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Climbing out of the career vortex: what to do when you hate your job


Most likely it was intended to be a career stepping-stone or a stopgap because you couldn’t find something you were truly excited about. It wasn’t so bad at first. You were hopeful. You met some new people, went to a couple of work socials and even participated in company-sponsored Habitat for Humanity projects.

Yet here you are years later, doing more or less the same thing with a severe case of Sunday night blues every time the weekend draws to a close. You’re uninspired. You’ve likely been passed up for promotion. You may have been saddled with a horrible manager following a reorg. You’re probably earning less than your counterparts at other firms.  You meet new ideas with skepticism and run for the hills at end of the workday (that is unless you’re severely overworked in which case you’re more likely to stagger home and collapse in a heap). Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

Don’t be the person who lets another year pass without doing something about it. Climbing out of the career vortex isn’t easy but it’s not impossible. Here are some suggestions to help get you unstuck.


1. Figure out what it is specifically that you hate about your job

This will help ensure you don’t make the same mistake again. Create a list. Is it your manager? The culture? The commute? The work itself? The people? The lack of career path? As yourself some tough questions. If the answer’s ‘all of the above’ then skip ahead to number three. 


2. Find another opportunity with your existing employer

Assuming you’re not unhappy with your organization’s culture and mission, evaluate the internal landscape to identify and pursue other opportunities. Different managers have varying styles and will cultivate unique environments for their teams so it’s possible to have a radically different experience working in two different groups within the same company. Approach folks you trust and hear what they have to say. Find a way for you to become involved in another area to initiate a transition.


3. Find strength in numbers

Share your intention of making a change with someone who’ll both support you and keep you accountable. Let them know you’re determined to find a new job with specific dates and goals in mind. Schedule regular check in sessions.


4. Aspire to do something meaningful

Determine what you really want and figure out the best way to go after it. Ask yourself what you enjoy most about what you do, when you were happiest, what you’re really good at (and brings most satisfaction) and what would align most closely with your values and personal priorities. Visualize what this could look like: the people; the physical workspace and location; the culture; the mission/objective; the day-to-day; the compensation; and the ongoing opportunities for growth and development.


5. Make a plan and stick to it

Articulate what you want to do next, determine what you’re willing to do to get there, then set immediate and actionable goals. Create a list of things you’ll need to accomplish in order to make a successful transition: finalize resume; polish the Linkedin profile; get your narrative straight; research companies (use resources like Crunchbase, Glassdoor, Inc 500, and Linkedin); connect with a handful of choice recruiters; and start reaching out to two or more contacts on a weekly basis while tracking progress. Resist the temptation to blindly apply to job listings online out of sheer desperation. Do your prep work, complete the research and find someone to refer you in to the target company.


6. Identify potential points of failure

Think about obstacles that might prevent you from achieving your goals and address them. The first one that comes to mind is our nagging and persistent inner critic (left to their own devices these little beasts will absolutely crush our dreams). Others include conflicting priorities, self-doubt, low self-esteem, lack of confidence, low energy, insufficient time, tendency to procrastinate, and fear of the unknown. Here’s some good news. While they may seem overwhelming at first, not a single one is insurmountable (at least in my experience).


7. Hire a pro

Are you willing to make a financial investment and if so what’s the smartest spend? Consider the help of a professional resume writer or coach if you feel overwhelmed or don’t have enough time to tackle this on your own. One thing’s for sure, to get the results you want you’ll need to approach this change with enthusiasm, conviction and positivity. That’s hard to do when coming from a place that’s not so happy. A good coach will help draw you out of that mindset. They’ll challenge you in a way that’s productive and effective. They’ll also support you and hold you accountable to accelerate any progress you’d make (or not make) on your own. 


8. Remember to breathe

Career and life transitions can be incredibly stressful. Take solace from the fact that you’re driving this change and you’re in control. Here are some tips on stress management techniques.

Need some more help? Let’s talk.






Bronia Hill

Helping professionals navigate career transitions, market themselves for new opportunities, and rock their careers since 2009.

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