According to Business Insider, the average American spends 90,000 hours at work over their lifetime. Yet, 87% have no passion for their jobs and 80% are outright dissatisfied with their jobs. There isn’t this magic formula for the perfect job. The right salary, work hours, benefits plan, office set-up, strategic plan, and day-to-day duties are just parts of the package. A job can have all the right perks and prestige from the outside and still be a miserable place to work (the toxic job!). On the other hand, your job can have its share of downfalls and stress but fills you with more joy than you might’ve thought possible.
Getting Stuck in a Toxic Job
All too often, people get stuck. They take a job that seems right until it’s not. Maybe they have different duties than when they started, bad leadership, an overwhelming workload, a poor work environment, no support, crappy coworkers, or any combination of issues. They find themselves stressed, miserable, and downright dread coming to work every day… but they don’t do anything about it. Why?
Is it the stress of job hunting? Lack of confidence? A sense of obligation to your company, boss, co-workers or clients? Is it the money? Whatever the reason, there seems to be this mindset that it’s just easier to stick it out than to stand up for yourself and make a change. I get it! It’s scary.
I had a job with some of the most amazing people you’ll ever meet. I believed in the mission, I put so much of my heart (probably too much in retrospect) into my work and got in this space where I just accepted the high stress as part of the job. My mile-long to-do list and constant state of businesses were like my badge of honor. I used it to validate my worth and importance of staying at the organization even though I was unhappy. I was too in my head to realize my job, which started out as a great opportunity, had turned into something toxic.
Be the Change You Need
Looking back, this wasn’t some grand epiphany that hit me all at once. After months of frustration and complaining, I eventually realized the only person who could advocate for me and make a change – was me. So, I had some tough conversations. With myself, with my husband, with my boss… that ultimately turned into the realization that I was no longer a good fit with the direction they were going, and I wasn’t where I was supposed to be.
And you know what? That’s okay.
Businesses grow and change every day. People (hopefully) grow and change too. The idea that each person within a complex business structure is going to grow together and at the same pace is unrealistic. It’s not necessarily anyone’s fault. And by looking for fault or someone to blame, you’re adding additional strain and stress on yourself that you just don’t need. Sometimes you just have to take a breath and give yourself permission to move on.
The Courage to Quit the Toxic Job
I know, it’s hard. Like I said – been there, done that. But making a plan and taking it one step at a time gave me the courage to leave that toxic job. Here’s how you can do it too:
#1: Find Out Who You Are
The tried and true question to ask yourself is: “If money wasn’t a factor, what would you do?” Start by asking yourself this, and other questions, to get at the root of who you are. When are you happiest? What causes you stress?
Think about the things you love most in life and see if there are ways to incorporate that into a career. If not a career, are there ways to incorporate that into your free time to be fulfilled?
#2: Know Your Values & Priorities
Who we are, what we value in our relationships or within ourselves, are going to be different from person to person. What’s important about our values is they have tremendous power in their ability to help us know ourselves, establish boundaries, navigate relationships, and make decisions. If we can manage to define our values, we can evaluate what exists in our lives that conflict with how we strive to live.
Once you have an idea of what you value, start figuring out your priorities when it comes to your career. Is a six-figure salary most important to you? Do you need a job with benefits like insurance or retirement? Is a flexible schedule a must-have? How many hours a week are you looking at? What’s your priority area? Health care, non-profit, helping people, working with animals or children, corporate, education, beauty, entrepreneur…
Start looking at what opportunities are out there. The Occupational Outlook Handbook (https://www.bls.gov/ooh/) is a great career research tool. You can also look at job descriptions and postings to see what employers are looking for. You don’t have to meet 100% of the qualifications listed to apply! There’s something to be said for being willing to learn. If you have valuable skills that would be a good match, go for it. But don’t forget to look beyond the job descriptions! Look at the company/organization as a whole. What do they value? Are they a good fit for you? The application and interview process is a two-way street.
#4: Make Yourself Look Good
Once you found the ideal job, your next step should be doing everything you possibly can to make a good first impression. If you’re battling hundreds of other applicants for the chance at an interview, you must figure out how to make yourself stand out. The most important piece of advice I can offer is this: Your resume and cover letter should be tailored for every single job you apply for.
You’ve already done the research on the company and position, right? So take what you know about them and use similar language in your documents. Look at their mission and vision statements, pull required skills and verbiage from the posting, and use those to your advantage. Prep for the interview if you land it and be prepared to ask important questions. Go in confident and fight for yourself.
Just go for it. If you’re like me and tried talking it out or figuring out a way to fix things at your current job and it’s not working, it might be time to go. If you sit and think about it, I’m sure you can talk yourself into staying. There are probably a million reasons why you don’t want to look for another job. But – do you really want to stay at a job you have to convince yourself to stay?
Brendon Burchard has one of my favorite quotes that I always find myself going back to when I’m frustrated at work. “You’ll always feel out of balance if you’re doing work that you don’t find engaging and meaningful. Other times, people are engaged and enjoying their work, but they’re fried from too much stress and too many hours on the job. There’s a fine line between busy and burned out, and when you cross it, no matter how great your life is outside work, you will feel out of balance.”
It’s probably not going to be perfect. Each job has its ups and downs. But I believe with every fiber of my being that 90% of your job should be an UP. Because you deserve better than spending 90,000 hours of your life in a toxic environment. Stand up for yourself and break up with that life.
Written by Devin McCain, Creator of the Live With Moxie Blog
One For Women is honored to have Devin McCain, Creator of the Live With Moxie Blog, share her voice and her important message as part of our One Voice to Hear series.