When planning to write this blog the original title was ‘How to succeed in a new job’. A reasonable endeavour and important topic in its own right. Then consider the current economic climate, the challenging job market and the very real possibility that you might be taking a role for reasons other than it being a perfect fit or sensible next career step.

Maybe you are desperate to get a job – for financial reasons, sanity reasons, boredom, frustration or any combination of the above and more. If your career is working out just nicely – good for you – this might not be a blog, you need to read! If, however, Covid-19 has taken you to a place where you’ve had to compromise your plans and ambitions – read on.

Why take a job you haven’t planned for or might not like?

There are many reasons why you might take a job you didn’t plan for or might not like. Don’t be afraid to say your reason out loud. You are talking authentically. You are doing what you think is the right thing to do. That’s ok.

what to do if you don't like your job

Here are just a few reasons:

  • You have a mortgage or rent to pay, bills to cover, mouths to feed. You’re not furloughed anymore, you’re now redundant. Not having a job isn’t an option.
  • Perhaps you’d prefer to leave government benefits to those with a greater need than you – the reasons are yours and that’s just fine. This means getting a job to contribute in some way is important.
  • Even though you’re getting out more, you still feel locked down and stir crazy at home. You need to do something that changes your view.
  • You lack a purpose that has meaning beyond friends and family. Work is an important part of your self-identity. As such you need to be employed.
  • You don’t want a long gap on your CV. You’d like to show a future employer that you were flexible and willing to give something different a try.
  • Life goes on and you want some regularity and normality. That means working.
  • Your relationships are suffering from too much time in each other’s pocket. You need space and time with different people.
  • You have admired what our key workers have done since this all started. You want to do your bit.

What are your reasons for seeking out a job?


Taking a job you’re unsure of

So, you’ve decided to take a job that wasn’t necessarily in the plan or on your anticipated career path. It could be:

  • Something totally alien from what you’ve been used to or trained for. Perhaps you were a shop worker in retail and now you’re on a factory production line.
  • Something in the field of your profession/experience, but at a ‘perceived’ lower level. You worked in hotel management and now you have joined a professional hotel cleaning company.
  • Something aligned to your old job but in a totally different sector. You worked as a restaurant chef, now you’re cooking in a care home.

unhappy at work

Quite honestly, bravo you for getting out there and getting hired. It takes courage, resilience, and humility to try something a little different – these are some of life’s most beautiful qualities in our humble opinion. Some people will want to wait for the right next thing. That’s okay, but if that’s not you, well done for being brave and putting yourself out there.


Why this role?

The first question to consider when thinking about the merits of this new venture, is what drew you to this endeavour, this role, of all the possible endeavours and roles out there? Your immediate response to that might be – ‘are you joking – this was the only thing out there’. Perhaps that’s true, but then again, other things do exist if you are willing to dig deeply enough. Why did you get yourself hired into this role?

unhappy at work

Perhaps it was location, a secret yearning to try a manual, hands-on role over an intellectual one? Perhaps you know someone who already works at the company you have joined, or you know you can learn the new job quickly because you’ve had some experience of it before. What was the spur?


Getting on in your new role

You’ve now started your new job. Assuming this milestone has at least put a smile on your face, how do you continue to get on in a job you didn’t plan for, or quickly realise you might not like?


1. Focus on the positives

Lots of people are out of work. You have something to put on your CV, LinkedIn profile and other social media accounts. Keep focused on the positives of this. For example:

  • You’re learning something (even if it’s how to make a Barrister grade coffee!). You can’t take learning away – no matter what happens. Personal growth and development come from both good and bad experiences. Learning challenges your thinking process, potentially improving your problem solving and creative skills. This is good for the mind, body and soul and for future employment!
  • You meet new people. People are part of your network and expanding networks creates opportunity. People are also different – different styles, ways of working, character, history, culture and beliefs. Soak it all up and get a different, rich perspective on life.
  • You replace an old routine with a modified or new one. Enjoy this disruption to old habits and form some new ones (perhaps if you previously caught the train to work you can cycle to your new job?). If you see these new routines as opportunities or novelties, there’s a chance they will refresh and re-energise you.
  • You are sharing your skills and experience with other people. Even if you feel you are the one learning something new, remember you bring a host of experience, knowledge and skill to the party. This is a great opportunity to pass on your wisdom or help someone you meet to learn and develop from you. Embrace mentoring and being mentored!
  • Nothing is forever and you’re using your time wisely. You cannot take back time, so better to try something and move on, than to not even give it a go.

what to do if you don't like your job


2. Allow yourself to let go of normal work-related stress

Often when you fully embrace a job and see it as integral to your career success you get so immersed in ‘getting it right’ that you don’t notice just how much stress you are placing yourself under. While a certain amount of stress can benefit your performance, too much of it  can cause you to start to lose functionality. If you’ve taken a job that’s not your first or even second choice – breathe a sigh of relief:

  • Allow yourself to stay objective and calm if a problem arises or a crisis ensues.
  • Balance your work-life better. Don’t stay those extra hours because you are trying to impress. Instead, stay healthy and impress during your normal working hours.
  • Don’t let endless meetings or emails define your existence. Work smartly and be ruthless about doing only the things that add value.

what to do when you don't like your job

Note: You may not of course have control over some of these things if someone is directing your every move. In this case avoid getting frustrated, wasting energy over something or someone you can’t control. Control your own reactions.


3. Take a short to mid-term view

While none of us can fully predict how this global pandemic will play out in the future, we can hope that small things will return to normal, or a ‘new normal’ will rise up from the challenges of the past. Economies have a funny way of adapting and as such you might like to think of this endeavour as a short to mid-term change rather than a lifetime commitment. Remember:

  • The old saying – ‘it’s easier to get a job when you’re already in one’. Whether this is true is perhaps debatable but it’s a nice piece of optimism to hang onto. Being in a job means you have skills and qualities that an employer wants. This sends a signal to others that you are employable.
  • You can still job hunt for that ‘better fit’ role while working on something else – especially if you are working from home. It’s not slacking off – employers nowadays should be managing in terms of ‘outcomes’ not ‘presenteeism’. Do your current job diligently and use online or direct recruitment to help you source your next role. This is now so common that you don’t need to take time out to travel to see someone.

what to do when you don't like your job


4. Rewrite the language in your head

You didn’t want this job and you’re not sure you like it!

First of all, it’s okay to say that out loud (maybe not in the first instance to your manager and work colleagues), but perhaps to your closest friends. Talking things through will help you stay mentally robust for longer. In fact, we recommend starting a daily journal, noting down your thoughts, feelings and reflections as each day passes. You could use a blank journal or take your Notebook Mentor and use the Further Reflection section at the back of every book. Check out our inspiring notebooks for your career journey.

Look back on your reflections at the end of each week and consider what happened to make you think or feel a particular way. Do you feel like a situation or someone got the better of you? Did something specific trigger a negative reaction or remind you of an unpleasant past incident? Do you feel that you don’t get on with your colleagues?

Whatever the circumstances, examining your experience in more detail will help you learn things about yourself and about your relationships with others. By learning from your experience, you will be better placed to take planful action going forward or at least let go of the negative conversation that is playing out in your head. Putting your reflections into perspective is one way of compartmentalising what’s good in your life, as well as what you’d like to change or get rid of.

If it helps you, find a friend or family member you can talk to privately. Share your weekly reflections and find things to laugh about – especially those reactions that are so typical of how you normally react! Acknowledging that you always find the loud, chatty, high-energy person at work draining and a bit of a nuisance is ok! Have fun with it.

Kolb’s (1984) learning cycle is a simple and useful model to assist with structured reflection.

[Image Credit]

Figure 1.0 Kolb’s Learning Cycle

Keeping things in perspective will certainly help you deal with your new situation, as will keeping your language (said or unspoken) optimistic.

Finally, if you feel a tiny bit less stressed about doing (or not doing) this job, perhaps you will also feel a tiny bit more confident about calling out behaviour or incidents that you consider inappropriate or are getting you down.


5. Keep perspective

When all is said and done, you can choose to move on quickly from this role and try something else. Remember:

  • You have been brave. You have given something a go.
  • You focused on the positives.
  • You learnt something new – from others, about yourself.
  • You showed others great qualities of resilience, flexibility, humility etc – these are sought after traits.
  • You didn’t let the stress of finding the ‘right job’ overwhelm you. You have managed that stress and taken positive action.
  • You have maintained a short to mid-term view – probably sensible given the things that are out of your control.
  • You kept that voice in your head optimistic.
  • You’ve learnt to reflect more on your experience, thoughts and feelings – reflections can turn into learning and action for the future.

Perhaps after all you have discovered a new passion or at least something you can live with and embrace. At the very least you’ve learnt something about you!


Elisa Nardi is Founder and CEO of Notebook Mentor, crafters of beautiful, sustainable career journals and workbooks. Our purpose is to help ordinary people ‘manage, develop and be happier at work’.


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