Why do so many of us stay in bad jobs, long after the job’s expiration date? Sometimes it simply takes a while for us to realize it’s a bad job. Especially if you’re new to the work world. Or you’re hoping the job offers more pros than cons in time.
But sometimes there are other things going on inside of us. Fear plays a big role. And the way we see ourselves in general. So let’s take a look at some of the things stopping us from leaving — and what we can do to help ourselves move on.
Reasons we stay in bad jobs:
- Keep hoping it will get better – Well, sometimes it can. And it’s worth trying before jumping to that next job. But there comes a time when the fantasy of change meets the harsh reality of continued misery!
- Afraid your next job will be worse – That’s always a possibility. So you need to do your research upfront before jumping elsewhere. And you also need to spend time thinking about what you really need and how you can help create a more positive experience for yourself next time.
- Something about job matches your feelings about yourself – I know that sounds horrible. But sometimes we stay stuck when deep down we feel we don’t deserve better. For whatever reason.
- Worry leaving too soon will hurt resume – Resumes are funny. It’s how you present yourself — and how you tell your story in your cover letter and in person. It’s true some places toss out resumes from “job hoppers”. But many don’t if you carefully match yourself to THEIR needs. Especially with some networking oomph behind you.
- Afraid you won’t ever find another job – I get it. Especially when things have not been going well in a job (or elsewhere), self-esteem can plummet. And fear can feel very powerful. The best advice I can give you is to find some things that raise your self-esteem — like volunteering, creative endeavors, helping people with their needs/projects. Even therapy. Not only can that help give you courage, but you actually interview more powerfully when you feel powerful.
- Want to have a new job before leaving the old one – I have left many jobs and always found something. Although sometimes it took a while. In the meantime, I made sure to volunteer so I could show I was not just watching TV all day. And I often took temp work / freelance to help pay bills. Still, it is usually easier if you find the new job first.
- Need to stay to learn more before moving on – OK. This can be a valid reason for staying. As long as you’re not outstaying your need despite how bad the job is — and you’re not putting up with actual abuse.
What to do if you stay in bad jobs
Well, if you have tried all you can (some articles below to help), then first thing you need to do is make up your mind to leave. And stay determined, no matter what doubts arise. Actually see yourself moving on to a better job where you are appreciated.
Even if the idea of leaving feels too big, small steps can get you there. So can taking an honest look at any obstacles to leaving:
- Lack of skills – So get some. Immediately. I’ve known people to say this year in and year out. By then they could have some new skills that get them a job they really want.
- Poor references — A tough one for sure. But if this is your situation, volunteer work and / or freelancing can help get you better current references. Also more than ever networking support (probably your biggest job search ally) can help open doors.
- Bad online reputation – More than ever, hiring managers look you up online. So go there first and see how you present yourself to the world. Are there pictures or posts you need to remove? Are you blogging or commenting under your own name and saying bad things about your job or boss? All this adds to a hiring manager’s picture of you.
- No networking contacts – So start making them asap. Your greatest chance of finding a job is with the help of someone connected to the job or hiring manager. This a good article to get you started.
- Good old fear – As we’ve discussed, often this is your real enemy. Not that I’m minimizing how strong a hold it can have on stopping you, but small steps can get you there. Every time you stare fear in the eyes and move on anyway, you are getting stronger. Allies can help here too.
A few more thoughts
If your job is bad, there are things you can try to make things better for yourself — hopefully with the help of your boss and coworkers. But if you stay in bad jobs after trying your best again and again to fix things, then the solution for your happiness is completely in your hands!
Some posts to help
And just in case you do need to leave