How to Hate Your Job (or 16 Things Not to Do)

Written by Scott March 23, 2011

hate your job

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn’t you say so? There’s a support group for that. It’s called everybody, and they meet at the bar.”

~Drew Carey

On hating work…

Seven years ago, I landed an awesome job I hated.

I had just arrived in San Francisco after a year being a tour guide and running a business in Sevilla. Reverse culture shock had hit me like a pitcher of sangria at 5am. I had no idea what to do, but I knew that all I could think of was going back to Spain.

I had all kinds of aspirations. Start this, run that, travel here, live there.

Then society set in…

“Okay Scott, it’s time to get a real job. You’ve been playing in Spain long enough. Find a big, safe company with a solid training program. Do a few years there and follow your career.”

I didn’t know what to do, so I listened to everyone else. I found a “good job” at the kind of big Fortune 500 company I was supposed to have. I was ecstatic. A real job that everyone could be proud of. Awesome.

The excitement lasted all of about 16 days. From day 17 on it was all I could do to not break a keyboard over my head. It turned out my job role was based on a process that was already automated for most of our competitors. I was officially doing monkey work.

I could finish my work in 3 hours (on a busy day). So could everyone else. But since I had to be there all day, I found myself filling time with screwing around with coworkers, emailing, chatting and spending way too much money on Starbucks.

I learned from the best. The environment encouraged it. I was using 6% of my potential, max. The company was wasting their money on me and I was wasting my time on them.

Despite having realized all this two weeks into the job, do you know how long I stayed?

7 months.

For some that might sound short. For me, it was an eternity.

Side note: So I may be making it sound worse that it was. I doubt it, but it’s possible. It was an important education for me, and I’m glad it happened so I can be sure it never will again. And if any of my old coworkers are reading this, I had fun working with you all. It was just the exact opposite of what I was meant to do. May our paths cross on greener pastures…

I do not want you to suffer the same fate.

Too many people do.

There are 3 times when you’re most susceptible to tuning out your heart and only listening to others:

1. After college
2. After grad school
3. When you get fired

If you are currently in any of these stages, be VERY careful. Listen closely.

Transitions are scary. They are foreign, so we look for guidance. The problem is that we don’t know where to look. In college, we spend four years studying something often as a result of some under-thought, 15-minute decision. Then as we graduate, we search by two main criteria: money and status. Then we dive in blindly.

Business School is even more dangerous. You have even more money and status on the line, especially if you have debt. All your colleagues are getting fancy jobs (or seem to be) at all the big banks and firms. You can’t help but size yourself up against them. Since everyone else is going for the big job, scarcity sets in and you’re triggered to follow the ants. Not good.

When you’re fired, panic and despair are usually the first emotions to hit. This causes pure short-term thinking. Now money is the only thing on your mind. Not to mention the chatter among family, colleagues and friend groups along the lines of, “I wonder what he’s going to do now?” We reach for anything we can find.

No one knows your success.

In all three scenarios, somehow we lose our thoughts. Without knowing it, we replace them with those around us. The problem is that no one knows your success. They don’t have a clue what you want. How could they? You might not even know.

If you assume they do, then “career purgatory” is your next stop (as a client eloquently puts it).

Hating (or not loving) your job is a tragedy because:

  1. It doesn’t have to be that way–even if drastic change isn’t immediately practical, small changes can still make a huge difference.
  2. The world is better when people do what they feel they are meant to do–if you have a fulfilling day at work, are you more or less likely to be friendly to the woman serving you lunch, or more energetic with your kids that night? That’s what I thought. Fulfillment is contagious.

Wanting to fire yourself downright sucks. Trust me. I have been there. I’ve also identified the road that got me there. I’ve outlined it below.

These are the actions and beliefs to avoid like the plague. While modeling success is life-changing, knowing what not to do (i.e. what leads to failure) is nearly as useful. Pardon the negativity, but the world needs a massive pattern interrupt.

There is a place for your unique talents, and the world will thank you for finding it. We all will.

Beware the following…

If you want to do work you love, do not do the following (or how to hate your job):

1. Do it for the money. You know it doesn’t buy happiness. It never has. Yes, you need to eat, but contrary to popular belief, you can buy food with money you make from doing things that matter. It might not start out as big money. But if you stay true to it, it will likely become big. And if it doesn’t, who cares? It’s not about the money. It’s about fulfillment. Most things done purely for money don’t provide fulfillment. Most fulfilling things you’re truly dedicated to provide money.

2. Do it for the title or status. Who cares if there’s a PhD, MD or CFO next to your title? What people think of you does not effect long-term enjoyment. It starts from inside. If you’re doing it to sound good at a bar or at the sports club, that’s generally a sign to hit yourself over the head.

3. Do it because your family did it. Just because your three brothers, both parents and your uncle were doctors, does not make that your purpose. It’s just one of the unlimited options. Keep looking.

4. Do it because it’s the most prestigious job out of college. Do you even know what prestigious is at that point? That’s what I thought. You’re just taking someone else’s word for it. When I got out of college, everyone thought investment banking was the best job ever. Right up until a few of them found themselves sleeping under their desks 4 days a week. Go for excitement, not prestige.

5. Do it so people won’t think you’re an idiot. So what if you wanted to be a neuroscientist when you were little? Now maybe you love teaching yoga and helping people stay fit. So what if your rock star grades weren’t necessary to do what you’re doing. You know how to really look smart? Spend your time in a way that matters to you.

6. Only do work related to your specific job role. Big companies often have tightly defined job roles. If you are in charge of stacking boxes, are you really going to do nothing but stack boxes? Find a way to add more value. See if the boxes could be designed more effectively. Get creative. How could you grow any other way? My first job was nonstop number crunching, but I loved branding and positioning, so I worked with my boss to understand how and why customers bought the products we managed. It made us both better.

7. Don’t understand yourself. It’s quite possible to go four years through advanced education, and perhaps through your whole life, without learning a thing about the most important subject. Take the time to know you. Do the work. That’s exactly why I created Live Off Your Passion. If you haven’t checked it out already, it’s worth a look.

8. Don’t try to learn new skills and become an expert in your field. It’s easy to follow in the haze of an inefficient workplace. Same thing every day. Do something about it. Find a way to do your job in 7 hours instead of 8 (or in many cases 2 hours instead of 8). Use the rest of your time to make yourself better.

If you don’t have a job, don’t wander around begging for one. Go out and get some freakin’ skills. Attract employers. You know, you can job hunt while you become an expert. A year and a half ago I decided I didn’t want finance to be my only skill, so I decided to do everything I could to learn about online business and building a career around work you love. I now get paid real money to help people on just that. In many people’s eyes, I’m an expert (it’s all relative). That only took a year. In many cases, it can be much shorter.

9. Appear busy just to impress people. Either be busy doing things that matter, or leave so that you can do things that matter. It is not acceptable for presence to be a show of hard work. That trains laziness. Many large companies still do it because they don’t have another easy way of accountability. Work your ass off, show your boss what you did. If you have to stay, then pick up another activity at work so you can keep growing. If ass-in-chair time is all that matters, do everyone a favor and quit. There is a better place for you.

10. Do work that someone less skilled could do. Just because it’s inside your job role, does not mean you have to do it. The possibilities with outsourcing are incredible. If you can’t outsource it, then find a colleague who really likes the task and trade with them.

11. Don’t use your strengths. You can waste your life doing things you’re naturally bad at or you can wake up excited each day doing things you’re naturally awesome at. Know your superpowers and use them.

12. Waste the company’s money. Don’t fill the rental car tank with Premium just so you can get more airline miles on your company credit card. I don’t care if everyone else does it. Treat the business as if you were the owner. If you aren’t willing to do that, then go find a place where you give a sh*t.

13. Waste your time. Just because your job only takes 3 hrs to do, don’t sit on Facebook the rest of the time. Find a way to be useful or leave. Get better at something.

14. Stay if it’s miserable or because you can tolerate it. This is NOT a reason. Complacency and boredom are the mother of dead dreams. Figure out an escape route immediately.

15. Don’t get to know people in other divisions. You are not your job. You are you. Make friends. Learn what people do. See what excites you. If you’re about to fire yourself then maybe you’ll know where to go next.

16. Be around people who hate their job. This is the most infectious of all. Complacency breeds complacency. Boredom breeds boredom. Misery breeds misery. The good news is that passion breeds passion. You are the average of your peer group. Surround yourself with passionate people. You will become one.

Finding Freedom.

In just under 7 months, I learned to do all of the above. I was good at it, too.

Then I woke up.

Once I hit my breaking point, I had to get the hell out of there and find something I could actually screw up (read: someplace I could have an impact).

I swore not to take another job for at least 3 months. Instead I went to school on myself. Then I found some inspiring friends starting a cool preventive healthcare company in Santa Barbara. I joined up as one of their first employees. I’ve been building and running businesses or working with founders and small companies ever since.

As soon as I started doing something that was me, I stopped caring an ounce about what people thought of it or how it compared to others. I had found my own yardstick. Nothing else mattered.

Having seen the promised land, I could never go back. You won’t either.

Listen to Yourself – Not ‘Them’

Don’t take what “they” say for granted. They are not you. They do not have your same goals or values.

The topic of your life is much too big to model off what you find in a book, read on a blog, hear from a peer or get told in school. It’s fine to take those as data points. But refusing to do your own experiments is what leads to sleepwalking.

Wake up. Be interested in walking a different path. Then start walking.

Look for what excites you. Period.

It’s out there.

Hate Your Job? Need Help?

If you are currently stuck in a pile of meaningless work and desperately need a change, there’s a good chance our community can help. That’s exactly why we created the Live Off Your Passion Guided-Discovery career course – to help you discover your passions and build a career around work you love.

And as a fun side-note, it managed to win #1 Personal Development Product of 2011 when it first launched! We’ve since enhanced and built upon it numerous times, and you are welcome to try the course out risk free if you think it would help. Here are all the details.

Image credit: h.koppdelaney

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