It’s kind of easy to hate your job, isn’t it?
Like that that long-term relationship which became the perfect scapegoat for everything wrong in your life, it’s become routine, familiar, and all too predictable.
But do you regret ending that relationship? Did you realize—once it was too late—that you rushed to judgment? In hindsight, did you come to understand that had you better explored your misplaced feelings, you may not have let someone valuable go?
Has the flame burned out?
Hate is a pretty strong word, but it comes up often in the context of the daily grind. I hear it all the time.
People I meet for therapy sessions will often attribute their dissatisfaction with “life”, i.e. the reason for their visit, to “hating” their job. Because this comes up so frequently, over the years I’ve learned to never accept the phrase “I hate my job” at face value.
In fact, it often turns out to be part of a larger narrative and I’ll treat it the way I would work with someone in couples therapy.
You’ve lost that loving feeling?
If you were a client, these are some of the first questions I’d ask you to consider:
- What first attracted you to your job?
- Was it/is it meaningful?
- Are you/were you inspired by it?
- Did/does your job bring out your best “you?”
- Can you identify the point when things first changed between you and your job?
These questions help determine whether your “relationship” is even salvageable. Can you—or rather—do you want to rekindle the flame?
It’s possible your chosen agency has run its course for you. Maybe it’s time to explore other social impact roles or maybe it’s worth considering the option of relocating to that city you’ve always dreamed about?
What’s getting in the way?
Consider whether something is simply obfuscating your landscape. Rather than the actual job, perhaps you’re a victim of circumstance. Some examples might be:
- You’re being distracted by a difficult coworker or supervisor.
- You’re no longer feeling challenged.
- You’re not feeling valued.
- You’re bored and are ready to take on new, different, or more responsibilities.
Before jumping ship, it’s important to be sure that it’s because the ship is sailing someplace you don’t want to go, not because you’re running away from something that can possibly be improved upon.
If there is room for an adjustment, seize the opportunity to find it.
Explore, explore, explore
I worked with a yoga instructor who came in ready to change her entire career path. She was dissatisfied and felt like “something needed to change.” We met for several sessions. As we dissected her situation she realized that, while there were aspects of her practice that she disliked, she still loved what she did.
So we explored ways to reconfigure her practice. She set different hours for herself and began screening her clients more carefully. Rather than booking just anyone, she began seeing specific types of clients—students who inspired and challenged her, as opposed to those who drained her energy.
Slowly, she began to enjoy her job again.
I don’t work for myself
For those who aren’t self-employed, reassessing the way you are working, what you are doing, and with whom you are working may be much more challenging than it was for my client. But it’s worth the effort before simply taking a leap into something else.
Make sure you:
- Talk it through with someone you trust.
- Break it down for clarity.
- Analyze all the angles.
Ultimately, if you determine that the job is what you hate, you’ve learned something. Figuring out what you dislike moves you that much closer to figuring out what you actually love.
Follow these steps and then come back to tell us whether you’re sure you still hate your job.
About the author: Jennifer Abcug, LCSW, is a licensed psychotherapist in New York City, where she specializes in women’s life transitions. Prior to this, she counseled patients and families at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Convinced the earth moved after reading Mary Oliver’s poem, “The Summer Day,” the question: “What is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” has become a focal point of Jennifer’s practice.