Do you often find yourself thinking, “I hate my job but I can’t quit”? Are you stuck in a paradox of feeling unhappy at work but you can’t leave due to financial reasons or sheer overwhelm? If this resonates with you, let me assure you that you’re not alone and that there are actionable steps you can take towards a happier professional life.
It’s normal to have moments of frustration or disillusionment at work. But when these feelings evolve into a constant sense of dread, it’s a sign that something needs to change. While financial stability is undeniably important, it shouldn’t come at the cost of your happiness and mental wellbeing.
So, what can you do if you’re unhappy at work but can’t quit? Here are some strategies to help you navigate this challenging situation.
I Hate My Job But I Can’t Quit: What to Do
I can’t say I have ever loved my job… I tolerated it, it paid the bills, and things were going okay. But last year I had a new boss come in and I absolutely HATE going to work. I have been *seriously* job searching for 13 months but haven’t secured the final offer yet. Getting rejections piled on top of a job I already hate is making me doubt myself and just makes me feel so hopeless. Please point me in the right direction.
Miserable in my Career
Dear Miserable in my Career,
I know firsthand how debilitating being in an unsatisfactory career can feel.
With careers often consuming more than a third of our lives and days, it can be hard to ignore the negative feelings that surface no matter how much you try to positively think your way through.
Understand What’s Making You Unhappy at Work
Before you can think about improving your situation, you need to understand specifically where the dissatisfaction with work is coming from (so you don’t accidentally get into another toxic situation!) and also honor your feelings.
And that’s where I would recommend you to start: let yourself feel through the negative emotions – you can’t go over it, under it, around it – only through it.
Take some time to release in whatever way feels good for you: scream, vent, cry, hit pillows, journal, write anger letters and rip them up – whatever method feels right for you to express your anger and disappointment.
Giving yourself permission to release the tension can be liberating and make space for what you want more of.
After letting yourself feel the feelings, you’ll want to think about what specifically is making you miserable at work.
Is it your actual job responsibilities, or is it something else like the work culture, your boss, burnout, or the lack of growth opportunities?
Once you pinpoint the source of your unhappiness, you can figure out how to address it.
Related Post: When Taking a Step Back in Your Career Makes Sense
Shift Your Perspective
Ever noticed how your thoughts can make you feel better or worse about a situation?
You know what they say, mindset is everything. And as worn out as it sounds, looking for the silver linings in your current job or practicing a little gratitude can genuinely flip the script on your mood.
So your job might suck, but is there anything good you can find in it?
Maybe it’s the steady paycheck that lets you enjoy life’s little luxuries, the coworker who never fails to crack you up, or the skill set you’re building that will boost your career down the line.
That doesn’t mean you should put up with a job that drains you forever, but acknowledging the positives can make you feel better about the current situation until you’re in a position where you can change jobs.
You might be surprised at how this small shift in perspective can make a world of difference!
Give Your Job a Job
When you’re ready, I want you to give your job a job.
You don’t have to love your job, but you must love what your job does FOR you.
Why am I still going to work each day?
What does this job provide me that I can express gratitude for?
What can I do to make this place or role worthwhile – or a wee bit more tolerable while I’m still here?
Whether your job provides you opportunities to learn new skills; practice negotiating or setting boundaries; deepen relationships; build leadership or conflict resolution skills; build resilience and character; or simply provide benefits, stability, security, and a paycheck –
Acknowledge the job for all the things you want to thank it for. You may have heard whatever you focus your attention on persists. You may as well use this law to your advantage.
Related Post: Should I Quit My Job Before Finding Another One?
Focus on Self-Care
Being unhappy at work can take a toll on your mental and physical health, so I want you to find ways to fill up your self-care tank.
Think of your self-care as a battery – is it currently drained right now or fully charged?
When you’re running low on self-care energy, the things that normally wouldn’t irk you irk you. And when you add in stressors, rejections, ghosting, etc. – it can send you to feel as if nothing is in your control or going right.
So take out a piece of paper and make a two-column list.
On the left, I want you to list 15+ activities that you don’t get instantly excited about doing, but after you do it, you always feel more productive and better.
This could look like working out, cleaning, laundry, organizing, errands, and even job searching activities.
And on the right-hand column, make a list of 15+ activities that energize you, relax you, or bring you joy.
These activities could look like hobbies, getting a massage, running a bath, journaling, hanging out with friends, dining out, reading, etc.
The goal is to get up to pick 3 from each list daily so you can take care of yourself and your needs.
If your job is seeping into your personal time and causing stress, it’s time to establish clear boundaries.
This might involve setting strict working hours, minimizing work-related communication during your off-hours, or ensuring you take your full lunch break.
Healthy boundaries can make your job more tolerable and prevent job dissatisfaction from overwhelming other aspects of your life.
Discuss your feelings with a trusted friend, family member, or a mental health professional. Or, consider hiring a career coach to provide job searching support! (This is something I do!)
Sometimes, venting your frustrations can provide relief. Others can also offer a fresh perspective or advice on how to find a healthier workplace.
Improve Your Skills
If you’re stuck in this job for the time being, consider upskilling or reskilling to expand your job options for the future.
Online courses, workshops, and seminars can help you add to your existing skill set or develop new ones. This can open the door to more fulfilling job opportunities later on.
If you’re looking to pivot careers or industries entirely, this is something I also help jobseekers with.
Keep the End Goal in Mind
Finally, hold your end goal in mind and remind yourself what you’re experiencing is temporary.
Whether your goal is to exit when you have X amount saved up or an offer letter arrives in your inbox, remind yourself that this is a temporary state.
It can feel permanent, but you are resilient and you have overcome so many obstacles and challenges, you will absolutely overcome this one, too.
When you land a dream job, you will appreciate it so much more because of what you’re able to compare it to right now. If you didn’t experience this frustrating journey, you may not even recognize a good thing when it comes along.
“I Hate My Job But It Pays Well” Does That Sound Like You?
Ever had the sinking feeling of, “I hate my job, but it pays well”?
You might be unhappy but feel like you’re trapped by the golden handcuffs with a salary that’s too good to give up.
A lot of ambitious professionals stay in jobs they don’t like because the paycheck and perks are too attractive to give up.
But if you’re seriously considering quitting a well-paying job, I recommend building a financial cushion first (use the situation to your advantage!) and then planning your exit strategy.
Having ample savings gives you the flexibility to leave a crappy job when the right opportunity comes along.
Also, creating an exit strategy can help you feel more in control and less trapped in your current role.
This might involve identifying your career aspirations, learning new skills, updating your resume, or networking with people in your desired industry.
I’m Unhappy at Work But Can’t Quit
If you’re ever found yourself saying, “I’m unhappy at work but can’t quit,” you’re not alone!
There are a ton of people feeling stuck in jobs that don’t exactly spark joy – but bills need to be paid, right?
Plus, starting a new gig can feel like a massive leap into the unknown, and job searching can be an overwhelming task.
While you might feel stuck right now, that doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck forever.
Every step you take, no matter how tiny, brings you closer to the finish line – a career that makes you wake up happy on Mondays!
Even if you can’t quit your job right now, what is one step you can take today to get you closer to a better job or workplace in the future?
Is it sending out one networking message, clarifying what job titles you’re interested in, updating your LinkedIn profile or doing an informational interview?
There is always something you can do to get closer to the future you want.
Trust me when I say you won’t be miserable in your career forever,
If you’re ready to find a better role for this season of your life, check out my FREE on-demand masterclass to get the freshest strategies on how to go from feeling stuck to landing more ALIGNED interviews & offers.
Emily Liou and her team believe that everyone can land their dream job. Want to find out more about how you can wake up happier on Mondays? Whether you like to work at your own pace or have a group to hold you accountable, there’s a Happily Hired job search program to shortcut your job search today.