Why Staying in a Job You Hate May Be Good for You
“Every day, I tell myself I want to be skinny. But what if I stopped and just accepted myself more instead?”
You may be wondering what this quote has to do with you and your career. The answer is: everything.
Many people haven’t yet reached their professional goals, or they are stuck in jobs with which they’re not happy. Perhaps you’re one of these people. Rather than constantly reminding yourself that you’re not where you want to be, you might be better off staying in a job you hate – at least for the moment.
Let me explain:
I was at the gym this weekend when I heard a twenty-something say the quote at the top of this post to her friend. I inserted myself into the conversation by telling this woman that she was skinny, and that one day, in the future, she would look back on pictures of herself from this period of her life and realize how skinny she was.
The conversation then shifted to our professional lives. I learned that this woman was a lawyer – a professionally unsatisfied lawyer. She said she spends most of the day reviewing contracts and legal documents in seclusion. Her work environment didn’t even come close to the collaborative environment she longed for.
I chimed in again. “Why stay in a job you’re unhappy with?” I asked.
Financial freedom was the biggest reason, she said. Then, she shared advice a friend had given her: “Suck it up. This is what you have to do if you want to play in the big leagues.”
We debated the merits of her staying versus her leaving. Ultimately, she seemed resigned to stay where she was for a few more years, at least until she felt she was in a better position to make a meaningful move.
Rather than focus on what’s making her unhappy in the present, this woman has decided to accept herself professionally for the time being. That way, she can focus on getting a better job in the future.
It’s not always easy to accept the things we don’t like or that don’t fulfill us in the moment, nor is it easy to resist the urge to change the situation as soon as possible. Staying in a job you don’t like isn’t the most common advice you’ll find on a career site. It’s also not the right advice for everyone – but neither is the advice to immediately seek out a new opportunity. Everything is relative to your situation and your future goals.
In a world that places so much emphasis on the need to be happy, it can be easy to overlook what we gain through struggle. In fact, listening to your feelings isn’t always the best way to make professional decisions. Certainly, your present happiness should be considered, but it should also be integrated with your long-term goals.
Looking to make a change or even totally reinvent yourself? Before you make a decision based on your current emotions, ask yourself: What do I stand to gain by staying in a job I hate? What do I stand to lose?
The answers will help you decide what your next move should be.
A version of this article originally appeared on the Atrium Staffing blog.
Michele Mavi is Atrium Staffing‘s resident career expert.