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Don't let a lousy job mire you in hopelessness. Focus on what's within your control.
updated 12/4/2011 11:59:28 AM ET 2011-12-04T16:59:28

Whether it was a summer scooping ice cream at the marina, your first office job out of college, or a seemingly endless stint of temping after being downsized, few of us make it down the career garden path without eventually landing in a job we absolutely HATE.

But then what? What do you do when the mere thought of your daily grind makes you want to do yourself in?

Dissect the hate
Figure out whether your hated is intrinsic to the tasks you perform for pay or a result of the environment and conditions in which you perform them. There is a vast different between despising working with numbers non-stop and realizing that the accounting department in which you toil is run by a petty dictator who makes you miserable.

Both realizations call for vastly different courses of action. In the former, there is no amount of scenery changing that will soothe your soul. Once you figure that out, you can stop trying to apply a Flintstones band-aid to a bullet wound. In the latter, you can figure out the ingredients that would make your working life more satisfying and set about identifying a new position or organization that is more likely to meet those needs.

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Focus on what you can control
A lot of job angst comes from feeling powerless and as if you lack agency over your own career. To combat this, zero in on aspects of the job and your life that are within your control. You can’t control your coworkers’ negativity, but you can create and enforce boundaries that prevent them from stopping by your cube to kvetch half a dozen times a day.

You can control your health and well-being outside of the office by eating well and exercising and refusing to allow your work anxiety to prevent you from adequate self-care. The goal is to put your job in perspective and minimize the ripple effect that hating it has on the rest of your life (at least until you’re able to do something about said hate). This includes the gnawing guilt that you feel about being less than grateful for a steady paycheck when so many are going without. Don’t let yourself fall down that rabbit hole.

Look before leaping
Anyone who tells you to simply up and quit your detested day job needs to shut up. The best time to job search or work on scaling up your side gig to something full-time is while you’re still gainfully employed. As is true of people in relationships, you’re actually viewed as a more attractive prospect when there is clear evidence that someone has already taken a chance on you. It signals that you’ve been pre-vetted and found competent.

While there is a certain temporary psychic thrill in going out in a blaze of glory, practicality (at least in these recessionary times) should rule the day. Realize that being currently employed is a huge job market advantage and allow that fact to serve as a calling card while you seek other opportunities. Unless things are truly unbearable, keep a stiff upper lip until you line up solid leads on something better.

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© 2012 Forbes.com


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