I Hate My Job... Now What? 8 Questions to Ask Yourself
Here’s some perspective that can get lost in the day-to-day grind of life—most Americans spend entire decades of their lives at work. And if you are bored, ambivalent or outright miserable in your job, that’s a lot of good years that could potentially be spent doing something more fulfilling.
If you’ve ever found yourself muttering the phrase “Man, I hate my job,” you definitely aren’t alone. Whether it’s the disgruntled social media posts you see in your newsfeed or the heated rants at happy hour with friends, it’s clear you’re not the only one who’s unhappy with their job.
But that doesn’t mean you have to accept unhappiness. While a job isn’t going to be 100 percent sunshine and smiles—there’s a reason you get paid to go to work, after all—making a change can certainly improve your outlook.
If you’re leaning toward looking for a new role, it can help to take a step back and really think it through. To help with that, we’ve identified eight questions you should ask yourself before making your next move.
8 Questions to consider when you hate your job
Now is as good a time as any for a little career-related introspection. Think through the following before you tender your resignation.
1. What aspects of your job do you enjoy?
A little shift in perspective can dramatically transform your work experience, according to Steve Farber, a leadership and management expert and international speaker. Even if you aren’t completely thrilled about your job, making the most of your current role could alter your attitude and even your office environment as a whole.
“If you’re not passionate about what you do, can you find something about your work—or the people you work with—that really trips your trigger?” Farber asks. He recommends tapping into the positive aspects of your job and using that energy to streamline your everyday tasks and discover ways to make your work more enjoyable.
“That passionate energy will start to spread to those around you,” he adds.
This also gives you a spot to brainstorm steps to start enjoying your work life. You may need to switch roles. Is there another job that includes those things you like? Taking account of what you genuinely enjoy (or at least find somewhat satisfying) about your role is a good starting point for any potential career pivot.
2. What good experience and references are you gathering in this role?
If you’re finding it difficult to identify the positive aspects of your job, try to focus on how the experience and connections you are building could contribute to a future role you are more excited about. Shifting your mindset to view the position as a stepping-stone rather than a dead-end job could make all the difference.
This type of thinking can maximize your experience in your current role and contribute positively to your next, according to JJ DiGeronimo, president of Tech Savvy Women. She suggests spending time reflecting on relationships you’ve already built and the network you’ve already created, asking yourself, “Who can act as [my] references now, based on work [I’ve] already accomplished?”
3. What do you hate about your job?
Your reflex reaction to this question may be “everything.” However, try pinpointing what it is you hate about your job. Is it your coworkers? Your boss? The pay? Particular tasks?
Once you have a list, be even more specific with each item. Ask yourself what you dislike about your boss or which tasks you despise the most. Honestly analyze your situation and determine what you want to change.
When you step back from your list, you may be able to see a pattern. You might discover you like the company you work for, just not your current position (or vice versa). Perhaps there’s just one coworker who really grinds your gears. Or maybe it’s time for a career change. Whatever the results, this information empowers you toward deliberate, intentional changes in your career.
4. What do you value?
Perhaps you’ve decided it’s time to move on, and you’re prepared to search for a role that will bring you more satisfaction. Liz Cohen, founder of Next Step Careers, coaches people trying to find the best job for their experience and talents. She believes defining your core values—understanding what’s most important to you—plays a major role in finding a career that will bring you more happiness.
Deciding what type of work environment you thrive in will point you in the right direction. Start by identifying your ideal work preferences, including company culture, organization size, work setting, compensation and work location. Recording these things on paper will allow you to refer back to your list when another opportunity presents itself.
“Use your responses to discern specific job opportunities that occur at the intersection of your values, passions and preferences,” Cohen says.
5. What are you grateful for?
Mindfulness is a major buzzword in our culture, and for good reason—neuroscience has confirmed that simply being attentive to our surroundings can enhance our capacity for handling change and strengthen our ability to deal with stress. One way to practice mindfulness is to list what you’re grateful for, according to Nance Schick, attorney and conflict resolution coach who helps people identify thoughts, beliefs and expectations that interfere with their happiness.
“One of the quickest ways to shift an experience at work or anywhere is to spend a week listing ten things every day that you love about your job,” Schick suggests. Even if it’s simple things like the gourmet coffee or the easy commute, there are likely a few things you feel good about, or you’d already be gone.
“Discover what those things are, and you will get some insight into what you value most in your work and beyond,” she adds.
6. Where do you want to be in five years?
Imagine your ideal life in five years. It’s okay if you don’t know exactly where you want to be—even an abstract idea can give you some direction. Something as simple as you want to have a dog, live closer to family or have a more meaningful job can be a great starting place.
Ask yourself what needs to happen in your life to get to that goal. By creating a loose plan, you can get a better sense of direction and determine what you can do today to have the life you want. Small, daily steps will multiply with consistency. Cohen suggests defining one concrete, tangible step you could take to move toward the opportunities you are most drawn to.
“Schedule informational interviews with three people in positions or companies of interest, take on a volunteer position or commit to reading two books that will shed light on your search,” she says. “You will be surprised by the clarity you gain just from getting moving in the right direction.”
7. What do you do in your free time?
When you’re daydreaming through the morning meeting, what do you wish you were doing? Do you think of spending time with friends? Does your mind drift toward a favorite hobby? These wistful thoughts provide insight into what you truly enjoy.
“Ask yourself which hobbies, areas of knowledge, individuals or interests make your heart race,” says Cohen. Identifying the key elements of what you do in your free time can point toward alternate career options.
Even if you can’t turn your hobby into a job, some elements of your personal life could translate to a fulfilling career. For example, if you love spending time around people, then a field working with people, like education or healthcare, may be perfect for you.
8. What’s stopping you from having a career you love?
It can be intimidating to think of the obstacles that stand between you and that dream job. But concretely identifying these challenges is the first step to overcoming them. Think of your justifications for staying in your current job. Would you need to go back to school? Would you need to move or travel?
Only by identifying these obstacles can you start planning ways to overcome them. You may even discover that some of these mental dragons disappear or shrink with a little planning. Sometimes, our minds make mountains out of small hurdles.
Define your next steps
If you’re still thinking, “I hate my job,” then it’s time to do something about it. Either work to improve the situation you’re in or move in a new direction. If you’re thinking of the latter, the next step is figuring out which careers you might find more enjoyable. Once you’ve spent time exploring what’s important to you, and you’ve opted to set your sights on a new career, it’s time to take action.
If you’re worried about attending school while working full time, you’re not alone. While balancing your job and school can be tricky, having a career you truly enjoy is worth it. Read our article “10 Tangible Tips to Balance Working Full-Time and Going to College” to learn how you can successfully manage the challenges of both work and school.