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How long should I stick with a job I don’t enjoy?

Society loves a ‘sticker’: but does it benefit you?

I received this question at a recent Q and A. I love it because it contains a word that reflects our societal conditioning about jobs and commitments.

How long do we “stick with it?” Are we someone who has “sticking power?”

The question I’m interested in is who is benefitting if sticking with it is making you miserable?

Only you can answer of when to quit your job. You are the one who is in a job you don’t enjoy and only you can decide when is the right time to leave. To help you navigate this I have some questions for you to help you gain clarity and come to the right decision for you.

What is it, specifically, that you don’t enjoy?

Consider external factors: Is it the people? The environment? The culture and values of the organisation? Is it the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing?

Then consider internal factors: is there something about this work that makes you feel a certain way? Do you experience self-doubt? Stress? Anxiety? Imposter syndrome?

Get this all down on paper where you can see it with a bit more objectivity.

What falls within your circle of influence?

Your circle of influence are those things you have control over such as your thoughts, outlook and actions. If the reason you don’t enjoy you work falls outside of your circle of influence (e.g. the tasks you’re asked to do) and it’s not going to change any time soon, then it may be time to explore other options.

You might have more power over how you do your work than you initially thought. Could you have a conversation with a colleague, boss or client to implement a new way of doing things or impose boundaries that would suit you better? Could you say ‘no’ more?

Would you enjoy it if you weren’t struggling with negative emotions?

Sometimes it’s really hard to tell where the problem lies – is it the job ‘causing’ the negative feelings or are pre-existing patterns of anxiety or low confidence causing you to struggle with the job?

Ask yourself: if you could wave a magic wand so you felt generally calm and confident, would you enjoy what you’re doing?

If the answer is a clear ‘yes’ then leaving your job won’t solve the problem. Instead it’s time to turn your attention to your emotional well-being and seek guidance from a therapist or coach to help you un-pick the emotional patterns that are stopping you from enjoying what you do.

On the other hand, if there’s something inherent in your job that leaves you low, dissatisfied or anxious that you cannot change or influence, it’s probably time to look for something else.

Have you been recently promoted or taken on a new area of responsibility?

Many people I’ve worked with have gone through periods of serious doubt in their careers when they’ve been promoted or for some reason they’re embarking on a steep learning curve.

If this is you, then take heart: your unconscious mind likes to feel safe and wants to protect you from emotional risks. It’s working so hard to keep you safe (which is nice and all, but still very annoying).

When my clients experience this kind of transition these lines sometimes pop up:

“who am I to do this?”

“I’m letting everyone down.”

“I’m completely unqualified to do this.”

“I don’t know what I’m doing.”

“It’s only a matter of time before I’m found out.”

This is a very natural and common reaction when you feel out of your depth. It exists to protect you from failure, judgement and looking stupid in front of other people. It can also cause low mood, dips in self-esteem and anxiety.

This is a time when sticking with it, at least for a few months, is worth doing. Why? Because when you’re newly promoted you probably don’t know what you’re doing yet! You’re learning. Carole Dweck’s growth mindset work is invaluable for these kinds of moments.

Why would you expect to feel confident doing something you’ve never done before?

Confidence usually arrives as a by-product of taking action and learning. Once you’ve done that for a few more months you’ll probably enjoy it a lot more.

If there’s no improvement, seek support and explore whether you actually enjoy the day to day tasks of your role. Does it energise you? Are there opportunities to use your strengths? Does your work or organisation align with your values? If not, it’s probably time to explore a change.

What would sticking with this job bring you?

Is there a long term benefit that this job can bring you right now? Is it money for a specific purpose like a new home or setting up a business? Is it for a qualification which will bring better work?

There are times when we need a job as a means to an end . If you can stay connected to the purpose of why you’re doing it, that can mean you can see it through as long as you need to.

This boils down to: what do you gain by sticking with this job? What is it costing you? Is it worth the cost? Is there any other way you can get the same benefits in a different role that suits you better?

Why are you sticking with it?

As I’ve mentioned, there are situations where I believe it’s worth sticking with a job like a transition or promotion.

Nonetheless the belief that you ‘should’ stick with something, simply for the sake of seeing it through for some arbitrary period of time is one that can create a lot of misery.

Why are you sticking with it? Who are you doing it for?

One of the most powerful guiding principles I’ve come across for this kind of decision making is considering: “am I acting from a place of growth or protection?”

You get to decide what you want your life to be about.

Good luck with your decision. If you found this useful please like and share on social media.

7 July 2021