Jul 30, 2014
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How to Survive Being Stuck in a Bad Job

A reader asks the Neighbor Lady how to get through the work day when you don’t like your job.

How to Survive Being Stuck in a Bad Job

Dear Neighbor Lady,

I hate my job. I’m overworked and underpaid and my supervisor is a very difficult person. Even the thought of going into the office makes me depressed. But after sending out resumes for the past one and one-half years with no success my hope of getting into a better situation is waning. I can’t quit. I have kids and a mortgage. What can I do to get through the work day? 

Just Another Working Joe--

Dear Joe,

I have an elderly gentleman friend whose life is pretty well encapsulated by the famous blues line, if it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all. He retired the very second everyone’s 401Ks were gutted. Then his house burned down. He jokes about looking forward to his retirement as his “Golden Year.” He has four adult kids and each one of them, as he himself puts it, has “tanked.”

And yet, this friend is a joy to be around and I seek out his company. I admire his ability to be chipper and positive despite everything that besets him. One day, I said, “With all the hullabaloo in your life, how do you remain in such a good mood all the time?” He said, “Well, when I’m dealing with my kids, I’m dealing with my kids, and when I’m not, I’m not.”

In other words, my friend knows how to compartmentalize. I wonder if you, too, can divvy up the sections of your life, give each area its due and then salvage some energy to reinvest back into yourself.

You do need your job, and until we bust out of this recession and bustle back into a boom, it looks like the job barrel will remain bereft. In the meantime, a new attitude and a little detachment will always be available to you.   

When you are at work, put all your focus into doing the best job you can. You can only find satisfaction by doing that. Why not see if you can think about how to make the job itself more engaging and dive into it—maybe this would lead to a promotion or move away from your current supervisor. Try not to take this person’s shenanigans personally— just do a great job but when you detach from him or her, you won’t need any of their props to feel good about yourself.

When you refuse to let this negative situation drain your spirit, you can then take on other interests to feed your soul. Fire up any old hobbies and take your kids along with you. Get up, get out, get happy and get talking with everyone you encounter—you never know what connections with whom will lead to new opportunities of all kinds. Whenever capricious opportunity knocks, you want to be ready to open the door. Opportunity rushes in when it finds an open and lush field of promise for the future.

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