s, going to help. It’s also going to prevent you from having to spend a lot of time applying for jobs over and over and over again.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, that’s a really good point, and I think your focus on the face time is really good. Then also, just mentioning when you’re in that informational interview with that person or whatever it ends up being, saying, “What are other ways that I can continue to demonstrate my value? What are other opportunities, if there aren’t positions available in this organization right now? Are there volunteer opportunities? Are there other ways that I can start providing and showing my value, and get involved?” That way when a position does become available, you’re there and you’re already invested.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah, all great advice, and as I listen to the three of you, it’s clear that there are three doors into a company. One is through the front door, the website, but Becky, I love your point about, if you want to be at a company, find ways to network your way in. That’s kind of a back door, whether it’s through informational interviews, or contacts. Ben, your point is well taken too, about working with recruiters.

Don’t limit yourself to just looking at the webpage. If you really want to be inside that company, start building relationships with people inside it now.

Becky Thomas:

Totally. Thanks guys. Good luck, Jon.

Mac Prichard:

Thank you, Jon, and thank you, Becky! If you’ve got a question for Becky, please send her an email. Her address is  becky@macslist.org. You can also call our listener line; that number is  716-JOB-TALK – or post your question on Facebook!

If we use it on the show, we’ll send you a copy of our new book, Land Your Dream Job Anywhere.

We’ll be back in a second. When we return, I’ll talk with this week’s guest expert, Jessica Sweet about what to do if you hate your job.

Now let’s turn to this week’s guest expert, Jessica Sweet.

Jessica Sweet is a career coach and licensed therapist. She helps creative, midlife professionals and executives find work they care about and want to do.

Jessica is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor to Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. Her work has also been featured on CNBC, Business Insider and HayHouse Radio.

She joins us today from the Greater Boston area.

Jessica, thanks for coming on the show.

Jessica Sweet:

Thank you so much.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. Well it’s a pleasure to have you on the program and we’re talking today about something I have certainly experienced in my career. I think everyone has this moment, what do you do when you hate your job?

Let’s start with a basic question; how do you know it’s time to quit, Jessica?

Jessica Sweet:

Yeah, it’s actually not as basic a question as you’d think because you might hate your job, you might really dislike it, but there’s always a multitude of factors, including your paycheck. I think the answer really comes down to when the feeling of really not wanting to go into work outweighs the need to have that particular job, or when you’re prepared enough to move on; you have a different job or you feel prepared enough to launch into a job search without something else, I think it’s time to quit. When it’s bad enough or when you can comfortably move on. I think that’s when it’s time but it’s always a scary thing because you have so many different factors to weigh out.

Mac Prichard:

Your body might be feeling that sense of dread, sometimes people call it the Sunday night blues. Those feelings are there. Do you think that people should just quit their job and figure out what to do next? What should they do when they know it’s time to move?

Jessica Sweet:

Well I think it’s an individual decision and I think it really depends on how bad it is at work. If there are things going on at work that are abusive or illegal, those are times where you should seriously consider quitting.

But for the most part, you probably should think about trying to find something else before you move on. I think a lot of people think they will have more luck finding a job if they can commit to a job search full-time, but it’s really hard to spend forty hours a week job searching. It’s easy to think that there will be people to network with or things to do, but the reality is that people are at work when it’s working hours. The reality is that it’s often better to stay and find something else, and have something before you leave.

Mac Prichard:

Have you found in your work with candidates, Jessica, that people are just more attractive as a candidate to employers when they’re employed?

Jessica Sweet:

Absolutely. It’s not impossible to find a job when you’re not working but the longer you’re not working, the harder it can be to explain that gap.

Mac Prichard:

So you’re ready to leave, you haven’t quit your job, you want to start that search. What happens next? Do people need to pay attention to goal setting? What should they do next?

Jessica Sweet:

Yeah, they should pay attention to goal setting. They should also pay attention to what went wrong in the last job. I think it’s really hard to know what to look for unless you really know what happened. If you didn’t like the work you were doing, if you didn’t like the company culture, if you didn’t the particular managing style. Sometimes there are things to be learned from a situation that can help you figure out what it is that you’re looking for in your next situation. I think it’s always important to look back, then move forward and look at what the goals are and what you’re doing next.

Mac Prichard:

What are your best tips, Jessica, about how to do that self -examination? I’m guessing it doesn’t involve a happy hour with a lot of co-workers complaining about all of the things that are wrong at the office. It’s probably a different approach. What can people do so they can, not get stuck in the negativity, but actually draw out those lessons that you’re encouraging them to take?

Jessica Sweet:

Yeah, I mean, people often have someone in their life that is a trusted adviser, a friend or sometimes a spouse. If not, a coach is a great way to go, but having somebody to talk to that you can explore that with is a really helpful thing. To try to understand what went wrong, what you need in your next situation. If you don’t have anyone or you don’t like to do that with another person, even just thinking about it on your own, sometimes journaling about it. Just trying to understand those questions and thinking about, again, the past, the future, what your goals are. I think those are all really important.

Mac Prichard:

Drawing on those lessons and then bringing it back to your goals. What do you do next? You’re still going to work everyday, you now know where you want to go because you’ve thought about your goals and you’ve reflected on what worked and what didn’t work in the current situation. What practical steps should people be taking after doing that kind of work?

Jessica Sweet:

There are certain things that you should do and there are certain things that you should not do. One of the things that you should do is really prepare for a job search and that involves networking and getting your resume in shape. So those are some of the things that you can be doing. Really being clear, and this is part of the thinking and soul-searching process, being clear on what your next job target is. It might be the same thing you’ve been doing, but it may be something slightly or vastly different from what you have been doing. Being clear on what that job target is. I think that is extremely important, to be very clear on what the target is.

Some people will say, “Well, I could be doing this, I could be doing that. I’ll look in both areas and whatever comes up, that’s what I’ll do.” I think that can really be detrimental in a job search because you are not marketing yourself very well in terms of networking, you’re not being the go-to person for whatever specific thing you’re doing, when you’re spreading yourself across different areas. You have to be really targeted in your job search, and in your resume, and in your networking, and really be very clear within yourself, and within your job search, about what it is that you’re doing.

Being targeted, getting your resume in shape, networking, those are some of the things you should be doing. Some of the things you shouldn’t be doing are really talking about your job negatively, especially on social media, or getting really negative in your attitude while you’re at work, while you’re still in your job. Those are some ideas.

Mac Prichard:

As you’re doing that networking, what are your recommendations about what to say to trusted co-workers? Should you let them know that you’re looking for work? Should you keep that to yourself?

Jessica Sweet:

Trusted is the key term in there. If they are really somebody that you trust, then it’s okay, but there really has to be that trust there. If you are worried at all that word will get out and that it could affect you negatively in your current position, then you’re probably better off keeping it quiet and keeping your networking away from your current position until you can announce it more formally that you’re leaving the position.

Mac Prichard:

As you talk to people outside the organization about your interest in moving to new opportunities, what should you say about why you’re leaving?

Jessica Sweet:

That’s a great question. I always suggest that people keep it all about the pull toward something new, rather than the push out from something negative. What I mean by that is, don’t focus on why you’re leaving something but focus on why you’re going towards something that you want instead. You can talk about things that you’re interested in learning, new opportunities, your passion about something that you care about getting into. But don’t talk about your terrible boss, or the long hours, or the commute, or all the things that you hated about your former job.

Those things might all be true, but the person to commiserate with is not the person who may potentially be able to get you a job, or the person you’re interviewing with, those people. The person to talk to about all of that with is your spouse, or maybe your buddy, or your career coach. Those are the people that you can vent to. Don’t do it in the professional capacity because that will really only come back to bite you.

Mac Prichard:

Yeah. I’m curious, what do you hear from employers, Jessica, when they hear those kinds of complaints from candidates? Generally what kind of reaction does that provoke in an employer?

Jessica Sweet:

It really just sets the tone for negativity and they are only seeing a snapshot of the person. They don’t see the person as a whole person, they see what they see in that moment. If they’re seeing that person as negative, they’re imagining that that person is going to be negative in the position that they’re hiring for. They think if they hired that person for whatever position they’re interviewing for, they’re just going to be negative about that position, they’re going to hate their boss, they’re going to hate the career, they’re going to think there’s no work-life balance. Whatever they’re getting is going to be what they get in that position. They don’t want to see that, they just want to see a positive attitude, and the positivity that you bring, and the potential that you bring. That’s what I hear.

Mac Prichard:

When somebody has completed a search; they’ve gone out, they’ve done the networking, the goal setting, they’ve found an opportunity, they’ve received and accepted an offer, and they’re ready to go from the job they hate, how should they exit from that company? Is it time to write down everything you’ve really been wanting to say to your boss? Or maybe that’s not such a good idea. What do you think, Jessica?

Jessica Sweet:

Yeah, if you write it down, then burn it. Don’t let anyone ever see it. Exit gracefully. Don’t ever, ever burn any bridges; you don’t know when you’re going to need a reference from that employer. Something could come back where you could need something from that position, and people sometimes say to me, “I will never, ever need or want anything from that job, it was so horrible”, but you never know how that is going to come back, where you’ll need something, first.

Second, it’s a part of your life and your work history, so having burned it really reflects on you. It’s a piece that you can’t go back to, or have anybody talk to them, or people know more about that because you’ve really burned that bridge. You don’t want to do that, you want to exit gracefully no matter how bad it was. Just try your best to let your resentment and negativity go in a different way. Even if you have to talk to a therapist about it, which people do. But that’s definitely a legitimate way to handle it.

Mac Prichard:

I can see the value of that. I think that many of us, including me, have been in these stressful jobs where it wasn’t a good fit and we’re ready to leave, but in the meantime you have to manage all of the negative emotions before you find that exit.

Well it’s been a great conversation, Jessica. Now tell us, what’s next for you?

Jessica Sweet:

Well I am very much enjoying coaching people and my work is around the career coaching, career path, and also helping people manage those emotions. I am also, as you said, a licensed therapist, so I do that work. I don’t do therapy work but my coaching work goes in that direction a lot of times because of my therapy background. I enjoy that. I also have an online program called The Meaningful Career Change Formula, which I’m offering for people who are not interested in coaching but who are still interested in finding a meaningful career for themselves.

Mac Prichard:

It’s exciting stuff and I know people can learn more about you and your online programs and other services by visiting your website; that’s wishingwellcoach.com.

Jessica, thanks for being on the show today.

Jessica Sweet:

Thank you so much.

Mac Prichard:

You’re welcome. Take care.

We’re back in the Mac’s List studio with my co-hosts.

I am curious, what were some key points you all heard our guest, Jessica Sweet, make? Becky?

Becky Thomas:

Yeah, I thought she made some good points. I have struggled with that whole, find a new job while you’re at your old job that you hate.

Jessica Black:

It’s so tough.

Mac Prichard:

It’s hard.

Becky Thomas:

So not only are you doing a full-time job, but you’re burdened with that emotional distress of not liking the job. I think she gave some good advice, like I understand that employers want to hire people that are currently employed and all of those things. That is the best path forward. I think it’s really about carving out time, really prioritizing your job search when you’re in that full-time, hate your job, sort of situation. That’s the biggest challenge and you have to really prioritize that, and be like, “You know what? I’m going to prioritize half of my Saturday every week to networking, and job searching, and putting feelers out.” That’s really hard to do.  I think that’s good advice, but also, it’s tough.

Jessica Black:

When you hate your job, you hate talking about what you’re looking for.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah. It’s hard to get inspired.

Jessica Black:

When you go network, people always ask you about your job, and what do you do, and it’s hard. I loved her emphasis on staying positive and focusing on what you do want rather than what you are going away from. Focusing on what you’re going towards rather than what you’re going away from.

But I understand that that can also be tough when you have that emotional distress of you just feel heavy, like it’s the only thing and you just feel terrible. I think that it’s really important to focus on that really positive side. I also really liked her emphasis on being clear with yourself about what you’re looking for because I think it’s also easy, when you hate your job, to be like, “I just want anything else. I just need to get out of here. I’ll take whatever.” But that’s not going to help anything. Being really strategic and being clear about what exactly you do want and what are the good things you do enjoy that you are trying to move towards. Being clear, not only does it help you to speak to other people, but it helps you stay focused on those goals.

Becky Thomas:

Yeah.

Ben Forstag:

I’m going to be here the counter voice here.

Jessica Black:

Of course, of course.

Ben Forstag:

No, I totally understand that you shouldn’t just quit your job and walk out.

Mac Prichard:

But I think you’ve done that once, haven’t you?

Ben Forstag:

I have, but I think the key here is that you could put yourself in a situation, if you’re strategic about it, and frankly just saving money. If you can save money to put yourself in a situation where you can not have to work for a couple months, I think that that’s the best situation.

Jessica Black:

I agree.

Ben Forstag:

Because then you get out and you have the time, space, and energy to do a job search and you’ve got some backup. The pressure is still on, but you’re not worried about where food’s going to come from next week. That’s my suggestion, and I’ll be honest, I’m not a great saver, the only reason I was able to quit my job was because my wife supported me. Thank you, Erin Hammers.

Becky Thomas:

Go Erin. Strong woman.

Ben Forstag:

Yeah. But I think that’s a viable option. Of course, we know there’s a bias against people who are unemployed, looking for work. Employers prefer if you have a job when they hire you, but I think those are the kinds of obsticles you can overcome if you have the time, and space, and energy.

Jessica Black:

I agree, I agree with that because like Becky, you were saying, sometimes you’re just not able to find the energy and sometimes that really is the best option, to just walk away and say, “I need to just have this clean break”, and I think you can address that when you are looking for other things. Saying, “I wanted to take time to really focus myself and have the time and energy.” You can focus on volunteering during that time and do other things that you can demonstrate what you’re still doing and not just be watching netflix all the time. Which, do that for a couple days.

Mac Prichard:

Maybe not for a couple of days.

Jessica Black:

A day. You’ve gotta’ give yourself a little bit of time.

Mac Prichard:

I think a day would be good, I agree. The point I really liked that Jessica made was about just reflecting back about the lessons you want to take away from that experience because every job offers positive and negative experiences. You’ve got to learn from both of them, so it was a good conversation.

Jessica Black:

Yeah, it was.

Mac Prichard:

I hope there are only a handful of listeners out there who are in jobs that they hate because it’s not a great situation to be in. I hope they are able to change it quickly.

Thank you, Jessica Sweet, for joining us this week and thank you, our listeners for downloading today’s episode of Find Your Dream Job.

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If you get a feeling of dread every Sunday night, it might be a sign that you hate your job. But even if you’re fantasizing about quitting, there are a few things to think about before you decide to leave your current job.

About Our Guest: Jessica Sweet

Jessica Sweet is a career coach and licensed therapist. She helps creative, midlife professionals and executives find work they care about and want to do. Jessica is a member of the Forbes Coaches Council and a contributor to Forbes.com and The Huffington Post. Her work has also been featured on CNBC, Business Insider and HayHouse Radio.

Resources in this Episode