When you feel stuck in a job you hate or stuck in the totally wrong career, the whole idea of finding a job you love, or even a job you like, can seem like a pipe dream, and the longer you’re stuck, the more out of reach that dream job can seem.
So, why is it so hard to make a change and get unstuck, even when you’re not happy in your job? In this article, we’ll explore the reasons why so many of us stay stuck in a job or career we hate. I’ll also share with you some of the most important steps that you can take to get unstuck, no matter why you’re stuck so that you can start to move forwards towards a happier healthier career.
Topics covered in this post:
- The most common reasons why you feel stuck in a job you hate
- What you can do if you do feel stuck in a job you hate
- The true cost of staying in a job you hate plus the scary numbers
- Why you need to overcome your fear of change.
- The common beliefs that will keep you stuck in a job you hate
The Most Common Reasons Why You Might Feel Stuck In A Job That Makes You Miserable
There are lots of reasons why you might feel stuck in your job, regardless of how unhappy it makes you.
As much as you hate your job, you still have groceries to buy, rent, or a mortgage and bills to pay. This is why one of the biggest reasons so many people feel stuck in a job they hate is money worries. And you might also be concerned that changing jobs or changing careers means taking a drop in salary which could put you off even trying to change your situation further.
Perhaps the job you have at the moment makes you miserable, but it has great benefits and amazing perks that suit you and your family, and you just don’t feel able to part with this. What’s more, your job might be down the road from home making it perfect for juggling family life. Either way, family commitments are another reason why people get stuck in a job they hate.
Work-Life Balance / Flexibility
You might be surprised to know that work-life balance and flexibility could keep you stuck in a job you hate. But if you have health concerns and you’re in a job that makes it possible for you to manage your health and work due to the level of work-life balance and flexibility, this could very easily keep you stuck in your job, however much you hate the work you do.
Maybe you have a great boss and a great team and you’re worried to lose that, or maybe you’re in the middle of a critical long term project, either way, this could lead you to remain stuck in a job, even though you now feel that it’s no longer right for you.
There’s a Recession
You might be one of the many people who had plans to leave your job only to find the world hit by the pandemic. With so many job losses and uncertainty you now feel completely stuck in a job, you’ve hated for so long.
You Feel Lost
Finally, it’s one thing to hate your job but it doesn’t mean you know what you want to do. This is why so many people stay stuck in their job and feel lost, and confused about what their next steps should be.
So, What Can You Do?
The thing about feeling stuck is that it makes you think there’s no way out. You can feel completely trapped. With very real obstacles like money, family commitments, and the recession, it can feel like you have no control at all over your situation.
In reality, there are steps you can take, no matter how small, if you find yourself feeling suck in your job or career.
Get To Know Yourself
The first and the most important step you can take if you feel stuck in your job or career is to understand yourself. I can’t stress how important this is. Because no matter how unhappy you are, without a clear idea of where you want to go, you’ll end up going in circles, and this will definitely not make you feel happier or more fulfilled.
This means getting clear on 2 things:
1. What is the most important thing to you right now? What’s your bottom line?
No one can answer this for you, only you know if you have a family situation that requires you to stay in your job right now, or if you need the stability of a company you know vs making a change, or if you need to stay in your job to gain some specific experience or exposure for your career long term.
Whatever the answer is, remember that this is about right now. This means that things can change in the future. So keep that in mind on those tough days. Remember that the situation isn’t permanent, and more importantly, reframe your thinking and remind yourself that you’re choosing to stay in this job for x reason.
2. Get clear on what you hate specifically about your job/career
The problem with saying you hate your job is that it’s such a broad issue. In reality, there is something specific, or a number of specific things that you hate. Even if the list is pages long, you need to get clear on the specifics.
The reason this exercise is important is that it will help you to identify areas where you might be able to make tweaks to improve your situation.
For example, do you feel unsupported and can you speak to your boss or someone else about this?
Or maybe you’re commuting for 5 hours a day and feel physically and mentally drained, if so, could you work from home more?
The potential list of reasons is endless. But you need to take some time and reflect on the specifics of your personal situation, then consider which of the reasons have possible actions within your control.
This leads me to the next point…
Focus On What You Can Control
You can’t forcibly remove a terrible boss, but you can learn to not let their bad behavior affect you on a personal level and certainly not outside of working hours
Likewise, if you’re terribly underpaid and your company won’t budge and pay you more, no matter what you do or say, you can’t change this either, but you can start to build a side hustle ( especially one that’s online) so that you have another stream of income and you’re also building a runway.
The point here is that you should always focus on the things that you can control because stressing or worrying about things outside your control will just lead to more stress and frustration.
So, with this in mind here are some ideas for how you might handle of some the situations mentioned before, that might keep you stuck in a job you hate:
What To Do If Money Is Keeping You Stuck In A Job You Hate
If money is your main reason for feeling stuck in a job you hate, the number one step is to get clear on your finances, because only when you know exactly what your financial situation is will you be able to make a plan of action to move forwards. So the number one step is to complete a financial audit.
After that, you can then think about the next steps. Can you start a side hustle? Could you reduce your living expenses? Can you cut travel costs by working more from home? Most of us have things that we spend money on which, if push came to shove we could do without.
While the block of money might seem insurmountable, there will be at least one step you can take to start to move forwards towards what you really want.
What To Do If You Feel Obligated To Stay In a Job You Hate
If you feel obligated to stay in a job you hate, you need to go deep into understanding why. Getting clear on what’s most important to you is also key as I mentioned before.
Whatever the reason you feel obligated to stay, consider what you might be able to do to facilitate the best transition should you decide to leave, or think about what else you can do to support the relevant people, that doesn’t involve you staying in a job you hate.
What To Do If You Feel Stuck In A Job You Hate Because of a Recession
While it’s true that things are tough in some industries right now, the truth is that there are many companies that are still hiring. And with the great resignation, many are even struggling to keep the people they have on!
When it comes to any job search, particularly one in a volatile or uncertain climate, you need to have the right strategy and approach in place. Randomly sending resumes for any job you see won’t get you an interview, no matter how desperately that company needs to hire someone.
Be prepared and do what it takes to stand out. In addition to this, at a time like this, If you’re working in an area that’s been impacted, expanding your horizons and considering a variety of different types of opportunities where your skills will be transferable is also key.
Finally, never underestimate the value of learning new skills to give yourself an edge.
What If You’re Stuck In A Job You Hate Because You Just Don’t Know What you Want?
Finally, if you’re lost and confused about what you want and how to get started with finding a job you love or changing your career direction, then it might be time to seek outside help.
A professional coach will be able to help you to get to the bottom of what’s holding you back and keeping you stuck. What’s more, they’ll be able to help you create a clear plan of action to make your ideal career happen, including supporting you with any challenges or hurdles along the way.
The Cost of Staying Stuck In a Job That Makes You Miserable
Being stuck in a job you hate doesn’t just suck, it can also have a significant negative impact on many other areas of your life, including your family life, your health, and your overall wellbeing.
Work can be stressful, even when you enjoy what you do, so feeling stuck and trapped in a job you hate can only make the matters worse.
A look at data from the past few years paints a pretty bleak picture of how people feel about work in the US.
Here are just a few examples from smallbizgenius.net
- According to a survey by Everest college, 83% of US workers suffer from work-related stress.
- Dynamic Signal found that 63% of US workers are ready to quit their jobs due to stress.
- Depression is one of the three main workplace problems for employee assistance professionals according to Mental Health America
And remember that point about work impacting your relationships? …
- According to Korn Ferry, during 2018, 76% of US workers said that workplace stress affected their personal relationships.
Meanwhile, according to the Center for Workplace Mental Health, work-related stress causes 120,000 deaths and results in $190 billion in healthcare costs yearly.
These are some sobering statistics. And the data paints a similar picture in the UK.
A survey by Perkbox in 2020 found that 79% of British adults in employment commonly experienced work-related stress issues. ( 20% Higher than the findings of 2018).
The survey also found that ‘Work-related office politics’ (37%) are the most common cause of work-related stress, followed by ‘lack of interdepartmental communications’ (34%), and ‘the work performance of others (33%)
What’s more, employees aged 25-34 are most likely to find a lack of interdepartmental communications most stressful (38%)
As if this wasn’t bad enough, according to a survey from the HSE ( Health & Safety Executive), in Britain, In the recent years prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the rate of self-reported, work-related stress, depression, or anxiety had shown signs of increasing. In 2020/21 the rate was higher than the 2018/19 pre-coronavirus levels.
With stress, depression, or anxiety accounting for 50% of all work-related illnesses, with the most affected industries being Public Administration, Healthcare, and Education.
The most recent data also shows that compared to all workers, females overall had statistically significantly higher rates of work-related stress, depression, or anxiety than males.
A pretty bleak picture indeed. So, why are so many of us painfully unhappy, to the point of illness, but still not making any changes?
The Truth About Change: Why You Might Stay Stuck In A Job You Hate
For most of us, change is hard. Regardless of the change, you’re trying to make, the road is never an easy one, and the bigger the change the harder it is to make.
What’s more, when it comes to making big changes in your life or career, there are lots of factors that can stand in your way
Firstly there’s fear.
The idea of changing jobs or changing careers can bring to the surface a whole host of fears you didn’t even know you had (Read more on that here). While fear is a natural and necessary response to situations that put us in danger, emotionally or physically, unfortunately, we have a tendency to fear lots of things that pose no real threat to our lives. Fear of the unknown being one of them.
Just because you’re uncertain of what’s going to happen down the line, it doesn’t necessarily mean it will be bad or that you should stay put.
You don’t have to see the whole staircase to take the first step
But that’s not all, other factors that can make change difficult include; trying to change too much too quickly, underestimating the process of the change, and not fully committing to the change in the first place.
All of these things can make staying where you are seem like the better option. However bad you feel.
In order to make changes to your situation in any way, you need to take action. And big changes require LOTS of action.
But knowing you need to take action and actually taking action are not the same thing.
So why is it so hard to take action sometimes, even when there’s something as important as your happiness and health at stake?
Remember that fear we talked about? Plus all those other factors which make change so hard? Well, those are just a few of the things standing in between you and the actions you need to take in order to get unstuck.
Where do these fears, anxiety, and obstacles in your way come from?
The answer… Your beliefs!
Your beliefs determine your actions, whether you’re conscious about those beliefs or not.
What’s more, the words you use and what you constantly tell yourself can reinforce any negative beliefs that you might already have. For example, if you keep telling yourself you can’t do something, you’re less likely to put any real effort into it and therefore more likely to fail if you try. This would only reinforce any beliefs you have about your capabilities in this area.
So, if you’ve been stuck in a job or career rut for some time and feel like there’s no way out, the chances are that you’ve got some beliefs that are holding you back and you’re likely to be reinforcing those beliefs on a daily basis through the things that you say.
6 Common Beliefs That Will Keep You Stuck In a Job You Hate
1.No one actually likes their job
When you’re stuck in a job you hate, and when you feel trapped in a career that doesn’t fulfill you, it’s easy to fall into the trap of telling yourself that all jobs are the same and that no one really likes what they do.
Although telling yourself this might make you feel better about your situation temporarily, believing this will keep you stuck. If you manage to convince yourself that this is true, you’ll have no reason to make a change. What would be the point in changing anything, if one job or career is just as unfulfilling as the next?
For this reason, you need to avoid this type of thinking at all costs. This means avoiding those negative people who have given up on their own career happiness and resigned themselves to a life in a job they can’t stand, choosing instead, to spend their time complaining about it rather than doing anything to change their situation.
Rather than getting caught up in all the negativity, which will only make you more angry and frustrated in the long term, try to find a way to stay motivated and productive. This could be offering to help a colleague, doing something new outside work, or just changing up your routine.
2. You need to enjoy everything about your job
Every job has its moments. Everyone has aspects of their role that they’d rather have someone else do. If you’re looking for a job that will never be boring, that won’t have any frustrating elements, or that won’t have you wanting to tear your hair out from time to time then you’re going to be looking for a long time. But if you’re ready to accept that all jobs have their not-so-glamorous or fun parts, then your dream job could be just a small tweak away.
Focus on the things you like about your job, however small. Whether it’s the short commute, your coworkers, or the flexibility you get. Make time every day to write these down and be thankful for them.
When it comes to finding your dream job, figure out what matters to you most and focus on finding a job that fulfills those needs as much as possible. Even though every box might not be ticked, if the most important ones are, then you’ll be much happier.
3. You have to figure out how to get unstuck and make a change yourself
Have you ever been completely stuck on something, to the point where you thought it simply wasn’t possible? At which point, it tends to get harder to come up with a solution and we tend to get stuck on the same ideas that we know don’t work.
On the flip side, have you ever had someone tell you that something wasn’t possible? If you’re as competitive as I am, you probably went into problem-solving overdrive and likely came up with more than one solution to their problem.
The funny thing is, if the tables were turned, the outcomes would still be the same. You would still struggle with your own problem and equally, you would find it easy to come up with a number of ideas or solutions to the other person’s problem.
You can’t solve a problem with the same mind that created it. When you’re stuck in your own head, it can be hard to see the wood for the trees, and the most obvious things can evade us.
If you’ve been feeling completely stuck with no way out, perhaps it’s time to get some outside help so that you can start changing your mindset and seeing things from a different perspective. More importantly, so that you can start taking steps in the right direction.
4. You don’t have enough knowledge, skills, or experience in the area you want to move to
Another reason you might feel stuck in a job you hate is thinking that you don’t have enough experience in the areas that you’re interested in.
It’s easy to think that everyone knows what you know, and thinks how you think. This means if you find something easy and if it comes naturally to you, or if you’re skilled in something because of your level of experience, you can forget that not everyone is in the same position.
Because of this, you’re more likely to undervalue the skills, knowledge, experiences that you bring to the table.
If you’re prone to undervaluing yourself ( Let’s face it we’ve all done it!) here are a few ways to overcome it:
1. Get an objective view by asking people you trust what they think your strengths or skills are because we don’t always see ourselves clearly and we’re often our own harshest critics.
2. Assess yourself based on outside evidence and don’t let your potentially negative mindset or self-limiting beliefs hold you back from opportunities that may be right for you.
3. Shift your mindset from focusing on what you can’t do and the skills or experiences you don’t have, and instead forces on the things you can do. Start asking yourself open questions that will lead to more productive outcomes, for example, “HOW can I acquire the necessary skills I need” or “WHAT skills or experiences do I have instead?” or “What one thing can I do?”
5. It’s impossible to change careers
You might feel like a career change or a major job change is too big a step, but this doesn’t mean that it’s not possible. Allowing yourself to believe that it’s not possible is one of the surest ways to stay stuck because with this mindset you’ll never fully commit to doing what’s necessary to make your dream career or business a reality.
Making any major change can be tough, and since nothing in life is a straight line, you’re likely to come up against a few hiccups or hurdles. If you’re not fully committed when this happens or you believe that what you’re trying to achieve isn’t possible, then you’re more likely to give up rather than push on and work through any challenges.
Set yourself up for a successful change in your career by truly believing that it is possible and that it will happen for you. Commit to the process and set some realistic and clear goals in place to start working towards.
6. It’s too late to make a change
Another common reason people feel stuck and unable to change careers is the idea that it’s too late. Maybe you feel like you’ve gone too far down one career path already and so your options are limited to that one thing, or you might feel like you’re too senior in your career and you’re afraid of having to start again. Or perhaps you’re at a point in your life where you have lots of responsibilities, like a mortgage or kids to think about. All this can make changing careers or starting a business seem far too risky.
Whatever the reason, when you feel like it’s too late in the day, you will inevitably focus on coming up with more reasons ( or excuses) not to make a change, rather than taking small incremental steps towards the thing you really want.
Before deciding that it’s too late to do something different in your career, think about what you could do to make it possible. How can you reduce the risk? Can you make a pivot internally? Can you do something different as a side hustle?
We’ve all become extremely impatient. With technology, so many things are at our fingertips and things happen fast. I’ll be the first to admit, that I listen to podcasts at 2x the speed, and waiting for anything feels like a lifetime. So when we think about all the work we might need to do to start a business or change careers, the journey can seem too long.
Taking a year to make a career 180 or to start a business and quit your day job might sound like too long to handle, after all, you’re unhappy NOW! But here’s the thing, if you don’t start doing what you need to do because the timeframes seem too long, the reality is that you’re likely to do nothing. This means you’ll still be in exactly the same position in a year or even five years from now!
Accepting that it will take commitment and time, committing to doing what it takes, and starting to take action today is the only guarantee you have that you’ll be doing work you love and living a life you love in the future.
There you have it! No more excuses. Whatever’s been holding you back from getting started, whether you want to change jobs, change careers, or start a new business, it’s time to get out of your own way and take that first step towards building your dream career.
- Acknowledge any beliefs you may have surrounding your career that may be holding you back. Challenge these beliefs, question them, and see if there is any real evidence to back them up.
- Be mindful of the language you’re using and what you’re telling yourself, or saying to others where your job or career is concerned. Replace negative commentary with something more positive that will serve you well going forwards
- Understand that fear of change is normal, and commit to taking the actions you need to take despite feeling uncomfortable
- Enlist the support of a coach who will help you to set clear goals and work through the obstacles and challenges and who will give you the support you need to keep going regardless of how long or difficult the change may be.
- Give yourself the time you need to change careers or to start your business or side hustle, don’t beat yourself up over lost time, and don’t compare where you are to where anyone else is.
- Always focus on things within your control. Ask yourself open questions like how can I do this, what help can I get? What do I need to learn? Where’s the opportunity here?
- Remember that worst-case scenarios usually don’t happen. Challenge your biggest fears really question how true they are or how likely they are to happen.
Ultimately, while it won’t happen overnight and it will take action, if you’re fully committed to launching a career or business you love then you can definitely make it happen.
If you’re feeling stuck in a job you hate or stuck in a career rut here are more articles that can help:
7 steps you can take towards finding your dream career.
What to do if you’re not happy in your job
Thank you SO much for this article. I just started working at McDonald’s today, and I hate the job. My passion is horses, but I don’t have a car or my license yet, and working at McDonald’s is my first ever job. I THOUGHT it would be a great first-job, but it’s nothing but stressful. I want a job that’s pretty chill so I can ease my way into working. I’m going to keep trying Kmart until they give me a job. I’m doing casual work, so thank goodness for that because there’s no way I’d ever go part-time at McDonald’s. I’m not passionate about the job, I’m only in it because I need money.