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Ask MR: I Hate My Job. What Should I Do?
08.28.17

Dear MR,

What do you do if you’re not passionate about your day job anymore? I’ve been working in media for several years. I’m a writer and I used to love my job, but the company I’m working at has pivoted, so more and more I find that I’m forced to write things I don’t actually agree with or want to cover. I do still get to write some stuff that I’m proud of, but the rest of the job is so soul-crushing that I can’t even find passion in the stuff I do like anymore. What would you do if you were me? Should I quit? Try to purse a new career path? Start my own thing? 

Signed,

Confused, unmotivated but ambitious


Confused, unmotivated but ambitious!!! It sounds like you’re coming up on phase two of identity exploration, twenties edition. I don’t know how old you are, but if I had to guess I would say somewhere between 27-and-a-half and 29. I say this with a semblance of conviction because right around the time I turned 27, I started asking myself a lot of the same questions you are presenting. My wheels were spinning and I felt like the ground underneath me was starting to narrow in on itself. I say this in the past tense, but for the sake of full disclosure, I should mention that, on many days, I still feel like this to some degree.

Granted, I had already started my own thing, and was still, by and large, writing specifically about things that I wanted to write about, but the truth is, my lack of motivation and disproportionate ambition had nothing to do with the details of my work and everything to do with a new phase I was entering. I challenge you to inquire deeper about whether you really don’t love your job anymore because of the subject matter that you are covering or because you kind of just feel like you’re growing up, and in doing that, so is your voice. If you find that the latter is your problem, I encourage you to journal. Write your fingers off! Let yourself lean into the voice that no longer represents your ideals. Hate it so much, rack your brain, keep going until it has no choice but to change because, guess what, it will. My favorite metaphor of all time has to do with sharks moving and I’m going to use it right now: Life is like a shark. If it stops moving, it dies. You will not stop moving. It might not be comfortable right now, it might feel really sticky, but instead of getting mad about the discomfort, instead of worrying that your friends are climbing the corporate ladder and you’re regressing, thank your instincts for kicking in and letting you know that you’re ready to change.

Now, the sneaky thing about instinct is that it will tell you something needs to change but it will not tell you what, nor will it tell you how to change it. That work is far less primitive, which is why I recommend writing your fingers out until they bleed. (They don’t actually have to bleed.) Ask yourself the most annoying questions you can think of: Who am I? What am I doing here? What do I want to be remembered for? When do I feel happiest? What gets me out of bed each morning? When do I start to lose hope? What am I doing in those moments? How do I change that? Start answering and I promise, shit will roll out of brain and off your tongue and right onto your computer screen. You’re lucky in that you’re starting with an advantage since you’re already a writer. Lean into that and, for a change, let your talent take care of you. Don’t worry about taking care of it.

If, however, I am wrong — if you genuinely have grown to dislike your work, if it doesn’t satisfy or fulfill you anymore and that has nothing to do with the internal dialogue or emotional state of your relationship with a keyboard, I have this to say: It’s okay not to love every aspect of your job. We’re fed this messaging that work in 2017 is supposed to feel like a Caribbean vacation replete with health daiquiris and photo-taking tutorials, but I wonder if that has completely disillusioned the process of actually, you know, working. You’re not supposed to feel #blessed while filing reports and drumming up numbers in Excel, though if you do, I give you so much credit. I’m not saying this to suggest that you continue working in an environment you are growing to hate, but rather to remind you to go easy on yourself, to really appraise what pieces of your job you have grown apart from and which pieces you still enjoy. Use this information to consider what comes next. And it doesn’t hurt to have a candid conversation with your boss. This is, of course, even more important if you’re producing work that ethically or morally runs counter to your belief system.

And regarding career changing: Most people who get into writing don’t accidentally fall into it. It is hard work, it keeps you on assignment and therefore dry-heaving around imminent deadlines far beyond the time-honored boundaries of your education and, on most days, it can feel incredibly fruitless, giving you nothing but a couple of sentences that you want to scrap anyway, so I would be hard-pressed to suggest that you switch career paths. It is a gift to feel motivated by this work, and one that is worth nurturing.

Photo by George Marks/Retrofile/Getty Images.
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  • Adrianna

    Side hustle!

    Wake up earlier. Write after work. Skip brunch on Saturday and work on your writing.

    I quit a job I hated when I was younger for those reasons and more. (I worked in a 10-person office, and 12 people quit in about two years.) I wish I hadn’t expected my day job to be my main source of fulfillment.

  • liz

    +1 all of this advice. Take advantage of the restlessness! Great work comes from discomfort.

  • This gal

    This is so perfect! I just (6 months ago) landed my first full time, benefits-and-vacation-time editorial job after years of freelancing. The subject matter isn’t anything I ever thought I would be writing about and I swing between being thrilled to be getting paid to write and learn and feeling like I’m missing out on projects that could be more emotionally fulfilling. There is so much pressure in this industry to be doing the most and doing it the best. Thank you for the insight!

  • Ciccollina

    Hi confused, unmotivated but ambitious. I know we don’t know each other but I would also like to offer some advice.

    Find a peer role model. Someone who you look up to, that likes/loves their work, and that is just one or two steps ahead of you in your journey. It can be someone within your current industry or profession or someone completely different. Then talk to them, follow them, emulate them.

    It’s great to get advice from the best of the best, but sometimes their stories are extraordinary and they don’t actually know how they got there. They sometimes also suck at the finer details of career progression. So find someone that is close to the stage that you are at and let their actions guide you.

    Hope this helps – I learned the “peer role model” theory in a class, it’s not my own idea 🙂

  • Save up some $ (if you haven’t already) and quit. Life is too short to work at a job you hate. It’s great that you’re a writer, because with a skill like that you can freelance and work wherever you want.

  • Mon Valdés

    This thread resonates so much to me. Last year (right when I turned 27) I felt very discouraged with my job, which I’ve been in for 4 years, generally I loved what we did as a firm, but I was feeling very unmotivated and unappreciated by my boss and superiors. I felt like I was taken for granted as I was the manager for the biggest project at the firm, but I was still being paid as an entry level architect. I developed severe migraines and spent Saturdays and even Sundays at the office and I felt like my level of commitment wasn’t reciprocated. I should say that it was never about the money, but I had student loans and rent to pay… so I felt horrible.

    One day my migraine got so bad (even after treatment) that I got home and cried for hours. I decided at that moment that I was going to quit. I gave notice in December that January was going to be my last month at the office, so I could leave everything in order. And in January, during my last week, the CEO of the project I was working on, called me and told me that he didn’t wanted me to leave the project as I was an asset for the whole team. He told me he wanted to hire me directly under the owner’s side… The pay was great and I was still going to work for a project I was actually passionate about!

    In three weeks, I moved cities and started my “new” job. It’s been 6 months and I’ve felt happier than I’ve ever been in my professional career (as short as it has been), because I feel like the job I do it’s going somewhere, and that every day it’s a challenge, which just inspires me to give it my best.
    I think my point here is, that things fell into the right place the moment I decided to think about myself first. Hopefully things will fall into place for you too!

    • I have a similar story. After years of disliking a career I never planned on having in the first place and after months of a particular office I’d grown to hate, I realized I simply couldn’t do it anymore. As soon as I’d lay eyes on my office, I wanted to throw up. Sometimes I’d realize I wasn’t even fully breathing. So I just decided to quit, out of the blue.

      I took a month off and it was one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself as an adult. It gave me time and space to look for a job that was right for me. You may not have the luxury of a month off, but if you can find a way to step away from a place you hate, the whole energy around the thing shifts.

      • Olivia AP

        I’m so glad you had the courage. I’ve been stucked in a job I hate for 2 years now, the first year wasn’t that terrible but the second one has sucked. I work in finance and this place is seen as the place to be, but once you’re in you realize that everybody is miserable! It is a stable job and I know if I was a little bit younger I wouldn’t still be here. But recently I started noticing that I was feeling very unmotivated, started having sleeping problems and I just hate Sunday afternoons because I know I have to work the next day! Even though I can fully identify the problem I’m scared to quit since I notice many of my friends hate their jobs too. I hate all references to millennials but I wonder if it is generational…

  • Nora Philbin

    This is such good advice! It’s also the place where resources can be really helpful, and I’ve found career coaching and the discovery it takes you through to be invaluable. Hopefully this can be a helpful resource! https://happyspectacular.com/

  • Great advice! Gut instincts are rarely wrong, but you’re also right that you can’t love every aspect of your work.

    http://www.shessobright.com

  • claire

    i’m so happy to be reading this — and wrote down all of those questions leandra had asked Confused, to ask myself sometime in the very near future. i’m in the same boat as this person, and as a 2 week holiday nears i’m thinking of walking proudly into my bosses office and saying ‘i’m not happy, i havent been happy, here is my notice’ because life is too f’ing short to be miserable at your job. unfortunately i’m already stressing about the lack of stability that my workplace has given me. but things always seem to work themselves out 🙂

    • Leandra Medine

      are there any jobs within the current org that you work that you would want? maybe you can tell your boss youre not happy but that you want to be transferred to another dept, instead of quitting!

      • claire

        unfortunately not 🙁 i work for a small tech company with only 2 people above me and they aren’t going anywhere – maybe ever. i’ve already had a conversation with one of them about the lack of opportunities and they agreed (that there aren’t any, and they weren’t going anywhere). i’m approaching 4 years at the company.. feels like its time to move on to a place with abilities to transfer and/or promotion.

  • Sabah Malik

    This Friday will be my last day of this battle between a stable job and a place that made me want to gargle Windex on the daily. I don’t know if what I have gone through applies, but do not stick around somewhere that keeps you down. I forced myself on through the depression of hating my every day, I swallowed the internal shrieks when Sunday nights came upon me and I kept pushing myself to try to find a way I could make something that was blatantly messing with my mental health work. But the minute I fully panicked was when I realized in the last few months none of the content I had produced really made me shine with excitement like it once did, I was proud of nothing. If it’s possible, if you can do it or if you can plan to do it (lining up things financially, etc), get out of there. Life’s short and your soul should be uncrushed and flourishing in all it’s vibrant-ness.

  • Victoria Gwen

    I just want to say that this article and these comments couldn’t have been more timely for me. I jealously watch as people quit at my job, wishing it were me instead of them. I’m nearing 26 (one month away) & I am really feeling unfulfilled & unhappy at my copywriting job. From broken promises from management to just feeling plain unappreciated for the consistent, hard work I put in, this job hangs over my days like a cloud full to bursting. Hoping that soon I’ll be able to join the success stories that I’ve read in the comments!

  • Merrynell
  • I needed this. I started writing posts on my blog about ways to apply to other jobs and change careers and be a great professional because I was dreading going back to my job. My mom talked some sense in me, and Leandra you said it perfectly! “It’s okay not to love every aspect of your job. We’re fed this messaging that work in 2017 is supposed to feel like a Caribbean vacation replete with health daiquiris and photo-taking tutorials, but I wonder if that has completely disillusioned the process of actually, you know, working.” Work is supposed to be… work. Right?

    https://thewonderof.co/2017/08/22/10-ways-to-get-ahead-and-get-the-job/

  • Veronica Wilkins

    Oh dear, brilliant Leandra. How I’ve missed thee! This writing is impeccable, concise and makes my confused-turned-curious heart jump for joy at the thought of continuing the pursuit of my life’s purpose.

  • Jay

    Had this idea of when im 55% of the time ok with my job Ill stay. If no longer mostly ok then Ill change… however… phases come and go and Im kinda still somewhere there…

    Sometimes its really cool – yesterday – sometimes its a drag – today – and often I ask myself whether Im just to scared/lazy to change?

    Was thinking about starting something Im passionate about on the side…?! Anyone experience with that?

    • Ashley

      I’m in the same boat- my day job is ‘fine’ but I’m not passionate about it. I’m in the process of setting up my own jewellery business on the side and wonder about it becoming my main job (granted that is slightly presumptious as it is not even a business yet!) …however- I wonder if putting that pressure on my passion would take away the joy somewhat and I am probably taking for granted the security my day job provides…
      Who knows- but a constant thought for me at the minute!

  • Samantha s

    I think the late 20’s are tough, because many of “us” who work in organizations are just on the cusp of being deemed “experienced”. All of a sudden we have 5-7 years of experience and people care what we have to say. In fact, they NEED us to say things – that’s what they’re paying us for. We’re no longer on the periphery of decision making, we’re entering the decision making circle. As impact increases, so does stress, disenchantment, excitement, confusion, pride, pay, accountability…all at once. It’s exhilarating and exhausting.

  • Valerie Barahona

    Leandra would you please write a full book?

  • Robin

    Ah Leandra, I’m so glad your break is over! Your writing keeps me writing!

  • Rachi Saunders

    I literally have never (read underlined) commented on any online article in my life, because the ~internet~ can be a weird place but I just wanted to say this is the best thing I have read about this topic. I am the kind of person that even ventures into the thought catalogue hole of “trying to find meaning of life on the internet” so I really feel like I can speak with authority when I thank you for your honesty about this issue. As a millennial that has been taught about her “vocation” for as long as she can remember I really appreciate this insight. Moral of the story- mostly just a very big fan saying keep doing what you are doing.

  • Andrea

    Hi! As a 34 year-old who’s been there/done that, I would recommend:
    – make sure that going on your own is what you want, we’re usually inspired by others and having your own business is on trend now, but for me, it was actually boring, exhausting and I missed so much working with a team of people.
    – have an honest talk with people you trust, we usually see the great things about other people’s job but not the bad parts. Have a sincere talk with friends and you’ll get a fresh new perspective.
    – go job hunting: comparing what you have with what the market has to offer to you is a great way to make an informed decision.
    – put your plan in paper: if going freelance or having your own business is what you really want, find out as much as you can about it, what you need to make it happens, forecast the numbers and make your business plan to start working towards that goal right away. It doesn’t mean you’ll quit your job today, it may even mean the opposite: but your day-to-day basis will happen in the anticipation of your goal.

    Good luck!!